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Hind Motors legal steps on govt lips

Calcutta, June 3: The second bipartite meeting between the Bengal government and the Hindustan Motors management remained inconclusive today, with the company expressing its inability to withdraw the suspension of work order or pay a month’s arrears to workers at its Uttarpara factory.

Labour minister Purnendu Bose, who met the HM management today, said the government would explore legal options to protect the rights of the workers.

According to Bose, HM today said it would not be able to pay a month’s wage dues to its employees. Yesterday, the company had handed over cheques of Rs 7,000 to each employee. With this, the company has paid Rs 1.82 crore to its employees but still owes them over Rs 10 crore in arrears.

In the past six months, HM has paid only one month’s wages to its workers.

“They said they can neither pay now nor lift the suspension anytime soon. We will hold a tripartite meeting next week and inform the labourers about where the government and the management now stand on this,” Bose said.

Speaking to The Telegraph after the meeting with HM’s chief executive officer Moloy Chowdhury and head of corporate HR Ashim Basu, Bose said his department would seek legal advice. “Whatever be the appropriate forum — the labour tribunal, the industrial tribunal, the high court — we will have to move it, if necessary,” he said.

The minister said that at today’s two-hour meeting, HM did not give the government details of the discussions it claims to have been holding with Chinese companies for a possible tie-up and a plan of action regarding the revival of the Uttarpara plant. “They submitted a status report on the Uttarpara plant, where they showed cumulative losses of around Rs 500 crore. No details on the Chinese companies were shared,” Bose said.

In a statement this evening, HM said it had “shared concrete steps that have already been initiated in an effort to significantly pay off statuary debts and overdue wages”.

“In March 2014, the company divested its plant near Chennai and is presently awaiting release of charge on the assets from lenders. Funds received will be used to pay off statutory payments, wages, suppliers and lenders,” the statement said.

“The company has sought the state government’s help in impressing upon the lenders to get the above release of charge on assets which is currently in process. The company is committed to pay off all back wages as soon as it has the above funds. The company is also focussed in the short term to reach a situation where it can pay off its liabilities. The existing situation continues to be stark with demand for the product being very low compared to the fixed expenses at the Uttarpara plant,” it added.

Asked about the help the company has sought regarding negotiations with creditors, Bose said HM should take up such matters with industries minister Amit Mitra.