The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Suspension of work at HM

Uttarpara/Calcutta, April 11: The Hindustan Motors management today declared suspension of work at its Uttarpara plant after almost a month of labour unrest and strike, making the future of around 4,500 workers uncertain.

The 500-odd management-level employees would, however, continue to draw their salary as usual.

An official of the CK Birla group company said if the employees have the right to strike, the employer has the right to suspend operations.

Unlike closure, suspension of work is temporary.

The notice suspending work was pasted on the factory gate early this morning.

The head of the plant, Mo-loy Choudhury, said the move was to safeguard managers and workers who are willing to work. “One of our managers is fighting for his life after being beaten up,” he added.

The flow of raw materials and finished products — the Ambassador car and its components — is also being blocked since March 13. The management, though, has exempted the two operations, handled by personnel on contract, from the suspension.

The company moved Calcutta High Court on March 13, seeking a directive to the Hooghly administration to maintain law and order around the factory. The court asked the police to ensure that willing workers could join duty. But the situation did not improve. Yesterday, Serampore subdivisional police officer Ajay Thakur was summoned to court to explain why the police failed to ensure peace.

The majority workers’ body, Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union (SSKU), called an indefinite strike in the factory, 20 km from Calcutta, on March 13. It wanted withdrawal of the suspension of 15 workers accused of assaulting management employees, payment of the salaries for December and January and an end to the freeze on DA.

The company paid the arrears last week. But the union stuck to the other demands.

The CPM labour arm Citu opposed the strike.

The striking workers have demonstrated at the factory gate over the past month and prevented others’ entry. Clashes and police baton charges — only to restore peace for brief spells — have been frequent.

The plant that makes 1,000-1,300 cars a month, suffers an annual loss of Rs 20 crore. Five hundred cars are ready to roll out to showrooms now.

“The chief minister has been told about the development. We’ll call the management and unions in a few days to work out a solution,” labour minister Mrinal Banerjee said.

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