As General Motors winded up production on Friday at its Gujarat plant in Halol, the GM Employees Union (GMEU) continue to agitate against the plant’s closure. The union has been demanding an audience with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani. Speaking to FE, Rachit Soni, president, GMEU, said, “560 workers are on a hunger strike since the last 35 days. The government is not listening to our grievances. When Vijay Rupani was state labour minister in 2015 and GM had announced closure of the plant, he had assured us that the government would not allow GM to close the plant. Now he is the chief minister, and nothing is being done to lessen our troubles.”
Despite repeated efforts to reach them, company officials did not respond. In 2015, when GM had initially announced closure of the plant, the state government had rejected its proposal saying that the company could not sell the plant unless a settlement plan was submitted for its employees. The company then decided to continue operations until now. In the recent months, the company has attempted to placate its workers through offering them a transfer to its Talegaon unit or to accept a voluntary separation scheme (VSS). According to government officials, the company has made a “fair proposal” to its workers.
An official in the Labour department told FE, “Workers have been given two options. If they want to shift, they can shift with an increased salary as well as other benefits which include the company paying a portion of the workers’ house rent as well as the school fees for their children. If a worker chooses to not shift, they will be given 100 days’ worth of salary multiplied by the number of years they have worked at the plant. The offer is six times higher than stated through legal provisions in the Industrial Disputes Act 1947.
The company is not violating any law here.” He added that the offer had initially been for 45 days, which had been raised to 70 days and then finally to 100 days. The fate of the plant, however, remains unclear. Earlier, there had been reports of Chinese automaker SAIC buying out the Halol plant, but those remain unverified till date. The Halol facility has a capacity for producing 1.1 lakh cars annually. GM, which started operations at Halol in 1996, was the first major automaker to set up shop in Gujarat, which has in recent times emerged as an auto hub with the likes of Tata Motors, Ford and Hyundai setting up plants here.