Court orders police to rein in unions at HM

Kolkata, Mar 28 | Updated: Mar 29 2007, 07:17am hrs
The Calcutta high court on Wednesday directed the state police to take "effective" steps to ensure that Hindustan Motors Ltd can function normally without any hindrance from certain unions battling the management.

The directions came on a writ filed by the CK Birla automobiles major seeking the court's intervention in getting the state administration to ensure law and order for the running of its Uttarpara plant, which was also the scene of clashes between two sections of workers during the day.

The factory, which makes around 13000-15000 Ambassadors and other vehicles a year, has been hit by inter-union rivalry since March 13.

According to an agency report, a breakaway faction of the Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union (SSKU) picketed the factory gate demanding payment of salary arrears and re-instatement of suspended workers.

The court said the unions should be allowed to carry on their protests without disturbing the factory's work or preventing entry and exit.

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the CPI(M)'s labour wing, decried the violence and said it was engineered by a group of "anti Left Forces" out to harm the cause of workers.

"While more than 50% of the workmen have ignored the strike call and have been joining their duties in spite of threats, intimidation, confusion and & slanders, mainly by some outsiders who are bent upon creating a violent atmosphere," CITU general secretary Kali Ghosh said.

HM's Delhi-based spokesperson said around 2,200-2,500 of the 4000-strong workforce turned up for work on Wednesday. Clashes broke out inside the factory and the canteen was damaged.

"There is no strike or lockout, and work is happening but a section of the workers has turned violent, and is trying to attract attention and avoid disciplinary action," the spokesperson said.

HM has the government's green signal to develop around 314 acres of the 743 acre Uttarpara complex into an IT and ITeS township, and an auto ancillary park.

The CITU's Kali Ghosh also demanded that the management come forward to settle the long-pending legitimate demands of he workmen. He also pointed out that the split in the SSKU has created a situation to the advantage of the management since there is no bargaining agent in the factory.

Ghosh said that the management, at the intervention of the state's labour minister and labour secretary, had paid the earned wages up to February 2007, "which they have been defaulting regularly for the last few years."

Now, the management is taking advantage of the situation to deprive the workers on dearness allowance and higher wages, among other things, CITU said.