The company had transferred 302 workmen, who participated in a prolonged strike, on December 3 last year from Coimbatore to their plants in Pune, Pantnagar and Sri City near Chennai. The bone of contention is pay and perks and the workers went on strike demanding a new wage settlement.
While the workers demand an upward revision of wages and settlement of other benefits like education allowance and leave encashment, the company says the hike demanded by the employees was exorbitant. “For instance, an employee getting a salary of Rs 35,000 per month is demanding more than Rs 1 lakh. Other settlements, we have begun already,’’ said R Malarvannan, chief people officer, Pricol.
The management and the Coimbatore District Pricol Workers Union are yet to sign a new wage settlement after the earlier one lapsed on June 30 last year. The average experience of workers at Pricol’s units in Coimbatore is about 20 years compared to around two years for its other plants, the company had said.
The drastic step by Pricol has come a day before a tripartite meeting was scheduled with the workers in the presence of senior government officials.
Pricol has said it will not participate in the talks but offered to reconsider the termination orders if the sacked employees return to work within seven days. The workers, meanwhile, said they have not received any such communication from the company and would take a call once they receive the orders. The axed employees are likely knock the doors of the court.
“We have sent individual termination orders to the employees in registered post on Feburary 11. They stand terminated with immediate effect,’’ Malarvannan told TOI. Pricol has around 1,300 permanent workers in Coimbatore and about 400 trainees. Out of the 302 workers who were transferred, eight had accepted the orders and reported for duty in the respective places, the remaining did not turn up.
“The rest have not responded to any of our written appeals to them for the past 75 days. Therefore, we have no other option but to dismiss them from the services,’’ a statement from Pricol said. “However, we are ready to reconsider their dismissal order on humanitarian grounds if these workmen are willing to resume duty with a written consent letter to the management at their allotted location within seven days from now,” the statement added.
But the workers appeared unfazed. P Natrajan, president of Coimbatore District Pricol Workers Union affiliated to All India Central Council of Trade Union (AICCTU) said they would visit the district collectorate on Wednesday as scheduled for the talks. “We will take a decision on next course of action once we receive the termination orders,” he said.
The company’s plant in Manesar, Haryana, which has about 1,500 workers, is clocking revenues of Rs 400 crore per annum. But the two units in Coimbatore, which make similar products, is generating a turnover of only Rs 300 crore per year, senior Pricol officials had said.
Pricol, which counts Ashok Leyland, Renault-Nissan and TVS among others as its clients, has been facing labour problems at its units here for nearly a decade.
The company’s vice president, human resources, Roy J George was killed by agitating workers in September 2009. A special court here sentenced eight workers to double life imprisonment in the case in 2015. The Madras High Court, however, overturned the conviction of six workers but confirmed the sentence for two in January 2017. Last year, the protests reached a peak when the workers went on a strike for 100 days.