Toyota India workers down tools despite end to lockout

A private security guard moves a barricade outside a closed plant of Toyota India. — Reuters pic
A private security guard moves a barricade outside a closed plant of Toyota India. — Reuters pic

BANGALORE, March 24 — Employees at Toyota’s auto assembly plants in southern India failed to return to work today at the end of a week-long lockout after refusing to sign codes of conduct, their union said.

Although around 500 staff gathered outside the twin plants near Bangalore for the start of their shifts, they did not clock in after managers insisted they sign the agreements, according to a local union chief.

“As we are against giving or signing any undertaking, none of us has entered the factory for the first shift which began at 6.00am,” Prasanna Kumar, president of the Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd Union, told AFP.

“The undertaking is against our rights as workers. We have a right to protect our interests and ensure that our welfare is not jeopardised.”

Operations had been expected to resume after Toyota announced at the end of last week that it had decided to lift the lockout following a meeting with labour groups that was chaired by a local government mediator.

However, unions said at the time that the demand for employees to give a written undertaking of good conduct before resuming work was “harsh”. They also demanded that Toyota reverse a decision to suspend 17 workers.

The Japanese firm, which is the world’s largest automaker, suspended production on Monday of last week after long-running efforts to hammer out a new pay deal failed.

Toyota said some employees had resorted to deliberate stoppages of the production line, abuse and threats to supervisors, and continuous disruptions to business for several weeks.

Company and union officials have been trying to agree on a new contract for the past 10 months, with the government helping to mediate negotiations.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd Union has demanded a pay rise of at least 4,000 rupees (RM216) a month, while the company is offering 3,050, citing difficult market conditions. Car sales in India have fallen almost 10 per cent for the first time in over a decade.

No company officials were immediately available for comment.

Kumar said the union had asked the state government “to direct the company to lift the lockout unconditionally”, claiming the shutdown was illegal as it was declared without a statutory notice period of two weeks.

The two factories employ around 6,400 people and produce about 310,000 vehicles a year in a range of models including the flagship Camry sedan, the Corolla and the Prius hybrid, mostly for the domestic market. — AFP

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