Over 100 contract workers belonging to NHK F Krishna Automotive are demanding permanent jobs

Unrest in Chennais auto hub as workers protest against Renault-Nissan ancillaryThozhilalar Koodam
news Business Thursday, July 28, 2016 - 15:01

Twenty-five-year-old Vishwanathan* received no reason or explanation when NHK F Krishna Automotive, a car-seat manufacturer for Renault-Nissan fired him in April.  As one of the oldest employees in the manufacturing facility at Oragadam in Chennai, Vishwanathan, along with 14 others, had their employment abruptly terminated.

These workers, who had been hired on a contract-basis since 2013, when the plant opened, had been demanding permanent jobs. When the company refused, they decided to approach the United Labour Front, a trade union, for help. What Vishwanathan and the others didn’t foresee was being terminated permanently from their contract jobs.

Three months since then, over 100 contract workers belonging to NHK F Krishna Automotive are continuing the fight that Vishwanathan and the others began, demanding permanent jobs.  The car-seat factory located at Oragadam, the automobile hub of Chennai, has been witnessing protests for more than two weeks.  

Ramesh, a United Labour Front leader says, “The company claims that there are no vacancies and as a result are unable to make the contract workers permanent.”

But besides making them permanent employees, workers have also placed other demands before the management including raising wages and reinstating the 15 terminated workers. However, workers say that the company did not respond to their demands, forcing some of them to approach ULF on July 10. The next day, however, the company asked several workers not to enter the factory, triggering protests.    

Since July 12, the chorus of voices protesting outside the factory has grown louder, with workers from other factories including Renault-Nissan joining in.  As production suffered at both the car seat company and consequently at Renault-Nissan, NHK F Krishna Automotive allegedly brought in around 30 workers from Gurgaon, says Vishwanathan. “Three days after our protests started, the company brought in these workers from their Gurgaon plant, which manufactures car seats for Maruti Suzuki,” he claims.

On July 18, a conciliation meeting was held with the Assistant Labour Commission. According to Thozhilalar Koodam, a labour website, company officials told the ALC that the “contract workers were only employed as helpers in non-core tasks and therefore will not be provided permanent jobs.” The protesting workers, however, say they work on the production line in three shifts, with their jobs divided into welding and assembling. At the meeting with the ALC, NHK F Krishna Automotive said it was willing to take back the workers on the condition they continued with their tasks, reported TK.   

With the car-seat manufacturer reportedly refusing to hold talks with the workers directly, the protest continues.  Meanwhile, workers say that NHK F Krishna Automotive have sought a week’s time to respond to the Tahsildar, following his intervention.  “We have no plans to take the matter court. What’s the point, we will be stuck for four or five years with no relief,” says Ramesh. They hope their peaceful struggle will lead to a positive resolution.

*Name changed