'Govt must intervene': HD Kumaraswamy on protest at Toyota's Karnataka plant

"The government should ensure direct communication between the striking staff and the heads of the company by bringing them to the negotiating table," Kumaraswamy said.
 HD Kumaraswamy
HD Kumaraswamy
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Former Karnataka Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition HD Kumaraswamy on Sunday spoke out in support of the protests by workers of the Toyota Kirloskar plant in Bidadi in Ramanagara district of Karnataka. "The solution does not appear to be in sight though the strike by the employees of Toyota Kirloskar’s Bidadi plant is completing two months. The differences between the workers and management, issues related to middle managers and the government’s apathy may also be the reasons for such a situation. But there is a dire need to put an end to the impasse in the interest of the state’s industrial development," Kumaraswamy said in a series of posts on social media.

It has been over 40 days since workers at the Toyota Kirloskar plant in Bidadi began protesting against the company, stating that it failed to address their issues and complaints. 60 employees have been suspended so far.

Kumaraswamy said he had intervened in some meetings between workers and the management. "I myself have held several meetings in a bid to resolve the workers’ crisis. Through such meetings, it appears clear that the managers who stand in between the management and the workers, are trying to create confusion as well as problems. It is important to note that these managerial personnel are not from either this region or the state," Kumaraswamy said.

Another former Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah of the Congress, also wrote to Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa about issues at the TKM plant in Bidadi. "Workers are protesting in an empty space in front of the company's plant. Even though the protest has entered the 40th day, there is no sight of a resolution," Siddaramaiah said in his letter. 

A lockout in the plant was declared on November 9, after a group of employees gathered to talk to the management about issues they had been facing at work. The group was reportedly told that they could not discuss issues.

Of the nearly 6,000 total staff members at Toyota Kirloskar's plant in Bidadi around 3,500 are part of the union. TKM’s Bidadi plant produces cars like Innova, Camry, Fortuner and Yaris. Until November, the plant was manufacturing 300 cars a day and workers were in two shifts of 150 cars each. TKM allegedly wanted to raise the number to 360, which the members in the union opposed. 

Kumaraswamy urged the state government to resolve the issue in Bidadi. "I urge the government to immediately intervene. The government should ensure direct communication between the striking staff and the heads of the company by bringing them to the negotiating table. The government should behave like a communication bridge. It is essential in the interest of the future of the state’s industrial sector," he added.

The protests in Bidadi come at a time when another worker unrest caught national attention. Wistron Corp’s iPhone facility in Kolar was ransacked by employees last week and Wistron admitted that some lapses in paying the workers. 

Vincent Lee, Vice President (innovation business group) of Wistron Infocomm Manufacturing India was removed after violence erupted at the plant and employees vandalised company property. After initially estimating the damage at Rs 437 crores, Wistron downgraded it to 52 crore.

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