Employees of Finnish handset maker Nokia's plant at Sriperumbudur near here have decided to go on one-day hunger strike here next week, seeking job security to them in the wake of Nokia-Microsoft deal.
Besides staging a hunger strike on March 31 in Chennai, the Nokia India Employees Union have decided to further step up their protest post the Lok Sabha elections, its Honorary President, A Soundararajan said on Thursday.
"The Central and the State Governments should come forward and ensure that the due to the transfer of assets of Nokia to Microsoft (as per the $7.2billion deal), there should not be any job losses.
“We have decided to stage a one-day hunger fast on March 31 in this regard," Soundararajan told reporters in Chennai.
"After the elections we will do whatever possible to intensify our protest. What we request the Tamil Nadu Government is, if suppose the Nokia management seeks State government nod for closing the plant, the State government should not allow that to happen," he said.
As part of this move, he said the Union representatives have planned to meet the senior government officials from the Labour and Industries department soon.
"We will also meet Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's support also," he said.
Observing that the production at the plant which was operating at three shifts producing 13 million handsets per month, he said, since January the three shift operation has been cut to two shifts and production has come down to four million handsets.
"Even in two shift operations, about 300 people are sitting idle.
“We fear the management citing the decline in production and decrease in businesses, there may be some lay off. We do not want that to happen," he said.
"We cannot allow retrenchment or closure of the plant. We will not permit that to happen," he said.
Another Nokia India Employees Union official said the company has entirely moved the manufacturing of its highly popular ‘Asha’ range of mobile phones to other manufacturing plants and only produces low-end mobile handsets from the Chennai plant.
Asked whether the Union was comfortable with being contract labourers post the deal to Microsoft, Soundararajan replied in the negative, saying: "Now we are permanent employees (in Nokia). “When we become contract labourers, they (Microsoft management) may send some of us. We want to secure our job."
The Union has also planned to get the support of various political parties and other employee Unions as part of the one-day hunger fast, he said.
On March 14, in a jolt to the employees, the Supreme Court ordered Nokia India to give Rs 3,500 crore (Rs 35 billion) as a guarantee before it transfers the plant to Microsoft.
The apex court upheld the Delhi High Court verdict which is currently facing an income tax dispute.
The Tamil Nadu government also slammed a Rs 2,400-crore (Rs 24-billion) notice to Nokia saying the company had been selling the products produced from Chennai plant to domestic market instead of shipping overseas.
Nokia management responded to the notice sent by Tamil Nadu Sales Tax Department that it was a ‘baseless’ claim by the Department.