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Maharashtra's ultimatum to GM's union, management

By Shally Seth Mohile & Aneesh Phadnis
February 24, 2021 12:53 IST
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The workers’ union at the Talegaon factory and the GM’s management have been locked in a bitter legal feud since the carmaker announced its decision to shutter the plant in December 2020.

Maharashtra’s Labour Minister Dilip Walse-Patil has sought a written submission from the General Motors’ (GM) Employees Union and the management of the company detailing its stance on the issue of plant closure.

The labour minister asked the warring sides for submission at a hearing on Tuesday.

Both sides have been given a week’s time to reply.

 

The meeting was attended by the company management, labour union, and other representatives from the state’s labour department, said people who attended the meeting.

The workers’ union at the Talegaon factory and the GM’s management have been locked in a bitter legal feud since GM announced its decision to shutter the plant in December 2020.

The closure will affect the livelihoods of close to 1,700 employed at the factory, according to Sandeep Bhegade, president of the union.

“We want the company to give us an undertaking that it will not close the plant.

"GM has refused to give any such undertaking.

"If GM is indeed selling the company and not shutting it, why is it calling it a ‘closure’?” asked Bhegade.

To be sure, the Maharashtra government had rejected company’s application to close the plant, following which GM had filed an application seeking review of the decision.

According to Bhegade, Great Wall Motors (buyers of the plant) can easily absorb the employees.

“We are being paid just Rs 15 lakh. The average age of employees is 32 and many of them have not even started their working careers.

"There are no jobs in the market. Accepting what GM is offering is tantamount to committing suicide,” says Bhegade.

GM officials present at the meeting refuted the contention that the compensation is not enough.

They said they are offering 75 days of wages for every year of service to affected employees — this, they said, is more than what is provided under the Industrial Disputes Act.

Earlier, in an internal communiqué, GM had said the workers would have to face litigation unless they accepted the severance package offered by the company.

The company stated in the letter that if it took the path of litigation, it would reset all benefits to the statutory minimum.

This, in turn, would mean that the company would withdraw the ‘generous voluntary separation scheme deal’ that it had offered the staff, according to media reports.

Terming the decision to close the plant 'irreversible’, the company added it had received no export orders to keep the plant operational.

The US auto major kicked off the first phase of the strategy to exit the Indian market by discontinuing sales and closing down its facility in Gujarat’s Halol three years back.

While the Gujarat facility continued functioning after it was taken over by MG Motor India, the plans to transfer the Talegaon facility located near Pune to Great Wall Motors have not materialised, following the rising tension between India and China.

Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

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Shally Seth Mohile & Aneesh Phadnis in Mumbai
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