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Unions ask govt to take over Nokia's Chennai plant

By TE Narasimhan
October 19, 2014 15:01 IST
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With Nokia deciding to suspend operations at its plant at Sriperumbudur near Chennai from November 1, trade unions as well as political parties have asked the government to take over the factory to protect the livelihood of thousands of workers.

While the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, has not reacted to the decision, its main rival Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and some other political parties have staged protests against the Nokia management's decision to suspend operations at the Sriperumbudur factory.

A Soundararajan, general secretary of Centre of Trade Unions (CITU) and a sitting member of the Tamil Nadu legislative Assembly, said the CITU has asked the state and Centre governments to take over the factory.

Nokia India Employees Union, which claims to have the backing of a workers at the factory, is backed by CITU.

Earlier, in order to protect the interests of workers at Neyveli Lignite Corporation, a Centre government-run company, the Tamil Nadu government had come forward to acquire a five per cent stake in the company, which the Centre was planning to dilute to outsiders.

Similarly, the state government or the Centre should take over the Sriperumbudur factory, taking thousands of Nokia workers' livelihood into consideration, Soundararajan said.

He said the factory can manufacture mobile phones, laptops and set-up boxes. So, if the government can convince customers such as Microsoft and others, orders will start flowing to the factory, he noted.

The major reason given by Nokia for suspending operations at the Sriperumbudur plant is a lack of orders, especially after Microsoft decided to stop sourcing from the plant. Soundararajan also alleged he was trying to meet the Tamil Nadu chief minister and industry minister to discuss issue, but there was no response.

"On October 19 or 20, we will be meeting the Union commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Delhi with the same set of demands," he added.

A similar demand was also raised by the Pattali Makkal Katchi, which joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 Lok Sabha Election.

In the factory, workers said Friday was the last day as far as production was concerned.

On Friday, about 3,000 mobile phones were produced.

Workers said the management had told them that it will be 'no-production days' from Saturday till October 31. Nokia did not respond to Business Standard's query.

Set up in 2006, the Sriperumbudur plant is one of Nokia's most productive facilities globally. The income tax department had slapped a Rs 21,000-crore (Rs 210 billion) tax notice on the company, followed by a Rs 2,400-crore (Rs 24 billion) notice by the Tamil Nadu government.

Following this, the plant could not be transferred to Microsoft, which had bought Nokia's mobile and device business globally.

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TE Narasimhan
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