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SIV management declares lockout

Our Bureau

COIMBATORE, Nov. 1

THE management of the SIV Industries issued a `lockout' notice late last night, apprehending violence following the breakdown of talks with the workers' unions over settlement of wage arrears.

The talks, initiated in the presence of the District Collector, Mr N. Muruganandam, the Deputy Commissioner of Labour, Ms T. Shankari, the leaders of 12 workers' unions and management representatives failed to break the ice, after the management categorically stated that it had no funds to pay the wage arrears or bonus for 2001 and 2002.

The unions had demanded payment of arrears for at least one month and bonus for one of the two years. The wages remain unpaid since March.

The management's declaration of the `lockout' has taken the workers by surprise. Issued a few hours after the collapse of the talks, the management, in its notice has listed out 10 reasons to shut down the unit. Each one of these cited instances in the recent past when the workers had resorted to unlawful activities to press their demand.

Apprehending violence, both - to the company officials as also on the plant - the management appears to have issued the notice. Strangely its contention about funds crunch over settlement of dues during the talks is missing in the notice.

Meanwhile union sources are gearing up to move the High Court, alleging that the management's stand was "illegal". Stating that the management had taken the decision to shut down the unit unilaterally, without the prior permission from the Government to declare a "lock out", the union source told Business Line that they would fight tooth and nail to restart plant operations and settlement of wage arrears in full.

SIV plant operations came to a grinding halt on October 19, 2001, as the unit was unable to mop up cash to pay its power dues. The TNEB threatened to snap the power connection if the unit failed to remit its dues within 24 hours. Thereafter, the plant operations came to a standstill.

In March 2002, the company sought Government's permission to lay off its 2,225 workers, stating that it could ill-afford to pay the workers for the `idle time'. This was however turned down.

The BIFR declared the company a sick industrial unit and has appointed ICICI as the operating agency a couple of months back.

Despite these developments, the workers continued to attend the shifts, although there was nothing much to do. Unrest had prevailed for the last couple of weeks with the demand growing vociferous. Following the breakdown of talks, heavy police strength has been posted to prevent any untoward incident in that area.

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