Allow staff, materials movement, court tells MRF strikers (Lead)

May 20th, 2009 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, May 20 (IANS) The Madras High Court Wednesday ordered workers on strike at two plants of tyre major MRF in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry not to obstruct movement of personnel and materials.
The directive followed a petition filed by the company for removal of the protestors from the factory premises.

“The court, while granting a week’s time to file our counter, said ingress and egress of men and material should not be obstructed,” V. Prakash, senior counsel for the striking MRF United Workers Union (UWU), told IANS.

The striking employees, meanwhile, are planning to surrender their ration and voter identify cards in protest against the wage agreement signed by the management with a rival labour union.

The sit-in strike from May 9 at the two plants entered the 12th day Wednesday, with a lockout being declared at the Arakonam unit in Tamil Nadu May 17. Production at both units has come to a standstill.

“It all depends on the management’s response. We plan to send fax messages to the governors and chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. After that, we will consult workers at both the plants about surrendering our ration and voter identity cards,” said UWU president P.V. Paramasivam.

“We are looking at democratic ways of agitation so as to turn the attention of the people and the government to our plight,” Paramasivam told IANS.

The MRF workers have conjured up novel methods of protest since May 9 when the strike started.

Protesters and their families boycotted the Lok Sabha elections, for which polling was held May 13.

At Arakonam, food is cooked outside the factory and served to striking workers.

D. Christopher, the agitating union’s general secretary at the Arakonam unit, told IANS that strikers are keeping a strict vigil outside the plant to prevent “miscreants” from entering the plant, damaging the machinery and putting the blame on the protesters.

Formed in 2002, the UWU wants the MRF management to hold a secret ballot to ascertain which union has a majority membership and negotiate only with it.

Paramasivam accused the management of signing a wage agreement May 9 with another union, MRF Arakonam Worker’s Welfare Union (AWWU), which he claimed does not represent the majority of workers.

“On paper there will be a wage increase. But in reality, a worker will not get anything more than what he has been drawing now.”

Paramasivam said one of the union’s demands was wage parity with that of the company’s Thiruvottiyur plant workers, where the monthly wage is around Rs.18,000.

MRF spokesperson Koshy Varghese was not available for clarifications despite repeated attempts by IANS to contact him. No other person is authorised to comment on loss figures and other issues on behalf of the company.

MRF has plants in Chennai, Arakonam, Puducherry, Kottayam (Kerala), Medak (Andhra Pradesh) and Goa.

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