Sit-in strike at MRF plants enters 11th day

May 19th, 2009 - 9:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, May 19 (IANS) The sit-in strike by around 3,000 workers at tyre maker MRF Ltd’s Arakonam and Puducherry plants entered the 11th day Tuesday, with the agitating employees’ union and the management standing firm on their respective stands.
“Our demands are simple. Our union was formed in 2002. Since then we have been asking the management to hold elections to establish the union that has majority membership and negotiate with that body,” P.V. Paramasivam, president of MRF United Workers Union (UWU) told IANS from Arakonam.

Since May 9, the day when the sit-in strike began, production has come to a halt at the two plants.

According to Paramasivam, the MRF management has signed a wage agreement May 9 with another union, MRF Arakonam Worker’s Welfare Union (AWWU), that does not represent majority of the workers.

Terming the deal as a “no norms” agreement, he said: “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.”

“The wage hike is linked to daily production. There will be increase in the monthly wages only if the worker exceeds the minimum production figure. The wage hike has not factored inflation,” Paramasivam added.

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

The UWU had approached the Madras High Court, appealing against its order giving permission to MRF to conclude the wage deal with AWWU.

Rama Priya, counsel for UWU, told IANS: “The case came up for hearing today (Tuesday). The High Court ordered the parties to maintain status-quo, subject to the MRF management taking decision on the agreement it signed with AWWU.”

The labour problems first began at MRF’s Thiruvottiyur plant near here Dec 3, 2007 which led the state government to threaten the company of taking over the factory.

Subsequently, the Arakonam plant was locked out for three days from Dec 17, 2008 due to labour problems.

MRF’s Puducherry plant was also locked out Feb 22-26 this year due to the same reasons.

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

The tyre company is now setting up a car and truck radial tyre plant in Perambulur district in Tamil Nadu, while expanding its existing capacity at Arakonam. Both projects involve an outlay of Rs.900 crore, according to officials.

Despite several attempts, MRF officials were not available to comment on the labour unrest in the company.

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