Mumbai: India’s largest wine maker, Indage Vintners Ltd has laid off at least half of its workforce in its UK subsidiary, Indage UK Ltd, acquired by the Indian firm in 2007. Indage UK employs about 200 people.
While the employees were preparing to leave the firm on Tuesday, “about 100 people were called into the canteen where they were told to go home and not to return until they were contacted”, said a report in the Evening Telegraph on Wednesday.
A senior employee at the UK subsidiary of Indage in an email confirmed the newspaper report and said several workers in the company, formerly known as Corby Bottlers Plc, were planning a strike on Tuesday because they have not been paid for three weeks. Corby Bottlers was renamed Indage UK after its acquisition by the Indian company.
An Indage spokesperson in Mumbai promised to call back and answer Mint’s queries but did not do so at the time of going to press. It is not known whether the management would face issues of employment protection laws in the UK to implement the layoff.
In September, at least 250 employees, including middle and senior managers, of the troubled Indian wine maker had resigned following non-payment of salaries since November.
Indage Vintners had 550 employees on its rolls and 150 on contract in its Indian and overseas operations.
The management had in September paid part of the unpaid salary to some employees in its Mumbai head office who took up the matter with the labour ministry in Maharashtra.
In September, the company had a financial liability of about Rs450 crore.
Mint had reported on 14 August that the promoters of Indage had pledged at least 97.9% of their 25.42% stake in the firm. Indage has been struggling with working capital needs, and had mounting debt due to overseas acquisitions and expansion into businesses such as Indian-made foreign liquor and hospitality over the past couple of years.
A July letter from Indage’s managing director Ranjit S. Chougule’s office to employees had confirmed payment defaults on salaries, wages and statutory dues. It said the firm has defaulted to suppliers, with arrears of three-six months.
In the letter, which was reviewed by Mint, Chougule said the firm has incurred huge costs, including disposal of his shares by creditors.