Bajaj invites unions for discussions over shuttered Pune plant

Bajaj invites unions for discussions over shuttered Pune plant

India’s second largest two-wheeler maker Bajaj Auto Ltd said it invited worker unions for a discussion to resolve a stand-off stemming from the company ceasing production of two-wheelers at its Akurdi plant here citing unfriendly state taxes.

Union minister Sharad Pawar, who represents the regi-on, has intervened to avoid what was looking to snowball into a broader labour issue ac-ross the large industrial belt where Bajaj Auto’s plant is loc-ated, asking all sides to try and amicably resolve the issue.

The meeting between the two parties is likely to take place on Friday.

“We have sent them (the two unions) our proposals and are awaiting their response," said Bajaj vice-president C.P. Tripathi.

“We are required by law only to talk to the recognized union but have issued an invitation to the other union too, on Pawar’s suggestion," he added.

Suryakant Mahadik, leader of the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena (BKS), the recognized union at the company, confirmed he received the invitation. His union represents a minority of the workforce. The remainder are aligned with the unrecognized union, the Vishwa Kalyan Sanghatana.

Dilip Pawar, president of the Vishwa Kalyan Sanghatana, the union which claims to have the support of some 2,000 workers, said he hasn’t heard from Bajaj. The two Pawars are not related.

The issue of recognized union status at Bajaj is also under dispute with Vishwa Kalyan filing a case in the industrial court challenging the recognized union status of the BKS. The case comes up for a hearing here on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Bajaj management’s proposal to the workers union, in lieu of closure of bike making at the Akurdi plant, has been rejected by the recognized union.

This proposal includes employment opportunities at the Chakan or Pant Nagar units of the firm for the “employable"children of workers or, alternatively, employment offers to the workers at Bajaj dealerships, or a voluntary retirement scheme.

All three proposals have been rejected by the BKS. “We want the... workers back and working in the plant," insists Mahadik.

Bajaj shut the plant on 1 September. About 1,600 workers are jobless but the company says it will continue to pay them for a six-day work week.

Labour unions in Maharashtra are strongly aligned to the Shiv Sena, which once was part of the ruling state government.

Bajaj says it has some 1,300 other staff and 847 blue-collar workers involved in parts of the business such as tooling and logistics for other operati-ons, who are continuing to work.