Fight for rights: The car assembly line at the Hyundai Motor India plant in Chennai. The company has refused to recognize the union despite three strikes this year. Labour lawyers say non-recognition   (The car assembly line at the Hyundai Motor India plant in Chennai. The company has refused to recognize the union despite three strikes this year. Labour lawyers say non-recognition)
Fight for rights: The car assembly line at the Hyundai Motor India plant in Chennai. The company has refused to recognize the union despite three strikes this year. Labour lawyers say non-recognition (The car assembly line at the Hyundai Motor India plant in Chennai. The company has refused to recognize the union despite three strikes this year. Labour lawyers say non-recognition)

Firms, unions jostle for upper hand

Firms, unions jostle for upper hand

Chennai: As the clock edges towards 1pm, the young, trendy factory workers are easily identifiable as they walk briskly to the busy Chengalpet junction bus stop, an hour’s ride from Chennai. Within minutes, two large white buses and two smaller ones bearing the trademark blue Nokia sign arrive in quick succession and the young assembly line workers hop on for the second shift at the world’s largest cellphone maker’s Sriperumbudur factory.

The workers at this pickup point, who assemble handsets exported to over 50 countries, were feeling upbeat thanks to a Rs1,000-Rs3,000 jump in monthly wages following a strike in August that persuaded Nokia Oyj’s Indian unit to accept a politically-backed union and concede its demands.

The Nokia episode was a departure from the “no unions" policy of most multinational corporations that have set up shop in Sriperumbudur, also known as the Detroit of India after the former US automotive capital, and is fast acquiring another title: the country’s Shenzhen, after China’s electronics hub.

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