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Bengaluru: Former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy during an election campaign rally for by-election polls, in Bengaluru, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (PTI Photo/Shailendra Bhojak)(PTI28-10-2020_000217A) (PTI)
Bengaluru: Former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy during an election campaign rally for by-election polls, in Bengaluru, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (PTI Photo/Shailendra Bhojak)(PTI28-10-2020_000217A) (PTI)

Kumaraswamy lashes out at state govt, Toyota management for standoff with workers

The former chief minister said that there is a dire need to put an end to the impasse and that the government should ensure direct communication

Bengaluru: Former Karnataka chief minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D.Kumaraswamy on Sunday accused the state government of apathy, and Toyota Kirloskar Motors (TKM) for pushing out 3000 of its production-line staff into the street as the deadlock between workers and management continues for over a month at the plant of Japanese car-maker in Bidadi, just outside Bengaluru.

In a series of Tweets, Kumaraswamy said that TKM had penalised workers by “supporting the stand of middle-managers or acting on flimsy allegations".

“The solution does not appear to be in sight though the strike by the employees of Toyota Kirloskar’s Bidadi plant is completing two months. The differences between the workers and management, issues related to middle managers and the government’s apathy may also be the reasons (for such a situation)," Kumaraswamy said.

The former chief minister said that there is a dire need to put an end to the impasse and that the government should ensure direct communication between the staff and the management and act like a “communication bridge" in the interest of the state’s industrial future.

“It is not proper on the part of the companies that thrive by utilizing our land, water, air and infrastructure to behave in such a cruel manner with our own people. The heads of the company should keep aside their prestige and act in a humane way," he posted on Twitter.

The statements come at a time when around 3000 production-line employees of the car-maker continue their strike against what they call “excesses of the management" by demanding undertakings from agitating workers assuring safety and productivity inside the plant.

Kumaraswamy is the former legislator from Ramanagara assembly constituency, in which the factory is located, which is now represented by his wife, Anita Kumaraswamy.

Workers at TKM have been agitating since 10 November after the management suspended a union member over disciplinary issues and declared a lockout as the agitation got more intense. The lockout was extended four days later despite the Karnataka labour department asking TKM to resume operations and directing workers to return to duty. The company said that less than 5-10% of the workers returned to the shop floor and were unwilling to sign an undertaking.

The former chief minister said that he has held several meetings to resolve the crisis.

Kumaraswamy even invoked the incident at Wistron, Apple’e manufacturing partner, in Narasapura to make his point.

“The Apple company has acknowledged that managerial lapses were responsible for the violence at the Wistron’s Kolar plant that manufactures its iPhones," he added.

“It has also stated that it would treat its workers with dignity. Sending a strong signal, Wistron too has removed it’s vice-president. The Toyota company too should conduct an introspection in the wake of the stand taken by Apple," Kumaraswamy posted.

Contract workers of Wistron, that manufactures iPhones for Apple, among other unknown persons went on a rampage over unpaid salaries, unexplained cuts in wages and working hours on 12 December, leaving a trail of destruction that resulted in huge losses and closure of the production line of the plant in Narasapura in Kolar district, about 60 kms from Bengaluru.

Apple put Wistron on notice after its preliminary investigations found violations of its supplier code of conduct and has suspended new business to the Taiwanese-headquartered company. Wistron, in a statement on Saturday, said that it had removed the vice president overseeing India operations and initiated corrective measures.

Kumaraswamy said that the state government should understand that resolving the labour dispute would benefit the state.

“Incidents like workers’ strike, protest and rampages will lead to investors losing their confidence. It will create an opinion that the situation is not conducive in the state to run an industry. Because of all these reasons, I urge the government to immediately intervene," he said. He added that the government should ensure direct communication between the staff and the management and act like a “communication bridge" in the interest of the state’s industrial future.

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