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Toyota workers union softens wage hike demand

Tuesday, 18 March 2014 - 8:02pm IST | Agency: IANS

Agitating Toyota's workers on Tuesday said they are open to lower their wage hike demand to persuade management to lift the lockout declared Sunday.

"We are open to reduce our wage hike demand to Rs.4,000 per month from Rs.8,000 asked earlier for fiscal 2013-14 in view of the increase in cost of living and more workload, as we want management to lift lockout immediately," Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd Union president Prasanna Kumar told IANS here Tuesday.

As the Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd joint venture revises wages annually, its management agreed to increase its offer to Rs.3,050 from Rs.2,400 mentioned earlier. However, the union leader said this was not enough. "We will not be able to settle for lower than Rs.4,000 per month as it was the same amount given last fiscal (2012-13). Management should be reasonable to our latest demand," Kumar said.

The Japanese global firm's Indian joint venture's plants are located at Bidadi, about 30 km from here, with a capacity to rollout about 700 cars a day.

Maintaining that the lockout was illegal, Kumar said there were no threats to management from either the union leaders or employees. "How could management declare lockout when reconciliation talks were going on and the deadlock is an industrial dispute," he said, accusing the company of trying to bring in a new work culture "with more production for less pay".

Of the 6,400 employees, about 4,000 of them are union members and the remaining are on contract in both the factories.

As negotiations broke down late Monday, union representatives and management officials met Karnataka Labour Minister Parameshwar Naik to resolve the deadlock. "We are discussing the wage hike issue with management and union. The deputy labour commissioner will take a decision, as we are trying to reach out for a fair settlement. We hope both the plants will re-open soon in the interest of workers and the company," Naik told reporters after an hour-long meeting with both the parties separately here.

Emerging out of the meeting, Toyota Kirloskar Motor vice-chairman Shekhar Viswanathan said he had briefed the minister on the present position in the company due to recession, slowdown in sales and steep depreciation of rupee against dollar this fiscal. "We have had a meeting only with the minister. I think it is important that the minister understands there is a recession and our present position. I cannot talk about any solution but we want the workers to get back, as we produce 700 cars every day and that is being affected," he said.

Refuting reasons management cited for declaring lockout, Kumar said no trouble was created on the shop floor and no worker resorted to slow down to reduce production. "We did not go resort to production delay. On contrary, management is responsible for reducing the production as sales declined and reduced the working time," Kumar claimed.

In a statement from Tokyo late Sunday, the world's biggest automaker, maintained that production in its Indian assembly plants were suspended due to threats against management after efforts to reach a labour contract failed. The 16-year-old joint venture rolls out a range of models, including Innova multi-utility vehicle, Camry sedan, Prius hybrid, Corolla Altis, Etios, Prado and Land Cruiser, with some of them imported as completely built units. 

This is the second time lockout was declared after 2006 over dismissal and suspension of some employees then.

Toyota holds 89% equity in the joint venture with the remaining 11%  by the Pune-based Kirloskar group.

Read: Toyota halts India production over wage dispute

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