Top ministers, 75 MPs and MLAs bat to reinstate workers at GM Talegaon plant after Hyundai takeover

Two Central and State ministers along with 75 Members of Parliament and Maharashtra Legislative Assembly representatives keen on reinstatement of 1,086 workers who were part of GM India’s Talegaon plant, now lying idle for over two years. 

By Amit Vijay M calendar 12 Apr 2023 Views icon11348 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Top ministers, 75 MPs and MLAs bat to reinstate workers at GM Talegaon plant after Hyundai takeover

The signing of a term sheet by General Motors and Hyundai Motor last month to explore the acquisition of GM India’s plant in Talegaon, Pune, has drawn strong support from a cross-section of politicians. They include two Central and State ministers as well as 75 members of Parliament and Maharashtra Legislative Assembly representatives, who are batting for the reinstatement of the 1,086 workers who previously worked at the Talegaon plant, now lying idle for over two years. 

Autocar Professional learns that the government of India’s Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment (MOS J&E) Ramdas Athawale has requested for urgent intervention from the office of Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra State Deputy Chief Minister, and also the State Labour Minister, Suresh Khade, to ensure the workers affiliated with the General Motors Workers Union (Talegaon Plant) are reinstated into the Hyundai Motor India-acquired Talegaon plant and their pending dues, in accordance with the labour laws of Maharashtra, are given.

In a letter to both stakeholders, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale said that "a high-powered meeting with decision makers of all stakeholders be conducted on priority along with Trade Union Members, the States Labour Department, Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), and the Labour Commissioner, to ensure that workers' rights are protected while assets, plant, and machinery are transferred from General Motors to Hyundai Motors India.”

Sanjay Bhegade, the ex-MLA and Sunil Shelke, the present MLAs have already written letters to the CM, Deputy CM and labour minister in support of the Talegaon plant workers.

No NOCs without GM or Hyundai clarification
Maharashtra’s labour minister also has similar views that unless the workers are reinstated and pending dues issues resolved, there may not be clearance for the Talegaon plant to be transferred to Hyundai Motor India.

Sureshbhau Dagadu Khade, Cabinet Minister for Labour in Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde's cabinet, told Autocar Professional that "strict instructions have been given to the Labour Commissioner not to issue any no-objection certificate (NOC) to the General Motors-Hyundai Project without both parties clarifying their stand."

GM will have to ensure that Hyundai agrees to hiring these workers and if they want more workmen, Maharashtra’s Labour Department will roll out the red carpet for the Hyundai team, Minister Khade said.

Legal issues stall progress

As is known, Hyundai Motor India had entered into a term sheet with General Motors on March 12. GM was finally able to secure a new buyer for its 130,000 cars and 160,000 engines-per-annum Pune plant after its deal with Great Wall Motors collapsed in June 2022.

The sale will be concluded only after all regulatory and legal clearances are secured. However, it seems the effort to exit the Indian market for over two-and-a-half years is getting further stuck in a legal mess.

Sources say, apart from regulatory challenges, the workers union has also filed a writ petition in the Mumbai High Court to stall the transfer of the Talegaon plant from General Motors India to Hyundai Motor India.

"While the High Court has admitted our petition asking for the stay, it is yet to come up for hearing and the next date set by the Court is the forthcoming week, where we look to getting a stay order on the work happening at the Talegaon plant till our issues get resolved", the workers union representative said.

Sources say the Maharashtra Deputy CM’s office too has received a letter from the trade union for settlement of the worker union issues and "the letter has been directed to MIDC CEO Vipin Kumar" to take note and verify the demands of the union if they are tenable as per the laws of the land and take appropriate action.

Officials at MIDC have also acknowledged that “they will not issue any NOC to Hyundai till they get a green signal from the Labour Department.”

High-level GM-Hyundai delegation urges speedy solution
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government is understood to have been given assurances to both Hyundai and GM officials for speeding up the transition. Last month, a high-level GM-Hyundai delegation, led by GM's Joseph Urso, Director - Corporate Strategy, Development, and Planning - Global M&A, & Risk Officer, GM International, along with Hyundai Motor India director Dosik Kim met with Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to discuss the Talegaon plant transfer in detail.

The delegation was also accompanied by Asifhusen Khatri, GM’s Vice-President (Manufacturing) who met Vinita Ved Singhal, Principal Secretary, Department of Labour; Dr Vipin Sharma, CEO, Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC); Deputy Chief Minister's Secretary Dr Shrikar Pardeshi and other officials last month.

According to sources, both parties have urged that the State government talk to the Talegaon Plant unions to persuade them to see reason and end their conflict, which is not in the best interest of Maharashtra’s development.

When Autocar Professional reached out the deputy CM’s office, senior officials aware of the development said  they too had received a letter from the trade union for settlement of the union's issues and "the letter has been directed to MIDC CEO Vipin Kumar" to take note and verify the demands of the union if they are tenable as per the laws of the land and take appropriate action.

Officials at MIDC have also acknowledged that “they will not issue any NOC to Hyundai till they get a green signal from the Labour department.”

Given that some high-profile investments from Maharashtra have, in the recent past, moved to other states, people in the know say Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis is very keen on holding onto any major investments planned in the state. They add that he would be very keen to put an end to this impasse, so that the state government is able to add yet another major automaker in the form of Hyundai Motor to its thriving automotive eco-system in West India.

In its presence in India for over two-and-a-half decades, GM had invested $1.4 billion in India. While it exited the domestic market in 2017, GM stopped producing cars for export in December 2020. Since then it has engaged in multiple legal cases with the employees union across multiple courts to wrap up its exit formalities.

An email sent to both General Motors and Hyundai Motor India seeking their response to these latest developments did not elicit any response till the time of publishing this report. 

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