GM Talegaon Plant workers go on hunger strike, on failed attempt to get absorbed by Hyundai
The decision comes after a series of failed talks between trade unions and the Maharashtra government, which agreed to sell General Motors Talegaon facility assets to the South Korean car maker on July 5, 2023.
Over 1,000 protesting General Motors Employees Union workers have decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike starting October 2, with their long-standing demand of being absorbed by the new owners of the factory — Hyundai Motor India — not being accepted by the Maharashtra State Government.
The decision to go on hunger strike comes after a series of failed talks between trade unions and the Maharashtra government, which agreed to sell General Motors Talegaon facility assets to the South Korean car maker on July 5, 2023. Subsequently an Asset Purchase Agreement was signed on August 16.
The GM facility will help Hyundai Motor India scale its production capacity to one million units from its current capacity of 8,20,000 units in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.
The plant is however not owned by the American automaker but is leased to General Motors by the state for 95 years. While GM retains the right to sell its machinery and other assets, the lease will be transferred to Hyundai only after the labour department receives an NOC from the workers that they have been compensated.
On this basis, the state's Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) can initiate the transfer proceedings to Hyundai Motors India Limited (HMIL).
The completion of the acquisition and assignment is subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions precedent, as well as the receipt of regulatory approvals from relevant government authorities and stakeholders, according to an earlier press release from HMIL.
HMIL has given no clear indication about whether or not it intends to absorb the workers, and the General Motors Union has already offered the former employees a VRS scheme, which they have declined. The case is now before the Mumbai High Court.
The Mumbai High Court granted the workers' petition for a review of the Pune Industrial Court's decision to close the Talegon factory under Section 25-0 of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947.
According to a spokesperson for the GM workers union, the Mumbai High Court has not only admitted their case but also heard arguments from both parties and is expected to issue its decision soon.
"Whether the decision is in our favour or against us, both parties have the right to petition the Supreme Court of India. The issue will linger for a few years before the Supreme Court finally reserves a decision on the matter that everyone will have to uphold," said a GM workers union representative.
I do not believe any company can wait indefinitely, and it is up to the government to step in and ensure the best possible outcome is crafted, the union spokesman added.
The Workers Union is upset that the state administration has repeatedly ignored their requests for all opposing parties to reach an agreement and present a compromise formula.
Employees believe they have no choice but to "fast unto death" because the state government is ignoring their pleas, according to a workers union official who explained the reasoning behind the indefinite hunger fast.
Since 2021, the General Motors Employees Union has filed multiple cases against the company in various courts for what they believe to be the "illegal termination" of 1,086 employees.
Workers have rejected General Motors India's latest attempt to solve the problem by implementing a VRS scheme, as proposed by General Motors Director Prajot Gaonkar.
According to the workers' union, the Maharashtra government stated in its order to effect the sale of GM assets to Hyundai that workers be paid 110 days of compensation per year because the plant has been dysfunctional.
According to the order, both parties must mutually ensure that workers' interests are met without taking an active stance on the issue, in which the workers now want the government to intervene.
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