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Retrenched workers of Hindustan Motors await Stalin's decision on their future

 
Chennai, Oct 9 (IANS) The retrenched workers of Hindustan Motors/Hindustan Motor Finance Corporation Ltd and their family members are waiting for a decision on their future from the DMK government headed by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin.

It has been over a week since they wound up their indefinite sit-in protest at the Tiruvallur District Collectorate demanding back their land or a job in PCA Automobiles India Private Ltd.

Car maker PCA Automobiles located in Tiruvallur is a joint venture between global automotive manufacturer Stellantis Group and India's C.K. Birla group.

Hindustan Motors Ltd/Hindustan Motor Finance belonged to the C.K. Birla group.

"We had stopped our protest on the assurance given by the Collector that our issue would be sorted out this week. But no progress has been made," E. Srinivasan, Secretary of the Hindustan Motors Land Giving Farmers Progressive Association, told IANS.

He also said the CPI leaders have assured them that they will take up the issue with the Chief Minister for a solution.

On Oct 1, the retrenched workers and their family members began their indefinite sit-in strike.

The protest was flagged off by CPI MP K. Subbarayan and was wound up late that night.

According to a worker, the state government did not want a protest on the day of Gandhi Jayanti --October 2.

The workers were earlier employed by Hindustan Motors Ltd/Hindustan Motor Finance Corporation at its Tiruvallur car plant rolling out Japanese Mitsubishi Motors Corporation's models like Lancer, Pajero and also under contract manufacturing deal for Isuzu Motors MU 7 model.

Later about 175 permanent workers and over 150 contract workers were retrenched by Hindustan Motor Finance Corporation and the plant was transferred to PCA Automobiles.

"We were retrenched despite an agreement signed between the two joint venture partners that the workers will be absorbed by PCA Automobiles," H. Ismail, one of the retrenched workers whose grandfather's land was acquired by Hindustan Motors in 1968 had told IANS.

"Based on this Employee Transfer Agreement, Hindustan Motor Finance Corporation got permission from the Tamil Nadu government to transfer the plant and other assets to PCA Automobiles. Post transfer of assets, the workers -- permanent and on contract -- were sent out," Srinivasan said.

According to Srinivasan, Hindustan Motors acquired about 356 acres of agricultural land in 1968 at Tiruvallur for its earthmoving equipment division.

Initially Hindustan Motors bought the land directly from the owners. But it was not able to get the extent it wanted and sought the District Collector's help. Later the company deposited the land cost with the government treasury and the government transferred the land to the company, Srinivasan said.

At that point of time, the District Collector had assured that the land owners will be employed by the company at its earthmoving equipment plant.

However, the landowners were not given employment as promised earlier and after protest, Hindustan Motors employed 82 persons -- mostly the grandsons of the landowners -- in the 1980s.

"After a decade of protests another batch of 82 workers were hired as trainees in 1997," Srinivasan said.

Srinivasan and Ismail said Hindustan Motors confirmed the trainee workers only after 10 years.

Hindustan Motors hived off a sizable portion of the land for its car plant to roll out Mitsubishi Motors Corporation's models like Lancer, Pajero.

And some workers of the Hindustan Motors' earthmoving equipment division were transferred to the car plant.

Some years later, the Indian company transferred the plant to Hindustan Finance Corporation and then to PCA Automobiles while sending out permanent and contract workers.

Hindustan Motors sold its earthmoving equipment division (that made dumpers, loaders and others) to Caterpillar, US.

Barring the 22 workers whose grandfathers had given their land to the factory and some others, the majority of the permanent workers had agreed to take lump sum compensation from Hindustan Motor Finance Corporation.

"The company had deposited the lump sum in our bank accounts without our consent. We wrote to the company, Tamil Nadu government and also to PCA Automobiles stressing our demand for jobs and the amount deposited would be treated as our monthly wages," Srinivasan had said.

According to Srinivasan, the PCA Automobiles plant has about 190 acres of land of which about 150 acres are vacant.

"We want our land back so that we can do farming and manage our families," Srinivasan said.

"Our land is there. The old owner -- C.K. Birla group and new owner Stellantis Group -- are also there. The car plant is also rolling out Citroen brand cars. Only we are not there. This is not just," Ismail and Srinivasan had said.

--IANS
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