HC refers Bajaj Auto management-labour dispute to tribunal

In a twin decision that can be seen as partly favourable to Bajaj Auto and partly to its workers' union, the Bombay High Court on Friday rejected the plea of Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sanghatana (VKKS), the recognised union at the Chakan factory of Bajaj, for a grant of Rs10,000 per month per worker as an interim relief.

At the same time, the bench also rejected the company management's plea challenging the order of the deputy commissioner of labour, Pune to refer new demands of the union to the industrial tribunal.

The company had pleaded that in spite of the fact that the settlement between the company and the union, dated 21 May 2010, is valid till 31 March, 2019, the new demands of the union were referred to the tribunal.

The HC directed that the issue of unlawful reference of charter of demands submitted by the union be decided first by the tribunal before any decision on the interim relief demand made by the union.

Industrial relations at the Chakan plant of the company near Pune have been strained since May last year when VKKS stopped work demanding, among other things, 500 shares in the company for every employee for a nominal consideration of one rupee (See: Strike hits motorcycle production at Bajaj Auto's Chakan plant).

During the prolonged agitation, the company had moved some of the production to its Waluj plant, near Aurangabad in Maharashtra, and said the entire production would move to Waluj if the agitation continued. The employees eventually returned to the shop floor after an understanding that the management would settle their various demands amicably.

VKKS, however, sent a notice to the company on 14 April that it intended to stop work again from 28 April (Bajaj Auto workers threaten to stop work again).

The union has claimed in the notice that their demands were never discussed and that the company's management was not serious about them. The union has revived the demand for 500 shares of the company and also said the management should allocate 50 per cent of the company's budget on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for education and welfare of employees' children.

Terming the union's demands as "insane", Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj had earlier said, "It seems to me that with some of the irresponsible union leaders and members, the management is guilty of sparing the rod and spoiling the child. We will be certain not to repeat that error while taking all possible care to ensure the safety of the majority of our colleagues who wish to continue to work."