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Insist on guarantees to reopen Metal Box unit: Union

Our Bureau

Kolkata , Nov. 18

METAL Box Workers' Union has urged the West Bengal Government to insist on guarantees in any form from the Metal Box management as a prerequisite for reopening of the local Number One factory of the company. The union's view was recently communicated to the concerned authorities in the Government.

The union, according to its General Secretary, Mr Aloke Mukherjee, will have no objection to accept the action plan, as submitted by the management to the West Bengal for reopening the Number One factory, provided all dues of the employees, including unpaid bonus, leave encashment amount, arrears, gratuity, compensation, along with VRS and pending wages of Burlowe Houses employees were cleared prior to the selling of the company's assets as proposed in the action plan. Unless the Government secured the guarantees, there would be no way it could force the management to clear the dues either of the employees or of its sales tax department. The sales tax dues amounted to more than Rs 70 crore, he said, emphasising that the Government must take enough precaution; otherwise, the management might sell the properties and disappear with the proceeds without clearing the dues or reopening the factory.

It might be noted that the Metal Box management recently submitted an action plan to the West Bengal Government for reopening of the Number One factory here. The plan presupposes sale of flats, dismantling of the Number Two factory and sale of plant and machinery and materials of the same factory which would not be reopened, sale of surplus plant and equipment of the Number One factory which is to be reopened, sale of R&D division and immediate release of soft loan of Rs 3 crore by the West Bengal Government out of its promised Rs 5 crore. According to the action plan, the start-up operation for reopening the Number One factory will take 18 months. On reopening, 550 employees will be absorbed. About 1,600 employees who have already retired are yet to get their superannuation benefits. The action also makes it clear that if the unions continue to obstruct the sale of the company properties, the management may be forced to go for total winding up of operation in the city.

The management's bid to sell the Chennai property did not make much headway as the frontage road is less than 30 ft wide which is less than Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority's minimum specified width of 10 metres for construction of ground up to three floors. In case of less than 10 metres , the floor space index (FSI) reduces from 1.5 to 1.3

Mr Mukherjee complained that the inspection by the Provident Fund authorities revealed non-availability of necessary documents in regard to utilisation of about Rs 11.78 crore of PF money by the company.

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