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Thursday, Sep 30, 2004

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Indal wage talks end in stalemate

G.K. Nair

Kochi , Sept. 29

THE stalemate continued in the Indian Aluminium Company Ltd (Indal) of Hindalco Industries Ltd at Alupuram as the management and trade unions failed to reach an agreement on the long-term settlement even after two days of discussions before the State Labour Minister, Mr Babu Divakaran, early this week.

Both the trade unions and the management seem to be sticking to their respective stand.

The management has not shown any flexibility, Mr K. Babu, MLA and INTUC leader, who participated in the initial discussions, told Business Line on Wednesday. He said that during the last agreement about five years ago, the company agreed for a wage hike of Rs 1,975. Since then, 52 employees have retired.

But the company's production went up enabling it to make good profits. Given this, there should be a hike higher than what was given in the previous agreement. The previous long-term agreement expired two years back.

The unions wanted the `consequential benefits' to be excluded from the proposed hike while the management insisted on its inclusion. The company management did not agree to the union's demand while the offer of the former is not acceptable to the workers, Mr Babu said.

However, a leader of one of the major trade unions said an agreement could have been concluded had the senior leaders of the other unions participated in the final discussions.

Meanwhile, management sources said the management did not want to make public the terms and conditions of the wage settlement. However, they claimed that the company's offer would result in long-term benefits to the employees.

The company incurred a loss last fiscal following the shutdown of its smelter units from August 1, 2003. It had asked its 462 workers to stay at home.

It is at this juncture that 155 workers of the extrusion plant went on strike from July 1 last demanding a wage hike, the sources said.

The power crisis still continues as Power Trading Corporation, which offered power at Rs 2.50 a unit over a year ago, "has yet to respond with a favourable rate," they said. For running the power intensive units without loss, power should be available at Rs 2.50 a unit at the factory premises, they said.

The sources said that following the merger of Indal with Hindalco Industries Ltd, organisational restructuring was going on now. The company had temporarily transferred 25 middle management officials to other units. Majority of them were shifted to its Hirakud smelter plant, which is under "massive expansion" as cheap power will be available there from its coal-based captive power plant, they said.

The Aditya Birla Group set up the company here in 1943 with a small investment and then expanded it in stages. Setting up a new unit of its capacity will involve an investment of around Rs 350 crore now, the sources said.

More Stories on : Trade & Labour Unions | Kerala | Aluminium

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