Nearly 210 employees of Nokia Siemens Networks India Ltd in Oragadam, Chennai, are on a strike from June 6 demanding recognition for the union they belong to.

Refuting the union claim, the company said less than 70 were striking.

There has been some disruption due to the demonstration but overall production is going on as this is only a small fraction of the workforce, said a company spokesperson. The company manufactures the entire range of telecom equipment for 2G, 3G and Long Term Evolution (4G technology). Around 800 work in the factory.

The spokesperson said the agitation was due to disagreements over wage negotiations. However, E. Muthukumar, President, Nokia Siemens Networks India Workers’ Union, which is leading the agitation, said that the agitation was mainly to demand recognition for the union. “While we have been dealing with various issues, including reinstatement of the suspended workers, in front of the labour commissioner, the management refuses to recognise us,” he told Business Line. The union is affiliated to Centre of Indian Trade Unions, which in turn is attached to the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

“We do not have a recognised union. It is not a regulatory requirement in Tamil Nadu and we do not want to have one because these are politically motivated groups who have a history of doing untoward incidents and even illegal activities like blocking production in the factory. We want to have direct discussion with a large number of employees, who have accepted all the wage and other terms and conditions,” the spokesperson said.

Muthukumar said that last year the company suspended 72 employees in connection with the formation of the union. While most of them were reinstated, five have been left out despite negotiations in the presence of labour department officials.

However, the spokesperson said that only 18 employees were suspended on disciplinary grounds out of which it has reinstated all but five. So, these 70 employees (agitating) were not suspended but were demonstrating on their own, he said.

On Thursday, the Labour Commissioner observed that the dispute between the management and the workers could not be resolved. He referred the issue to the labour court for a settlement, said Muthukumar.

Nokia Siemens manufactured nearly 13 lakh units in 2013 compared with 9.78 lakh two years ago. . It had started the plant in 2008 and has so far invested close to $75 million.

raja.simhan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on June 21, 2013)
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