General Motors India has laid off 1,086 workers who have not accepted a voluntary separation package at the automaker’s plant near Pune, triggering a legal battle with its employee union that has approached the industrial court against the company.
About one-third of employees at the Talegaon site have accepted the voluntary separation scheme by the July 4 deadline. The local unit of the American carmaker axed the remaining jobs on July 12.
The workers union has filed a case at the industrial court in Pune on July 15, challenging the retrenchment of service and sought a stay on the sale of the factory to Chinese SUV maker Great Wall Motors or any other party. GM had stopped production at the factory in December 2020 and had agreed to sell it to Great Wall, though the deal had been stuck in part due to the labour issue at the plant.
The court that held an urgent hearing on July 16 asked GM India to either give an undertaking of holding the sale or leasing of the plant till the next hearing, or accept a stay order from the court.
The US carmaker confirmed that it told the court that it would not proceed on any transactions until August 3, 2021, when it would file a formal reply to the complaint.
GM India said it remained very confident of its legal position and has acted in accordance with the law and the Certified Standing Orders agreed between the union and the management.
Sandeep Bhegade, president of General Motors Employees Union, told ET that the Industrial Disputes Act was much more powerful than the standing order. “The union believes the retrenchment act done by General Motors with employees is illegal as per the Industrial Disputes Act … and the union is fighting for the same in the industrial court,” he said.
GM India claims that since the company announced the end of vehicle production at the site at the start of 2020, it had been fully transparent about its intention to wind down operations and separate employees.
On its part, it offered a generous separation package and even extended the deadline, it said.
Explaining the move, GM India said it terminated the services of the remaining workforce as it did not have any work.
The employees whose services were terminated were paid 15 days’ wages per year of service, one month notice period pay and other statutory and terminal benefits, it said.