CHENNAI: In a blow to labour movements in manufacturing industries, the State government on Tuesday passed an order bringing auto component manufacturers under the list of ‘public utility’ services, for a period of six months.
The move, experts say, makes it illegal for labourers working in these sectors to go on strikes or lock-outs without issuing prior notice.
Several industrial sectors, including the auto component manufacturers, were under the public utility category till the unions moved the court and got relief in 2015. Official sources say the move could have been brought in to prevent labour protests in the sector similar to the ones experienced in 2018.
Last year, 4,000 workers from different auto companies in the Oragadam industrial belt launched a strike demanding better working conditions.
They had alleged that company authorities were confiscating their mobile phones, not allowing them to meet HR executives, and were using faulty swipe machines which did not record their overtime work. The strike lasted 50 days.
As per the Industrial Disputes Act, persons employed in public utility services cannot go on strike without issuing a notice six weeks in advance.
The strike must also not be organised within 14 days of giving such a notice, or when conciliation proceedings are ongoing, or even within seven days of the conclusion of such proceedings.
Speaking to Express, former Madras High Court judge K Chandru says bringing an industry under public utility service is “to indirectly prohibit strikes”.
In such industries, if unions have to strike work, they must give a 14-day notice.
“After that, the issue goes for conciliation. If talks fail, it goes to the government and then to labour court,” says Chandru.
“Even if the labour court passes an award, it can be terminated by the company till one year from the date of reference to the date of the award within a matter of two minutes. The issue is then referred to the court. It takes nearly 20 years to get a judgment in the case.”
Chandru says that though industries are brought under the public utility service for an initial period of six months, in many cases it gets extended by more than 40 years.