Orders reinstatement of four workers along with back wages and full benefits
In 2014, four workers of Renualt Nissan were dismissed by the management without any enquiry or show cause notice. The four workers had been charged by the police under section 294-B of IPC for public nuisance for altercation with few people at Oragadam Bus Stop, near the factory. While the police have not pursued the case, the Human Resource personnel took action, without ascertaining any facts or even giving the workers a chance to respond to the charges.
After a prolonged process over 3 years, the labour court has revoked their dismissals on the grounds that they were not given an opportunity to respond to these allegations. The court had pointed out that due process, which meant a show cause notice followed by suspension pending internal enquiry and finally termination, had not been followed. It has ordered reinstating the four workers and providing them back wages along with lost benefits.
Unfortunately, even after two weeks since the order was passed, Renault Nissan has neither acknowledged the order, nor sought the workers to re join. Workers feel that the company might appeal the case, dragging it out in the higher courts. While the company will easily manage the costs, further loss of income would ruin the workers lives.
The workers, who had joined the company in 2010 as trainees, were working as technicians and had been confirmed few months back with a wage of Rs 22000/- (in 2014). After the incident, they were forced to seek work elsewhere. While initially they focused their efforts on getting their job at Renault Nissan back, with time they tried to find work in other automotive companies in the region. One of the workers mentioned how he was turned away from Yamaha and Royal Enfield companies because he had been terminated from service at Renault Nissan.
With little opportunity of finding permanent employment or even temporary work in established companies, they have been forced to look for daily wage work. He works as a helper to a local electrician when ever there is work. One person has returned to his native place and is unable to find work elsewhere. Two others have also been eking out daily wage work in Chennai, and fighting their case in labour court.
“We have been supported by the workers. We have found place to stay in a friends room, we manage to find some work over the week with which to manage our daily expense. It is hard at times, but with local support we are able to carry on. But we have not been able to save any money or provide financial support to our home. This is crucial for all of us. Our families depend on our income” said one of the workers.
They were also grateful that the case was handled free of charge by Comrade Bharathi, a lawyer affiliated to AICCTU. “The company knows workers can’t fight these cases. How are they going to find the resources for a lawyer, when they cant even find money to stay. We could not have done this without the support from our lawyer, who has not taken any money till now. If our wages are settled, we will pay him his due. But he has not asked us any money so far” said another worker.
The lawyer said that they had applied for reinstatement with the company by giving a letter to the Human Resource department along with the copy of the order. “The order is clear, not only should the workers be reinstated, all benefits including leave, increments and promotion will have to be given to them. Back wages for the three years would also have to be paid. But the company has not responded yet. We had got the copy of the order on 7th Feb and had immediately posted a copy to the company. But the company is yet to respond. They have not even acknowledged the receipt of the letter. In this condition we fear that they will move the high court, which only drag out the case. This is a poor attempt to tire the workers into accepting the termination” said Com. Bharathi, their advocate.
For three years they have suffered the cost of arbitrary action by the company and the state bureaucrats. It has taken a heavy toll on the workers, both economically and psychologically. They have felt miserable working as daily wage laborers. The continuation of this condition would only worsen them in many ways. Even though the high court might grant them a sustenance wage, it is far too small to have any meaningful effect. Justice delayed would effectively mean justice is denied.
While there had been no union at Renault Nissan at the time of their dismissal, currently there are two competing unions at Renault Nissan. While one of the union led by United Labour Front is not recognized, the other union which is unaffiliated, enjoys the patronage of the management. Either of the unions would be able to represent this case and bring it to a successful conclusion. Unfortunately neither have the workers contacted the unions, nor have the unions proactively lent their support to the workers.