A Tragic Case of Judicial Vagueness and Police Bias
The industrial dispute between workers of Greaves Cotton plant in Gummidipoondi SIPCOT has taken a turn for worse, as the management used police force to remove the machines and materials from the plant on Saturday, 2nd July. Several judicial orders have also contributed to this deteriorating condition as workers continue to battle for right to unionization and are fighting lockout of their plant.
The dispute in Greaves Cotton has been going on since 2013 when employment of workers were terminated due to their attempt to unionize. The ongoing dispute was further escalated by the closure of the plant in April. According to the workers, the Greaves Cotton management has not taken due permission with the Labour Department for closing the plant as per Industrial Disputes Act and hence the lockout is illegal. The closure prompted the workers to do a sit-in strike between April 29th and May 17th.
According to workers, the management had initiated a civil case against the DTUC workers union on 5th May as a response to the sit-in strike. The Court has issued an interim order that prohibits the workers to protest within 200 meters of the plant and asking the management not to move any finished goods from the plant until the next hearing. The workers say that the management had asked for a postponement due to unavailability of the counsel and the next hearing had been postponed to 14th of July.
However, the management had also initiated a criminal case against the police department for not taking any action during the sit-in strike. The workers allege that they had vacated the premise once the management had an order prohibiting the workers from protesting with in the plant. In this case that had been filed against the police, the workers union has not been made a respondent. The order passed by the court has stated that the petitioner(management) had alleged unlawful conduct of the workers and has ordered the police to ensure that workers do not do anything illegal(see below).
On 2nd July, 2016, the management, accompanied by police officials, proceeded to remove the materials and machinery. According to the counsel for the workers, the police had brought in vehicles and over 50 police including women constables to provide protection for the management and to arrest any one who would stop this process. When workers showed their order prohibiting the movement of goods, the police is alleged to have asked the workers to approach the court for any recourse.
It is not clear why the police allowed the management to move the goods on a saturday when workers could not move the court or why the union was not made to respond to allegations involving the workers’ alleged illegal conduct or why both cases were not tried together as both emanate from same circumstances. The vagueness in these two separate orders seem to have allowed the management to get away with violations of workers’ rights.
In the mean time, the workers have filed a case against the company on the illegal closure during the industrial dispute. Adv Nagarathinam for the workers has cited an existing judgement in the case of Sri Arunachaleswarar Mills vs 6 The Secretary on 18 January, 2010 under Justice Chandru, which has upheld that closure of plant without permission from the State Authority is illegal under Industrial Disputes Act and upheld the award of the tribunal against the management (W.P.No.24564 of 2009).
Interim Order staying movement of goods in the factory
Order prohibiting workers from ‘aggression’
Further References :