ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Future Space for Labour

Lockout at Toyota-Kirloskar

The lockout at Toyota-Kirloskar Motors in Karnataka was a strategy by the management to silence the workers who put forth their demands and raised fears about their job security. Such actions challenge the ability of unions to negotiate workers' demands. The Toyota case is a possible trajectory of weakening trade union mobilisations.

The Indian industrial landscape is rearranged in such a way that we do not hear reports of labour resistance as often as two decades ago. Trade and industrial policy reforms, especially deregulation and making labour laws flexible have disciplined labour. Recent disputes in Maruti automobiles at its Manesar unit in Haryana and the ongoing (at the time of writing) one in Toyota-Kirloskar Motors Ltd (TKML) at Bidadi, near Bangalore, must be seen as two exceptions where workers’ organisations have stood up against the management to voice their demands.

The Toyota Kirloskar Motors Employees Trade Union (TKMEU) submitted a charter of demands for 2014-15 by July 2013 since the year’s agreement was to expire on 31 March 2014. Annual wage increments are agreed upon by the management and union as part of such negotiations, which take place every year before the expiry of the previous year’s agreements. The current dispute and lockout at TKML, at first sight, appears to be over conventional issues of salary increments, better conditions of work and against contractualisation. However, these issues emanate from much larger issues pertaining to the organisation of production. The recent developments, hence, throw up some new issues, including about production practices and ways in which such practices govern labour relations and weaken workers’ agency; creation of a public image of workers’ struggle and resistance as a “violent, anti-industry, and anti-growth” move and more importantly about the future of the legitimate space of labour.

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