Karnataka government in India bans strike at Toyota Kirloskar engine plant and calls on management to lift lockout

On November 17, 2020, the government of Karnataka banned the strike that had been going on since November 10 at the Toyota engine plant in Bidadi. At the same time, after talks with management and union representatives, Toyota was ordered to end the lockout of the workers and to resolve the conflict with talks.

The starting point of the strike, which was supported by over 3500 workers, was the suspension of the cashier of the TKM-EU (Toyota Kirloskar Motor Plant - Employees Union). He had protested vehemently in the name of his colleagues against the increased rush to work. Previously, the management had increased production further. This went so far that now 2 colleagues should manage the work of 6 colleagues before. Toilet breaks were made almost impossible. This inhuman work rush, combined with the suspension of their spokesman, made the pot boiling over. Production came to a halt when the workers took up a 24-hour "dharna" (non-violent sit-in) as a strike against the indefinite "dismissal" of their union representative. Toyota then suspended another 39 union officials on November 13, responding by locking out the workers.

The justified and consistent strike has met with growing interest and solidarity in India and internationally for a week. The International Coordination Group of the International Automobile Workers Coordination wrote in its message of solidarity to the strikers on November 13: "We are in solidarity with your just struggle against the raised production targets. It is inhuman that under these worsened working conditions even toilet breaks are not possible for the workers. We denounce the suspension of a trade unionist after he had showed his protest on this. The suspension of 39 trade union activists after their broad protest included a sit-in (around-the-clock “dharna”) of over 3.500 employees is not acceptable. We demand TKM to end immediately the declared lockout and reinstate all of the workers.”

The government made the decision to cancel the strike and lockout on the basis of a law on labor disputes. It was ordered that the workers resume production on November 18 after 7 days of strike and that the conflict should be resolved through talks. This open intervention and "calming" of a labor dispute was justified by Deputy Prime Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan's reference to the labor and investment friendly climate in the state of Karnataka. He raised the question with the management and the unions as to what message was associated with the strike and lockout. The whole world would see India as an alternative to China. Countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were very interested in gaining a foothold in Karnataka. In such a situation, strike and lockout should not be discussed. There was nothing to be heard from the government side about the criticism of the rush to work and the suppression of the unions. But the workers and their union will not be forbidden to fight for the improvement of their wages and working conditions and for trade union rights. The International Automotive Workers' Coordination continued to write to the strikers on this issue: "Worldwide automotive workers are facing the same problems and it is our right and obligation to fight for human working conditions and against all oppression of trade union work.”

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