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Pune Industrial Court sees ‘prima facie case of unfair labour practice’ in interim ruling on union’s plea

In a partial relief for 1,086 employees of General Motors India who had been laid off in July 2021, the Industrial Court in Pune has directed the Indian unit of the American auto major to pay 50% of the monthly salary to each employee till final disposal of the case.

“I hold that the complainant [General Motors Employees Union] has made out prima facie case of unfair labour practice,” the court’s presiding officer said in an interim ruling. “In these circumstances, if interim relief of partial wages is not granted, then employees will suffer irreparable loss and there will be hardship to them,” the court observed.

“As such, balance of convenience tilts in favour of the complainant,” the court said.

In the order, a copy of which has been seen by The Hindu, the court said, “[The] application is partly allowed. The respondent is directed to pay 50% of the salary to each employee who has been retrenched as per order dated 12.7.2021 on 7th day of each month till final disposal of the complaint. The first salary be paid on 7.4.2022.

“The prayer of the complainant to restrain the respondent from alienating its property is hereby rejected,” the court, however, added in its order dated January 5.

Declines to intervene

Since the case relating to transfer of plant and machinery to Great Wall Motors (GWM) of China along with 300 acres of land at the Talegaon plant, is being heard by the High Court, the Industrial Court refrained from intervening in the matter.

“GM India [had] terminated services of 1,086 employees under the garb of retrenchment without complying with the provisions of Section 25-N of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 i.e., without obtaining prior permission of State government and [thus] committed unfair labour practices,” said Nitin A. Kulkarni, advocate for the employees’ union.

GM India on its part submitted in the court that the lay-off was declared under the ground of natural calamity [COVID-19 pandemic] hence it was not necessary to obtain the permission of the appropriate government for the lay-off.

It had submitted that it had paid compensation to the employees ranging from ₹4 lakh to ₹7 lakh.

The automaker had submitted that it had suffered losses of ₹8,400 crore from its operations in India. Since December 2020, it had no production or work in hand.

Asserting that there was no business potential for the future, GM India submitted that it would not be possible to reinstate the employees.

GM India’s comment on the court order was still awaited at the time of going to the press.

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