Layoffs by Hero Cycles spark protest, workers to gherao owners’ house
The number of protesters grew to more than 300 on the second day of the strike, including those from the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). They raised slogans against the management and the state government, and demanded that all laid-off employees be reinstated immediately.
The employees retrenched by Hero Cycles Limited in Ludhiana intensified their proteston Saturday as many of them of them removed their shirts and squatted on the road outside the company premises on National Highway 1.
The number of protesters grew to more than 300 on the second day of the strike, including those from the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). They raised slogans against the management and the state government, and demanded that all laid-off employees be reinstated immediately, failing which they would further intensify their protest. The number of police personnel deployed too grew to more than 80.
On Friday, the bicycle manufacturing giant had laid off 312 workers from its Ludhiana plant — 10% of the workforce — evoking a protest. While the chairman-cum-managing director (CMD), SK Rai, said the workers were paid three months’ remuneration before the severance, the workers alleged they were not served any notice.
“These workers — from the cycle frames section — could not keep pace with the latest technology,” said Rai, adding, “We served notice and paid all emoluments; and workers duly signed resignations.”
There would be no more layoffs, said Vipin Kaushal, vice-president for human resources for the company, which has 12,000 employees. “The frames section was running in losses for over two years. Despite strenuous efforts, things could not be fixed,” he added.
On the very day, around 80 retrenched employees with support from unions held a dharna on the road outside the company premises. Police were deployed even as the protest remained peaceful.
“Cops here outnumber the protesters,” said Chandarshekhar, CITU state chief, who joined the protest, “This is a clear sign of using power against helpless workers. Our negotiations are on with the firm’s management; and, if they do not reinstate these workers, we will take legal recourse.”
Many of the laid-off employees, said the protesters, were working for Hero for three decades.
A younger worker, Raj Kumar Dubey, 36, who worked for 14 years, said he was asked to sign resignation papers when he reached the unit. A native of Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Dubey was distraught: “You do not get a job overnight! It is difficult to get a new job especially when you are not working already, as no employer will have faith in you. Many of the workers have lost their jobs with only a few years left in their service period. It’s the biggest jolt for them, professionally and personally.”
“It seems even big companies do not have any rules and regulations — today you are a regular employee, the next day you are sacked!” said Ram Singh, 30, another laid-off worker. He lamented, “I have a nine-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old old son to take care of. Where will I go now? The company management could have given me some time so I could get some other job. They did not give any notice or even a hint that I would be laid off.”
At the protest site on Saturday, Vinod Kumar, president of the Hero Cycle Workers’ Union said, “If the management of the company does not accede to our demands, we will hold a general body meeting tomorrow (Sunday). The workers have decided they will gherao the house of owners of Hero Cycles in Sarabha Nagar.”
He added, “The plan of action will be decided after the meeting, and we will not give in to any kind of pressure either by the management or the police. The management did not give time to the workers so that they could seek another job.”