HM workers ready for VRS after Ambassador sale

The staff quarters inside the factory township. Photo: Subrata Majumder
Faced with an uncertain future, the remaining 450-odd workers at the Uttarpara plant of Hindustan Motors — from where the iconic Ambassador once rolled out — are ready to opt for a fresh voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), provided the compensation is better than what was offered in the past.

According to some of them Business Standard met on the shabby premises of the factory township, the sale of the Ambassador brand seals the fate of the factory that stopped producing in 2014, once and for all. Uttarpara is around 20km west of Kolkata.

Workers’ mistrust with the management as well as the trade unions has grown over the past two years. Neither have the unions been able to successfully pursue the company management to clear workers’ dues and obtain better compensation, nor has the management addressed the appalling living conditions inside the factory township.

A majority of workers, whose monthly earnings after the factory closed down in May 2014 has dwindled by over 50 per cent as they took up other jobs, are of the opinion that the management can offer “better than before”.

They want Rs 4-5 lakh as compensation and clearance of all pending dues, including gratuity, at a single go, which will prompt them to strike off their names from the company’s roll book and vacate the quarters.

“Since the management has received Rs 80 crore from the sale of the Ambassador brand, they can now look forward to clearing the dues and offer a better VRS package,” Jamil Nawaz, who used to work as a factory supervisor, said.

In all the previous three tranches of VRS, Hindustan Motors had offered Rs 1 lakh as one-time compensation.

“While those who opted for the first tranche had received the money, people from the other two tranches are yet to receive their dues,” C Singh, who joined the company in 1981 and survived the previous three VRS tranches, said.

Workers said the compensation offered was too low and the management, particularly after the sale of 314 acres of land in 2006-07 for Rs 285 crore, could offer better to the workers. 

“Unless the management clears the outstanding dues of those who opted for the VRS, there cannot be a fourth tranche of the same,” Uttam Chakraborty, leader of the Hindustan Motors’ trade union, affiliated with the ruling Trinamool Congress, said.

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