FOLLOWING THE closure of Hindustan Machine Tools’ (HMT) Pinjore unit, hundreds of employees were rendered jobless. Of them, at least 150 employees still had five to 27 years of service left. So, the January 24 ruling of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has come as a ray of hope for the employees. According to the HC order, HMT has to consider the employees, rendered jobless due to the closure of its Pinjore unit, for recruitment in HMT’s other units whenever vacancies are available.
After the Centre approved the closure of HMT’s tractor unit in 2016 and ordered the disbursement of Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) benefits to the employees in view of the deteriorating position of the industrial unit, work at the Pinjore unit began to decrease.
Rambir Panchaal, one of the workers who moved the High Court, said, “There was too little work. We were dealing with the remaining raw materials as no new stocks were being brought in and that lasted till the end of 2016.” It was in December 2016 that the employees began to opt for VRS. For nearly a year, they had no work at all. “Although we used to go to the unit regularly, from January 2017, we didn’t have any work at the unit.” He added, “We are happy with the court’s decision. It has given us courage and we will fight till the end. We firmly believe that the decision will go in our favour.”
Panchaal, along with 149 other employees, is fighting against the closure of the HMT unit at Pinjore. The next hearing is scheduled for February 23. “There are many employees who have years of service left. I, myself, have nine years of service left,” said Rambir. All the 150 employees are trained technical hands. The employees have formed a community called HMT Bachao Sangrakshan. Vijay Bansal, the convener of the community, said these personnel, as per the court ruling, are still the employees of HMT, at least until the next hearing, adding that they were not working because there is no place to work for them.
Talking about the people who have accepted VRS, Bansal said, “Most of them are above the age of 55 with a maximum of five years of service still pending.” He further said that even the people, who have accepted VRS, should be eligible for filling the vacancies that come up in future.
“However, the 150 employees, who are contesting against the closure of the unit in court, still have at least five to 27 years of service left. The reason they have not accepted VRS is because it doesn’t benefit them. You can’t sustain a family just on your retirement fund. Who is going to hire them at the age of 40?” wondered Bansal.