Major contrast in British, Indian response to job loss threat: Union leaders

Chennai, March 31 (IANS) Thousands of jobs could have been saved at Nokia India had only the Indian government had acted with alacrity like the British government reacting to Tata Steel Ltd’s announcement to exit its British operations, said a top trade union leaders.

“The British rulers are aware on the implications of job loss for a society. The Indian government could have acted firmly against Microsoft when it took over Nokia’s worldwide operations excluding Indian operations,” M.Shanmugam, general secretary of central trade union Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), told IANS.

Shanmugam expressed his surprise at the way in which the British government is reacting to Tata Steel Ltd’s announcement to sell its operations.

On Wednesday morning, Tata Steel announced its decision to exit British operations owing to mounting losses and according to reports in the British media, the announcement forced British Prime Minister David Cameron to cut short his family holiday and come back.

Similarly the British media reported that Secretary of State for Business Sajid Javid flew back home from Australia after Tata Steel’s exit announcement.

There are suggestions to nationalise Tata Steel operations in Britain so that the labour is not affected till a new buyer is found.

According to Shanmugam, more than 30,000 jobs were lost when Nokia India closed down its plant near here, and along with it, several other related companies like Foxconn also shut their operations.

The central government had slapped a tax notice of over Rs.20,000 crore on the Finnish group, which had decided to exit mobile phone business and sold its business to the US-based Microsoft. The deal kept out Nokia’s Indian manufacturing operations.

Subsequently the Nokia India’s plant near here was closed and more than 30,000 jobs – direct and indirect – were lost.

“We had given several suggestions to the central government on reviving the Nokia India’s plant here and saving thousands of jobs. The government could have asked Nokia India to pay the tax due in instalments or forced Microsoft to run the factory failing which import of phones would not be allowed,” Shanmugam said.

The central and the state government did not bother much about the job losses, he said.

Centre of Indian Trade Unions’ (CITU) Tamil Nadu president A. Soundararajan said: “Even the MoUs signed by the state governments with foreign companies are not labour-friendly. The state government gives more freedom to the foreign companies with various exemptions.”.

On the Nokia issue, he also said the central government could have asked the company to pay up the tax in installments.

“Both the Congress led UPA government and the current BJP government did not focus much to resolve the Nokia issue and save over 30,000 jobs,” said Soundararajan, who is also a Communist Party of India-Marxist lawmaker.

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