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Toyota India hires contract workers to revamp output

NEW DELHI--Japan's Toyota said Tuesday it has hired 1,000 contract workers to help restart production, after its employees refused to return to work following an end to a eight-day company lockout.

The Toyota workers and its management at two plants near the southern high-tech city of Bangalore are at loggerheads over pay issues, which they have been negotiating for 10 months.

The employees refused to resume work after the company lifted an eight-day lockout on Monday.

“As regular employees did not resume duties ... we're using services of 1,000 contract labor to restart production,” a company executive, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor Private Ltd, the Indian unit of the world's biggest carmaker, issued a statement confirming it was hiring contract labor to help restart the twin factories.

The complex produces some 310,000 autos annually, including Toyota's flagship Camry sedan, the Corolla, and the Prius hybrid, mostly for the domestic market.

The carmaker had said workers could return from Monday provided they signed a good conduct pledge after suspending some 30 workers over accusations they deliberately halted production and made threats to supervisors.

Toyota's union has demanded a pay hike of at least 4,000 rupees (US$65) a month, while the company is offering 3,050 (US$50), citing tough market conditions with India car sales set to fall for a second year in a row.

Union president Prasanna Kumar said the workers were refusing to sign the good conduct promise because “it falsely implicates some employees as responsible” for misconduct that resulted in the lockout.

The company is also using 2,000 apprentices and managerial staff to help roll out cars.

Toyota's plant problems comes in the wake of other, sometimes violent, labor disturbances, at Indian car factories in recent years.

In 2012, workers at India's top carmaker by sales, Japan's Suzuki Motor's unit Maruti Suzuki India, went on the rampage, killing one executive and injuring over 100 others in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

Toyota has appealed to the Karnataka state government to help end the row while the union has asked the state's labor ministry to protect its members' interests.

“Instead of resolving the issue amicably, management is misusing apprentices to make them work and has hired contract labor to do our job, which is skilled and involves stringent processes to ensure quality,” Kumar said.

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