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Hindustan Unilever halts factory operations in Assam

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Hindustan Unilever Ltd, India’s biggest household-products maker, shut its factory at Doom Dooma in Tinsukia district, Assam, after a series of labour strikes.

A lock-out at the factory was declared on Sunday after a “series of illegal strikes launched by the workmen during the last six months,” the Mumbai-based company stated in a press release. The factory was closed on July 7 after workers confronted 18 company executives for 17 hours over payment of bonus, official sources disclosed.

In the official release, the company said workers affiliated to the CITU-controlled union had been disrupting work through “illegal” tool-down strikes. General secretary of the Assam CITU Deben Bhattacharyya termed the lock-out “illegal”. The assistant labour commissioner, Tinsukia, has convened talks on Monday. He also said that under the Industrial Disputes Act a lock-out cannot be declared when the conciliation process was on.

The release further stated that on July 6 the workers “illegally detained and held captive in the factory 18 members of the management staff,” including a lady officer, for nearly 17 hours without food and drinking water till armed police and CRPF jawans rescued them.

The factory makes personal-care products, which contribute about half the company’s pretax profit and a quarter of net sales. The factory, set up in 2001, employs more than 700 people and makes 30,000 metric tonnes of products a year, accounting for about 35 per cent of the company’s total output of personal-care products in the country, according to the Indian Express newspaper.

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