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'Misunderstanding' puts 2000 out on strike

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A two day strike at Nokia India is ending with most staff heading back to work, having been asked nicely and told that management will explain.

The strike, which involved nearly 2,000 of the 8,000 staff at the site, started on Tuesday and was triggered by the transfer of one staff member and the suspension of around 60 for "serious misconduct". But India's Labour Commissioner has asked the staff to get back to work, and has told the company to sort out the mess before Wednesday next week. Nokia hopes production will resume today.

The Employees Progressive Union, which represents workers at the site, told the Hindustan Times that production would resume immediately. Meanwhile, management are under instructions to investigate what went wrong, and how what appears to have been a relatively trivial matter spiralled out of control.

The call for a strike was triggered when one worker turned up and was told he had been shifted departments without his knowledge. Colleagues who remonstrated were suspended and more were suspended on Wednesday, by which time the strike was in full swing.

"The transfer and the miscommunication resulted in some misunderstanding and the strike," a Union rep told the Indo-Asian News Service. Tempers were obviously running high, with workers demanding personal apologies from specific managers for their treatment over the matter.

We won't know if production can be ramped back up again until the end of the day, when we'll know if the workers have all heeded their union's call, but even a two day interruption will cost Nokia dearly. It's hard to believe that simple mismanagement could disrupt the facility to such an extent, so it's probable that there are underlying problems which Nokia will need to address.

This might seem a stark contrast to the recent strike at WinTek, where workers were concerned about lethal chemicals and refusal to pay promised bonuses. But both were the result of failures to communicate - the chemicals weren't in use any more, and the bonuses are being paid.

It's seems ironic that those at the very bottom of the information technology industry should have such trouble getting access to the right information. ®

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