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More workers rejoin Tata Motors' Sanand plant even as strike continues

As the strike at the Sanand plant of Tata Motors enters its 14th day, small groups have started trickling back to work. On Saturday, at least 40 striking workers reported to work at the site and the numbers are likely to gain strength, sources familiar with the development said. 

On February 22, about 422 permanent workers – who represent around 90-95 per cent of the permanent worker strength at the site – had gone on a flash strike protesting the suspension of 28 colleagues. Since then, several rounds of talks have failed, and eventually on February 2, the labour department deemed the strike illegal, meaning that workers would face a no-work-no-pay situation.

Pressure is mounting on the workers as they continue to remain on strike which has now become illegal. Small groups of workers had started to break away and about 25 of them have rejoined over the past few days. 

The company had declared on Friday that they would not allow the striking workers to enter the premises as the strike had been declared illegal.

It has also said that it would only ferry those workers in company buses who are willing to join work. 

In response, most of the striking workers, bar about 40, did not report to work on Saturday. 

Tata Motors had been mounting pressure in its own way, from giving flowers to striking workers to issuing a public notice. The company published a notice in Gujarati newspapers on Saturday in which it asked the striking workers to report back to work by March 5, failing which the company would take action. 

A company spokesperson said, "Given the Government of Gujarat order dated March 2, 2016, prohibiting the strike at the plant, we would expect the workmen to resume work and we cannot allow the illegal occupancy of the premises. We have in fact reached out to the workmen through the local papers to appeal to follow the order and we hope good counsel will prevail amongst workmen and they will restore normalcy."

Sources indicated that with 40 workers rejoining, it is perhaps the first sign of a crack in solidarity of the striking workers.