Nation Current Affairs 10 Mar 2016 After 15-year fight, ...

After 15-year fight, Hindustan Unilever Limited to pay workers

AGENCIES | DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Mar 10, 2016, 6:14 am IST
Updated Mar 10, 2016, 6:43 am IST
The association filed a petition to direct HUL to evolve a scheme of economic rehabilitation and health care for the workers and it was pending.
 The association filed a petition to direct HUL to evolve a scheme of economic rehabilitation and health care for the workers and it was pending.

Chennai: The 15-year-long dispute between the management and workers, who were allegedly exposed to toxic mercury vapour during their employment at Hindustan Lever Limited at Kodaikanal, now known as Hindustan Unilever Limited, came to an amicable end with the parties finally entering into a settlement.

When the petition filed by Ponds Hindustan Lever Limited Ex Mercury Employees’ Welfare Association came up for hearing Wednesday, counsel for both parties produced the settlement records in a sealed cover before a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M.M. Sundresh.

Taking the settlement arrived at between the parties on record, the Bench posted the matter for March 28 for reporting compliance. According to a press release by Ponds Hindustan Lever Limited Ex-Mercury Employees Welfare Association and Hindustan Unilever Limited, an agreement was signed on March 4, 2015, in the presence of representatives of former workers and HUL. “As part of the agreement, HUL with an objective to ensure long term well being of its former workers, has agreed to provide ex-gratia payments to 591 former workers/association members and their families towards livelihood enhancement project and skill enhancement programs”. The former employees have confirmed this as a full and final settlement of all their claims and demands, the release added.

In its petition, the association submitted that the former workers had been exposed to toxic mercury vapour during their employment at the factory in 2001. Many workers and their family members had lost their lives and others had suffered severe ailments like respiratory, cardiac, renal, skin, eye, liver, brain impairment, depression and loss of speech. Women workers suffered foetal abortions and children of workers were born with physical deformities and mental disabilities.

The association filed a petition to direct HUL to evolve a scheme of economic rehabilitation and health care for the workers and it was pending. In the meantime, the Central government appointed committee after enquiry held there was prima facie evidence that not only the ex-workers but also their new born children have suffered on account of mercury exposure.

The company objected to the same and filed petitions, which were also pending. While so, in deference to the court’s suggestion to explore an out of court settlement, the association and the company held negotiations and finally both parties arrived at a settlement on March 4. Therefore, the association filed the present petition to take on record the settlement and dispose of the petition filed in 2006, the association added.

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