More than half of Bata's production came from the Batanagar factory in West Bengal, a state notorious for its militant trade unions, who derived their strength from the dominant political parties, especially the left parties. Notwithstanding the giant conglomerate's grip on the shoe market in India, Bata's equally large reputation for corruption within created the perception that Weston would have a difficult time. When new management team weeded out irregularities and turned the company around within a couple of years, tackling the politicized trade unions proved to be the hardest of all tasks.
On July 21, 1998, Weston was severely assaulted by four workers at the company's factory at Batanagar, while he was attending a business meet. The incident occurred after a member of BMU, Arup Dutta, met Weston to discuss the issue of the suspended employees. Dutta reportedly got into a verbal duel with Weston, upon which the other workers began to shout slogans. When Weston tried to leave the room the workers turned violent and assaulted him. This was the second attack on an officer after Weston took charge of the company, the first one being the assault on the chief welfare officer in 1996. Soon after the incident, the management dismissed the three employees who were involved in the violence. The employees involved accepted their dismissal letters but subsequently provoked other workers to go in for a strike to protest the management's move. Workers at Batanagar went on a strike for two days following the incident. Commenting on the strike, Majumdar said: "The issue of Bata was much wider than that of the dismissal of three employees on grounds of indiscipline. Stoppage of recruitment and continuous farming out of jobs had been causing widespread resentment among employees for a long time."
Following the incident, BSO decided to reconsider its investment plans at Batanagar. Senior vice-president and member of the... [continues]
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