Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala’s claims of an industry-friendly ambience has taken a blow with an ongoing labour issue in a leading factory in the outskirts of Kochi going unresolved weeks after the trouble began.

The company in the eye of the storm is Synthite, which claims to be one of the world’s largest producers of value-added spices, natural spice extracts, condiments and natural food flavours, among other businesses. The company is a major exporter of spice oils and oleoresins.

Trouble began at the company when management decided to transfer nearly 20 staff out of the state, a move that some workers objected to.

This week, workers supporting the management have been turning up for work, amid fierce opposition to their entry into the premises by the Centre of Indian Trade Union-backed workers who are agitating against the transfer of workers.

The management has clarified that the decision to transfer some staff was taken on the basis of company’s working requirements and not to penalise anyone, but the agitators have not accepted the explanation.

Company managing director Viju Jacob said Synthite had a track record of operating without any strike for 46 years, and that the transfer policy of the company had been the same for many years.

Conciliatory talks called by industry minister A.C. Moideen and labour commissioner A. Alexander have so far not borne fruit.

Hundreds of workers turned up for work at the factory premises at Kadayiruppu in the outskirts of Kochi on Tuesday and on Wednesday, and they had to jostle with those trying to prevent their entry even as police tried to keep the protesters at bay.

Some workers came to the company on Wednesday, accompanied by their families, but the agitators backed by the CITU attempted to prevent them again from entering the company for work.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asked the company management to soften its stand. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has called for Vijayan’s intervention to end the impasse.