Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd (TKML) Sunday declared an indefinite lockout at its Bidadi plant, about 35 km from here, to evict about 500 workers who went on a flash strike and refused to leave the premises.

"We are forced to declare an indefinite lockout under sections 22, 22 and 24 of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 to ensure the safety of the plant as well as the employees," TKML general manager A.R. Shankar said.

"Since a section of the workforce, numbering about 500, was refusing to leave the factory after going on an illegal lightning strike Friday, we had to seek police help to evict them," Shankar told on phone.

Though declaring a lockout requires a 14-day notice as per procedures, the company resorted to the drastic step within two days after its workers, representing the Toyota Kirloskar Motor Employees' Union (TKMEU), went on a flash strike to protest against the dismissal of three employees on charges of indiscipline.

"Since the company has been notified as a public utility service by the Karnataka government, the flash strike instigated by the employees is illegal in the absence of a 14-day notice from the union under the Industrial Disputes Act.

"A section of the union members also stopped production, obstructed movement of vehicles from the factory, manhandled and assaulted other employees and damaged property," the auto firm said in the lockout notice.

The services of the three employees were terminated Jan 5 after an independent inquiry against 15 employees - suspended on charges of indiscipline and misconduct in February 2004 - found them guilty. While one was reinstated, the remaining 11 continue to be under suspension pending the final report.

Of the 2,350 employees, about 1,550 workers belong to the union. The company has been operating only one shift since the last two months to manufacture its flagship product Innova and luxury car Corolla under C segment.

In the last 10 months, the company produced 32,000 units of Innova and 9,000 units of Corolla from its Bidadi plant.

According to union vice president Shanmuga Gowda, the employees were forced to strike work demanding the revocation of the dismissed employees, as the inquiry was "not impartial".

"We will fight till justice is ensured. The company has cut down production by operating only one shift. At this rate, the management will try to throw out as many employees," Gowda said in a statement.

The state labour department has called for a meeting Monday between the management and the union for resolving the issue.