New Delhi: Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s labour woes refuse to end.
On Friday, at least 7,000 employees stopped work at its parent Suzuki Motor Corp.’s units and other parts suppliers in Manesar to protest against Maruti’s decision to renege on a promise to take back about 1,000 contract workers who had signed its “good-conduct bond”.
Maruti’s Manesar workers ended a month-long strike barely a week ago, giving the car maker hope that it could step up production heading into the high-selling festive season and stem recent revenue losses.
Backing Maruti’s workers are labourers from at least 12 companies in Manesar’s Industrial Model Township (IMT).
Among these are Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd, which supplies engines and transmission to Maruti; Suzuki Castings, Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt. Ltd and auto parts suppliers Satyam Auto Components Ltd, Endurance Auto and Hi-lex India Pvt. Ltd.
File photo Workers of Maruti Suzuki at IMT Manesar unit in Gurgaon . HT Photo
“At least 12 unions have struck work since afternoon today in the IMT,” said Sube Singh, president of the labour union at Suzuki Powertrain, a joint venture between Suzuki and Maruti. “We want the Maruti Suzuki management to take back all the 1,000 contract workers. The moment they will agree to our demand we will start production.”
All-India Trade Union Congress is supporting the protest, said its secretary D.L. Sachdev.
Maruti termed the fresh protest by workers as a breach of faith.
“This action by the workers clearly violates the agreement that they themselves had signed with the management on 1 October, in the presence of the Haryana government. It is a breach of faith, a mockery,” the company said in an emailed statement.
There are an estimated 2,000 protesting workers inside the factory, including 700 permanent employees, Maruti said in the statement. “Around 170 regular workers are not participating in this sit-in. They have left the factory premises.”
A Maruti spokesman said the company is increasing production at its Manesar plant and intends to hire more workers, including most of the temporary employees who haven’t been taken back.
“We will hire them as and when we expand. Most of them are likely to be absorbed,” the spokesperson said.
Officials at Suzuki Powertrain and Suzuki Motorcycle did not respond to phone calls.
“They (Maruti) have said that we do not require you as we have already found replacement(s),” said Shiv Kumar, leader of the protesting workers at Maruti’s plant.
The car maker made snap recruitments in September as the labour strike was beginning to hit production. It hired about 1,250 workers and managed to roll out at least 11,000 cars in September, against an average monthly production of 22,500 units from the plant.
The latest strike is the continuation of a 13-day protest in June and a 33-day lockout that ended on 1 October. The second strike was a fallout of Maruti’s decision to prevent workers, who hadn’t signed its a “good conduct bond”, from entering its plant.
The bond requires workers to declare they will “not resort to go slow, intermittent stoppage of work, stay-in-strike, work-to-rule, sabotage or otherwise indulge in any activity, which would hamper the normal production in the factory”.
Sales at India’s largest car maker fell 17% to 66,667 units in September from 81,060 units a year earlier. It has suffered a revenue loss of at least Rs1,000 crore this year because of the labour issues.
Prospects appear bleak for the festive season, when Maruti typically sees a 20-25% jump in monthly sales.
“It is already losing buyers to its competitors and the company was betting big on this festive season,” said Yaresh Kothari, sector analyst at Angel Broking Ltd. “This does not augur well for the industry either as we are already expecting a single-digit growth this fiscal with at least half of the sales expected from Maruti.”