New Delhi:Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, the country’s biggest car maker, plans a snap recruitment of 200 temporary workers as it tries to bring production back on track at its plant in Manesar, Haryana, in an escalation of the company’s battle with a section of the workforce.
The company also suspended 28 more workers on Tuesday for allegedly instigating the protest and disrupting output, taking the number to 49 employees.
“In the last 30 hours since production came to a halt, the company’s managers and engineers have been scouting for experienced and ITI (Industrial Training Institute) trained manpower in the Manesar belt,” the company said in a release on Tuesday. “By the end of the day, they had identified over 200 people and expressed confidence that production would be ramped up in the next few days. These 200 people are likely to join in the next two-three days on a contract basis.” The Gurgaon-based company said that the nearby Manesar plant has about 290 supervisors. In addition, around 50 diploma engineers from the Gurgaon plant are also being deputed to the Manesar site. “The entire strength of manpower may be deputed in a single shift for effective execution of production activities.”
Work resumed in Manesar on Tuesday afternoon in some areas—the weld shop, the press shop and the paint shop.
“The operations today were mostly focused in the high automation areas of the plant,” the company said.
The teams were engaged in streamlining processes and strengthening quality production systems in order to prepare for a ramp-up in the next few days, Maruti said.
The company, which makes every second car sold in India, has asked workers to sign a “good conduct bond” before it allows them to return to work.
On Monday, it suspended 10 workers, dismissed five and discontinued the services of six trainees. “This is a clear case of applying pressure tactics. But we are united and adamant on what we want,” said Sonu Gujjar, a member of the unrecognized Maruti Suzuki Employees Union. “We have been working with the company for six-seven years. How can you expect somebody from outside to come and learn the work in a day?”
Meanwhile, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta, who is also the secretary general of the All India Trade Union Congress, Aituc, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the situation at Maruti’s plant.
“The Prime Minister said he will ask the Haryana chief minister (Bhupinder Singh Hooda) to look into the matter. I will meet him again on Monday,” Dasgupta said. Aituc is backing the agitation.
The latest developments at the Manesar factory are a continuation of the labour unrest that started in June, when workers struck work for 13 days demanding the recognition of the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union.
The fresh protests at the Maruti factory have led to a demand for labour reforms by companies. The Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA), an industry lobby group, said companies should be allowed to lay off permanent employees during a slowdown or issues related to inefficiency.
“We are in talks with the government for reforms in labour laws as these are necessary to make India a manufacturing hub,” said Arvind Kapur, vice-president of ACMA during an event in New Delhi. “We would like to have only permanent employees working for us. At present, we hire 50% of our workers on contractual basis because the law does not allow us to adjust our workforce in line with the fluctuations in the market.”
Kapur, who is also the managing director of Rico Auto Industries Ltd said that the region has seen violent labour protests in the past and the Maruti protest may spread, which is a concern for the entire auto belt in Gurgaon.
Kapur said that the auto component industry estimates that it needs to double its workforce over the next two years and that there is going to be a shortage of trained manpower. “Companies are investing in training programmes and when you hire from contractors the benefits of such programmes cannot be availed of as the workers keep changing,” he said.