Maruti to resume production on Sunday, but problems persist

Maruti to resume production on Sunday, but problems persist

New Delhi: Even as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd plans to start production at its Manesar plant on Sunday after the supply of engines and other components resumed, uncertainty over whether it would be able to do so continued, with the company management refusing to accede to demands made by workers at the factory.

Labour unions at Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd and Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt. Ltd ended their two-day strike on Friday after a settlement with the management.

“We have resumed production from today with the warning that if the problems with our colleagues at the Manesar facility are not resolved within two days, we will go on strike again," said Suzuki Powertrain India Employees Union president Sube Singh Yadav. “They have agreed to our demands and said they will be regularizing workers, but sought time till December. The company assured that the rest of our demands, including wage settlement, will also be met."

On Wednesday, workers at Suzuki Powertrain and Suzuki Motorcycle India went on strike in support of their colleagues at the Manesar plant. Maruti Suzuki had barred a majority of employees from working at its Manesar plant after they refused to sign a so-called good-conduct bond, citing indiscipline and sabotage by employees over the previous two months.

Maruti Suzuki shares gained 2.18% on Friday to close at 1,106.65 on BSE, the most since 10 August. The benchmark Sensex index advanced 0.34% to 16,933.83 points.

“Maruti Suzuki will resume production at its Manesar plants on Sunday, and at the Gurgaon plants on Monday," the company said in a statement.

The company said it held discussions with representatives of the recognized workers’ union from the older Gurgaon plant in the presence of Haryana labour department officials. It didn’t hold talks with the agitating workers of the Manesar plant and would not accept their demands, it said.

“While discussions are continuing, the management remains firm on the following two points—that Maruti Suzuki management’s stance is that workers will have to sign the good-conduct bond, and the management will not take back those dismissed or suspended for indiscipline, sabotage and for deliberately causing quality problems in cars," it said.

The good-conduct bond requires Manesar workers to declare that 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".

“It seems the management’s tough stand is working. They have managed to create some differences among these unions," said a labour consultant on condition of anonymity. “But a lot will depend on how things will unfold next week. It is not in Maruti’s interest to take a hit on production for so long."

The company is sticking to its stand and “it is difficult to broker peace between these two parties", said a Haryana government official, who was present during the discussion. The official declined to be identified.

The company has suspended or fired 57 workers since 29 August.

The labour unrest is a setback for the company, which is facing a challenge from rival auto makers, particularly in the small car segment—which accounts for 70% of the passenger car market.

The company said it will continue to take steps to increase the number of trained and experienced manpower at its Manesar facilities.

On Thursday, Maruti Suzuki declared a holiday at its plants till Sunday because of a shortage of engines and other critical components supplied by Suzuki Powertrain.