Maruti sacks 11 workers, refuses to give in to union’s demands

Maruti sacks 11 workers, refuses to give in to union’s demands

Mumbai: The deadlock between workers and the management at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s Manesar plant continued for a third day and could well intensify and result in significant production losses.

The management has sacked 11 workers at the plant and has refused to accept demands made by the union. The strike has so far resulted in a loss of 1,800 units, Maruti’s chairman said.

The workers started an indefinite strike at 3.15pm on Saturday, demanding recognition of their Maruti Suzuki Labour Union and confirmation of the tenure of contract labourers.

The company’s position is that there is no need for a second union in addition to the existing one, the Maruti Suzuki Kamgar Union.

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“The status quo remains. We have terminated the services of 11 people who were identified for inciting the strike. As of now, we do not acknowledge the need of a second union when one already exists. We are talking to them (the workers). We hope to arrive at a consensus soon," said Maruti Suzuki chairman R.C. Bhargava. “As far as the other demand is concerned, every year we try to absorb contract labourers as we are expanding rapidly. We will continue to do so."

The sacked employees include eight office bearers of the newly formed union.

A worker at the Manesar plant on condition of anonymity said the Maruti Suzuki Kamgar Union was dominated by workers from the Gurgaon plant and that it wasn’t really bothered about those at the Manesar factory. He added that the workers had given the company enough notice of a strike, a claim Bhargava was quick to dismiss.

“Strike is the last resort. You need to give a 15-day notice before going on strike. This is illegal," he said. “These are young people in their early 20s and have been misled. I do not know whether these people know the consequences of this course."

A Maruti Suzuki executive, who did not want to be identified, said the workers were being instigated by the All India Trade Union Congress (Aituc). Mint couldn’t reach Aituc for its response to this. “I would not comment on that, but I would not rule out the influence of external factors as well. We are trying to trace the roots," said Bhargava.

Maruti Suzuki has four assembly lines, one in Manesar and three in Gurgaon, with an annual capacity of more than 1.2 million units. The company is setting up two new assembly lines at the Manesar plant to add capacity of 500,000 units by 2013.

The Manesar plant rolls out about 1,200 units every day in two shifts. The plant has at least 2,500 workers and “600-800 out of the total are on strike", said a company spokesperson. The company manufactures models such as the SX4, the Swift Dzire and the A-Star.

“The current stir could enhance the waiting period of these models as SX4 and Dzire already have long waiting lists," said Yaresh Kothari, a sector analyst at Angel Broking Ltd. “But I am sure Maruti will compensate for the production loss very soon."

The last time the company witnessed a major strike was when workers stopped production for three months between November 2000 and January, 2001. Strikes aren’t unknown in north India’s auto belt. In 2009, workers at some 60 factories in Gurgaon and Rewari in Haryana went on strike, protesting the death of a worker at Rico Auto Industries Ltd. Sona Koyo Steering Systems Ltd, HeroHonda Motors Ltd, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt. Ltd and Lumax Industries Ltd were among the worst hit in that strike.

The labour unrest didn’t have any effect on the company’s shares—they rose 0.52% to close at 1,240 on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The exchange’s benchmark Sensex rose 0.24% to 18,420 points.