New Maruti assembly line may start early

New Maruti assembly line may start early

New Delhi : India’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, on Thursday said labour unrest at a facility in Manesar may force it to commence operations from an upcoming assembly line in the next two days, nearly a month ahead of schedule.

The workers’ agitation appeared to gain momentum as in entered its fourth day, finding support from labour unions at Maruti’s plant and other factories in Gurgaon.

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Around 2,500 workers at the Manesar plant went on strike on Monday morning after the company suspended and dismissed 49 employees on charges of sabotaging production and deliberately causing quality problems in the vehicles manufactured at the plant. Maruti also asked all workers to sign a good conduct bond, which they refused.

Production at the second assembly line in Manesar, set up at an investment of nearly 1,700 crore, was scheduled to begin in late September.

“Since the company is short of manpower at this stage, starting operations at this second (assembly line) will be a shot in the arm for the company," Maruti said in a statement. The new assembly line is more advanced, and output with the same manhours will be 30-40% higher, it said.

The company did not say if it will hire more workers for the second assembly line.

Maruti hired 300 workers on Wednesday and Thursday. “The company will continue the recruitment drive for trained workers to normalize production in coming days," it said. Maruti rolled out 100 cars on Thursday, a company spokesperson said. A day earlier, it had produced 60 vehicles.

The subsidiary of Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp. currently has four assembly lines, one in Manesar and three in Gurgaon, with an annual capacity of more than 1.2 million vehicles.

It is setting up two new assembly lines at the Manesar plant to add a capacity of 500,000 units by 2013. The Manesar plant produces about 1,200 vehicles every day in two shifts, across models such as the SX4, Swift and A-Star.

The agitation, meanwhile, looks set to spread to Gurgaon.

“We are holding a rally there, which is being attended by more than 5,000 workers from nearby industries—including workers from Maruti’s Gurgaon plant and Suzuki’s powertrain facility—and at least 40 trade unions," said D.L. Sachdeva, secretary, All India Trade Union Congress, which is supporting the protest.

The agitation is a continuation of labour unrest that began in June, when Maruti employees struck work for 13 days demanding the recognition of a new labour union, the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union.

The company said in a notice on Monday that even after calling off the strike (in June), which was illegal, workers did not restore normalcy and indiscipline became the order of the day.

“We are holding a meeting with the labour unions later in the night today (Thursday)," said one of the workers involved in the protest.