New Delhi: The Union government has declined to interfere in labour rows unless asked by the states, even as workers’ unions sought the Union labour ministry’s assistance to end disputes with companies.

Industrial impasse: Labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge. Photo: PIB

At the 44th standing committee meeting of the labour ministry in New Delhi, labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge indicated that he does not see any urgency in interfering in the industrial disputes of states as labour laws have largely been implemented by state governments.

“We are monitoring the situation at Maruti and our concerned (chief) labour commissioner is assessing the situation," Kharge told mediapersons on Monday.

When asked if the Union government would intervene to end the crisis that has already caused a revenue loss of around 1,500 crore to Maruti because of a production halt, Kharge said the government of Haryana, where Maruti’s plants are located, hasn’t referred the matter to it.

Among other issues, Maruti’s workers are demanding that the company take back 44 permanent workers who have been suspended even after they signed a “good-conduct" bond on 1 October, following a month-long agitation.

“As long as the state government is handling the Maruti issue, we will not interfere, but if they refer this case to us, then we will take some measures," Kharge said, without giving further details. “(The) Haryana labour secretary talked to me on Sunday and assured to solve the matter."

Since June, workers at the Manesar plant of Maruti have struck work three times. D.L. Sachdeva, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (Aituc), said the Maruti management’s tough stand is aggravating the situation. “If the state government had the power and ability to solve the issue, it would not have surfaced again and again. The Union labour ministry needs to step in here."

E. Balaji, director and president of recruitment firm Ma Foi Randstad, said that if a particular case is a law-and-order issue, it can be left to the state, but if it is systemic, then labour reforms need to be looked at.

“We are managing industrial relations with very old laws and some of them are of the British era. Acts dealing with industrial dispute and contract labour need to be amended to made them contemporary," he said.

He also said the wage disparity between temporary and permanent employees could be a reason for labour trouble at some big companies. “Earlier, industries used to have good personnel managers to handle urgent situations, but of late, that breed is missing perhaps," he said.

Other than Maruti, labour unrest has happened at the Dunlop factory in West Bengal, Bosch in Karnataka, and Moser Baer in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh recently.

PTI contributed to this story.