Manesar, July 19: The Japanese embassy today deplored the loss of life and injuries at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant in “the sabotage perpetrated by a group of workers” and condemned “the violence and vandalism”.
The “sabotage” angle, added with a suggestion that “outsiders” were involved, recurred in statements by Indian Inc, including Maruti.
A Maruti official appeared to be pointing a finger at Gurudas Dasgupta, senior CPI and union leader who has been involved in unionising much of the labour force in Haryana. The official said trade unions had provoked the workers and local youths for vested interests. “The CPI-backed Aituc is the dominant trade union in the area as well as Citu,” he said.
“In northern India, only Gurgaon is witnessing labour trouble frequently,” Assocham secretary-general D.S. Rawat said, advising vigilance against “outside elements”, PTI reported.
Rawat condemned the disruption at a time of declining industrial growth and said the frequent labour unrest was compelling industries to migrate from Gurgaon-Manesar.
Gurgaon, 20km from Manesar, has in recent years witnessed violence by workers and outside forces at a Honda unit and strikes in other factories. Maruti has already announced plans to set up a new factory in Gujarat at Rs 4,000 crore.
Analysts said the latest standoff could not have come at a worse time. “The markets are going through a rough time. Any drop in production would affect the company,” said P. Tharyan, editor of Motown India.
The Manesar facility boasts a third of the company’s production capacity and can produce 550,000 vehicles a year. It assembles or makes popular and profitable models such as the Swift, Dzire, SX4, A-Star and the newly launched Ertiga.
Analysts calculate that if the plant is closed for a day, it costs the company Rs 73 crore in revenues and Rs 8 crore in operating profit. If it closes for two weeks, the sales loss could be Rs 1,100 crore and the operating loss, Rs 121 crore.
Labour trouble had suspended production at the 700-acre plant three times last year for a total period of five months. A new workers’ union was set up with the management’s consent on March 1 this year.
Maruti’s permanent workers are among the highest paid in Manesar, earning an average Rs 18,500 a month with top salaries going up to Rs 34,000. However, of the plant’s workforce of 3,200, only a little over 1,000 are permanent workers. Casual workers, who make up the majority along with contractual staff and trainees, are paid Rs 7,000.
A police officer said worker discontent had been growing at the company’s stalling of a pay-hike demand, pending for three to four months. “Aspirations have soared high and the workers want their wages doubled.”
The workers say they are fed up with the managers’ abusive behaviour. “There is no leave and few breaks during shifts. The manpower is short. We work like machines and are treated like dogs. We get only weekly leave: casual/earned leave exists only on paper. If we take leave, they deduct a large sum from the salary. Salaries are cut even for reaching the workstation late,” a union member said.
After a strike last October, the company had agreed to set up a grievance redress committee and a welfare committee following the Haryana government’s intervention but is yet to establish either.