The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gurgaon unrest II hits Honda cousin

Chandigarh/New Delhi, April 11: Industrial unrest returned today to Gurgaon, the showpiece symbol of a resurgent India, with over 2,500 contractual employees bringing production of two-wheelers to a halt at the Hero Honda plant.

The agitation comes nine months after a protest by workers of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India, whose parent company has a stake in Hero Honda, was brutally put down by police in Gurgaon, igniting nationwide outrage.

The Hero Honda workers had been demanding for the last few weeks immediate regularisation of 1,000 casual employees, followed by 100 each month on a seniority basis.

“The workers have resorted to a tool-down strike since 2.30 pm yesterday and production has come to a halt,” a district official said. “Efforts are being made to get the management and the workers to the negotiating table,” he added.

The Munjal-owned Hero Honda manufactures about 6,200 two-wheelers every day and has plans to raise the number to 7,000. The company has 1,200 permanent employees, while casual workers number around 4,000, who work in three shifts.

Apart from regularisation, the workers have been demanding that their pay be deposited in banks having ATM machines. At present, the company pays salaries to temporary workers in cash.

The employees have demanded compensatory off-days and medical assistance on a par with regular employees, according to the leader of the contract workers’ union, Devender Pradhan.

On July 25, last year, police had baton-charged protesting workers of Honda Motorcycle. The Honda workers were demanding reinstatement of sacked employees and a raise.

Around 700 striking workers were rounded up and beaten by the police. Honda Motorcycle had a non-compete agreement with Hero Honda. Once the agreement expires, Honda Motorcycle can sell motorbikes, for which it is gearing up now.

Taken aback by the outrage that images of the clampdown generated across the country, the government had asked a retired judge to submit a report in three months but the one-man commission is yet to do so.

This time, the state government is taking no chances. “We would be playing a pro-active role in settling the dispute at Hero Honda,” a senior officer in the chief minister’s secretariat said. “The dispute will be resolved soon.”

Hero Honda, however, has termed the strike “irresponsible”. In a statement, the company said that a section of workers have raised demands on their contractors and have “irresponsibly” stopped working.

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