Maruti's Manesar Plant Reopened Amid Tight Security; Management Expects Protests, Lawsuits By Sacked Workers

  on August 21 2012 5:48 AM
Maruti Suzuki
Workers assemble a car at a Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar in the northern Indian state of Haryana. Reuters

India's leading carmaker Maruti Suzuki Tuesday reopened its Manesar plant amid tight security, a month after it was shutdown following violence by a section of the workers.

The production at Maruti's largest plant in India was stopped in July after a manager was killed and scores injured the workers set fire to a part of the plant.

About 300 workers entered the facility in queues from the factory gate as 200 police personnel guarded the premises. Additional 300 police personnel are stationed inside the factory. Police protection has also been given to the factory managers on their transit to and from the factory.

Apart from the security forces provided by the Haryana state government, Maruti has deployed about 100 security personnel, a PTI report said.

Maruti officials said Monday that only 300 permanent workers would report for work Tuesday in a single day shift from morning to evening.

The production at the plant will resume in phases. In the first phase, 150 cars are expected to roll out of the factory. Production will be scaled up subsequently after more workers are recruited by the end of the year.

Resuming production at the Manesar plant would cheer the Maruti customers as the production halt at the plant had dried out the stocks of Maruti's two most popular car brands - Swift and DZire.  The Manesar factory accounts for one-third of Maruti's car production capacity in the country and is the only plant that makes Swift, which is the most popular car in its segment. The plant had been producing 1500-1700 cars per day before the lockout.

The Manesar plant has witnessed much unrest between the management and the workers' union in the past two years. The production was stopped at least three times in the last one year.

The recent clashes claimed the life of Maruti's senior HR official, who was beaten up and left to burn to death. Several other officials were also injured. Parts of the plant were set ablaze by the rioters. Around 90 persons, mostly the workers at the plant, were arrested for murder and rioting. The plant had remained closed since July 21 till work resumed Tuesday.

The differences between the Maruti Suzuki management and the labor unions over the reinstatement of the sacked workers are still continuing. Maruti has maintained that it will sack around 500 permanent workers and 500 contract workers for their alleged role in the violence. The company has said it will reduce its reliance on the contract workers.

Maruti Suzuki chairman RC Bhargava told CNBC-TV 18 that company would do away with the contract labor system, which is considered as one of the reasons for the violence.

The company had a workforce of 3,300 before the shutdown, of which 1528 were permanent workers and while others were contract workers.  According to the company officials, new recruitment to the permanent workforce will start in the first week of September and the current contract workers will be considered for the same.

However, the trouble for the company seems to be far from over, as the dismissed workers and the unions may protest the sacking. Unions have blamed that management is sacking the innocent workers even before investigation is completed.

The unions allege that it is the management's inhuman treatment towards the workforce and anti-labor welfare policies that have triggered the unrest. Making matters worse for the company, the Maruti workers have got support from their counterparts at other automobile plants.

Maruti has said that it will work towards solving the issues that has led to the unrest and admitted that it is expecting protests and lawsuits by the dismissed employees.

"The suspended workers may try and jeopardize operations once again. Moreover, it would not be surprising to see the unions taking the matter to court," Moneycontrol reported Bhargava as saying. 

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