New Delhi: Will Osamu Suzuki finally get sucked into the cesspool which Maruti’s Manesar plant and its labour issues have created?
A union leader of Maruti’s Gurgaon plant, Kuldeep Singh Janghu, told Firstpost he will be meeting Suzuki to raise the issue of termination of 500 workers at Manesar and expects Suzuki to offer a solution to this vexed issue. Osamu Suzuki, Suzuki Motor’s overall boss, is expected to touch down in India on 20 August, a day before the Manesar lockout is to be lifted after almost a month.
A deadly riot by workers on 18 July left a senior HR manager dead and scores injured, after which Maruti declared a lockout at the plant. Now that all office bearers of the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union (MSWU) have been arrested by the Haryana police and the state has assured unprecedented security to Manesar operations, Maruti has decided to reopen the plant. But it has also terminated the services of 500 regular workers who were working at the plant at the time of the incident and this is what Janghu’s union is protesting.
“Every time Mr Suzuki comes to India, he meets me and this time will be no different. We have already petitioned the state government against termination of services of 500 Manesar workers and I will make the same request to Mr Suzuki,” Janghu said. A Maruti spokesperson denied any scheduled meeting between the Chairman of Suzuki Motor Corp and Janghu.
Janghu said instead of sacking such a large number of workers, many of whom are sole breadwinners of their families, Maruti can penalise them in other ways. “Maruti can deny them increments, lop off some of their wages or even ask them to take a break (unpaid) for one-two months. But sacking them is no solution”.
Before the lockout was declared, the Manesar plant had 1,869 contract workers and 1,528 permanent employees. This means the management has sacked a third of regular employees because it has lost faith in their loyalty and conduct. But these 500 regular workers may not be the only ones losing their livelihoods – many contract workers could also be denied jobs at Maruti.
While announcing the end of the lockout earlier this week, Maruti Chairman RC Bhargava had said that every contract worker who comes forward for employment will be screened by the company’s HR department. Though this is being done to eventually offer these workers a permanent job with Maruti, obviously the screening is also expected to weed out a large number of contract workers whom Maruti suspects as being involved in the 18 July violence.
Another issue which is likely to cause trouble from Tuesday is the absence of any union leader at Manesar since all office-bearers are behind bars. Though Bhargava made it clear the other day that the company will leave the matter of de-recognising the MSWU to the state government, it is clear that workers at Manesar will not have any voice now – it is hardly likely that a new set of office-bearers would come forward anytime soon.
This being the case, the wage negotiations – which have already been delayed due to the violence and lockout – are unlikely to continue. Before that fateful day, the then union members were conducting negotiations for wage hikes.
Meanwhile, Janghu seems to have found support in members of parliament too. A story in The Hindu today talks of how the CPI(M), JMM and other parties have opposed “mass dismissal” of workers in Parliament yesterday. While CPI(M) termed this action as “vindictive and retaliatory”, JMM demanded a CBI probe into the violence that took place in the factory.
CPI(M)’s Tapan Kumar Sen said that only 54 workers have been named in the FIR for the Manesar violence, but 500 workers have been dismissed. “The chairman has been saying that more terminations are in the offing,” he said, adding that the company cannot be allowed to do so when a probe was on. The JMM member also demanded that the Industrial Disputes Act 1947 be amended so that such incidents are not repeated in future. “Such labour laws are not fit to deal with these new situations arising now,” he said.
So unless Osamu Suzuki gives a a miss to both his factories in Haryana, he will have to placate a lot of angry workers.