Bajaj talks tough on employee union strike

Rajiv Bajaj Rajiv Bajaj Rajiv Bajaj, managing director, Bajaj Auto took a tough stand against the employee union which has stuck work at its Chakan plant, giving them a weeks deadline which will end next Monday to come back to work, or the company would be forced to shift 50% of the 3,500 bikes per day capacity in the unit to its alternative plants in Aurangabad and Pantnagar plants.

Bajaj said that if the contentious issue is not resolved he will recommend the permanent shift in the production capacity to the board on 24th September.

"I have given my team a weeks time to resolve the issue. I am requesting all the employees to come back to work by Monday, August 12. If this issue is not resolved or move forward significantly enough, then 50% of production and machinery from Chakan will be moved to Aurangabad and Pantnagar plants," said Bajaj.

Chakan has a production capacity of 3,500 bikes per day. As of today, as much as 1,200 bikes are already been manufactured in Aurangabad which were earlier made in Chakan.

Currently about 900 workers, out of which majority are trainees and do not come under the union, are churning out bikes in Chakan. However, another 600 workers have not joined work and are part of the strike.

Bajaj says that this situation cannot go on very long as it would impact their production in October-November especially as they have some new launches in place. The move would also mean that the company will have to hire additional workers in Aurangabad as well as Pant Nagar, shift equipment from Chakan to these plants and also ask vendors to realign their production.  

Bajaj also cautioned that in case the management is not able to resolve the issue then the company may not require 50% of its employee base.

"If 50% of the production is being moved then we will not need all the workers back. Theoretically, we need only 50% back and some of them have already joined work. The rest of 500-600 who are sitting at home, if they do not come back, then I would ask them to ask the union about their future," added Bajaj.

Bajaj said that the company has a precedence with the union, where a similar strike had started at the company's Akurdi plant. In such a case, Bajaj said the employees have four options which they might consider, tell them to ask the unions, continue to sit at home, look for other jobs or be offered a VRS scheme.

"In the 2007 incidents employees chose to stay at home and we let them. At the end the employees came to us and asked for VRS. There is no law that can compel us to get all the workers to work till we are paying them their salaries. For us cultures matter and not money," said Bajaj.

Bajaj said that the company has rejected issuing shares to the workers and that is already a dead issue. Also a demand to scrap the wage agreement has already been rejected as it is valid till 2019. The only issue remaining is the reinstatement of 22 suspended employees.

"We believe that on most of the issues there is a broad understanding on closing them. Except one. That is the disciplinary action on certain employees. Of the 22 cases, seven have minor charges and we are ready to pardon them and give them punishment of four days. But the rest 15, who have more serious charges, will have to go through a process of inquiry and will be treated accordingly," said Pradeep Shrivastava, CEO, Bajaj Auto. Of course the seven have to give the management a letter of apology.  

Bajaj also said that disciplinary action is a must against all the 22 employees and there are no two-ways about it.

Around 1,500 employees, including 600-odd contract and temporary workers, have stopped work at the Chakan plant since June 25. They are demanding wage revision, better work conditions, withdrawal of "fake and flimsy" cases slapped on 21 employees and huge stock options. So far 900 employees have rejoined the company.

Bajaj said that the current stand is being taken as the situation has taken six-weeks and now the company has to take steps to look at future production.