Maruti strike still on


The stalemate between the Maruti management and its striking workers at the Manesar plant continued for the 10th day on Monday, as a series of negotiations between the two parties failed to yield any result.

The talks essentially failed on two critical points in the proposal made by the management earlier in the day. One, the union cannot be affiliated to any political party or have outsiders as their members. Two, the management will not compromise on their decision to terminate the 11 workers who allegedly instigated the strike.

In a meeting between the representatives of workers, management, Haryana’s Labour Minister Shiv Charan Sharma and Labour Commissioner Satvanti Ahlawat in Gurgaon on Monday, the talks yielded no results. V L Sachdeva, general secretary, AITUC, said, “The management has retracted from what it had said earlier. They have objection to any second union being formed in the plant. We have no objection to their condition of non-alignment with any outside trade union, but they have not even accepted that.”

He warned that since the stalemate was not nearing an end, the workers of almost 65 auto companies in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Bawal belt will go for a two-hour tool down strike tomorrow as a mark of solidarity. “If this too doesn’t work, we will go in for a full-day strike,” added Sachdeva.

There were indications of a solution by this evening as the management was partly ready to concede to the demand of the 2,500-odd striking workers to have a union independent of the one in Gurgaon.

The management, however, told them clearly that there would be no second union in Maruti. The management proposed a new union structure, under which the workers can have two plant-level unions --- one in Gurgaon which already exists and the other in Manesar (where two more plants are coming up). Four top members of the two unions will form a common governing council which will deal with the management on company-level issues, including negotiations on wages. For issues related to each of the plants, the plant unions will hold sway.

Earlier in the day, S Y Siddiqui, Maruti Suzuki’s head of HR, said: “We are ready to be flexible on their demand for a plant-level union in Manesar. However it has to be a union comprising only workers in the plant and cannot have any outsiders as members who are not acceptable to us as that is how Maruti has been run for over 27 years. Four members of this proposed union and that of Gurgaon can then from a governing council which will deal with issues at the corporate and company level, the rest will be handed by the plant unions.”

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda intervened to sort out the issue and held a series of discussions with the workers, representatives of unions like AITUC as well as the senior management of the company which carried throughout the night yesterday. In the evening, Haryana Labour minister Shiv Charan Sharma, the labour commissioner and representatives of workers and the management went into a huddle again to resolve the contentious issues.

V L Sachdeva, general-secretary of AITUC, said: “The chief minister had assured us that the stalemate will come to an end hopefully soon. He has also asked his officers in the labour department in the morning to work out the solutions from both the sides in writing so that there are no issues left.”

A Maruti spokesperson said, “The talks have failed. However, the government has appreciated the company’s offer and was of considerate view the company has approached the crisis. We are non-compromising on our stand of non-affiliation of any outside trade union with company’s internal union and also the status of 11 dismissed workers would remain as it is. However the company has been quite flexible in approaching workers’ other demands other than the above mentioned two points.”

Quizzed about next step and the two-hour strike proposed by other workers tomorrow, a senior company official says, “We wiil not comment on what other will do. However, we will resort to more talks for a solution.”

The ten-day strike has already hit the company’s bottom line by over Rs 400 crore, considering the fact that it produces over 1,13,000 cars a month in the two locations (the other being in Gurgaon).

The striking workers have been demanding recognition of a new union -- Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU) –independent of the existing one which is dominated by workers of the Gurgaon plant.