Staff strike slows Honda's two-wheeler production

Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI), the second-biggest player in the domestic two-wheeler market, is taking a daily production hit of at least 800 vehicles as hundreds of workers keep away from work.

A large number of workers in the Japanese automaker’s Rajasthan (Tapukara) plant went on a strike on February 16, which the company termed illegal. The plant has a capacity to produce 1.2 million two-wheelers a year.

A person familiar with the development said the plant normally produced 3,000 two-wheelers a day, but the damage caused by some workers, absence of workers, and the recent Jat agitation had brought output down to 2,200 two-wheelers.

LABOUR’S LOVE LOST HMSI’s Tapukara plant losing output of 800 units per day
  Cumulative loss estimated at 8,000 units
  Management terms strike ‘illegal’
  Striking workers claim management against union formation
  Management denies role in union formation
  Leading automobile unions support striking workers
The company claimed workers damaged various units of the plant and disturbed operations seeking reinstatement of four workers whose services were terminated over indiscipline. A striking worker, however, said the incident was plotted to derail the formation of a workers’ union at the plant.  

A worker who has resumed work said he saw some fellow workers disrupt production on February 16 and later found damage in the paint shop where the settings of a few robots were disturbed.

The striking worker claimed their formal submission to the state labour department in August on forming a union did not go down well with the company.

“There was an effort to stall the process by influencing workers,” he added.

“The company has no role to play with the process of union formation. Workers are pressing the management for the reinstatement of four workers. We understand a group of workers moved court against alleged manipulation in the process of formation of the proposed union,” a company spokesperson said. The court has issued a stay on the matter.  “The issue of the proposed union is being politicised. We cannot comment any further as the matter is sub-judice,” the company said. HSMI’s first plant at Manesar (Haryana) has a union. The Tapukara plant is estimated to have 3,000 employees, of which 2,600-2,700 are workers, while the rest are managerial staff. Of the total workers, less than one-fifth (460-470) are permanent.

The worker who resumed office said the only difference between a permanent and a casual/contractual worker was the salary. “All other benefits like insurance, medical facilities and leave are identical.”

A permanent worker’s cost to the company is approximately Rs 26,000 a month, while a casual worker’s cost-to-company is Rs 14,500 a month. About 1,500 workers have reported for duty while the company is also trying to hire more contractual workers to ramp up production.

The striking worker, who is permanent, said at the time of joining all casual workers were told they would qualify for permanent position at the end of three years. However, on completion of three years another six months of probation was added, he added. He said most of the striking workers had not reported to work and had joined the cause of union formation. Hundreds of workers last week carried out demonstrations in front of Honda’s corporate office in Gurgaon and were supported by representatives from other leading automobile company unions in the region.