Haryana govt says strike illegal, HC asks them to vacate factory premises.
On the seventh day of their strike, the Maruti Suzuki workers’ unions have been hit by a double whammy. While the Haryana labour department today declared the strike illegal, the Punjab & Haryana High Court directed the workers to vacate the company's Manesar premises immediately.
The only silver lining for the workers was the high court’s decision to refrain from terming the protest as ‘illegal’. The court also directed the Gurgaon police commissioner to provide the agitating workers with a place to lodge their protests and ensure that workers who wanted to work in the Manesar unit was not attacked by those on strike.
With no headway in the seven-day standoff between the workers and the management, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) had petitioned the high court to declare the strike as illegal.
An MSIL official, while confirming the development, said: “The company has asserted that only after the plant premises are vacated, it would consider any talks on the issue. No talks are possible as long as the striking workers are inside the factory premises.”
D L Sachdeva, general secretary, All India Trade Union Congress, said the court has issued a notice to the workers and they were waiting for a copy of the order before deciding their future course of action. “The court has asked the workers to present their stand before the court on November 29 and give the reasons for their protest. We will prepare a reply once we get a copy of the court order.”
Suber Singh Yadav, president, Suzuki Powertrain India Union, said the workers had initiated talks with the labour department of Haryana. “We told the labour department officials today that we want to directly talk with the management of the company. The issue can only be resolved when the management and workers talk to each other.”
Maruti Suzuki said it would keep both the Gurgaon and Manesar plants closed tomorrow and on Saturday due to unavailability of components.
Workers at vendor Suzuki Powertrain India Limited (SPIL) are on strike to show solidarity with those protesting at the Manesar unit. This has affected supply of diesel engines and transmissions at MSIL.
“While models like M800, Omni, Eeco and Gypsy are not dependent on the component supplied from SPIL, it was considered that operating the plant only for these models will be unviable. The production loss for these models can be recovered once production resumes,” MSIL said in a statement.
Maruti Suzuki rolled out 600 units from the Gurgaon plant today. This is nearly a tenth of the 5000 units usually produced by the company from across its four plants in Gurgaon and Manesar.
While the management has said “the strike was in violation of the agreement signed by the workers and the company management on October 1”, workers alleged that the company had refused to induct around 1,100 contract workers post the 33-day standoff last month.
MSIL, however, brushed aside the allegations: “That is a non issue. We are gradually ramping up our production at Manesar, including our new 2.5 lakh capacity Manesar-B assembly unit. Many contract workers are likely to be absorbed in the expanded operations. This was communicated to the contractual workers through their employers.”
There are around 2,000 workers at the Manesar facility, of which 700 are regular employees. The company said 170 regular workers have not joined the sit-in strike. Another 500 workers who were being held under duress and beaten up by the striking workers were rescued by the police.
An estimated 8,000 workers at the three subsidiaries – MSIL’s Manesar plant, Suzuki Powertrain India Limited and Suzuki Motorcycle India Private Limited – stopped affecting shifts across facilities. Work was also affected in three other companies — Hi-Lex India Global Network, Endurance Transmission India Limited and Satyam Auto Components Limited.
The strike started within a week of the management and the workers at MSIL reaching an agreement to end the labour unrest, which had continued for the entire last month. On October 1, the protesting workers had agreed to sign the ‘Good Conduct Bond’ as laid down by the management. The company had agreed to reinstate the 18 trainees, against whom disciplinary action had been taken.
However, MSIL had said the 44 regular workers against whom disciplinary action had been initiated, would not be taken back and they would continue to remain suspended. The workers have now violated the agreement and demanded that the 44 regular workers be also be taken back by MSIL.