Millennium Post

Maruti Suzuki in back gear

While the re-opening of the Maruti Suzuki plant at Manesar is a positive development it does not settle many of the issues that caused an upset in industrial relations in July and led to violence. Particularly regrettable is the company’s order sacking 500 workers for their alleged involvement in the violence.  These workers have been removed from their jobs without any enquiry establishing their culpability. This disciplinary action has, therefore, been taken arbitrarily as only those workers whose direct involvement had been proved should have been punished. Even otherwise, the deeper malaise that affects this factory appears not to have been addressed. It is obvious that that a mere altercation between a worker and a supervisor over a reportedly derogatory remark would not have caused so many workers to have turned violent unless there were deeper underlying issues. The violence, in itself, which led to several dozens of officials being injured and the death of a senior human relations executive, is regrettable. However, it may not have occurred had the company taken better care of its workers so as to remove the sense of grievance from amongst them. In Manesar the anger was palpably simmering, and last year alone labour unrest had caused the company the loss of Rs 2,500 crore.

As late as April 2012, the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) had submitted a charter of demands to the management, which was simply not considered. While, possibly, some of the demands in this charter were difficult to meet, it is also a fact that Maruti Suzuki employs an extremely large percentage of its workers at this plant on a contract basis, perhaps to bring in flexibility and reduce costs. This means that a very large number of workers are paid a fraction of the salary that regular workers are entitled to. Further, owing largely to competitive pressures and perhaps also to a different work culture, the workers face all kinds of pressures to increase productivity. The conditions of work, thus, end up being exploitative. The Suzuki Motor Corp chairman Osamu Suzuki, who is on an India visit, should consider his company’s policies towards workers, and, among the steps that he should immediately take, is the revocation of the decision to fire 500 employees at the Maruti Suzuki plants at Manesar.
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