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Indian Suzuki factory still shut after riot
Factory closure: Some of the highest paid workers at Maruti Suzuki's Manesar plant are paid as little as $A5000 per year.
Maruti Suzuki management blamed for industrial unrest that led to fatal Indian riot
7 August 2012
MARUTI Suzuki’s Manesar plant in India remains closed and guarded by 500 policemen as investigations continue into last month’s riot that resulted in one manager burned to death and many others injured.
Unions have blamed Maruti Suzuki management for inciting the riots three weeks ago at the factory in India, where 12 union officials were arrested and a further 114 workers detained.
Suzuki Australia communications manager Andrew Ellis said the company had enough stock of its Indian-made Alto city car to continue normal sales even if the plant remained closed for the rest of the year.
As colleagues and family of Awanish Kumar Dev held a candlelight vigil on the weekend in memory of the dead HR manager, 35 Indian labour bodies met to discuss the bloody riots that have inevitably led to a blame game.
The national secretary of national union umbrella group the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), Gautam Mody, told automotive industry news service just-auto that industrial discontent had been brewing for more than a year and laid the blame squarely at management, accusing it of treating workers “like cattle”.
Others have said the unrest was inevitable because India’s labour laws date back to 1956, and some to the 1920s, making it difficult for companies to sack workers and leading to them hiring vast numbers of contractors instead of staff – a bone of contention for unions seeking to exert greater power in their struggle for better pay.
According to Reuters, the best-paid manufacturing workers at the Manesar plant earn 25,000 rupees ($A426) a month – about $5000 a year – but almost half of the 4000 workers were on contracts and earned less than half that.
“The culpability of what happened at Manesar rests with the Maruti Suzuki management,” NTUI chief Mr Mody told just-auto from Delhi.
“What they have shown – not just in one afternoon but over 12 months – is an inability to manage a factory the size of Maruti that employs several thousand workers.
“They have systemically undermined industrial peace and treated their workers like cattle – Maruti failed to heed the discontent of their workers – it has been brewing for more than a year.”
The NTUI claims the dispute was the result of boiling resentment at the lack of union representation at the plant.
“Workers want to negotiate through the unions of their choice – that is something enshrined in the constitution of this country,” said Mr Mody. “That has been undermined also by the state government of Haryana – there is no denying the state government is in cahoots with Maruti Suzuki.
“They [management] set out to bust the unions and unity of the workers. They have refused to negotiate for months on end. It has involved an attempt to break the unity between regular workers and contract workers – a task the management failed.”
Maruti Suzuki dominates the Indian passenger-car market with a 40 per cent share and the Manesar plant produces the Swift hatchback and Dzire sedan models, for which the order backlog stands at 100,000 with a waiting period of up to five months.
However, the company’s market value has fallen by $550 million since the riot.
Shares in parent company Suzuki Motor Corp – which last year relied on the Indian joint venture for 28 per cent of its profit – fell by as much as 10 per cent in the immediate aftermath of the riot, but have since settled and are now down only 3.0 per cent since July 18.
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