From Manesar to Gujarat,it’s a bumpy ride ahead for Maruti

While the speculation is rife that following violence by workers at its Manesar plant,Maruti Suzuki may relocate the facility to Hansalpur in Ahmedabad district where the company has been made available 700 acres of land,the car major may not find it easy in Gujarat either because of labour unrest that has hit the industries in the state of late.

Written by Lakshmi Ajay | Ahmedabad | Published:July 21, 2012 2:48 am

While the speculation is rife that following violence by workers at its Manesar plant,Maruti Suzuki may relocate the facility to Hansalpur in Ahmedabad district where the company has been made available 700 acres of land,the car major may not find it easy in Gujarat either because of labour unrest that has hit the industries in the state of late.

In the last one year,workers at manufacturing units of General Motors at Halol in the Panchmahals,textile units of Reliance Industries,Arvind Ltd,Ashima Ltd in Ahmedabad and Hitachi at Kadi have gone on strike. The Hitachi strike is still on.

In 2011,about 900 workers at the GM facility at Halol went on an indefinite strike complaining of health hazards and transfer of employees from the Halol plant. The strike continued for six weeks before ending in May 2011.

“This was third strike at the Halol plant. The ones in 2009 and 2010 were smaller ones. All were illegal,” says GM India vice-president (corporate affairs) P Balendran.

“The Gujarat government has been very supportive (in 2011). They not only declared the strike illegal,but also allowed us to recruit candidates from the ITI (Industrial Training Institute),” he said,adding the workers in Halol had violated a three-year contract in just three months of signing it.

However,Nihil Mehta,the working president of Gujarat unit of INTUC who led the workers’ agitation at Halol,claims that the agreement reached between the management of General Motors India is fragile. “The issues of workers being over-worked and disputes concerning over-time payments remain. I feel the large proportion of contract workers at the GM unit aggravated the situation. These workers are paid a pittance when compared to the permanent workers and so there is bound to be resentment among them,” Mehta said.

The labour unrest in the textile sector had similar roots. “Strikes at textile units were a clear indication that according to existing government policies,permanent job creation is absent. Unless this policy changes,there will be labour unrest in future too. The situation may get worse unless the companies adopt a wage structure that is in alignment with their productivity,” says Amar Barot,general secretary of TLA (Textile Labour Association),referring to the strike by nearly 3,000 workers from the units of Reliance Industries,Arvind Ltd,Ashima and Ankur in June-July this year.

Similar is the case with Hitachi Home & Life Solutions’s plant at Kadi in Mehsana district where 500-odd contractual workers have been on strike since the beginning of last month demanding better pay and employee benefits. “If we go by the recent strike by Hitachi workers,permanent employees were being paid Rs 15,000-20,000 per month while temporary workers doing the same job were getting Rs 5,000-10,000,” says Amrish Patel,a lawyer and Union leader. Around 80% of industries in Gujarat do not pay minimum wages to their contractual workforce,he adds,and so the stalemate continues.

Besides labour problems,there are other issues.

Sunil Goel,director of GlobalHunt India,a Delhi-based human resource firm,says unrest at the Manesar plant was because of failure of communication between the management and the workers and moving to Gujarat or prioritising a particular state will not solve these issues. Goel too underlined the pay disparity between permanent and contractual employees as being the root cause of labour strife.

The board of directors of Maruti Suzuki is expected to meet in July-end to ratify the company’s investment of nearly Rs 4,000 crore in Gujarat.

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