Violence-hit Maruti Suzuki today declared an indefinite lockout at its Manesar plant but firmly ruled out the possibility of shifting operations to Gujarat.
The company said it was completely overtaken by the ‘Tsunami-like’ violence that it had not anticipated and announced they would not employ casual labour from next year.
“There is now a lockout. To me,what is more important is safety of my colleagues than producing some cars to make some money,” Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Chairman R C Bhargava said at a press conference here.
Asked how long the lockout will continue he said,”Maruti is not closed…we will be very inefficient if we take six months. I don’t think we are that bad…we will start at Manesar “.
The company’s decision follows large scale violence on Wednesday when General Manager(HR) Awanish Kumar Dev was burnt alive and about 90 officials and supervisors were injured after suspension of an employee.
However,Bhargava made it clear that the company had no plans to shift to Gujarat. “There is no possibility of moving from Manesar. We are not moving the plant from Manesar,we are not shifting from Manesar,” he said.
He also denied that tough Japanese work norms could be the reason behind the violence,saying similar rules have been in vogue in the company’s Gurgaon plant for nearly 30 years and there have been no complaints.
In Chandigarh,Haryana Labour and Employment Minister Shiv Charan Lal Sharma supported Maruti saying the lockout was “appropriate” keeping in view what the workers have done.
It is also learnt that state Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda would soon meet with MSI Managing Director and CEO Shinzo Nakanishi to address company¿s concern. There has been speculation that Maruti could consider shifting to Gujarat in view of recurring violence in the Manesar-Gurgaon belt.
The speculation gained further ground with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan from tomorrow during which he would meet Suzuki Motor Corp Chairman Osamu Suzuki at the company headquarters in Hamamatsu.
With about 3,000 workforce,the Manesar plant produces some of the best selling models. The vehicles produced there include SX4,Swift,Dzire and A-Star.
Production loss at Manesar plant is estimated to be around Rs 210 crore. The plant rolls out about 1,600 units per day. In terms of value,the per day loss is about Rs 70 crore.
Bhargava said the MSI management has requested the Haryana Government to expedite the inquiry into the incident. Besides,the company will have its own probe.
Asked whether some workers involved in the incident can be taken back,he said,”if guys are no risks they can be taken back; if they are cause of trouble,they cannot come back”.
Bhargava said the safety and health of company’s employees are paramount.
“We put much higher value on safety,health and environment than any other aspect of running the factory. Therefore,what has happened is absolutely a shocker for us,so we cannot risk any further damage being done to these people…,” he said.
Bhargava said it is absolutely necessary for the company and the Haryana government to jointly and separately do a complete investigation of the incident.
“… identify the factors which caused these events,what were the causes,what was behind all this,why did it happen? We need to know…,” he added.
Meanwhile,Haryana Industry Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala said violence at the Manesar plant “appears” to be a “concerted” plan to disrupt industrial peace in the state.
“… we have got some indications. It appears it (Maruti Suzuki incident) was a designed and concerted plan to disrupt industrial peace,” said Surjewala.
Asked whether there was any political hand behind the brutal incident,he said that “let’s not prejudge things … it is too early to say”.
State Labour and Employment Minister Shiv Charan Lal Sharma also said,”Yes,workers are influenced from outside.”