Industrial unrest may get worse: Labour dept

India Inc expressed concern over labour unrest denting India’s image as investment destination.

Written by Surabhi | New Delhi | Published: July 30, 2012 12:44:58 am

The militant attack by labourers at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant is not an isolated case but part of a worrying trend that is hurting India’s private sector. Industrial disputes leading to strikes and lockouts are on the rise,after registering a decline in 2011,according to the latest data — and officials expect the labour unrest trend to worsen in the coming months.

Labour Bureau data accessed by The Indian Express reveals that the first five months of 2012 have recorded 108 industrial disputes,marking a 12 per cent rise from 2011,when 97 disputes were registered between January and May. So far,this labour unrest has cost the country a total of 9,60,089 mandays.

After production was suspended in Maruti’s Manesar unit following last fortnight’s violence,India Inc has expressed concern over rising labour unrest denting the country’s image as an investment destination.

The latest data points out why the private sector is more worried about labour troubles. Though there have been more strikes in public sector firms in the first five months of this year,all lockouts have exclusively happened in private companies. Labour ministry officials expect the year as a whole could see a rise in such disputes compared to 2011.

“Last year was the only time in many years when the number of industrial disputes registered by the bureau came down to 212. But going by this year’s number,such disputes will increase once again,” a labour ministry official said.

Firm interest rates and a demand slowdown apart,employee relations have been a major challenge for Indian firms in recent times. High profile strikes have dotted the corporate landscape in 2012,be it the striking pilots at Air India and Kingfisher Airlines,a workers’ stir at Hitachi’s Kadi plant,agitating employees at state-run RINL or the marauding workers at Maruti Suzuki.

The ministry attributes rising aspirations of young workers and disparities in wage and social security benefits between contractual and regular workers as one of the main reasons behind this sudden spurt in altercations between employers and employees.

“No one is willing to compromise and tempers are running short. Even discords between family members are on the rise,and then it is only obvious that spats between management and workers will also increase,” said a state labour department official,who has chaired many conciliation proceedings.

The data reveals that between January and May 2012,there were 63 instances where workers struck at state-run firms as against 32 strikes in private companies. But till last year,more workers struck work in private companies (118) compared to PSUs,where only 58 strikes took place.

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