The crippling labour strike at Maruti’s Manesar plant continues. Striking workers are coming under fire from the authorities, with the Haryana government declaring the strike illegal and directing protesting workers to vacate the factory.
Late in the evening, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed that there would be no sit-in strike within 100 meters of the premises of the Manesar plant. The judge directed striking workers to be taken out. He also directed that loyal workers be allowed to join their duties.
RC Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki tells CNBC-TV18 that the court’s verdict is no where close to resolving the deadlock between management and striking employees.
He says alternative ways are currently being looked at to resume and maintain production. The last time when the workers went on strike, temporary workers were brought in to continue production. While Maruti’s management hasn’t made any firm decision, Bhargava does acknowledge that it’s an option which is certainly available to them.
Below is an edited transcript of his exclusive interview with CNBC-TV18’s Shereen Bhan.
Q: The court has now directed the Maruti workers to vacate the premises. While this may end the occupation, does this bring us any closer to a possible breakthrough?
A: No, it’s not necessarily going to lead to any breakthrough because so far the workers who have been on strike in illegal occupation have shown absolutely no concern about legalities or agreements or any regard for the law at all. Whether this is going to help in any way in resolving the issue is very doubtful.
Q: The workers say they are keen to negotiate with Maruti’s management and one of their demands is reinstating the 44 dismissed employees. The other demands they claim is that the Maruti management had agreed to deduct the salary for only 34 days when they were on strike but they have actually deducted the salary of about 64 days. Is that accurate? Is there any breakthrough on these contentious issues?
A: As far as the 44 workers are concerned, the agreement which was signed about a week ago with the state government involvement was that these 44 workers would remain suspended and that they would face disciplinary proceedings according to law. Now because they went on another illegal strike it would be very odd if we were to concede any demand for reducing the severity of this agreement and saying that these people should be taken back. I don’t think that’s ever likely to happen.
The other demand also for deduction of wages is not correct. We never agreed to deduct only 32 day wages. According to law, if a person goes on an illegal strike deduction can be up to eight times the period of absence. So for 34 days it could have been 8 times. We have reduced that 8 times to 2 times and that is what the agreement was about.
Q: You are not willing to make any concessions as far as the 44 dismissed employees are concerned, but on the matter of salary if that’s what it was to boil down to, to broker a peace between management and the workers, would you concede on that demand?
A: At the moment its not just 44, it is more than 44 because as a result of what has been happening in the last week, where these people have indulged in a lot of violence and a lot of loyal workers have been beaten up. Several more are likely to be charge sheeted and suspended and some have already been suspended and dismissed, so it’s not just going to be 44, its going to be more than that.
Q: Are you saying that as far as disciplinary action is concerned, Maruti is not going to concede on any ground. Even if it means loosing more production and loosing more days, you are not going to concede on that demand?
A: We may look at alternative ways of resuming production and maintaining production but we would certainly not concede as a result of another illegal strike and a great deal of violence and a breach of the agreement made this a means of reducing the severity or the contents of the agreement which were signed earlier. That would be very wrong.
Q: You talked about how you could look at alternate ways. The last time around when they went on strike you had brought in temporary workers. What could you possibly do this time around?
A: We could do similar things this time around also.
Q: Are you looking at bringing in temporary workers?
A: I am not sure that we have made any decision on that yet because that’s a matter which would be taken by the management. But it’s an option which is certainly available to us.
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