Maruti workers strike again amidst festive hopes

Trouble has erupted again at Maruti Suzuki's Haryana plants, soon after the company seemed to have overcome its labour problems. India's biggest-selling carmaker announced on Friday that it has stopped production at its Manesar plant, which manufactures the popular 'Swift' hatchback among other models.

The company had announced on Monday that it was ramping up production at both its Manesar and Gurgaon plants, after it went on a hiring spree to replace discontented workers. Many striking employees had also signed the 'good conduct bond' that the company has been insisting on, it said.

But the festive season cheer seems to have been illusory. "Workers have gone on strike at around 4:00 pm today," a company spokesperson said. The fresh disruption comes just when car sales of consumer durables peak in India.

"The MSIL management is in the process of preparing schedules for casual workers. The striking workers did not give us any notice before dumping the production today," the spokesperson said. "The workers' action clearly violates the agreement that they had signed with the management on 1 October. It is a breach of faith ... a mockery."

The employees have accused the management of reneging on its promise to take back some 1,000 casual workers.

''The trouble began in the morning at the gates when the 'bouncers' deputed by the management manhandled the casual workers sitting outside the factory since the agreement was reached on 1 October,'' said Anil Kumar, general secretary of All India Trade Union Congress. The AITUC is lending outside support to the agitating workers, whose main demand is the recognition of a new union at Manesar.