Workers take over Maruti's Manesar plant; violence alleged

Not only has production at Maruti Suzuki's Manesar plant halted for the third day today, but striking workers have taken over the entire factory, the company admitted. Managers and supervisors were assaulted and equipment damaged at the plant in Haryana, it said in a statement.

"The plant is effectively captive in the hands of striking workers who are bent upon violence," it said, describing the situation at the factory as "grave".

The latest development sharply contradicts Maruti's earlier statements that output at Manesar was being rapidly ramped up, with many workers signing a 'good conduct bond' (the latest bone of contention between the management and workers) and fresh employees being hired to replace recalcitrant strikers. In fact, the reverse seems to be happening.

Workers at India's biggest-selling carmaker's plant went on a fresh strike on Friday. They were earlier on a strike from 29 August to 1 October over the good conduct issue and a demand that the company take back sacked workers. Earlier in June-July, they had shut down the plant with a 13-day strike, demanding recognition of a new trade. union.

Maruti said 1,500 workers were inside the factory, where the hatchback Swift (currently the company's most popular model), the SX4 sedan, and the A-Star are manufactured.

The agitation could hardly have come at a worse time for Maruti, as the demand for consumer durables like cars peaks in India during October, the festive season. The company is already facing a huge delivery backlog, and this is likely to result in buyers choosing competing models from other carmakers.