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Honda suffers strike jolt in bike journey

autos Updated: Dec 20, 2010 01:39 IST
Sumant Banerji

Barely a day after it worked out a separation from the Hero Group to chart its own course in motorbikes, Japan’s Honda Motor suffered a jolt at the weekend when it faced a flash strike.

Production at Honda Motorcycle and Scooters India’s (HMSI) Manesar factory resumed on Sunday after a brief unrest on Friday, when workers struck work against the alleged assault on a casual worker by one of the factory’s security staff. Honda kept the plant shut on Saturday, advancing its holiday to avoid trouble.

The strike, which the company says was a minor incident, happened a day after Honda announced it will sell off its 26% stake in world’s largest two-wheeler company, Hero Honda Motors Ltd. It symbolised the Japanese firm’s problems in managing industrial relations in India.

Last year, HMSI, now the country’s largest scooter maker, suffered a loss of over R300 crore after workers went on a go-slow strike that had resulted in production dipping by over 50% for nearly three months. In 2005, it witnessed its biggest crisis when a violent strike by workers rocked the Gurgaon-Manesar belt.

However, it was business as usual on Sunday.

“The issue has been resolved amicably and production is back to normal levels,” Harbhajan Singh, assistant general manager, industrial relations, HMSI told Hindustan Times. “We have ordered an investigation into what happened on Friday when a contractual worker entered the premises without his identity and punching card and a security guard dealt with him in a high handed manner,” he added.

He said the guard was suspended from work pending investigations and labour leaders had addressed workers on Saturday to bring the situation under control.

There are around 1,400 contractual and as many permanent workers who work in the plant in every shift. Production suffered for 5 hours on Friday. With two groups of trade unions operating, there was a chance for “trivial issues” being blown out of proportion, Singh said.

The Manesar factory produces 1.6 million two-wheelers per annum with a daily production of 5,500 units. The company is building another R500-crore plant at Tapukara in Rajasthan with a capacity of 600,000 per annum. It sold 1.27 million units in 2009-10 and is aiming to sell 1.55 million units 2010-11.

In the April-November period, HMSI’s sales have grown 43.5% year on year to 1.03 million units.