Barely two months after India's largest car maker Maruti Suzuki suffered a month-long spell of labour unrest at its Manesar factories, it is the turn of arch-rival Hyundai.
The Korean company's twin factories at Sriperumbudur near Chennai are on the edge after a faction of its workers under an unrecognised union began a stir on Tuesday that may intensify in days to come.
The company had pronounced the strike illegal on Tuesday.
The workers supporting the Hyundai Motor India Employees Union that is not recognised by the Korean auto major but has the backing of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) are demanding reinstatement of 27 other workers who had been dismissed by the management on grounds of indiscipline in 2008.
On Wednesday, the union claimed 850 workers were on strike resulting in an almost 50% loss of production at the two factories. The company rejected the claims.
"We began our strike on Tuesday and it has continued today as well," said R Sridhar, general secretary, HMIEU. "So far, the management has not spoken to us. Around 850 workers are supporting our peaceful agitation. Our main demand is reinstatement of the 27 workers. We will call off the strike the moment these workers are taken back."
In 2008, 87 workers were dismissed by the company. While 34 had been reinstated and 20 other cases settled out-of-court, the remaining are yet to be reinstated. Sridhar said he was also fighting for the recognition of his union. The company rubbished claims of a production loss adding it would not take back the dismissed employees.
"Production at our plants continue to be normal despite absenteeism by 200 workers," Hyundai said in an official statement. "The company has been fair to employees and does not envisage the need to revise it's stance on the issues of either recognising a politically-backed minority union or re-instating dismissed employees."
The agitation comes barely a fortnight after Hyundai finalised a 3-year wage settlement with its workers, giving them a near 40% increase in salaries. The union is also opposed to the wage hike of October 18. Hyundai produces over 6 lakh cars from its Chennai factories at the rate of nearly 2,000 cars per day and employs over 2,000 permanent workers.