Over two months have passed since India'a largest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, was rocked by a 13-day strike at its crucial Manesar plant, but its workers remain as polarised as ever.
The Haryana government last week rejected an application for the formation of a second union, Maruti Suzuki Employees' Union (MSEU), but the workers have vowed that they will keep trying, and will file a fresh application later this week.
The Manesar factory makes 350,000 cars per annum including the Swift, which is in great demand. It is central to Maruti's medium-term expansion plans (see box). Another strike would be a setback for it at a time when competition is intensifying.Almost the entire 1,100-odd permanent workers at Manesar boycotted the elections for the existing Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union, held last month.
"The management and the labour department are putting pressure on the workers to give up the demand for a separate union but it is our fundamental right and we will keep trying," said Shiv Kumar, secretary to the now defunct MSEU.
"Our application was rejected as we are members of the existing union, and also because the strike happened a day after the application was filed. We are looking to make it foolproof."
The Maruti management acknowledged that around 950 workers at Manesar had been misguided, and there is a need to close the communication gap.
"We have to engage the workers at Manesar more so that they are not misguided," said Shinzo Nakanishi, CEO, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. "It requires a change of mindset. We must be patient."
"If they (workers) want any kind of improvement in the long term, it can only happen if the company is prospering and is in a position to give them that," said RC Bhargava, chairman, MSIL. "Confrontation cannot ever help workers."