India’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd faces a litmus test as union elections at its troubled factories in Manesar are set to be held early on April 4.
The factories have been prone to labour unrest with two successive instances of strikes in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, the agitation turned violent leading to the death of a senior human resource executive of the company and the dismissal of at least 550 workers. Though the company has taken a number of steps like forming a grievance redressal committee that meets once every month, greater communciation and abolition of contract workers on the shop floor, relations with workers remain strained.
“Even at the best of times we do not see company officials as our friends,” said a permanent worker who has filed his nomination. “They have been friendly since the lcok out in 2012 but we need our own union who can fight for our rights.”
The formation of an independent worker’s union has been a key issue and this will be the first election since the strike in 2012. So far, 62 candidates have filed nominations for the head of the union. The Manesar production facility that produces over 600,000 cars every year like Swift, Dzire, Sx4 and Ertiga, employs around 1,000 permanent and 1,800 temporary workers and 500 apprentices. Only the temporary workers have voting rights.
“The management still treats workers at Gurgaon and Manesar differently,” said another worker. “The events of July 2012 has broken the unity among workers but we are looking at the elections closely.”
The company spokesperson said Maruti only has the role of a facilitator and is not involved in the elections in any way. Its older Gurgaon factory will also have its own union elections at the end of the month.