Rehired Maruti men stoked violence
Ten executive members of the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union — believed to be the main conspirators — had been suspended by management last year but reinstated under pressure from the Haryana govt. Sumant Banerji reports.delhi Updated: Jul 30, 2012 01:43 IST
The July 18 violence at Maruti’s Manesar plant that claimed the life of an HR manager and left 100 injured could have been avoided. Ten executive members of the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union — believed to be the main conspirators — were suspended by management last year but reinstated under pressure from the Haryana government.
About 600 workers were involved in three instances of labour unrest between June and October last year.
Maruti suspended 64 workers, but 34 were reinstated without any action after a truce. The 10 union members suspected to be the troublemakers on July 18 were among these 34.
“In hindsight, this was a disaster waiting to happen,” a company insider, who narrowly escaped the violence and didn’t wish to be identified, said. “There was pressure from the state (Haryana) government to reinstate most of the workers suspended last year. The management was initially opposed to it, but had to bow to the pressure as losses were mounting.”
According to sources, as most of the workers are from Haryana, the government feared political backlash to the sackings.
The repercussions, however, were far worse. During the July 18 violence, the Manesar plant was partially burnt, forcing a lockout. While several arrests have been made, the main culprits are still at large.
Despite the disaster, Maruti said its hands were tied last year. "In 2011, if we had tried to oppose the candidature of these workers as union members, there could have been a feeling that the management was trying to interfere in the working of an independent union," a company spokesperson said.
The Haryana labour department, which facilitates negations between workers and management, stands by the reinstatement. "You cannot sack everybody when only 30 people were the main culprits," a senior officer at the Gurgaon labour commissioner's office said.
"An agreement is always a compromise. What happened on July 18 was unfortunate but it is not correct to draw conclusions from last year," the officer said.