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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

Honda workers march to DC office, seek fast resolution

cities Updated: Nov 22, 2019 21:28 IST
Sonali Verma
Sonali Verma

Gurugram Around 3,000 workers — of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) and other automobile manufacturing units in Manesar — and members of the regional trade union council marched from the IMT Manesar to Mini Secretariat, near Rajiv Chowk, on Friday to submit a letter of demands to the district administration.

The letter, signed by union leaders, condemned the retrenchment of contractual workers, most of whom were employed for more than 10 years, as per the union, in the last few weeks and the management’s subsequent decision to suspend production at the plant on November 11.

The demands raised by the workers in the letter include the reinstatement of the 650 retrenched workers or compensation of ₹1 lakh, for each year of service, per worker, and that the factory be reopened. More than 1,500 workers have been staging a sit-in for the same on the company premises since November 5.

Meanwhile, HMSI, in a statement on Friday, said that production at the Manesar plant is likely to resume on November 25. “After contractual workers vacated the premises with support of local authorities and court, the normal production operation at our Manesar plant is likely to resume on November 25,” the statement read.

The 17-kilometre march to Rajiv Chowk via NH-48 began around 3pm. Around 300 police officers were deployed between Kherki Dhaula and Rajiv Chowk, and near the Mini Secretariat, according to Rajesh Kumar, deputy commissioner of police, Manesar. “There were more than 3,000 people. No major traffic snarl or jam was, however, reported. The protesters used the service lane for the march and traffic flow could be managed smoothly,” he said.

The protesters reached Mini Secretariat around 8pm and handed the letter to deputy commissioner Amit Khatri. “We hope that the issue is resolved soon and, will persuade the labour department and the management of the company to expedite the process,” Khatri said.

Sunil Kumar Gaur, president of the union, said, “Our aim was to hold a peaceful march on Friday and to bring attention to the demands of the workers. The management has been delaying a resolution for more than two weeks now. They had promised a resolution if the protesting workers vacated the factory premises, but they still haven’t acted on it.”

The workers had, on Tuesday, vacated the premises and continued their strike outside the premises.

Anil Pawar, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), said, “We don’t want a repeat of the 2005 incident where the situation had escalated and the chief minister had to step in and ask the management to reinstate the workers.”

In 2005, workers of HMSI had staged a protest to demand the reinstatement of dismissed and suspended colleagues, following which the police used lathis, water cannons and tear gas. Despite two months of talks between the management and staff, no agreement could be reached then.

Workers confirmed that a notice was issued by the management to the company’s 1,900-odd permanent workers on Friday, asking them to resume services between November 25 and 28. “A decision on the same will be taken by the union office bearers on Saturday,” said Gaur.

HMSI on Friday said that the management had to stop operations at the Manesar plant until further notice, since the contractual workers were occupying the factory premises. The company said that relieving contractual workers was a common industry practice.

“Overall industry situation of slowdown from last 11 months has led to production adjustment and manpower realignment in Manesar factory. As an industry practice and also in HMSI, contractual workers on contract (third-party contractors) who complete their tenure are relieved, then called back for re-joining after some gap varying from minimum 15 days to maximum 90 days. The contractual workers whose term had been completed were relieved from their work but permanent workers were still not impacted (sic),” the HMSI’s statement read.

It further stated that the productivity at the Manesar plant is the lowest among its four plants. “Manpower efficiency increase is a basic expectation for productivity, more so in slowdown,” it read.

In August, Honda had laid off about 700 contracted workers because of a production cut, according to figures released by the company. Officials of the company had said that the industry is facing a demand slump and the job losses were a consequence of the downturn.

HMSI’s sales fell marginally to 517,808 units in October, down from 521,170 units a year earlier. The demand for two-wheelers and cars has declined as consumers spend less due to a downturn in economic growth, which eased to an over six-year low of 5% in the quarter ended June, according to Honda.