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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

More than 1,500 contract workers join protest against lay-offs at Honda Manesar plant

In August, HMSI, India’s second-largest maker of two-wheelers, had laid off about 700 contract workers because of a production cut. Company officials said then the industry was facing a demand slump and the job losses were a consequence of the downturn.

gurugram Updated: Nov 07, 2019 13:03 IST
Leena Dhankhar
Leena Dhankhar
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
Trade union council members from Gurugram and adjoining districts met the Deputy Commissioner and handed a memorandum to reinstate contractual workers at Honda fired in the last 10 days, at Mini Secretariat, in Gurugram,  on Wednesday, November 6, 2019.
Trade union council members from Gurugram and adjoining districts met the Deputy Commissioner and handed a memorandum to reinstate contractual workers at Honda fired in the last 10 days, at Mini Secretariat, in Gurugram, on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. (Yogendra Kumar / HT Photo )
         

More than 1,500 contract workers walked off the job and joined a protest outside the Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) plant in Manesar, on Wednesday, against the sacking of 650 such employees in the past 10 days, chief of workers’ union said, as a sales decline hurts vehicle manufacturers and forces them to cut costs.

The police maintained a high profile at the factory to deter potential troublemakers as protesting employees demanded the reinstatement of their colleagues. Deputy commissioner of police Rajesh Kumar (Manesar) said they deployed 150 police personnel after they received a letter from the company, which had demanded police force fearing the possibility of a strike and chance of violence. The protesters alleged that workers were being fired without notice and that no compensation was being paid.

In August, HMSI, India’s second-largest maker of two-wheelers, had laid off about 700 contract workers because of a production cut. Company officials said then the industry was facing a demand slump and the job losses were a consequence of the downturn.

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

The company’s corporate communications department and other executives declined to comment. One executive, requesting anonymity, said production hadn’t been affected by the protest. Nearly 2,000 permanent workers are still on the job and working in two shifts, the executive said.

Some workers fired from their jobs said they had been working with the company for about 10 years. “I have been working in the company since 2011 and suddenly the officials have asked me to look for another job. There are no jobs in the market and I cannot afford to lose this job as I am the sole breadwinner,” said Deepak Sharma, a sacked employee.

Another contract worker said the protestors will go on an indefinite strike and if required will start a hunger strike. “They want to hire new people with less salary. They are giving us a reason that production is down, without giving any further explanation. We are stranded,” said the worker, Ashish Kumar Mishra.

Factory workers met Gurugram deputy commissioner Amit Khatri on Wednesday and handed over a memorandum requesting him to resolve the issue and to help reinstate the sacked workers. “If the demands are not met we will plan to involve more workers from another district in support of the axed workers. We are hopeful the company will take retrenched workers back,” said Suresh Kumar Gaur, president of the workers’ union at the plant.

The union workers said they planned to meet Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal khattar and seek his intervention.

Khatri said he had received the memorandum and efforts were underway for reconciliation. “It is the prerogative of the labour department and they are already trying to work out some solution which can benefit them mutually,” he said.

Gurugram is the country’s largest automotive hub, which houses more than 1,000 automotive manufacturing companies that employ around 15 lakh workers, Contractual workers, typically migrants from other parts of India, typically bear the brunt of any company effort at cutting costs, and sometimes layoffs have resulted in labour unrest.