Labor Unrest Hits Maruti, Coal India Operations

Categories: Economy/Labor

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NEW DELHI—Labor unrest continues to plague the Indian industry with workers at the country’s top car maker by sales stopping work and resorting to violence, while those at the world’s largest coal producer temporarily halted work Monday demanding higher bonus.

The strikes at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. and Coal India Ltd. reflect simmering discontent among workers at several companies in the world’s second-fastest growing major economy over wages and working conditions.

The strike at Maruti Suzuki began Friday after regular workers at its factory at Manesar, in northern Haryana state, demanded the reinstatement of 44 suspended colleagues who weren’t taken back after a 33-day impasse with the management ended Oct. 1.

The local unit of Suzuki Motor Corp. Sunday dismissed 10 employees, suspended as many and terminated five trainees who it alleged were involved in violence at the Manesar plant.

Workers from three other plants at Manesar owned by Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt. Ltd., Suzuki Motor Powertrain India Ltd. and Suzuki Castings Ltd. have also halted work in support of their peers at Maruti.

The unrest at Suzuki Powertrain led to a complete halt in supplies of diesel engines and transmissions to Maruti, forcing the auto maker to curtail car production at its Gurgaon factory, also in Haryana, to about 1,800 cars Monday against normal output of 2,800 cars.

Maruti said about 1,500 striking workers are inside the Manesar plant and have damaged property, resulting in a “grave” law and order situation.

Labor unrest has previously hit operations at Bosch Ltd., Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd., Rico Auto Industries Ltd., Sona Koyo Steering Systems Ltd., Hyundai Motor India Ltd., General Motors India Pvt. Ltd. and Exide Industries Ltd.

In 2005, a protest by 1,000 workers at Honda Motorcycle—Honda Motor Co.’s local two-wheeler unit—over the reinstatement of four employees turned violent, prompting the local police to use force that left hundreds of employees injured.

Meanwhile, Coal India Chairman Nirmal Chandra Jha said the company will lose 1.2 billion rupees ($24.4 million) in revenue and 1.0 million metric tons in coal output due to a one-day strike by 365,000 workers.

He said the workers are demanding an annual bonus of 23,500 rupees, against the 17,000 rupees paid already by the management despite any substantial increase in coal production.

“We have no plans of meeting workers’ demand for bonus,” Mr. Jha said. “They had given us one-day strike notice and should come to work from tomorrow.”

However, Rajinder Prasad Singh, president of the Indian National Mine Workers Federation, said the Coal India workers may resort to a six-day strike if their demands aren’t met.


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