India's biggest carmaker appears to have internalised the lessons from its most damaging strike. In a bid to improve management-labour relations at its strike-affected Manesar plant, Maruti Suzuki plans to increase the wages of all workers at the facility from April.

This will happen after a new union — Maruti Suzuki Workers' Union — at the carmaker's second facility gets formalised by this month-end.

The wage settlement process is expected to start by March, with the pay revision coming into force by April-May, Mr S. Y. Siddiqui, Maruti's Managing Executive Officer for Administration and HR, said.

“We have set up a committee to negotiate with the union and the management, and will try to find an amicable settlement,” he added.

For the new union's registration, the carmaker has been “coordinating with the Haryana Government's Labour Department. The verification process will be over by January 10. By mid or third week of January, the registration should also be done,” Mr Siddiqui said.

“It is the workers' right to form a union, no company can stop it,” he added.

Political angle

Earlier, the company had opposed a union proposal at the same plant, citing “political undercurrents” that, it said, had led to three strikes between June and October last year and production loss of about one lakh cars.

“The issue in 2010 was of pressure of production, as demand was very high when our capacity was not. There were times when there was demand for extra work. If we had better communication (with workers), this issue wouldn't have happened,” Mr Siddiqui said.

“With a young generation (of workers), you have to look at giving more empowerment,” he added.

Hiring

Though Maruti Suzuki's third production line at Manesar could get delayed, the company is stepping up hiring significantly. This will also be for the second line at Manesar, which started last September.

For the remaining months of 2011-12 and for 2012-13, at least 850 new technicians and engineers will be hired for the shop-floor. This includes 150 people for the Rohtak R&D centre.

“This may go up further with demand. About 240 technician trainees have been hired in the past six months and 500 more will be inducted by April-end for plant three,” said Mr Siddiqui.

He said that a decision on whether to delay the Gujarat plant opening will also be taken at the board meeting on January 23.

roudra.b@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 6, 2012)
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