Future course of action soon, says company; shares plummet 8.7%

Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant, where workers clashed with the company management on Wednesday evening, has been shut. Indications are that the facility will be closed indefinitely, according to company sources.

The Gurgaon police today arrested 88 workers of the Manesar facility following Wednesday’s violence in which a senior company official was killed and about 100 injured.

The initial dispute is believed to have been over differences in the ongoing wage negotiations. Both Gurgaon Police and the company confirmed that the charred body was that of Mr Awanish Kumar Dev, General Manager (HR), at Maruti. He had been reported as missing after the clash and his remains were identified by his brother-in-law.

The main gate of the plant (Gate 2) and the first floor of the site office building, which houses departments such as the HR, supply chain and a conference room, were destroyed in a fire reportedly created by the workers. A large number of the 3,000 workers at the plant were involved in the clashes, in which nine policemen were also injured. Mr Maheshwar Dayal, DCP, Gurgaon (East and South), said that the union leaders are yet to be found, but a special investigation team has also been formed under the ACP, Mr Ravinder Tomar. Around 1,200 policemen were additionally deployed at the facility on Thursday.

“This is a very serious act of criminality and we will take stern action; nothing can justify this. Teams have been sent out to different areas to round up the culprits,” added Mr Ranjit Dalal, Director-General of Police, Haryana.

According to a victim (a senior company official) admitted in a Gurgaon hospital, “There was a horde of workers which came up the stairs between 6.30 and 7 p.m. yesterday and started attacking us in our office with rods, car components and tube lights … they hit the women too. We shielded ourselves with tables, while some of us jumped to the first floor. They then set the place on fire.”

A company statement said, “By any account, this is not an industrial relations problem in the nature of management-worker differences over issues of wages or working conditions. Rather, it is an orchestrated act of mob violence at a time when operations had been normal over the past many months. Such acts of violence - pre planned, unprovoked and gruesome - have implications beyond one company or region.”

The statement said “we will shortly announce our decision on the next steps with regard to resuming operations in these facilities.”

However, Mr Ram Meher, President, Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, said that the dispute had started when a member of the management had initially passed casteist remarks on a worker and had later suspended the same worker when he objected. MSWU, union of Manesar plant workers, was formed recently after the labour trouble at the plant in 2011.

Maruti Suzuki shares fell 8.74 per cent to Rs 1,117.35 on Thursday.

roudra.b@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 19, 2012)
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