Rivals Intuc & Aituc unite on Maruti stir

Written by Ronojoy Banerjee | Ronojoy Banerjee | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 10 2011, 05:32am hrs
The labour strike at Maruti Suzukis Manesar facility took a dramatic turn on Thursday with the Congress-backed Indian National Trade Union Congress (Intuc) giving its full support to the Communist Party of Indias All-India Trade Union Congress (Aituc). Aituc has been supporting the striking workers demand for recognition for a new union, Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU).

The joining of political forces threatens to prolong the strike, which is already into its sixth day. The total loss that Maruti Suzuki has suffered in terms of lost production owing to the labour crisis has reached R200 crore as of Thursday.

Yes, we and Intuc have joined hands in protest against firing for 11 people, says M Mahadevan, deputy general secretary, Aituc. Maruti had fired 11 striking workers on Monday, claiming that they were instigating others. Intucs vice-president Ashok Singh confirmed his unions support to Aituc in the current stir.

Intuc and Aituc are going to form a core committee of representatives who will engage in discussions with the company's senior management. We are trying to present a full strength in front of the company's management. We are hoping that the management would listen to our demands. So far, there has been no meaningful discussion with them, a worker at the Manesar plant told FE. He said that the company's management had refused to pay heed to the workers' demands, which had forced the 2,000-odd workers to completely suspend production.

It is also learnt from company sources that officials from Haryana labour department had come to the Manesar facility on Wednesday to broker peace between the management and workers, but did not get much headway. A Maruti Suzuki spokesperson said that while the company was in constant dialogue with the workers, it did not want to reach a short term solution to the vexing issue, a stand the company has taken since the strike broke out on Saturday.

According to a company official, Aituc had been wanting to create a foothold in the Gurgaon-Manesar belt for over 10 years. Its first break was when it aligned with the workforce of Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) in 2005. But since then, the official said, it has been wanting to penetrate Maruti Suzuki. The current crisis has given Aituc a perfect opportunity, the company official said. He acknowledged that an Aituc-Intuc combined force would be a strong force to negotiate with.

On Saturday, over 600 workers went on a strike demanding union recognition for MSEU, which is supported by Aituc. They argued that the existing Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union (MUKU) in Gurgaon alone would not able to reflect the opinion of Manesar's workforce. Since Saturday, all 2,000 workers have joined the strike, raising the question of how long the company can withstand the production loss. Manesar produces cars like the A-Star, Dzire and SX4. The company's share ended Thursday at Rs 1,217.25 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, down 0.72% in a flat market.