Wage battle hots up, Hero MotoCorp faces strike

Written by Roudra Bhattacharya | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 19 2013, 06:18am hrs
Hero MotoCorps Gurgaon plant workers have warned of a strike if the next round of wage talks on Tuesday remains inconclusive. This comes after close to six months and over 60 rounds of negotiations between the company management and the workers body, Hero MotoCorp Workers Union (HMCWU), in the presence of Haryana labour department officials.

We have been keeping patience and want a peaceful resolution, but after so many meetings there has been no decision. If a final decision is not made at Tuesdays meeting, we will have to do something. We have the support from trade unions and other workers in this industrial belt, so most likely a strike will be the only route left, an HMCWU office bearer told FE. HMCWU, which represents around 1,200 permanent workers, had last gone on strike in 2006 over wage issues and a demand for regularisation of contract workers.

Industry sources indicated that while it is true that the wage talks have stretched for longer than normal, the workers are likely trying to put pressure on the management to get a wage hike that they can accept. Pressure tactics have been used by both sides for the last few weeks as they try to arrive at a compromise, but a decision still remains elusive given the wide gap between both sides the union has asked for a R14,000-15,000 monthly hike (average monthly wage is R46,000), while the management has reportedly offered only between R7,500-9,000 hike.

Last week, trade unions such as CITU, AITUC and INTUC, apart from workers union from Maruti Suzuki and Hondas had held a meeting with HMCWU outside Heros Gurgaon plant in a show of collective strength.

At the meeting, the option of a strike had been discussed, but only as a last option after other means of discussion has been exhausted.

In fact, signs of trouble were already seen when in late January six HMCWU office bearers were reportedly issued showcause notices by the management asking why action should not be taken against them for disruption of production on January 23 and 24.

The workers had reportedly slowed down production on the two days at the scooter assembly line as a sign of protest against the managements stand to not increase wages by a similar amount to what Honda and Maruti offered its workers last year. This had led to an estimated revenue loss of around R8 crore and a production loss of around 1,200 units to the two-wheeler market leader. Workers had also held a silent protest for several weeks starting January 4 by boycotting company-provided snacks.