Age drives a rift between Maruti staff, older Gurgaon workers stay off strike

Written by Ronojoy Banerjee | Ronojoy Banerjee | Manesar | Updated: Oct 13 2011, 10:27am hrs
Agitating employees at Maruti Suzukis Manesar factory are furious with not only their management, but also their brethren at the Gurgaon factory who have refused to strike work. Age, it seems, has played a role, with the older and more risk-averse workers at Gurgaon playing it safe this time around.

As 2,000 employees at Manesar struck work for the sixth day, workers here expressed frustration, accusing the Gurgaon workers of being under the managements influence a charge denied by the Gurgaon union and being insensitive to their plight.

All Suzuki workers are supporting us. There is a certain bond between all of us. Why cant the Gurgaon workers join us asks Surender Kumar, 34, who is among the 44 workers fired last month on disciplinary grounds. He says they justify their staying away from the strike by the fact that on an average, a worker at the Gurgaon plant is 10 years older than his counterpart at Manesar, making the former risk-averse. Whenever we talk to them for support, they tell us that either they have to get their daughters married or cant go on strike because they need to finance their childs education. The fact is that they are directly controlled by the company, Kumar says.

Sonu Gujjar, 27, who heads the unrecognised Maruti Suzuki Employees Union at Manesar, is more restrained: That (Gurgaon) is a different plant with its own set of workers. We cant say anything on their behalf. Their leadership only can explain why (their workers are not on strike). All we know is that by evening, the Gurgaon plant will have to shut down production because most of the engines are manufactured at Suzuki Powertrain, which is also supporting us, he says. He said the Manesar workers would end their stir only once they reach a final settlement.

Gujjar was among the three Maruti employees arrested last month for allegedly assaulting co-workers and company executives, charges he vehemently denies.

Kuldeep Janghu, 37, who heads the Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union at the Gurgaon factory says, A strike is not the only solution. We will support the workers of Manesar, but we do not want to go on strike. Janghu agrees that the minimum age of the workers at Gurgaon facility is around 35 while that of their Manesar counterparts is only 25. These workers are a lot younger. We are willing to support them when it comes to negotiating with the management, he says. When asked to respond on the accusation that they are in the hands of the company management, he shrugs: They can say whatever they want.

Since the labour action in June, Gurgaon workers have refrained from strikes. Though production has been occasionally affected, it has mostly been due to non-availability of engine parts because of the recurring labour troubles at Suzuki Powertrain India, which supplies engines to every Maruti diesel car. The Gurgaon unions Janghu says, The strike at Suzuki Powertrain has badly affected our production. According to a company source, only three cars can be produced without transmissions from Suzuki Powertrain: Omni, Gypsy and Maruti 800.