Bajaj Auto Chakan workers stop work

Written by Geeta Nair | Updated: Jun 26 2013, 10:36am hrs
Workers at Bajaj Autos Chakan plant in Pune have stopped work from the first shift on Tuesday morning, demanding a wage revision and withdrawal of suspensions and notices issued to 13 workers, reports Geeta Nair in Pune. The agitating workers have also demanded shares of Bajaj Auto like their counterparts in some other companies, who get stock as compensation. The strike will be indefinite, said Dilip Pawar, president of Vishwa Kalyan Kamgaar Sanghatana, Bajaj Autos internal union at its Akurdi and Chakan plants, which employ 2,225 workers. He said the company has refused to talk and has ruled out giving shares. Workers feel they have not been allowed to share in the success of Bajaj Auto, he added. All 2,000 workers at Chakan including contract workers, temporary workers, trainees and those working under the earn-and-learn scheme have joined in the work stoppage, Pawar said. Bajaj has 925 permanent workers at the Chakan plant, which makes the Bajaj Pulsar, its most successful bike. With a capacity of 1.2 million units, it also rolls out the Avenger, Ninja and KTM premium bikes. n Continued on Page 4

The company rolled out 0.88 million bikes from this plant in 2012-13, according the Bajaj Auto 2012-13 annual report. According to Pawar, the plant is currently working on two shifts and the plant has been making an average of 1,500 to 2,000 bikes every day.

Bajaj Auto informed BSE on Tuesday evening that the company has received a notice from the workers union stating that they propose to call for a stoppage of work by all workmen employed in Chakan from the morning shift of June 28, 2013 for the reason that management had refused to concede their demand that all the workmen be given an option to subscribe to 500 equity shares of the company at a discounted price of Re. 1/- per share. The workmen have, however, stopped coming to the Chakan plant from June 25, 2013, itself, without assigning any reason for this stoppage, the company said.

The Bajaj Auto annual report had acknowledged that at the Chakan plant, the Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sanghatana has given notice of termination of the existing settlement dated 21 May 2010 as per provisions of The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

About the wage agreement which ended on March 31, 2013, Pawar said they had an agreement with the company which was terminated. Bajaj Auto was supposed the review the agreement after three years and offer wage revision but as the company had not done it; so, the union had terminated the agreement, Pawar said. This dispute has now gone to the court and company has said no discussion was possible as the matter was sub-judice, Pawar said.

Managers and supervisors had got hikes in salaries and bonus for efficiency but workers who were directly involved in the production were not rewarded so how can managers and supervisors be efficient without the workers being efficient, Pawar asked.

There is already another wage parity case being filed by the union demanding wage parity between all kinds of workers. But the immediate provocation was that Bajaj Auto had suspended or issued notices to around 14 workers on disciplinary grounds. Pawar termed these acts as harassment of workers and said they were working under harsh conditions and even toilet breaks were being questioned by the company management.

Bajaj Auto has said in its 2012 annual report that there has been significant productivity improvements at its plants in the last few years with close to doubling of productivity in four years with fewer workers. Productivity is measured as output per employee per year. Productivity increased by 94% between 2008 and 2012 at Bajaj Auto with fewer employees. The production in 2008 was 24.77 lakh units with 9,509 employees with output per employee per year at 260.5 In 2012, the production went up to 43.63 lakh units with 8,627 employees with output per employee per year at 505.7.

The FY2013 annual report says its operations at its Waluj, Chakan and Pantnagar plants have continued to achieve superior results in productivity, product quality, cost reduction and company culture improvement. The use of optimized resources and improved efficiencies at all levels has helped the Company to continue achieving industry-leading EBITDA margins in spite of significant pricing pressures in the markets. the report said.

Bajaj Auto has had a history on uneasy relationship with the workers. Trouble had erupted in June 2012 at the Pantnagar plant when workers disrupted production for a day to display their unhappiness with the wage hikes they got which was settled before it could escalate. There was a 65-day agitation by workers when Bajaj Auto had announced shutting down of the Akurdi plant in 2008 and Bajaj Auto had to offer workers at the Akurdi plant a golden handshake. Prior to that in 1979, two workers of Bajaj Auto were killed in a firing at Pune plant in Pune after a labour strike went out of hand and police had to be called in and it resulted in firing and death of two labourers.

The Vishwa Kalyan union had in the past tried to link up with the Bajaj Auto Pantnagar workers as well as the union in Waluj Aurangabad so that the unions at the four plants could come together but this did not work out, Pawar said.