Saturday, 16 July 2011

Crucial union elections at Maruti Suzuki today

Union elections at Maruti Suzuki, India's largest carmaker, normally pass unnoticed. But elections due on Saturday will be closely watched for clues about the mood of Maruti's newly volatile workforce. 

If the majority of the workforce at Manesar, the newest of its four plants, refrain from voting it could portend more unrest ahead. The workers at the Manesar plant had gone on strike for 13 days in June leading to a loss of around 20% in production this year compared to the corresponding month of the previous year. 

It also suffered a revenue loss of around Rs 630 crore in this period. The strike eventually ended with the management agreeing to some demands, but a key demand of the strikers, recognition of a new union was not conceded. 

The president of the Manesar -based newly formed Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU) Sonu Gujjar told ET that working belonging to his union, which is not recognised by the management, would not be participating in the electoral process that is intended to elect the office-holders such as president and secretary. 

"We are in the process of regularizing our own union so the question of participating in any other election does not arise." He claimed that MSEU has informed the Maruti's management as well as state's Labour Commissioner of Haryana of its intention to stay away from Saturday's election. 

"Our union is getting regularized and the verification process of the worker is going on. We are not going to be part of any other union," Gujjar said. The company, for its part, maintains that the election process in both the plants - at Gurgaon & Manesar - will proceed according to schedule. T 

he elections are being held by the established union, the Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union (MUKU) which is primarily based at the older Gurgaon facility. 

"The employee union is electing its office bearers through the elections. The company management is facilitating the process. The elections will be held at all the Maruti Suzuki facilities as planned," the company spokesperson said. Maruti has around 10,000 employees on its rolls of which around 85% consist of the workers that spread across three plants in Gurgaon and one at Manesar. 

Maruti also employs workers on contract whose wages are typically lower. The company has invited all its registered workers to be part of the election process. The number of such workers could not be ascertained independently. 

According to senior officials in the Haryana Labour department, the body that will oversee the election process the company has no role to play in the election and cannot persuade any of the workers to take part in these elections. 

"It an internal process of the workers which is performed by them only," said an executive of Haryana Labour department. In the agreement reached between Maruti and its workers on June 16 there was no mention of any new union in the terms agreed by both the parties. 

Thereby the formation of any new union or boycott of any election process is not binding on any of the workers, these officials said.


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