Some 1,000 workers at Maruti Suzuki's Manesar plant in India are currently staging a sit-down protest at what they claim is a lack of union recognition, with a national labour body hinting the dispute could escalate.

The sit-down centres on what unions insist are "draconian" management demands requiring staff to sign a 'good-conduct' clause pledging not to strike or slow production.

Significant industrial unrest rocked Maruti earlier this year concerning union recognition, with a 13-day stoppage thought to have cost in the region of US$111m, but disharmony has broken out once more.

"Management is insisting they [workers] should first sign a good conduct undertaking saying they will not go on strike and not slow down," All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) national secretary Darshan Sachdev told just-auto from Delhi. "That is draconian - the workers are not prepared to sign that undertaking.

"That is why they are sitting outside and why there is no production. Workers of other plants are also expressing their solidarity, but we have not resorted to any action."

The AITUC national secretary claimed 11 workers had been dismissed "without any charge sheet," with the alleged firings following last week's suspension of one union vice-president and another labour body officer thought to be the result of absenteeism from work for 13-15 days without securing formal leave.

The issue appears to hinge again on a difference of opinion between Maruti management on what sort of union its employees should belong to, with AITUC threatening to escalate action if it is not satisfied.

"If by tomorrow morning, if there is no solution, some solidarity action will be undertaken," said Sachdev. "That could be going on strike with limited hours and closing down production for two to three hours.

"Final action could be be a whole strike across the whole of [the] company. The issue is the same issue in June because management does not want workers to join a union of their choice. The core issue is denying workers the right to form the union of their choice."

Maruti Suzuki was not immediately available for comment.