One of India's major union federations supporting a strike at Maruti Suzuki's Manesar plant says employees are staging a sit-in at the factory and is cautioning the dispute could escalate.

The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) adds the strike - in place now since 4 June and which appears to focus on worker representation rights rather than any financial claim- is likely to spread unless it is resolved soon.

"Workers are sitting inside, it is a kind of sit-in strike - they have been in the factory for the last 48h," AITUC national secretary Darshan Sachdev told just-auto from New Dehli. "Management is talking to the workers just to gain time - yesterday (6 June) it put notice terminating the work of 11 workers.

"It is against the norms of natural justice - India is a democratic country [and] management is supposed to follow these democratic norms."

The AITUC national secretary conceded there was an existing union at the company - the Maruti Kamgar labour body - but dismissed it as a "pocket union" insisting "multi-national corporations want a union-free atmosphere."

Reports from India suggest Maruti Suzuki chairman R C Bhargava had said the strike was illegal and that the company had imposed a no-work no-pay principle.

The reports also suggested those who had applied to register the new union - that is separate from the sister Gurgaon plant body - did not receive permission.

But the present stalemate risks escalating the conflict according to Sachdev, who said action was "intensifying," although no details of what this concretely meant were forthcoming.

"The next step is the workers continuing the struggle, we are intensifying the solidarity action," he said. "This action on the part of management is meant to crush democratic rights.

"If there is no solution and no settlement, it may spread to other establishments," he said. "It is naked exploitation."

Noting the AITUC was not directly talking to Maruti management, Sachdev admitted there was a "strained relationship" between both sides.

Maruti Suzuki was not available for comment today (7 June) despite attempts to reach the company in several of its plants in India and its headquarters in New Dehli.