Trade unions in India have condemned what they claim is Maruti-Suzuki's decision to sack 550 workers following the recent extreme violence at the Manesar plant that left one manager dead and a hundred hospitalised.

The Manesar factory - producing the Swift and Dzire models - only re-opened yesterday (21 August) following a lock-out imposed by management on 21 July that has seen virtually all 4,000 staff remain at home without pay.

"We have condemned the dismissal of [the] 500 workers and all the immediate trade unions [in the area] have collectively condemned the action of management," All India Trades Union Congress (AITUC) national secretary, Darshan Sachdev, told just-auto from India.

"Out of 1,500 regular workers, we know 550 have been thrown out, that means only 950 regular [employees] they intend to take back. The contract workers - they are not placing back 1,800 [of them]. The 500 have been dismissed because of alleged involvement in the violence - all 550 workers can't be involved in that."

The AITUC national secretary added in his opinion, those who had not been arrested for their part in the arson attack should not be sacked: "To dismiss them is totally unfair," he said.

The AITUC noted Suzuki chairman, Osamu Suzuki, was due to land in India today (22 August) for discussions with the trade minister of Haryana State and attend a shareholders meeting.

The State has taken a keen interest in the trouble at Maruti, offering to provide a police battalion, many of them armed, to protect the plant, with reports noting some 1,200 are currently deployed around the site.

Should Maruti now substitute regular staff for the significant proportion of its employees who were on contract at Manesar, the automaker could see its wage bill rise substantially, although the AITUC maintains earnings are extremely low in the automotive sector in India.

"It [wages] is less than 3% of turnover - that is quite low," Sachdev said. "According to Indian standards, [the] average of all industry labour costs is 14%-15%, but in the automobile [sector], the labour cost is very low.

"We campaign for higher pay - definitely we campaign contract workers should be paid the same wages as regular workers. It is through payment of wages that workers can improve living standards."

The AITUC previously told just-auto contract staff were often paid just US$108 per month, with a quarter of that sum taken up by rent and workers living up to ten to a room with no proper toilet facilities.

Maruti-Suzuki was not immediately available for comment.