Pan-Indian union sources claim 1,000 workers are still on strike at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant, despite the imminent release of three high-ranking union officials from custody.

It is unclear precisely why the leaders of the fledgling union at the plant – president, Sano Gujar, general secretary Shiv Kumar and executive Ravinder Kumar were incarcerated, but their release at 19:00 Indian time this evening (20 September) does not appear to have calmed major industrial unrest.

“Around 1,000 workers are on strike at the Manesar plant,” All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) national secretary Darshan Sachdev told just-auto from India. “Trainees are also not going inside, there are [a total of] 2,500 workers.”

At the heart of the bitter dispute is what the AITUC claims is management’s insistence its staff sign a ‘good conduct bond’ following suggestions of deliberate sabotage to factory equipment – a claim the union body vigorously denies.

“They [management] have suspended 29 workers because they had sabotaged and assembled defective pieces – we don’t agree,” said Darshan. “Management is adamant. They are saying you first sign the good conduct bond and then come inside and see what can be done.

“The workers are not ready to sign such a kind of death warrant. Their own death warrant, how can they sign it?”

There are reports of physical violence being involved in the dispute, while others suggest Maruti Suzuki has hired temporary workers to plug the labour shortfall.

The AITUC national secretary says the three union officials were arrested as they were “busy in negotiations” with the the labour commissioner and while there are no talks scheduled for today, he raised the possibility of further discussions tomorrow.

Staff at Suzuki Powertrain India and Suzuki Motorcycle India are reported to have returned to work following a walk-out in apparent solidarity with colleagues at the Manesar plant, although Sachdev did not rule out the chance of more concerted action.

Repeated calls to Maruti Suzuki in India were not returned.