There is still no end in sight in the 11-day stand-off between Maruti Suzuki and unions at its Manesar plant in Northern India.

Having held off other carmakers for so long to remain the country’s number one carmaker, Maruti could find its market dominance undermined by its own workforce.

Talks between Maruti Suzuki and striking Manesar workers, brokered by the Haryana government, remained inconclusive as the deadlock entered its 12th day.

Unions called workers out at the beginning of October demanding the reinstatement of 1,200 casual and 44 permanent workers. Although talks have so far remained inconclusive, Maruti said the fact that negotiations are ongoing is a positive development.

Yesterday, Maruti produced 1,700 cars at its Gurgaon factory, near New Delhi, after a two day shut-down last week. It also partially resumed operations in Manesar’s weld and press shops using a small number of non-striking workers.

The closure at Gurgaon was caused by supply constraints of diesel engines and transmissions from Suzuki Powertrain India (SPIL) whose workers are also on strike in a show of solidarity with Manesar workers.

A war of words continues to be waged between the company and its workers. Maruti claims that equipment and machinery had been damaged by the workers at Manesar, a charge refuted by the union.

Shiv Kumar, secretary general of the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union – which is unrecognised by the company – said: “The charges are baseless. Workers can never damage equipment that is the source of livelihood for them."

Workers also complain that salaries are lower than expected and that they are reduced if they cannot attend work even through sickness. They are demanding job security, better wages and the right to form a union.

Unions also claim that 90% of the workers in big factories are not registered on the company roll, which makes it easier for them to exploit workers. According to the Labour Ministry, the number of industrial strikes declined to 79 in 2010 from 157 a year earlier, but the number does not reflect the growing disaffection among workers.

As the strikes continue, Maruti, which has long held at 50%+ market share of the new car market in India, is starting to look over its shoulder at rapidly rising number two, Hyundai which has just launched its brand new Eon against the ancient Maruti 800.

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