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COMMENT: Maruti Suzuki to put its side?

By Simon Warburton | 8 June 2011

News that Maruti Suzuki's increasingly acrimonious dispute with its Manesar workforce in northern India has entered its fifth straight day could herald the start of a wider conflagration.

The country's powerful All India Trades Union Congress (AITUC) is in no mood to mince its words, sensing a real chance to push union recognition at the plant, which appears to have triggered the dispute in the first place.

Some 2,000 workers are continuing a sit-in at the Manesar plant, protesting against what they say is the dismissal of 11 employees with AITUC national secretary Darshan Sachdev calling for union rights to be recognised.

Confirming to just-auto from India that AITUC was "advising the workers," the pan-Indian labour body federation is using some pretty strong language to push its cause.

"Hopefully there may be a way out, but if there is no way, from tomorrow (9 June) representatives of 60 unions will stage a kind of demonstration in front of Maruti Suzuki to express solidarity."

It appears from Indian press reports this demonstration by massed ranks of unionists could take the form of a 'satyagraha.' which seems to be a form of peaceful protest harking back to Mahatma Gandhi's day.

Trade union representation appears to have had somewhat of a chequered history in India, but with some estimates putting the five-day strike costing around US$32m already, there is sure to be some midnight oil burning in Maruti Suzuki's HQ.

Not that AITUC hides its own light under a bushel however. Sachdev employed some fiery rhetoric to just-auto including the words "naked exploitation," "strained relationship" and "agitation," although he also found time to criticise the government labour department.

A glance at AITUC's website lays its cards very firmly on the table too. Among its aims and objectives, the federation lists: "To establish a socialist state in India, to socialise and nationalise the means of production, distribution and exchange as far as possible and to ameliorate the economic and social condition of the working class." 

No ambiguity there then and perhaps explains the "strained relationship" Sachdev said there was with Maruti Suzuki.

But the automaker appears reluctant to put its side. Just-auto has tried numerous times to contact Maruti Suzuki in India - both at head office and across the country in one of many locations the company has.

However, the silence has been deafening. There must be another side and it would be good to hear it.