Honda Manesar operations suspended indefinitely as talks with workers fail

contractual workers are on illegal strike, says the management
Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) has indefinitely suspended operations at its plant in Manesar, Haryana.  Alleging misconduct by its permanent workers, labour unions and contract staff, the plant management informed all stakeholders, through a notice, that starting Monday “normal operations” at the plant were being suspended.

The move comes after a round of negotiations on Monday, between union leaders and the plant management, failed to yield results. In a notice, addressed to the heads of labour unions, plant head Saibal Maitra wrote, “The union repeatedly asked contractual workers to continue with their illegal strike and instigated them to sit inside the company premises. 

The management and contractors persuaded them verbally and by a written notice to resume normal operations but illegal activities of the union, company workers and contractual workers went on.” “Keeping all these points in mind, normal operations of the plant is not possible. Therefore, all associates are informed that normal operations of the plant are being suspended from Monday,” it read.

Without specifying any date for resumption of operations, the letter said, stakeholders “will be informed about resumption of operations once the condition in the plant becomes normal.” HMSI’s move comes after workers’ agitation, which started on November 5, gained steam with several political parties and unions lending their support to them.  

The tug-of-war between the HMSI management and workers reached a tipping point last week, when the two-wheeler maker unilaterally announced retrenchment of over 200 workers. Poor offtake of two-wheelers led Honda towards production cut in the Manesar plant for the past few months.

According to Ramesh Pradhan, secretary general of the plant’s labour union, from 6,000 a day, the number of two-wheelers produced at the plant was cut to 3,500 by November. “They kept retrenching the number of contractual workers – nearly 1,000 in total since early-2019,” he said.

Furthermore, permanent workers at the plant have been demanding pay hikes due since mid-2018. According to the rules, the pay scale is revised every three years. However, the last revision is due since August 2018. Following last week’s notice, through which another set of contractual workers were shown the door, the remaining contractual and permanent workers at the Manesar plant sat on a dharna inside the premises. Also, over 500 contractual workers, who have already been told to go, gathered outside the premises.

Several political leaders like legislative assembly member from Rewari Chiranjeev Yadav and leaders from the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) lent their support to the agitating workers.

Former Jannanayak Janta Party (JJP) leader and BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav met the workers on Sunday.

The Manesar plant, set up in 1999, is HMSI’s oldest manufacturing facility in the country with an installed capacity of 1.65 million units a year. 

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