Hardening his stance against the unions, Bajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj on Wednesday categorically ruled out offering free shares to striking workers even if they stopped working for 500 days. The elder son of chairman Rahul Bajaj said he was prepared to be labelled “adamant” and “arrogant” but wouldn’t budge from his stand as he was not concerned about production losses but damage to the work culture.
The Chakan plant, he said, was a laboratory for the company to introduce new products and processes and become a world-class motorcycle plant and therefore needed a progressive mindset. The union leader at the plant, Bajaj said, was a “relic of the past” who didn’t understand new work systems. Agitating employees have stopped work since June 25.
Meanwhile, Pune industrial and labour court judge NS Kole warned the workers' union it would give an ex-parte decision if it didn’t defend itself at the next hearing on July 22. The judge’s observation came after the union appeared without a lawyer despite earlier seeking time to appoint one. The court viewed the union's stance as non-serious, saying it was merely trying to prolong the matter on technical grounds. It rejected an adjournment application filed by Dilip Pawar, president, Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sanghatana (VKKS), the recognised union of Bajaj Auto. Bajaj Auto had filed a petition in the court to term the ongoing strike at the Chakan plant as illegal.
Addressing a press conference at the Akurdi plant, Bajaj said he was willing to discuss matters relating to wages and revoking suspensions but only once the strike was withdrawn and employees returned to work. While the company has achieved close to 90% of the desired production, the Bajaj MD did express concern about prolonged work stoppage. “We do not have capacity at Waluj and the production of Pulsars is possible now only because the monsoons are a lean period. Once the markets pick up in September-October, Waluj will be a busy plant and we will lose sales,” Bajaj said.
Bajaj said free shares (employee stock options) are given by start-ups that don’t have money to pay for talent whereas Bajaj Auto has money for employees. “There is no law that can compel us to issue shares free of cost to every working person,” Bajaj said, adding Esops had not been offered to the R&D or engineering staff or the chairman who had to “buy shares”.
The demand to revoke the