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The labour protest at Hero MotoCorp’s Gurgaon plant, which began on January 4, has taken a somewhat ugly turn. The management has issued show-cause notices to six office bearers of the Hero MotoCorp Workers’ Union (HMCWU) asking why action should not be taken against them for disruption of production on January 23 and 24, multiple sources said.
Meanwhile, wage negotiations between the management and workers remained inconclusive after Wednesday’s meeting.
“The company has issued show-cause notices to six office bearers, charging we threatened workers to go slow on production and the management as well. We are not goons and have worked for close to 15 years here. All we are asking for is a rise in pay similar to industry levels and to match the increasing cost of living. The management is putting pressure on us and want to suspend us so that they can get their version of the wage offer agreed to,” a union member said.
The member added that though there are no plans to hold a strike as long as a peaceful channel for talks is available, workers may have to seek other options to counter the management. Those issued notices include HMCWU president Kanwalpreet Singh and general secretary Bhim Rao.
Around 60 rounds of wage negotiations have been held since September last year between the management and the workers, at many of which Haryana labour department officials were also present. To push for their demands, workers had held a ‘silent protest’ for several weeks starting January 4. On January 23, they slowed production at one of the three lines at the Gurgaon plant making scooters, leading to an estimated revenue loss of around R8 crore and a production loss of around 1,200 units to the two-wheeler market leader.
“We did not slow down production; instead, we chose to follow the exact quality procedures laid down as per the system. Normally, we skip these same procedures in order to speed up production,” the union member said. However, the company had then alleged that the workers had tampered with the equipment to reduce output — on an average, a new two-wheeler rolls out every 26 seconds at the plant.
Last week, the Hero management increased the wage hike offer to around R9,000 a month (average salary of R46,000) from its previous offer of a R7,500 hike, but has said that it will not go up any further. But the stalemate is likely to continue for longer as this new offer is still significantly below the R14,000-15,000 monthly wage hike that HMCWU, which represents around 1,200 permanent workers, has been demanding.
HMCWU has said that its salary hike offer needs to match the 50% wage hikes recently given to workers at both Maruti Suzuki and Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India’s nearby plants. Till now, Hero has been the region’s paymaster, but the recent wage revisions by other automakers in the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt may soon rob it of this title.
When contacted, a company spokesperson said, “As a company we have taken care of our employees very well and continue to remain benchmark of welfare and benefits practices.”
He added: “Our Union has committed to follow a path of discipline and good conduct. As we have stated earlier, we have been holding talks with the union representatives in the presence of the labour department to find a sustainable, steady and sensible wage settlement. We will continue to engage with the workers towards achieving this objective of reaching an amicable solution, without allowing ourselves to be coerced into irrational decisions. The need for maintaining discipline for ensuring productivity and quality targets cannot be overemphasised.”