MANESAR (Haryana): The auto industry appears to be a favourite whipping boy for labour unions, as can be seen by the numerous strikes at various companies. A large number of casual labour, employed by companies to keep costs low and manage affairs in case of a slowdown, are seen as the reasons behind recurring problems at various auto companies — be it in the northern hub of Gurgaon-Manesar or southern hub (in Tamil Nadu) or Western hub (Maharashtra and Gujarat).
Strikes have been a frequent feature even as the industry grew in leaps and bounds with the progress of the economy and rising aspirations. While Hyundai and Ashok Leyland have seen protests in the south, GM and Mahindra have faced workers’ ire in the west. However, it is the northern belt in Haryana that is getting more and more infamous.
Starting from the stir at Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India, the entire belt of industries between Gurgaon and Dharuhera has seen several labour union protests where minor strikes have catapulted into large-scale disputes. The most recent ones were at Hero Honda’s Dharuhera plant, HMSI’s Manesar factory, Gurgaon units of Rico Auto and the Munjal-owned Sunbeam Auto.
So, there is an increasing trend of union unrest in the auto and auto-ancillary units across the country. This, according to trade unions, is simply due to the more taxing nature of jobs involved in the auto sector compared to others. “The automobile and its associates have the maximum workforce when compared to other segments like textile and others like food processing, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.”
“Also, the working conditions in most of the auto manufacturing units are long and labourious,” said Anil Kumar, general secretary, AITUC. The problems also occur due to wage disparities between contract and permanent workers and reluctance of companies to regularise casual workers.