Maruti Suzuki attributed Wednesday’s violence at its Manesar plant to an orchestrated act of mob and said such acts of violence have implications beyond one company or region.
“They are negative trigger for existing companies and regions across the country as also for prospective investors and job seekers,” the company said in a statement, a day after a senior HR official was killed and about 100 others were injured in factory violence.
Maruti Suzuki, which witnessed strikes on three occasions last year, has already announced plans to set up a new plant in Gujarat at an investment of Rs 4,000 crore, a move which was interpreted as coming against the backdrop of violence in the region.
Maruti Suzuki said both its plants in Manesar campus were closed on Thursday and it would shortly announce its decision on the next steps with regard to resuming operations in these facilities.
Referring to the problem in the unit, it said by any account it was not an industrial relations problem over wages or working conditions.
“Rather, it is an orchestrated act of mob violence at a time when operations had been normal over the past many months,” the statement said.
The company said violence at the plant broke out on Wednesday while negotiations were on between the management and the union for reinstatement of a worker who was “suspended for beating up a supervisor.”
“The first act of the mob was to forcibly shut the main gate and prevent managers from leaving the premises after working hours,” the statement said.
The mob targeted supervisors, managers and executives in different parts of the factory. They also ransacked offices, broke glass panes and wantonly damaged property.
Finally they set offices on fire, it added.
Death, injury and losses
The company said it would give medical attention the injured while extending whatever support possible to their families.
Regretting the loss of life of Awanish Kumar Dev, General Manager HR, the company described him as an outstanding professional and a team member, compassionate, soft—spoken and deeply—committed to cordial industrial relations.
“We are disturbed by the mob violence and arson at our Manesar plant on Wednesday evening. Several executives, managers and supervisors were brutally attacked and injured and nearly 100 of them had to be hospitalised,” Maruti said.
The company said it was still assessing the total damage to property and facilities. “What is clear is that the office facilities have been burnt beyond repair, as have the main gate, security office and the fire safety section,” it said.
The top management team visited injured colleagues in hospitals in Gurgaon. “Their experience was shocking. A few of the colleagues remained serious while for others recovering from injuries it would take a while to come out of the trauma,” the statement added.
Two Japanese nationals were also injured, one of whom was plant manager in Manesar.
Workers’ Union reacts
None of the leaders of Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union (MSWU) could be directly contacted for their reaction.
The union, however, refuted the company’s allegations and said instead of taking action against the supervisor who was involved in a scuffle with a shop floor worker “the management immediately suspended the worker concerned without any investigation.”
“When the workers along with union representatives went to meet HR to demand against the supervisor and revoke the unjust suspension of the worker, the HR officials flatly refused to hear our arguments, and it was in no mood to resolve the issue amicably,” MSWU president Ram Meher said in a statement.
He alleged that when negotiations were going on with the leaders of the union inside the office, “the management called in entry of hundreds of bouncers on its payroll to attack the workers.”
“This is completely an illegal vindictive action in the spirit of conspiracy to corner us into submission even as our demand and methods are legitimate,” Mr. Meher said.
He said workers were attacked with sharp weapons and arms by the bouncers, who were joined by “some of the managerial staff and police later” and “beat up a number of workers who have had to be hospitalised with serious injuries.”
The bouncers, who are anti-social elements on hire, also destroyed company property and set fire to a portion of the factory, Mr. Meher added.
Stressing that the union had workers and company’s welfare in mind, he said it was keen on dialogue with the company management and Haryana government to “amicably resolve the matter and restore industrial peace in the factory”.