In the article “Workers' Struggle in Maruti Suzuki” (Op-Ed Page, September 28), the authors have left out the management's view, thus distorting the picture.
At the heart of the problem at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.'s plant in Manesar, Haryana, is the fact that for over two months, a section of workers had been displaying indiscipline on the shop floor. They refused to follow instructions of supervisors and managers, resorted to go-slow, violated processes and systems and even manhandled a supervisor. This culminated in some workers deliberately causing quality problems in cars. They caused dents in cars and damaged components fitted on them. Once this was detected in the internal quality checks, the management decided to halt production. Workers were asked to sign a good conduct bond before resuming work. The good conduct bond is derived from the Certified Standing Orders, and is to get workers to reaffirm that they will follow discipline on the shop floor. A management is well within its rights to seek this reassurance, especially after such gross acts of indiscipline that potentially hurt customers.
As matters stand today, workers' representatives are willing to sign the good conduct bond. Their only demand is withdrawal of disciplinary action against 62 workers, including those who have publicly beaten up supervisors. The issues raised in the article have little relevance or material impact on the situation. They are not the subject of discussion in any negotiations between the workers and the management.
The Maruti Suzuki worker is among the best paid for his category of skill, qualification and experience. In fact, a generation of Maruti workers has benefitted from unprecedented prosperity and well being. A Maruti Suzuki worker who has served for five years earns Rs.3 lakh per year. Those with 10 years' experience receive Rs.4.5 lakh. Workers who have served since inception could be earning about Rs.6.8 lakh per annum. All of them are entitled to medical cover which is comprehensive and of the best quality. Among those who have served for a certain length of time, nearly 90 per cent own a home. Nearly 70 per cent own a car. This, as also quality education for children, has been facilitated by the company. Most children of workers are pursuing professional courses from reputed institutes.
This has been possible because the management and workers at the company have moved together as one team. There are robust systems, including a recognised union of employees, to address workers' interests. The workers have reciprocated by aligning themselves to the interests of the company and the business. Many of the company's manufacturing and quality processes have been evolved by the workers, by organising themselves into Quality Circles and other participative forums. They have shunned the rhetoric by the self-styled guardians of workers, and focused on what is good for them and their company.
The management remains convinced that but for a small section of misguided people, the large majority of workers are committed and hard working. This is contrary to the picture the article seeks to present.
As for the argument that the Indian operation accounts for a growing share of Suzuki's global business, there is nothing new in this point. Nor is it relevant to the issue.
Growing profitability in India has also meant much greater investment in the Indian operations. It has meant strong focus on developing R&D capability, instituting the best manufacturing practices and setting up infrastructure in India. Maruti Suzuki is investing Rs.6,000 crore in new facilities and a world-class R&D test course over a three-year time frame. The entire investment, like all Maruti Suzuki investments so far, is from internal accruals (reserves from profits earned).
India's growing importance in the global business is a well-accepted fact across sectors and industries. It has no bearing at all on the issue at hand. Rather, that is a pointer that Indian operations are generating more and more jobs and prosperity which, ultimately, is the best way to serve workers' interests.
(The author is General Manager-Corporate, Maruti Suzuki India Limited.)
Keywords: Muruti Suzuki