Demonstrators protest against the Bill during a strike called by the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) in Agartala, Tripura on December 11. (Image: PTI)
The HR departments of as many as five automotive companies had to work overtime during the year when production got impacted due to striking workers demanding higher wages and reinstatement of sacked workers.
Two-wheeler-makers, car-makers and truck-makers such as Honda Motorcycles and Scooter India (HMSI), Eicher Motors
(Royal Enfield), Ashok Leyland
, Hyundai and Yamaha saw varied impact on production during 2019 to the strikes.
Two of the five strikes (Ashok Leyland and Hyundai) were related to wages while the rest were due to alleged ill treatment by the management to the co-workers. Only one strike (Ashok Leyland) demanded higher wages.
The strikes came at a time when the industry experienced one of its worst downturns. During April-November, the automotive industry reported a fall of 16 percent in volumes to 15.7 million units as per data supplied by the Society of Indian Automotive Manufacturers (SIAM).
HMSI, the country’s second largest two-wheeler maker, was impacted the most with the strike at its Manesar factory stretching to more than a month. Striking workers have been demanding the reinstatement of their sacked colleagues.
In mid-November, the maker of Activa and Unicorn announced closure of the plant after around 650 workers were retrenched. The plant saw resumption in production just before the end of November directing the permanent workers to resume work. Honda saw its volumes dip by 17 percent during April-November to 4.53 million units.
Workers at Eicher Motors-owned Royal Enfield refused to work when demands of regularization of workers and payment of bonus at the Oragadam plant near Chennai went unheeded by the management.
The strike that started in February coincided with the production ramp-up plans of Royal Enfield’s flagship models, Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 models. Royal Enfield became one of the worst performers of 2019 with sales sliding 19 percent during April-November.
Truck and bus maker Ashok Leyland also suffered a strike that happened in August. The Chennai-based Hinduja Group flagship company saw a two-day strike by the workers at its Ennore factory. The workers were demanding 10 percent hike in bonus pay while the management offered five percent.
Hyundai became the only car-maker to face a strike when a section of workers went on a one day hunger strike in January over alleged delay in wage settlement. The production of the Korean car brand remained unaffected. Helped by new launches Hyundai has so far logged a drop of 8 percent in 2019, less than a half compared to the 18 percent drop of the industry.
Struggling car-maker Ford saw a strike, too, when an employee was fired in June from its Sanand factory in Gujarat, which the union termed as illegal. The sacked employee, who was a senior member of the union, is alleged to have behaved inappropriately with a female colleague.
Despite the challenging times, some companies were able to successfully close wage settlement with the workers.
Japanese two-wheeler-maker, which has been the worst performing company so far in 2019, closed a three-year wage settlement to be implemented with retrospective effect from April 1, 2019 till March 31, 2022.
Hyundai also signed a three-year wage settlement to be implemented with retrospective effect from April 2018. Tata Motors
also signed a long-term wage settlement with the employees at Pune where workmen got a raise of Rs 9,000 a month. Toyota Kirloskar also signed a wage settlement agreement with the union for the period April 2018-March 2020.