x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Indian carmaker Maruti Suzuki fires 500 workers over riot

India's top carmaker Maruti Suzuki sacks a third of its staff after riots at a plant near New Delhi last month that left a manager dead.

NEW DELHI // India's top carmaker Maruti Suzuki sacked more than 500 workers after staff rioted at a plant near New Delhi last month in violence that left a manager dead.

"Of the 1,500-odd regular workers, we have issued notices dispensing with their services to 500-odd so far," the company chairman RC Bhargava said yesterday.

During the riot on July 18, workers chased managers with iron rods and car parts, attacking them and torching equipment after a row between an employee and a supervisor, according to witnesses.

A personnel manager, whose legs were broken, was unable to flee and burned to death in an office area. Nearly 100 other supervisors were injured.

Mr Bhargava said that production, which was halted at the Manesar plant after the riot, would be partially re-started on August 21 with 200 anti-riot police on rolling shifts inside the factory.

"We have identified people who we believe were involved in the violence and we have lost confidence in these workers and they cannot be taken back," he said. "We intend to start step by step. We need to see how the production goes, what the workers and managers [do] and how the whole thing builds up."

Among the security measures announced yesterday was a private force of 100 ex-military guards, and protection for returning workers both at their homes and as they travel to work.

Mr Bhargava said the heavy security would provide "a great measure of comfort" for the shaken workforce.

Three days after the riot, Maruti locked out a total of 3,300 contract and temporary workers at the plant, which produces 1,500 cars a day, 40 per cent of the company's output.

Just 300 staff will return to work on the first day after the lockout, with an initial production target of 130 cars a day.

"The restart will be gradual, it will be taken up in phases," Mr Bhargava said, confirming that the police had arrested 154 people, including 12 union leaders.

Maruti is majority-owned by Japan's Suzuki Motor which receives more than a quarter of its revenues from India.

The Indian unit, the country's largest carmaker by sales, has lost some US$9 million (Dh33m) a day from the plant shutdown, analysts calculate.

The Manesar plant has a history of industrial disputes but none as violent as the July riot.

Haryana state, where the factory is located, is a hub for car production and the state government has expressed concern that the unrest could scare away investors.