New Delhi: Violence-hit Maruti Suzuki on Saturday declared an indefinite lockout at its Manesar plant but firmly ruled out the possibility of shifting operations to Gujarat. "There is no possibility of removing the plant from Manesar. Such reports are absolutely fictitious," said Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Chairman RC Bhargava said at a press conference in New Delhi.
The company said it was completely overtaken by the 'Tsunami-like' violence that it had not anticipated and announced they would not employ casual labour from next year.
"There is now a lockout. To me, what is more important is safety of my colleagues than producing some cars to make some money," said Bhargava.
Asked how long the lockout will continue he said, "Maruti is not closed...we will be very inefficient if we take six months. I don't think we are that bad...we will start at Manesar ".
The company's decision of declaring the lockout follows large scale violence on Wednesday when General Manager(HR) Awanish Kumar Dev was burnt alive and about 90 officials and supervisors were injured after suspension of an employee.
Calling the violence "shattering", Bhargava said that the Maruti was doing its best to tackle the mess. "What happened was a shattering incident. We are tackling the mess," he said.
Bhargava said that the company never imagined its own workers would indulge in violence. "There was no victimisation of workers at the unit. Problems can be sorted out if there is goodwill at both sides. There should be communication from both sides. We have always been ready to communicate with the workers." Bhargava added that the communication lines with the workers were still intact.
The Maruti Chairman added that all the major issues at both the Manesar and Gurgaon factories had been resolved. "These issues stand no more." However, he said that negotiations on wages were ongoing. "The Union does not want quick settlement of the wage issue. They want to prolong it," he said.
When asked about its policy on non-contract workers, Bhargava said they were used in "non-valuable work" and would not be involved in production. The number of contract workers has been reduced, he added.
He further said that the company would not start production till "things were okay". "We cannot risk any more damage to both the management and the workers. That's why it is necessary to do the complete investigation by the Haryana Government to know who is behind the incident. We have to correct what went wrong so that such incidents are not repeated. We are not in a position to start production till the things are okay and there is no risk to the people," he said.
"People are ready to go back to work but I cannot risk people's lives. The safety of my company comes first, not the production of cars," he added.
When asked whether Maruti would disband the Union, he said, "We have not disbanded any union. We are not in a position to disband any union. This issue is not even under consideration at this point."
He also denied that tough Japanese work norms could be the reason behind the violence, saying similar rules have been in vogue in the company's Gurgaon plant for nearly 30 years and there have been no complaints.
In Chandigarh, Haryana Labour and Employment Minister Shiv Charan Lal Sharma supported Maruti saying the lockout was "appropriate" keeping in view what the workers have done.
It is also learnt that state Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda would soon meet with MSI Managing Director and CEO Shinzo Nakanishi to address company s concern.
(With additional information from PTI)