What really killed the Maruti Suzuki GM at Manesar

Murder of an innocent General Manager, Human Resources (GM) Awanish Kumar Dev by ‘extremely aggressive and vehement workers of the Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant has left everyone talking about the ill fate of Awanish, that how wrong the workers for their violent conduct were and how much losses will Maruti have to bear due to this.

While such cold blooded act with the GM has left everybody shocked in the corporate world and the world outside with media especially electronic media using choicest of the adjectives for the ‘demonic’ labourers, nobody has given a thought to the fact that why Maruti has not been able to ensure good relations with its employees from the past 2-3 years. Unrest among the labourers was a common feature of the plant here. Awanish wanted to resign from his post 6 months back but the management didn’t let him, then wasn’t it the responsibility of the management to protect his life?

Before we level the blame on the labourers alone we should stop and think why all of this happened. What made the workers take up such an extreme act of violence? Following are a few aspects we need to ruminate on before we can consider ourselves equipped enough to make allegation against anyone-

# The inhuman working conditions

For those who have all their condolences with Maruti Suzuki seriously need to spend a day as a worker in the plant. Since trouble started brewing up in the Manesar plant more than a year ago, many reports have pointed towards the workers’ agitation due to the extreme working conditions in the plant. The workers claimed unanimously that –

  • Workers are made to work continuously for a minimum of 8 hours during which they are not even allowed to go the washroom.
  • They are given a 7 min break at 9 am for tea or loo or both if they can manage it together.
  • Only a 30 min lunch break in which they have to walk half a km to the canteen, stand in the long queue, eat and come back.
  • Returning even a minute late from any break, or leaving the assembly line for any reason even for a minute leads to half a day’s pay cut.

Currently, both the Gurgaon and Manesar plants are working at 100% capacity. In such a high and mean work pressure, workers are not allowed any leave even from their legitimate casual leaves otherwise they face pay cuts.

#Inadequate salary

Workers are not satisfied with the way their wages have increased which has not been consistent with the increase in the profitability of the company (especially during 2009-2010 and 2010-2011when the PAT of Maruti Suzuki doubled). Workers, specially the new and younger ones are not able to cope with the increasing inflation especially after Gurgaon is becoming even more expensive for them to live. The situation worsened when the workers got to know that their Japanese counterparts get double salaries as well as many other benefits.

Many workers say that their Rs 16000 per month salary is just an illusion where only Rs 8000 are assured, rest are variable pays. There is a pay cut of Rs 1500 per casual day leave which greatly impacts wages.

#Suffocated Aspirations

Workers are not as mentally involved with Maruti Suzuki as a proud employee which is ironic as Japanese companies are known for the way they love, respect and cherish their employees.

Most of the people join Maruti as casual workers who are hired for training and apprenticeship .They are paid very less and absorption into permanent workforce is not guaranteed.

Workers stay at the JA-1 level (junior associate level -1) and hardly any promotions to JA-2 level happen .Hence workers feel dissatisfied, unmotivated and hence frustrated.

#No transparency , no tolerance and NO NEGOTIATION –

Rather than working towards a win-win agreement with the workers, Maruti let the situation worsen to such an extent that workers became non tolerant of the management. They could have used third party interventions to ensure that the requests, demands and ideas of the workers were heeded and an agreement could have been reached.

On the contrary, the last year’s strike ended with many workers forced to sign a ‘good conduct bond’ failing which, they were assumed to be on strike with no pay.

No autonomy was allowed to the workers to have their leaders. The leaders on whom the workers had faith and trust were bribed, threatened and also fired.

Hence Maruti left workers with no choice but to accept the company’s terms or face termination. I wonder what a normal human would have done under such torturous doctrine.

I in no way support the violence and the murder of Awanish. But Maruti cannot wash away its share of blame by blaming everything on the workers. It is an established fact that Maruti has failed miserably in managing their human resources and it did not act to get the situation under control.

Maybe, with patience and empathy towards its workers, such an outcome could have been avoided and Awanish would have been alive amongst us today.




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