Clouds over auto hub as Hero wage talks flounder

With wage negotiations between the workers and the Hero MotoCorp management remaining inconclusive on Friday, the former have now decided to boycott work at the Gurgaon plant on Sunday, while warning of "serious action" such as a partial strike from Monday.

"We have had enough of waiting. We will surely do something from Monday, either a slowdown in production through a partial strike or a hunger strike. We will take the final call after our internal meeting on Saturday," Bhim Rao, general secretary of Hero MotoCorp Workers' Union (HMCWU) told FE. HMCWU represents around 1,200 permanent workers at the plant.

Any strike at this stage at the Hero plant in Gurgaon would be quite detrimental for production as well sentiment of the auto sector, especially in the Gurgaon-Manesar belt, which currently is seen as one of the major auto production belt in the country. Maruti Suzuki India's plant at Manesar has had labour trouble for the last one year and is only now returning to normalcy. As it is, companies like Maruti and several others have been moving to Gujarat to set up their new plants. Hero too is planning its next production facility in Gujarat.

Analysts feel that continuous labour trouble may see the auto industry slowly moving out of the Gurgaon-Manesar belt.

But the outlook is not entirely bleak. "We are still hoping for the company to arrive at a solution acceptable to us soon through peaceful talks. We don't want trouble, so a full-blown strike remains the last option. But we will do it if necessary and if pressed into a corner," Kanwalpreet Singh, president, HMCWU, said. The factory had last seen a strike in 2006 over wage issues and the demand for regularisation of contract workers.

Though Sunday is normally a weekly off at the plant, the company had reportedly asked workers to come for duty in order to make up for the production loss of Thursday when the plant was closed following the call for a nationwide strike by 11 central trade unions. The Gurgaon plant makes about 8,000 scooters and motorcycles a day across three assembly lines.

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