Following a series of pay increments in the Gurgaon-Manesar automobile belt, a labour problem seems to be brewing over wage settlement terms at the Gurgaon unit of Hero MotoCorp, promoted by the Munjals. The immediate trigger could have been increments at the Manesar factory of former partner Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI).
For the past 15 days, workers at the Hero factory have been wearing black arm-bands and abstaining from tea within the premises. A company spokesperson, commenting on the issue, said: "Wage negotiations are on and talks are progressing amicably."
However, a representative of the employees' union at Hero's Gurgaon unit, elaborating on the wage talks, informed: "The management is offering only a marginal hike over that offered to workers at the Dharuhera unit, though cost of living in Gurgaon is much more expensive. We produce more two-wheelers than Honda's Manesar plant. Why should we not be given a similar wage hike?"
Hero had in late 2011 offered hikes to the tune of Rs 6,500 each (spread over three years) to the workers at the Dharuhera unit. But, in a wage pact, signed on December 26 last year, HMSI had increased monthly salaries of its 1,800 permanent workers at the Manesar unit by around Rs 14,770 over a three-year period. The hike was exclusive of benefits and bonuses, which add Rs 5,000-7,000 to their pay.
Hero employs 1,200 permanent workers and 4,000 contract ones at its Gurgaon facility. Currently, the average salary of a permanent worker at Gurgaon is around Rs 32,000, which goes up to as much as Rs 38,000 for more experienced ones. A person in the know said: "Hero was the leading paymaster in the auto industry until the wage hikes at Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and HMSI. So, it is difficult for the company to offer increments similar to those given out by others. Besides, if wage increase at Gurgaon is significantly higher than that at Dharuhera, it would lead to dissent within the company's workers."
The workers' union has, in the meantime, been showing signs of disquiet over the limited progress in talks with the management during last six months. "We have not stopped work and have been protesting peacefully. The management is showing no signs of relenting," said a worker at Hero's Gurgaon unit.
At Maruti's Manesar unit, too, the workers had expressed dissent over delays in wage settlement and started wearing black arm-bands, besides stopping attending morning exercises, before the violent labour unrest broke out last year.
Soon after lifting the lock-out in August, Maruti Suzuki inked a historic wage agreement with workers at its Gurgaon facility. This agreement was later extended to the permanent workers at Manesar. The firm raised wages by a record 50 per cent for 2,800 Gurgaon workers and 700 Manesar ones.