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Strike threat drives Maruti to desperation

IndiaExpress.com, 20th Sept 2000 , 16.21 IST

The workers' union of Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL) on Wednesday threatened to go on an indefinite strike and stall production if the demands for revision of incentive scheme and new pension schemes were not met, even as the company's shareholders met in New Delhi and approved 25 per cent dividend payout for 1999-2000.

The hurriedly-called Annual General Meeting(AGM) was held for only 30 minutes, the shortest in the company's history. The shareholders also approved the financial results for the 1999-2000 fiscal, senior company sources told UNI.

Even as the AGM was underway, around 1500 plant workers from the MUL's Gurgaon facility were agitating outside the company's corporate office demanding commencement of production linked incentives, a better pension scheme and other benefits.

"We are not bothered if the factory runs or not. We do not want to promote such unfair labor practices where promised benefits are not being delivered to the workers...We are open to meeting the management and exploring all avenues of settlement through dialogue.

But if our demands are not met, we will intensify the agitation," Mr. Mathew Abraham, General Secretary of Maruti Udyog Employees Union(MUEU) said.

The management, he said, has already convened a meeting with the union members on September 23. Stating that the union was willing to commence unconditional talks with the management, Mr. Abraham said, "Mr. Khattar has also asked us to meet him today. But he wants the agitation to be withdrawn first. We are willing to start talks with the management but will not withdraw the agitation. There will not be any pre-condition for the talks."

The union has also demanded reinstatement of its president Dinesh Kumar and executive committee member J.K. Sharma, who had been suspended on charges of misbehavior on August 15. "This is unfair labor practice and we want this to be reversed immediately," Mr. Abraham said.

Meanwhile, the shareholders have approved the 36.7 per cent decline in MUL's net profit for the 1999-2000 fiscal at Rs 3.30 billion as against Rs 5.22 billion a year ago. However, its turnover, riding on increased sales of its passenger car models, was higher at Rs 96.73 billion, up 19.1 per cent from Rs 8,118 crore a year ago.

The members of the company's board of directors noted that the net profit has been plagued by depreciation on its huge investments made for introducing new models and upgrading existing models following implementation of stricter emission norms during the year, the company sources said.

The management has refused to pass on the benefits citing increased competition and lower margins. '