New Delhi: Maruti Suzuki has called a news conference for 4 pm on Thursday on the "Manesar issue", a spokesman said, amid speculation the car maker will announce plans to reopen a factory where a manager was killed and more than 100 people injured in a riot last month.

No other details were available.

The 550,000 vehicles-a-year factory in Manesar in north India, where the unit of Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp makes its best-selling Swift hatchback, has been idle since the July 18 clash between workers and management.

Labour troubles at Maruti, India's largest automaker, have put the spotlight on the country's decades-old labour laws.

Other foreign car makers, such as Hyundai and Honda  have seen labour unrest at their Indian plants in recent years, and industry groups have renewed calls for the government to overhaul laws they say tie their hands.

Work to resume

Maruti may reopen the Manesar plant either partially or fully as early as next week and may hire thousands of new workers, with hundreds of policemen ensuring security, media has said.

Total loss

Maruti is losing about USD15 million a day in lost production, according to analyst estimates. A one-month shutdown would cut parent Suzuki's operating profit by about 6 billion yen, equal to 5 percent of the Japanese car maker's forecast for the year, according to analysts.

India's labour laws make it difficult for big companies to fire permanent workers so instead, companies hire contractors, to the anger of the unions.

Contractors at the Manesar factory said they were paid much less than permanent workers for doing the same skilled work.

All workers at the Maruti plant had a reputation for struggling with poor living conditions, residents of the area said. Maruti's employee expenses as a share of net sales are the lowest among the five biggest domestic automakers in India, at 2.4 percent in the last fiscal year.

‘Workers face sack’

Police initially sought to detain all 2,500 workers who may have been present in the plant at the time of the July violence. Most of those workers fled.

Police now say only a few hundred workers may have been involved in the riot, but Maruti could face an uphill task finding enough workers to operate the plant after the violence.

The trouble flared after one employee faced disciplinary action. Company officials say workers attacked senior management during discussions, while the union said its representatives were attacked first.

Union representatives have gone to ground and were not available for comment.

Maruti may sack workers who police identify on their charge-sheet and may also give permanent status to all contract workers.

Maruti lost USD 500 million in production last year because of labour unrest.

Maruti shares, valued at USD 6.2 billion, were down 0.41 percent at 1,180 rupees on Thursday in a firm Mumbai market. The stock has lost about 4 percent since the riot.

(Agencies)

Latest News  from Business News Desk