MUMBAI: One person was killed and scores injured in clashes between workers and managers at a Maruti Suzuki plant, the company said on Thursday, with production suspended and shares in India’s biggest carmaker falling more than eight per cent.
More than 90 workers have been arrested following the unrest at the Manesar plant in northern India, police said, in which property was smashed, parts of the factory set on fire. Over 90 people were sent to hospital with injuries.
Labour unrest at the same factory, where the union has accused Maruti of anti-worker and anti-union activities, cost the company more than $500 million in lost production in 2011.
“The police have taken charge of the premises,” Maruti Suzuki spokesman Puneet Dhawan said.
“One body was recovered from the premises. It is charred beyond recognition.”
The factory, which has a capacity of 550,000 vehicles a year and accounts for around a third of Maruti’s total output, will remain closed on Thursday, the company said.
Shares in the carmaker, controlled by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp, fell as much as 8.2 per cent in early trade.
Around 90 workers have been arrested following the unrest, K.K. Sindhu, commissioner of police in Gurgaon, told Reuters. Those arrested could be charged with murder, attempt to murder and arson, he added.
Ei Mochizuki, a spokesman for Suzuki in Tokyo, said that one local employee had died and two Japanese employees had been hospitalised after the unrest.
Police and fire crews were rushed to the burning factory on Wednesday night, around 40-km south of New Delhi.
The protest was triggered by a disciplinary issue involving an employee, the company and the union said.
“To resolve the issue amicably, members of the senior management met the union. During the talks, the workers attacked the members of the senior management, executives and managers,” Maruti said in the statement issued late on Wednesday.
In response, a statement from the president of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union accused company officials of resorting “to anti-worker and anti-Union activities in a pre-planned manner leading to violence and the closure of the factory yesterday.”
“The gates were closed by the security on behest of the management and the bouncers brutally attacked the workers with sharp weapons and arms,” Ram Meher said in the statement.
“They, joined by some of the managerial staff and police later, beat up a number of workers who have had to be hospitalised with serious injuries. The bouncers, who are anti-social elements on hire, also destroyed company property and set fire to a portion of the factory,” Meher said.
The union is keen to sit down to talks with the company and government officials to resolve the dispute, Meher added.
Charan Lal Sharma, labour minister for the state of Haryana, where the factory is located, told ET Now television channel that he was travelling to the site to discuss the issue.
Maruti brokered a deal with workers late last year, ending weeks of strikes and protests that shut down its production and slashed its sales and market share.
Shares in Maruti were down 7.4 percent at 0545 GMT on a Mumbai market up 0.5 per cent.