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Management-Worker Tension Escalates in Bellsonica’s Manesar Plant

Neelam Gaur |
Workers plan to protest against chargesheet against some colleagues, show cause notices and management seeking cancellation of union registration.
Management-Worker Tension Escalates in Bellsonica’s Manesar Plant

File Photo. Image Courtesy: Peoples Dispatch

Manesar (Haryana): Trouble is brewing in auto component manufacturing company Bellsonica’s plant in Manesar between the management and the workers' union over several issues. One of the primary issues that has reignited tension is the filing of chargesheet against workers, who have been accused by the management of using fake documents to secure their jobs. A total of 34 chargesheets have been filed against the workers in the past two years, starting with one in July 2021, as per union sources. As a result, the differences between the management and workers have widened.

On March, the workers held a 'tool down' protest from 7:30 a.m to 2 p.m to highlight their concerns. Consequently, on March 3, a meeting was held between the management and the union on the direction of the Haryana labour department to resolve the issues. The meeting yielded no results. Friday’s meeting was the latest in a series of talks between the workers and management.

The next meeting on the same issue will take place on March 13. The names of 30 permanent employees and four contract employees have been listed on the chargesheets, as per the union. 

Bellsonica is a first-tier vendor in the auto sector,  with clients like auto major Maruti Suzuki, which is also in the industrial belt of Manesar, Gurgaon. The company has close to 700 permanent employees and approximately 1,600 contractual workers. 

Speaking with NewsClick, some workers claimed that the management wanted to reduce the number of permanent employees for “profit-seeking purposes.”

Ajit Singh, secretary of the Bellsonica Employees Union, told NewsClick that the management had been using “various tactics” to lay off the permanent workforce. It has been hiring many new workers, who are not required, as the company has enough workers, he said.

"The management knows very well that permanent workers are more united and management has less scope to exploit them. The company has been hiring contractual labour, whereas there is no need as the workforce is enough. So, they are looking for different ways to lay off the permanent staff," he said.

The union's statement also accused the management of hiring bouncers to cause trouble inside the manufacturing unit. 

NewsClick reached out to Mritunjay Nath Sahu, vice president,  human resources (HR), at Bellsonica, but he refused to comment on the issue. 

In another development, the employees union said they had also recently received a show cause notice from the trade registrar (labour commissioner) for granting membership to one contract worker. As per the show cause notice, this act was a ‘contravention’ of the Trade Union Act 1926. The notice further termed the membership of a temporary worker as an ‘illegal’ move by the union, and decided to cancel the registration of the union. 

As reported in September last year, the Bellsonica auto component India employees union received its first notice for admitting a contractual worker who was facing disciplinary action from the management. 

According to a union member, the company management had written to the trade registrar seeking cancellation of the union's registration, arguing that temporary workers could not be union members.

Replying to the Registrar's notice, the union cited Article 19 of the Constitution, which makes 'forming an association or union' a fundamental right of every citizen in the country. The letter also stated that the Trade Union Act 1926 does not distinguish between regular and contract workers, so the Registrar's decision to disqualify the union based on a temporary workers' registration, was not made in good faith.

However, the show cause notice sent on January 3, 2023 (after this reply) by the Labour Commissioner (trade registrar) of the Haryana government, refuted the union's claim and stated that their answer was “not satisfactory”. They agave the union two months to respond, which the union recently did by submitting its response. 

"The management clearly intends to have a weak workforce regarding issues related to rights. It doesn't want the union to expand its reach to temporary employees as it will increase the workers' collective bargaining power. Their letter to the registrar, clearly asking for our union's registration to be cancelled, is evidence of this,” said Mohinder Kapoor, a union member who is part of the permanent workforce, in a telephonic interview with NewsClick.

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