Suzuki reopens India plant post-riot with police outnumbering workers

Suzuki’s plant in Manesar, India builds cars for Australia, specifically its Alto small car. Or at least they were building cars before violent worker riots forced the factory to close. The plant has been idled for five weeks as a result of worker violence that led to the death of one manager and 95 injuries. The riot was spurred over a labor dispute – specifically, a gulf in salaries between temporary workers and their salaried counterparts who earn triple the contract workers’ wages.

According to reports, on Tuesday, the factory re-opened with more than 1,200 police officers stationed around the plant. The staff of actual workers at the plant numbers just 75 currently, meaning the police force greatly outnumbers Suzuki employees.

The number of employees will eventually grow to 300, and the officers will run in shifts of 100 at a time, but the initial disparity of workers to police is meant as a show of force to the more than 500 permanent and 500 temporary workers who were found to be involved in a July 18 riot.

As a result off the shutdown, Suzuki lost more then $250 million in potential output. News of the plant’s reopening boosted Maruti Suzuki (the Japanese automaker’s Indian branch) stock 1.7 percent. Up to this point, the stock had dropped four percent since the riot.

Reports indicate that Maruti Suzuki has fired all workers – permanent and temporary – that it has found to be connected with the riots. The company has also developed its own security force of 100, with another 40 guards specifically hired to protect managers and supervisors.

The plant is currently putting out 150 cars a day – nowhere near the 1,500 to 1,800 capacity, but according to Suzuki officials, output is scheduled to grow slowly.

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