Pune: A few workers have gone on an indefinite hunger strike at German automaker Volkswagen’s manufacturing plant in Chakan over unsettled wages.
While the unions claimed 11 members have gone on strike, the company put the figure at two.
However, it is clear that other workers — numbering around 100s — have extended their support to the protesting workers. They are sitting in with them, while coming for work or going back from work.
Volkswagen Employees Union president Tushar Mhase told TOI on Tuesday, “For the last 14 months, we have not received any increment. We have held several rounds of talks with the management but they have not yielded in any fruitful solution. Hence, we have resorted to hunger strike. We have urged our members not to stop production work.”
The company admitted that there have been 36 meetings with the workers for close to a year but no headway could be made. An official spokesperson of the company said, “The management has made a ‘firm’ proposal to the union regarding new wage agreement. This has not been accepted by the union. The union’s action resorting to an unlawful strike to pressurise the management to accept their demands is not seen as a right approach by the management.”
“We don’t intend to stop production and so our members have not stopped working but as a mark of protest they are not having breakfast and lunch provided by the company,” Mhase added.
The company said that the last wage revision expired in December 2016 and since then talks are on with the workers. Typically wage agreements in auto industry are signed for a period of 3 years.
Volkswagen recently said that it achieved a record production of over 150,000 vehicles at its plant in 2017. This was over 20% more than in 2016. That is about 500 cars for every day worked (excluding weekly off and about 13 national holidays). The automaker exports 62% of what it produces at its Chakan facility.
The workers alleged that the company has said that the production needs to be ramped up to 550 cars per day and the outcome of the same will be tied to wages.
“It is achievable if there are no breakdowns and there is more manpower,” Mhase said, adding that “the company has not paid any heed to this.”
Volkswagen has not filled up positions after 400 employees quit the company over the last year or so. It has now close to 3,200 employees.