HMSI workers were severely beaten up by the police, and newspapers and TV channels gave wide coverage to the violence of the action. The protest followed six months of simmering labor unrest at the HMSI factory in which the workers also resorted to job slowdown8 (since December 2004 when the workers' demand for an increase in wages was rejected by the HMSI management). | With their demands being rejected by the management, the workers tried to form a trade union and this resulted in a confrontation with the management. Fifty workers of the production team were suspended and four others dismissed in May 2005.
Apparently there was a show of strength between the management and the workers. While the management alleged that the workers were resorting to 'go-slow'9 tactics and were threatening not to return to work until their colleagues had been reinstated, the workers alleged that the management was using pressure tactics such as victimization of active union members and a 'lock-out'10 to break the back of the union. | On July 25, 2005, the workers of the plant were demanding reinstatement of the suspended employees when some workers allegedly attacked policemen on the plant premises.
This led to police intervention and a violent tussle ensued between the police and the workers in which workers protesting peacefully were also beaten up. The police were reported to have overreacted and it was alleged that they had been overzealous in protecting the interests of the HMSI management, even without any direct request from the company's management (Refer to Exhibit I for some images of violence during the HMSI protest). For companies, the incident brought to the fore the need to maintain sound industrial relations to ensure productive and profitable operations
The Blame Game The management and the workers traded allegations and counter allegations on what the root cause of the dispute was. They blamed each other for the situation that ultimately took an ugly turn on July 25, 2005. The management held the workers responsible for indiscipline and for slowing down production, while the workers insisted that there had been no indiscipline on their part and that the management was bringing up this issue only to prevent the formation of a trade union at HMSI...
Violation of Laws? Some analysts charged that the incident was fallout of the long-term oppression and malpractices at the Gurgaon factory by the HMSI management. They alleged that HMSI's management had violated certain laws relating to the welfare of workers (Refer to Exhibit III for laws related to welfare of workers in India). It was reported that a worker had allegedly been kicked by a Japanese manager on the shop floor in December 2004. The services of four other workers who had come to his rescue were allegedly terminated..