ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bajaj Auto Workers' Agitation

Withdrawal and Triumph

Workers at the Bajaj Auto's Chakan unit in Pune stopped work for 50 days before unconditionally withdrawing the agitation on 13 August. The union made a controversial demand - cheap equity shares for its members. This article looks at this demand, the questions around the issue of going on strike (in the current economic atmosphere), the ability to sustain it and the lack of adequate state intervention.

When 950 workers at the Chakan (Pune) plant of Bajaj Auto struck work on 25 June, among their demands for improved wages and work conditions was one that generated much controversy – the union asked for equity shares, or what is called employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), at Re 1 a share. While a number of information technology (IT) companies and a few in other fields are no strangers to ESOPs in India, this was the first time that workers from the assembly and production floor made the demand.

The demand for ESOP was dismissed in no uncertain terms. “No one, not even the chairman, has got free shares in the last 50 years, and we are not about to start now,” Rajiv Bajaj, managing director (MD) of Bajaj Auto, told the media. He added for good measure that if the workers’ demand is like that of a wayward child, the company, as a parent, had to be “fair but firm”. In another media interview, he said, “This is a public limited company, not a kirana (grocery) shop that I can handle (company) shares like that” (Gupta and Baggonkar 2013).

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