NEW DELHI – India’s top carmaker Maruti Suzuki on Thursday suspended production at a plant near New Delhi after workers attacked managers, leaving one person dead and scores injured, a company executive said.The manager, who declined to be identified, told AFP that a burned body had been recovered from the Manesar plant’s main conference room after violence erupted late Wednesday.
“Production has been completely stopped,” he said of the factory, a hotbed of labour unrest in recent years, adding that more than 40 managers and executives had been injured.
“We have not been able to identify the deceased person as he was charred beyond recognition,” the official said.
In an earlier statement the carmaker, majority owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motor, said workers had set property on fire, ransacked offices and damaged facilities.
Two Japanese executives were injured in the violence and have been admitted to a private hospital, another manager told AFP.
The company said the dispute began Wednesday morning when a shop floor employee beat up a supervisor.
The workers’ union then prevented management from taking disciplinary action and blocked managers from leaving the factory after work.
A union official told the Press Trust of India that the violence had been triggered by “objectionable remarks” made by the supervisor.
Deputy police commissioner Maheshwar Dayal said 80 workers had been arrested at the factory on Wednesday night, after clashes in which nine police officers were injured.
The Manesar plant, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from New Delhi, employs 2,000 people, and normally produces up to 1,200 of Maruti’s top-selling Swift and A-Star hatchbacks and SX4 sedans daily.
Shares in Maruti Suzuki dropped more than six percent on Thursday at the Bombay Stock Exchange as investors worried about the impact on production.
An extended shutdown would be a major blow for Maruti, which saw its profits slide 29 percent in 2011 on the back of a crippling labour strike and a slowdown in Asia’s third-largest auto market.
A lengthy work stoppage in October at the Manesar factory and a nearby plant in Gurgaon resulted in a production shortfall of 40,000 vehicles.
Maruti has since announced that it intends to build a new factory in the western state of Gujarat, which is emerging a as new car-producing hub after investments by Ford and Indian producer Tata Motors.