By PETER WONACOTT COIMBATORE, India -- This ancient city has turned itself in recent years into a manufacturing dynamo emblematic of India's economic rebirth. But a homicide case playing out in an auto-parts factory here is raising concerns about whether the Indian industrial miracle is hitting a wall of industrial unrest. Pricol Ltd., which makes instrument panels for the likes of Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co., was rocked in late September when workers burst into the office of Roy George, its 46-year-old human-resources boss. Angry over a wage freeze, they carried iron rods, witnesses say, and left Mr. George in a pool of blood. Police arrested 50 union members in connection with his death, their lawyer says. Charges haven't been filed. Battle lines are being drawn in labor actions across India. Factory managers, amid the global economic downturn, want to pare labor costs and remove defiant workers. Unions are attempting to stop them, with slowdowns and strikes that have led at times to bloodshed. India's Labor Pains View Interactive See photos from Pricol, a timeline of labor unrest and more. See more interactive graphics and photos The disputes are fueled by the discontent of workers, many of whom say they haven't partaken of the past decade's prosperity. Their passions are being whipped up, companies say, by labor leaders who want to add members to their unions and win votes for left-leaning political parties. Adding to the tensions are the country's decades-old labor codes, which workers and companies alike say require an overhaul. "We can't be a capitalist country that has socialist labor laws," says Jayant Davar, president of the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India. The unrest serves as a reminder that India has far to go before it stands alongside the world's other economic powerhouses. With its widening middle class and growing base of rural consumers, India has averaged more than 8% growth for the last half-decade. It is seen as a country that can help lead a global economic recovery. But first, it must show it can ride out booms and slowdowns alike. The country's manufacturing sector, after growing about 7% annually for the past 16 years, logged 2.4% growth in the 12 months that ended in March. That has pressed manufacturers to make some unpopular cutbacks -- spurring labor actions that have slowed production further and suppressed growth. Strikes at India's manufacturing and service companies rose 48% in 2008 from the year before, India's Ministry of Labor says. This year, labor actions have hit manufacturers from Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. to Finland's Nokia Corp. and Swiss food giant Nestle SA. Workers at a unit of Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. staged sit-ins in April and July, demanding recognition of an outside union and reinstatement of suspended workers. In September, workers at a unit of Japan's Honda Motor Co. tried to prevent a trial of a new assembly line by threatening engineers and executives with shock-absorbers and motorcycle pieces, according to a court documents. Journal Community discuss “ India needs to create laws that have teeth and then enforce those laws rigorously. We need a larger police force and we definitely need to fix the Indian Penal Code. ” — Shantanu Shekhar Some confrontations have turned vicious. Last year, the chief executive of Graziano Trasmissioni India Pvt. Ltd., a manufacturing unit of Swiss high-tech group OC Oerlikon Corp., was beaten to death by workers who had been suspended at a plant outside New Delhi. The impact has been global. A strike that started in late September at Indian supplier Rico Auto Industries Ltd. left Ford Motor Co. without transmission parts, forcing it to halt production temporarily at an Ontario plant that makes Edge sport-utility vehicles and at a Chicago plant that builds Taurus sedans. The six-week Rico strike spurred GM to idle an SUV-production facility in Delta Township, Mich., for a week and cut one shift for a second week. GM also cut a shift at a transmission factory in Warren, Mich., said a person familiar with the matter. At Pricol, the standoff that led to Mr. George's killing continues. The company says its pay is generous for the market. It accuses S. Kumarasami, a labor lawyer who organized the Pricol union, of inciting violence and trying to bring the company to a standstill to advance his broader leftwing political agenda. Mr. Kumarasami, who wasn't among those arrested and represents 20 Pricol workers who remain in custody in the matter, says he doesn't advocate violence. The company risked workers' lives, he says, by choosing to suppress wages. "Economic violence is also violence," he says.