Maruti Workers Fight against Slavery
CORPORATE managements in the ultra-modern industrial hub around Gurgaon want to create a slavery system. While addressing a huge gathering of workers who, braving scorching sun, assembled at the gate of the Maruti plant in Manesar, leaders of different unions in various plants were agreed on one point — that what is going on in the name of industrial relations in Gurgaon and in the surrounding industrial belt is nothing but an attempt of the managements to impose slavery upon their workers.
In the Maruti plant here, workers have to sign a bond before they enter the plant; otherwise they are not allowed to step in. Having issued this fatwa, the management of the Maruti company has stopped the production of cars in the plant. This has outraged the workers who had outright refused to sign the bond, and they are now protesting outside the factory gate. The entire workforce of the plant is on a dharna outside the plant and their protest has now galvanised the workers in other factories and plants as well. Recently, they marched down from their respective factories and plants in groups to join the protest gate meeting of the Maruti workers. Shiv Kumar, president of the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union, has informed that there was no strike; it is only that the management is not allowing the workers to enter the plant without signing the bond.
During the protest movement, 27 workers have already been retrenched and 29 suspended. When the workers protested against the arbitrary decision of the management, the latter virtually closed the plant and drove the workers out. That was why they had to sit on a protest dharna outside. It is learnt that they may have to resort to a hunger strike in the coming days.
The management has been given a letter asking it to resolve the issue through talks. But there has been no response from them. According to a Maruti spokesman, the management’s view is that until and unless each worker signs the bond, there is no question of talks with them.
Although Gurgaon has developed as a modern industrial hub over the years, the industrial relations, the exploitation of labour and the manner in which democratic rights of the workers are crushed underfoot, are of a medieval type. According to Shiv Kumar, at present the wage of an unskilled worker in the Maruti factory is only Rs 5,200 a month. Temporary skilled workers get only Rs 7,200 per month. A permanent worker gets a monthly salary of Rs 16,000 but Rs 2,000 are deducted from his wage if he is absent for a day. Apart from that, there are also apprentice workers who get Rs 4,000 a month. Sometimes there are yearly increments of Rs 200 or 300 but there is no social security for the workers. Most of the factories in Gurgaon have only temporary and contract workers who are paid in between 5,000 to 7,000 rupees a month. Casual labourers in this Maruti plant number around 1,500; permanent ones are 1,000 and apprentices 450.
Moreover, while the wage structure and the working hours are totally unsatisfactory, there is no social security for workers in most of the factories.
Manesar, located at about 25 km away from Gurgaon, is also a big industrial area. Like the Maruti car plant in Gurgaon, there is a similar Maruti plant in Manesar also. The workers’ struggle in this plant has attracted the nation’s attention. In July, there was a struggle in this Manesar plant demanding formation of a union of their choice. The management was against union formation in the plant and wanted that the workers should join a lackey union. No worker was ready for it. The protest against the management’s decision to curb the democratic rights of the workers to have a union of their choice led to a 13 days long struggle here. Workers who were leading this movement were sacked.
However, the management had to rescind its order following the heat generated by the workers’ struggle, and a tripartite agreement was reached and production in the plant restarted. But even after that, the management continued to curb the democratic rights of the workers and did not allow the workers to form a union. Now they have resorted to taking revenge by suspending one worker after another. When the workers started protesting against this practice, they were asked by the management to sign a bond. The entire workforce turned down the management’s proposal and that led to stoppage of production for which the management is blaming the workers. In order to break the high morale of the workers, it is seeking to put more and more pressure upon them.
This struggle has also created a stir in Gurgaon, which is 40 km from Delhi. One will find here rows of high modern buildings, factories and sheds, housing hundreds of industrial units. But in most of these factories there is no union flag fluttering. There is no sign of any movement of employees or workers. One may think at the first glance that everyone is getting here a huge pay and enough facilities. Passing through broad avenues, one may find big factory sheds that are available for rent at the rate of Rs 80,000 per square metre. One may assume that these factory sheds are ready for production, but in fact there are no takers to start factories in those vacant brand new sheds. Just across the road, one finds workers talking among themselves in groups or enthusiastically marching in one particular direction — towards the Maruti plant where a protest dharna is going on at the gate. There, about 1500 workers in uniform are sitting on a dharna in front of the gate. Workers are addressing the assemblage over a loudspeaker, though hardly any poster or flag can be noticed. It is clear that the Maruti case has brought the workers together, cutting across their political views.
According to Shiv Kumar, the management has surrounded the entire area with a tin fence and workers are told that they can enter the plant only if they sign the bond. The workers want to work and not to stop production. But the management has resorted to an illegal lockout and would not listen to anything.
As for the media reports that production of cars is on in the plant, they are nothing but a lie.
Yet the management’s policy of repression is not at all in the factory’s interest. If the protest dharna does not bring any result, workers are thinking of starting a hunger strike.
Workers from the Suzuki Power Trend, Suzuki Casting, Suzuki Motor Cycle, Gurgaon Maruti, Honda, Reeco, FCC-Reeco, Hero Honda of Daruhera, Nabino Auto, Indorace, Delfi, Higlex and Max etc, have already extended support to the Manesar workers. The Samyukta Sangharsh Samiti, formed to support their cause, includes about fifty trade unions other than the AITUC, CITU, INTUC, HMS and Majdoor Ekta Sangha. The CPI(M)’s Haryana state committee is also standing by these workers.
According to experts, there is at present a slowdown in the car manufacturing industry and that is why all the manufacturers are taking recourse to the policy of reducing the number of permanent workers and increasing those on contract.
Meanwhile the Automoblie Component Manufacturing Association has demanded an amendment to the labour laws. They are for employing about 50 per cent of total workforce in the car industry as casual labourers. That is why the entire car industry and car component manufacturing industry are worried that the struggle of the victimised Maruti workers may spread to the entire industry. Today the management, the government and the administration are united in an effort to suppress the movement of the Maruti workers. Corporate media too is active to undermine the struggle. All of them are out to ensure that slavery like industrial relations come to stay in this ultra-modern industrial city. But, on their part, the Maruti workers and their class brethren too are determined not to allow it to be so.