May 10, 2013
GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 57 – May/June 2013
Gurgaon in Haryana is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via:
In the May/June 2013 issue you can find:
1) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
*** Workers’ Report on Unrest in Okhla during February ’13 General Strike -
In Okhla the general strike started as the usual symbolic show, but by mid-day workers left the factories and amused themselves violently by attacking factories and bosses’ cars.
*** Workers’ Riot and Shooting in Noida in April ’13 -
A few weeks after the general strike construction workers rioted in NOIDA after being shot at by company security guards.
*** Story of Mutual Aid after Workers’ Accident in Gurgaon -
After a road accident on the way to work a female garment worker is helped by other workers. In the hospital they have to confront the middle-men business, which involves doctors and cops.
*** Reports on Struggles and their Impasses in Gurgaon, Okhla, Noida, Manesar and Faridabad -
Reports of workers employed at Bindra Export, Orchid Overseas, Senior Flexonics, Era Electronics, Saket Fabs, Usha Amorphous Metals, Eastern Medikit, Asian Hospital
2) Theory and Practice -
Contributions for the Movement
The global and historical character of the current crisis forces us to coordinate both debate and practice ‘for workers self-emancipation’ on an international scale. Following texts are selective, but we think that they can stand as examples for ‘general theses’, ‘concrete analysis’ and ‘historical debate’ of class struggle and revolutionary movement.
*** A glimpse of the society that ‘rapes’ -
A text by a (female) comrade about the Delhi rape and its wider social background.
*** On workers’ violence: Lonmin, Maruti Suzuki, Foxconn 2012 -
A text by Mouvement Communiste on the question of workers’ violence, debating the examples of struggles in 2012 at Lonmin in South Africa, Maruti Suzuki in India and Foxconn in China. LTMC1336ENvF
*** Important material on the question of class struggle in China -
On the website of the Gongchao collective you can find various important articles analysing the current stage of class confrontation in China.
*** Commentary No. 351 by Wallerstein: “End of the Road for Runaway Factories?” -
Wallerstein briefly describes the structural limits to ‘global re-location’ of production as we have witnessed it during the last four decades and as it has first undermined the strong-holds of workers in the global North and created at the same time the material foundation for a global cycle of struggles.
*** Angry Workers of the World: Issue #1 -
New workers’ bulletin from London, around 2,000 copies for free circulation on working class housing estates, in warehouse districts and commuter hubs.
*** Delhi’s Calling: Take Part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel and read current issues of FMS in Hindi-
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Mazdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch. For more background on Faridabad Mazdoor Talmel see: http://faridabadmajdoorsamachar.blogspot.com/p/fms-talmel.html
For current issues (May 2013) of the newspaper in Hindi see:
1) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
(translated from: Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.297)
There are about 4,000 factories in Okhla industrial area, employing around 500,000 workers.
20th of February
* On the 20th of February at 8 am union guys tried to stop workers from going to work, but workers did not stop. Instead of trying to pass those roads which had been blocked by the unions, the workers took other roads in order to get to the factory. The situation remained fairly normal, between 95 and 98 per cent of workers went to work. At night a similar scene: those workers who went to night shift at 9 am met a crowd at Tekhand Road corner, who shouted slogans and which tried to stop workers from going to work, but workers went to work. Before I went to bed I watched the pictures of the unrest in NOIDA phase II on the television of a friend, at around 11:30 pm. On the 20th union guys tried to stop workers in Badarpur, Tekhand, Indra Camp, Tuglakabad, Govindpuri, but most workers arrived at the factories in one way or the other. The factories in Okhla phase I F–block all ran, most printing-presses in Okhla ran. But after lunch break workers in one factory refused to go back to work. When the manager asked we said that today is all India strike. The manager left and went to the managing director to tell him. At around 4 pm the big boss arrived in his car, he had driven around in his car for an hour and had seen that all other factories were working. On the 20th of February five of us workers strated to take a stroll in the area. The garment factories Boutique International, Orient Craft, Shahi Export, Orient Fashion, Ditel and workers at Vodaphone and all printing presses were working. People worked till nine o’clock at night. The night-shift workers arrived. In Phase I, management at Maya and at five plants of SMS in Phase II told workers to go home at 11 pm, production stopped.
* On the 20th of February AITUC, CITU, BMS, AKTU, ACTU, Majdoor Ekta Committee and others, all of us unionists where together from 8 am onwards. We shouted slogans and explained what the strike was about.When we started a demonstration in phase II at 11 am we were first 150, then 250 people. In phase I may be 80 or 90 people took part. During the time of the demonstration around 60 to 70 workers left one of the factories. Then we all had an assembly, we were about 150 people. All union leaders held a speech. At 1:30 pm the assembly was finished.
- In Faridabad one union leader told another union leader from Okhla that on 20th of February 90 per cent of the factories in Phase II were shut down, that ‘we had them shut down’. A different union leader said that in Phase I ‘our union was the majority, we shut things down’.
21st of February
* On the 21st of February at Harkesh Nagar, Tekhand Road the union guys were around and they put pressure on people to stop, but workers went to work like the day before. Some police stood around silent. From Sangam Vihar, Govindpuri etc. most workers arrived at the factories. Saying that ‘today is strike’ a few workers of a factory walked out at 10 am. They shouted slogans. From a neighbouring factory 40 to 50 workers came out. From two lines of factories around 1,200 workers came out. Management started to be afraid, so around 10:30 to 11 am management in 24 surrounding factories announced holiday for the workers. In phase I, II and III workers started to walk out and by 10:30 am the whole of Okhla industrial area stuttered into a standstill. Many workers went home, many workers kept on standing in front of the factories, many joint the demonstrations. The union guys arrived in Phase II with two trucks and a three-wheeler with a microphone from Harkesh Nagar side. The guys who shouted slogans were in the cars and the union leaders behind the cars. Workers were walking behind them all. It grew to a demonstration of 8,000 to 10,000 people. Police retreated behind the police station when we passed. Then in phase I, after an attack with lathis (long sticks) the police retreated. In the whole area factories got pelted with stones.
* No idea, why they were throwing stones, why they broke windows, smashed cars. Workers did not seem to be angry, they were laughing.
* There was no major tension when things got broken. They were happy when they broke things. The flag-carrying women stayed aside with the union leaders. The women workers who came out of the factories first threw more stones then the male workers and then went home to their rooms.
* An expensive Audi car got smashed. Suzuki Swift cars got smashed and filled up with stones and rubbish
* The fourth and fifth class kids coming out of the public school threw a lot of stones at the factories.
* I had arrived from night-shift when all this happened, so after 11 am I went to sleep. In the evening I saw that the windows of four factories behind the power station in phase II had smashed in windows. All workers were happy about it, they said it was great and that they should be burnt down.
* People started talking about seven arrested workers. We know one of these workers. We start talking that if they put him in jail, we will collect money between us to get him out. But in the end he has not been arrested. He is outside and no case has been filed against him. He is back at work.
* 22nd of February
When we distribute the newspaper at Okhla railway crossing near Sarita Vihar the faces of most workers are shining. Workers seem hopeful and excited. thousands of workers are smiling.
/// Comment of a ‘publicised academic’: “One can understand if workers get violent out of anger. If you give concessions, this violence can be kept under control. But the workers in NOIDA and Okhla did not portray any anger. They seemed to enjoy the violence. This is a very troublesome issue.”
In the factories in Faridabad the general strike of the 20th and 21st of February remained a symbolic activity, production ran in most factories. The buses of Haryana Roadways ceased to run. Neither did the Utter Pradesh Roadways buses or Rajasthan buses. Some buses of the DtC ran between Faridabad and Delhi. The Faridabad municipal workers went on strike and other Haryana public sector workers expressed their discontent in various places. Only 500 to 700 people took part in the joint demonstration of all unions on 21st of February from Ballabhgarh bus station to the office of the Deputy Commissioner. On the 20th in DLF Industrial Area Faridabad 40 people took aprt in the union procession, in Sector 6 they were only a handful people…
In Gurgaon all bank and insurances offices were closed on 20th and 21st of February 2013. Some protests by Haryana public sector workers and the buses of Haryana Roadways stood still. Production in the factories in Udyog Vihar, along the NH8 highway and in Manesar ran as normal. There was a direct impact of the unrest in NOIDA on the 20th of February on the situation in Gurgaon. Maruti Suzuki, Honda HMSI, Endurance, Satyam Auto, Hero, all these big companies declared holiday on the 21st of February. The company management was afraid. In Manesar management of smaller factories told the security guards when they came to work that the ‘strikers will come today’. A worker: “Managers gave workers the order to stop all machines and to make sure that no noise gets to the outside. We stopped the machines. Shortly after the manager arrived and asked why we haven’t turned of the machines, why there was so much noise around. We told him that the machines are stopped and that the noise comes from the neighbouring plant. After the lunch break all workers were told to leave the factory. On 21st of February, the situation in IMT Manesar industrial area seemed normal, at least outside the factories.
(based on media articles and report by Bigul Mazdoor Dasta)
In late 2008 we wrote about a farmers protest in NOIDA: “On 13th of August 2008 on a protest march in NOIDA, another satellite town of Delhi, several farmers were shot dead by the police and dozens got injured. The farmers demanded higher compensation for the land which they had sold to a public development authority some years ago. The necessity to quell the protest derives less from the violence used by the farmers – they tried to storm a government building and allegedly started to throw stones at the police – than from the danger that the protest might trigger a whole chain of similar unrests. In Gurgaon there have been various farmers’ protests during the last months. In recent years hundreds of acres of farm land in Gurgaon and NOIDA have been bought to feed the real estate boom”
Five years later the real estate business is still bloody. On 28th of April 2013 security guards of the office of 3C Lotus Panache Construction Company in NOIDA started shooting at building workers, who started throwing stones and allegedly set two cars on fire. One worker was injured in the firing. According to the press a group of labourers had an altercation with the management over their daily wages.
“At the beginning of the morning shift at around 8 a.m., the workers had reached the construction site to join the construction work of the multi-story apartment complex, but they had to stand in a big queue because the security guards at the gate were taking long time in intensively checking each worker and making an entry. When some workers protested against this lax attitude of the guards and when they said that they had to listen to the supervisor’s abuses if they are late even by one minute, a heated exchange took place between the security guards and workers and suddenly the guards started firing indiscriminately over the workers. As per the media reports, two workers were injured, but when a team of Bigul Mazdoor Data visited the workers settlement adjacent to the construction site, some workers said that the number of the injured workers could be four which includes a child as well and one of the workers is seriously injured and his life is in danger. As per the records of the district hospital in Noida, only one worker was admitted on April 28. Other workers were admitted to some private hospital.
On probing further, the workers revealed that the security guards and supervisors used to routinely interact with the workers in abusive manner. Some workers said that the contractor did not give payment to the workers for last 3 months. The workers also told that the average daily wage of an unskilled construction worker was Rs. 140-150 whereas that of the skilled worker was around Rs 250. When the representatives of the Bigul Mazdoor Dasta told them that it was even below the minimum wages fixed by the government (which itself is ridiculously low), the workers said that whenever they demanded to increase the wages, the contractor had this to say that there are enough number of people ready to work on this wage and if they have to work on this wage then carry on or else they can leave.
The workers said that despite being present in the close vicinity, the police did not come when the guards were opening fire. After some time, huge police force and PAC battalions reached the spot to control the angry workers and they protected the guards from the fury of the angered workers. The workers said that the police released the guards as some of them were seen roaming freely the next day morning. The workers’ colony was on the other hand was encircled with huge police force from all sides. It is quite clear that the police machinery is hand in glove with the management of the construction company to hold the workers reponsible for this incident.”
A similar incident took place amongst building workers in Gurgaon in March 2012:
(translated from: Faridabad Majdoor Samachar)
On 9th of July 2012 Kusum went to work at Krishna Label, situated on Plot 162, Udyog Vihar Phase I, Gurgaon. At 8:45 am, close to Pir Baba, a tractor with two water tanks attached hit Kusum. Kusum’s right leg got crushed. Krishna, who worked at Gaurav International (Plot 208, Udyog Vihar Phase I) helped Kusum to get up. Krishna didn’t know Kusum, they are both strangers to each other. Raja, who was on his way to work at Orchid factory (Plot 189, Udyog Vihar Phase I), stopped to help them. Krishna and Raja did not go to work, they did not think about their days wage, but they brought Kusum to the public hospital in Gurgaon. Kusum’s brother, who worked in the same factory as she, had also arrived at the hospital. After first aid the doctors transfer Kusum to the Safdarjung hospital in Delhi. Krishna, Raja and Kusum’s brother went with her to Delhi.They arrived there before noon, but they had to run from place to place, asking for this or that document and in the end Kusum was not admitted to the hospital. After having paid 7,000 Rs to a middle-man, Kusum was admitted at 10:30 pm and brought to the operation theatre. They screwed her leg together and fixated it. They gave her a bed. Krishna stayed the whole day with Kusum at Safdarjung hospital. Raja stayed the night. In order to help Kusum and her brother, Raja went back and forth between Safdarjung and Kapashera during the following three days. On 12th of July the panel of doctors came and announced that it was necessary to give Kusum a blood transfer. They tried to find donors… one of the doctors gave Kusum’s bed-number, the ward number and her brother’s phone number to a middle-man. The doctor put pressure: we need five units of blood as soon as possible. The middle-man asked for 3,000 Rs per unit – he was given 6,000 Rs for two units. Kusum and her brother live together with her older mother in Kapashera. On the plot where they live there are 145 rooms, homes of workers from various factories. All neighbours-workers gave some contribution, together they raised 4,000 Rs. The police put into their accident report that Kusum had ‘general injuries’. They wrote that she had been sent to hospital for bandages. They did not write that she had been referred to Safdarjung. Both tankers and the tractor were taken to the police station, but one tanker was allowed to be removed from the station and the report states that only one tanker was attached to the tractor. Haryana police also arrived at Safdarjung hospital and asked Kusum to sign a document. On the day of the blood transfer Kusum’s friends contacted the owner of the tractor-tanker. They met at the police station and asked the owner for financial support. The owner said that in order to remove one of the tankers from the police station he had to pay 20,000 Rs and a case had been filed against him, he had been released on bail – therefore he was not able to give financial support. A police officers came out of the station and said: ‘Don’t give them money’. On 31st of July Kusum was still in Safdarjung hospital.
Bindra Export, Orchid Overseas, Senior Flexonics, Era Electronics, Saket Fabs, Usha Amorphous Metals, Eastern Medikit, Asian Hospital
Bindra Export Worker
(B-89, Okhla Phase I)
The factory runs on two 12 hours shifts. The operators of the computerised embroidery machines are paid 6,700 Rs a months for 26 days of 12 hours-shifts. The helpers are paid 4,500 Rs for 30 days of 12 hours shifts. The female workers also work twelve hours wage work a day. There are 50 workers employed in the factory. None of the workers get provident fund. May be two or three of the workers get ESI medical insurance card, those who are made to work like domestic servants. One of the helpers broke his leg in the factory – he was given only 700 Rs for medical treatment. The drinking water is shit – eight of the workers caught polio, but management did nothing in order to improve the water quality. Workers collect money amongst themselves and go and buy water. The toilets are very dirty and there is not even a light bulb on the toilet. The managing director swears at people.
Orchid Overseas Worker
(60-61 D, Udyog Vihar Phase V, Gurgaon)
Out of the 200 workers employed in the factory only four male and four female workers get ESI and PF. There are no contractors, all workers are hired by the company directly. Thirty female workers are called to work at 6 am in the morning and released from work at 9:30 pm. For the 15 1/2 hours shift the company does not give extra-money for buying food, nor do they provide a single cup of tea. Even on Sundays people work from 6 am till 9:30 pm. Over-time is paid at single rate. The supervisors swear at the female workers a lot. The tailors are paid on piece rate and the helpers don’t get the minimum wage – they are paid 4,000 Rs. The company manufactures garments for, amongst others Speed and Next.
Senior Flexonics Worker
(Plot 89, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)
Management again did like it is pleased. With the help of the police management kicked us out of the factory shortly after midnight on the 19th of May 2012. Following the advice of the union we started a sit-in protest in front of the factory and then had a demonstration in front of the office of the labour department. We wait for negotiation dates from the labour department. Management and union came to an agreement on 7th of July. All senior workers who had been hired through contractors or who had been on casual contracts were kept outside of the factory. Of the permanent workers four had been suspended already, now eight more workers are on suspension. So 12 suspended permanent workers are also outside, as long as the inquiry is not finished, and 39 permanent workers re-started work on 9th of July. We feel very ashamed. In January 2012 around 300 of us started the protest, and now 30 of us are left. Previous article on Senior Flexonics:
Era Electronics Worker
(Sector 55, Noida)
The company office is in Noida, but apart from Noida Era Electronics has units in Kanpur, Delhi, Gova, Ratlam, Nasik, Jalandhar. The company pays the newly hired helpers 3,500 Rs , the more senior helpers get 4,000 Rs and the electricians get between 4,800 and 7,500 Rs. None of the workers is given ESI or PF. In Surajpur, Yamaha management has given the order that no workers without ESI or PF are allowed inside the factory, but Era Electronics keep on sending workers to work there without these ‘legally’ obligatory insurances. At Yamaha, Era Electronics has the contract for electrical maintenance, workers work every day from 9 am till 8 pm. At Yamaha production stops on Saturdays and Sundays, but the workers of Era Electronics work every week-day – on Saturdays from 9 am till 10 or 11 pm, on Sundays from 9 am till 5 pm. Often you have to work during the night, then you work through the night till 4 am and then again on normal shift from 9 am onwards. At Yamaha it is impossible to switch of electricity for maintenance, you have to work with life wires, which is dangerous. For workers’ accommodation Era Electronics has hired four rooms in Mubarakpur. Nearby there are construction sites for the Akrati Hotel, the Banquet Hall and for a call centre. Era Electronics supposedly has the contract to do the electrical work for these buildings, from transformers to light switches. We have to work up to the 13th floor – no helmets, no safety belts. One worker worked on a scaffolding, started to feel dizzy and fell, breaking his leg.
Saket Fabs Worker
(from the company website)
Saket Fabs (P) Ltd is a Press Metal Company which has created a distinct identity with its fabrication and sheet metal products. The company manufactures presses ranging from 20 tonnes to 600 tonnes. Manufacturing facility spread over an area of 8000 sq. yards is equipped with all the state-of-the-art facilities. Over the years, the company has developed an impressive clientele. Some prestigious names like Hero Honda, Swaraj Majda, Yamaha, BPL are enjoying the benefits of Bony Polymers products. This company is also approved by RDSO (Ministry of Railway).
(Plot 286, Sector 58, Faridabad)
There has been conflict between permanent workers and management and on 14th of June 2012 the company suspended 18 workers. A union representative arrived. With the demand to take back the suspended 18 workers, 80 to 85 permanent workers walked out the factory. They complained at the labour department, they waited for an appointment with the labour department. The company had previously started to hire workers through contractors, after the 24th of June their number increased to 150 workers. There is no canteen inside the factory – management now hired a cook and offered free food to the workers who remained inside the factory 24 hours a day, working on two 12 hours shifts. In the factory there are 26 or 27 power presses, we manufacture parts for Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India and for Maruti Suzuki. The workers hired through contractors often cut fingers and hands at these presses. Between the 24th of June and 8th of July – the time when the permanent workers remained outside the factory – four workers cut their hands. One worker cut off four fingers, two cut two and the other worker lost one finger. Management sent them to private hospitals in order not to have to fill in accident reports. The trade union came and left again. Five permanent workers were dismissed. On 23rd of July the labour department told workers to go back to work and to leave the five suspended workers outside. The company got rid of the cook on 23rd of July and started to kick out the workers hired through contractors – by 2nd of August they had kicked out 35 of them. Once back at work the permanent workers started to undertake steps in order to get the five suspended workers back inside. The workers did not shout any slogans at the gate. The workers increased the three daily tea breaks of 10 minutes each to breaks of 30 minutes each. Supervisors and managers walked around on the shop-floor, but they kept stumm – the riot at Maruti Suzuki Manesar on the 18th of July 2012 had frightened them a lot. If the worker before you remains idle, you have to remain idle, as well – this is how chain-system production works. The permanent workers told the workers hired through contractors that they should just follow their example and work like they did (or rather, who they didn’t). Production was stopped, sometimes at that machine, sometimes at another. After the permanent workers went back inside the factory the number of workers had increased, but production levels had come down.
Usha Amorphous Metals Worker
(486-87, Udyog Vihar Phase III, Gurgaon)
The company Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. is an interesting example for the close connection between so-called ‘green’ and ‘nano-technology’ and the large scale industries (automobile, aerospace, military-complex). The company history also shows the formation process of ‘global corporations’. Behind the formal display of joint-ventures (in Usha’s case with Honeywell, US; Siemens, Germany; Hitachi, Japan) and ‘capital and technology transfer’ we can see how these corporations grew as part of the state regimes and their ‘opening of markets’.
On 12th of March 2011 around 35 permanent workers registered a trade union. On 22nd of March 2011 they handed over a demand notice to management. Workers then had to run back-and-forth to various meetings at the labour department. This went on for eleven months, on 21st of February 2012 management kicked out 23 permanent workers from the factory and the remaining permanent workers, following the advice of the union, went out in support. There is no space to sit outside the gate of the factory, but nevertheless all permanent workers started their sit-in protest on 21st of February 2012 and they were still outside when the report was written, on 27th of July 2012. The company started to higher workers through contractors from 21st of february onwards. Production was running inside the factory, when the union complained and an inspector came to the factory, the company management said that there is no one inside the plant. Now things move back and forth between the labour officials of the labour department to those of the deputy labour commissioner. Previous article on Usha Metals:
Eastern Medikit Worker
In the five factories of the company the situation at the beginning of August 2012 is still the same like when trouble had started on 18th of May. The 1,200 permanent workers guard the factories 24 hours a day and management is still ‘disappeared’. We don’t see any difference between management and union. Asking for dates with the labour department, handing over announcements to the deputy commissioner, and to the labour minister, calling union leaders to give speeches, walking miles on one demonstration in three month. Everyone sees the problem in the fact that the factories are not running, but we go about it in the old ways of protest. There are thousands of factories in Udyog Vihar and in the neighbouring areas, with hundreds of thousands of workers, who we could address, but we don’t. Amongst us permanent workers, too, many are ashamed of addressing other workers. Previous article on Eastern Medikit:
Asian Hospital Worker
On 7th of May 2012 around 330 nurses in Faridabad’s Asian Institute of Medical Science and 130 nurses in the central hospital went on strike. In the central hospital the strike lasted for a month. In the Asian hospital, an agreement was announced on 3rd of July 2012 after the chief minister of Kerala (the state of origin of most nurses) has given his signature. The agreement, forged in presence of the chief minister, stipulated that the five suspended nurses will be taken back on after 15 days. These five have not been taken back and now they have to quit the job. Some other nurses have also been kicked out after they had returned to work.
Previous article on Asian Hospital:
2) Theory and Practice -
Contributions for the Movement
The global and historical character of the current crisis forces us to coordinate both debate and practice ‘for workers self-emancipation’ on an international scale. Following texts are selective, but we think that they can stand as examples for ‘general theses’, ‘concrete analysis’ and ‘historical debate’ of class struggle and revolutionary movement.
The word ‘rape’ comes from the French verb ‘raper’ which means to steal .While sexual assault is a big act of aggression on the women’s body and mind, this word does not connote the violent attack on her rights regarding her sexuality, but, rather gives importance to the honour being stolen away from her. And here too it is not her honour that the society is concerned about but that of her man, her family.
(Anuradha Ghandy, Changes in Rape Law: How far will they Help
December- January 2012
The place where the women and her male friend boarded the bus at around 9 p.m., a busy and crowded area, called Munirka, is (was till now) a site where a case like this was unheard of (unheard of- is a case like this occurring in the public sphere of a market area during the busy hours of the city). Though women face lewd comments and men staring at them, these acts fall under the category of ‘normal’, a ‘normal’ understanding says that rapes in working class localities and slums are widespread, but not in a place like Munirka. Our ‘normal’ understanding also says that a women wearing salwar kameez, accompanied by a man in a crowded area around 9 p.m. in the night (like in this particular case) is safe. This incident shook many beliefs of students, parents and families, many of whom were spotted in the streets of Delhi protesting for the safety and ‘freedom’ of women, women like them and their daughters.
The week that followed 16th December 2012, the day when a daughter of a lower middle class family and a student of physiotherapy in All India Institute of Medical Science, was brutally sexually assaulted by 7 men in a public bus, large number of students, women organizations, middle class women and families took to the ‘streets’. Sites of protests that were first limited to the Vasant Vihar police station and the area around it, soon shifted to India Gate and Jantar Mantar (Jantar Mantar is one of those state sanctioned areas for protests!). Sheila Dixit’s (Delhi’s Chief Minister and a member of the ruling party, Congress) house, Police Headquarter in ITO were among the other places that the protesters occupied to vent out their anger against the ruling party, Congress or/and against the police force. In all this media had a prominent role to play in broadcasting every movement, mobilization and ‘tension/friction’, that was taking place not only in Delhi but also in other metropolitan cities like Bangalore and Calcutta.
After the day the protesters pelted stones at the police force present at India Gate and were lathi charged, something that was beyond the expectations of the protesters, all entries to India Gate were heavily barricaded and hence shut for protests. The crowd then moved to JantarMantar where one was allowed to enter to PROTEST after a bag and body check.
It is significant to scrutinize the composition of the protesters and to pose the question, whether one can understand the entire mobilization simply as a ‘spontaneous’ participation of protesters. A section of the protesters (mostly students and women organisations) came in huge numbers, expressing their anger immediately after 2 days the incident took place (the incident was reported in the newspapers the very next day). One saw an angry mob in front of the Vasant Vihar police station, blocking roads, shouting slogans and saw residents of Munirka join. Many of the protesters were witnessing and joining such a demonstration for the very time. The protesters mostly belonged to the middle class, where a large section automatically links corruption and manipulation with political parties in India. Looking into the question of leadership, JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union) made initial attempts to organize, which did succeed in getting the groups of protesters together but which fizzled away as the movement grew. All India Students Association and All India Progressive Women Association (Students and women wings of CPI (ML) Liberation) took over the leadership speaking not only the dominant language of the movement but also shaping and moulding the popular discourse. The movement spoke of ensuring the security of women in Delhi, ensuring her freedom to mobility, the movement spoke of reclaiming the night, the time when the city becomes unsafe for women, for women returning from work or going to work (in case of a night shift) and for women who enjoy being out in the night. Some of the demands raised by many women and student organizations are (1) ’gender sensitizing training modules’ must be introduced for the police force, (2) increase in women constables (3) fast track courts for cases of sexual violence (4) formation of laws addressing rape and sexual violence in consultation with women organisations and students and many more.
In Jantar Mantar one noticed that people formed different groups. So there were group of right extremist people (represented mostly by the men in the sites of protests), group of left organization (like CPI (ML) Liberation) and then there was a huge group of students and Delhi middle class residents who resisted the entry of protesters representing organizations. CPI (M) and AIDWA had formed their separate camp, where political celebrities like Yechury, Brinda Karat made their special appearances. And then there were people who chose not to belong to any camp and use the space outside the circles/groups to converse with people or to the media, which not only caught emotions of anger on camera, but also at times directed scenes of people crying. these sites, Jantar Mantar, India Gate and other places in Delhi saw people expressing thier anger through the modes of music and banners, but then the visual expression remained sadly restricted within these sites. Many recollect their experiences during the women’s movements in the 70s in India, where one saw an innovative usage of the urban space through paintings, poems and other visual expression, this however was completely absent in this particular movement. One of the most popular slogan that demanded freedom were, ‘we want freedom to get out in the night’, ‘we want freedom to work’, we want freedom to travel alone’, ‘we want freedom to be free’, ‘we want freedom from institutions like khap panchayat’. (Khap panchayat- these institutions that run separately from the Indian law control inter-caste marriages where women and men are often killed for doing so.
Women’s movements and organisations in India have repeatedly raised their voices against ‘honour’ killings, dowry, female infanticide, wife beating and other practices in urban and rural India. They have also fought and supported struggles against police and military forces accused of sexual harassments and assaults. Rape is not an act of pleasure. Rape is used by the State and the military to infuse fear in the people. It is a tool of domination.
States like Kashmir and Manipur, which demand freedom from the Indian State, have been facing brutal repression on a daily basis. The military forces, an integral instrument of the State, uses rape and harassment blatantly as a means to assert their power in these conflict zones! A large Muslim population of Kashmir are either killed in fake encounters or are made to rot in jails for being tagged a ‘terrorists’ by the Indian State. News of custodial violence and rape are both numbing and usual in these conflict zones. There are not few houses but towns and villages in Kashmir that have experience the extreme violence inflicted upon them by the Indian State. There remains a cloud of fear and anger over these regions- hovering over them every single day and night. People continue to fight for their azadi (freedom).
Manipur has a similar tale to tell. Kidnapped, brutally tortured, sexually assaulted and murdered by the personnels of the paramilitary force of 17 Assam Rifles in Manipur, Manorama Devi was victimised in the case of custodial rape in the year 2004. People of Manipur continue to fight and await justice. This is only one of the millions stories of military brutality and oppression.
The rage and anger expressed in the year 1974 by the women’s movement, when a adivasi (tribal) girl named Mathura was sexually assaulted by police officers in a place in the state of Maharashtra, led to the changes in the definition of the term ‘rape’ and inclusion of ‘custodial rape’, where custodial rape is today defined as follows,
‘Custodial rape is a rape in the custody or care and control of a person either in the custody of police, jailer, or in the custody of hostel superintendent, remand officers etc.’1
It is important to see the current movement and the demands in the legal realm as part of the women’s movement in India at the same time this movement recognised that sexual violence is not a women’s issue but the issue of the society.
Justice Verma Committee and the fight for changes in law- time to negotiate and compromise?
We feel that it is the duty of the State as well as civil society to deconstruct the paradigm of shame-honour in connection with a rape victim. Rape is a form of sexual assault just like any other crime against the human body under the IPC.
-Justice Verma Recommnedation
Early this january the government had set up a commission headed by Justice Usha Mehra to enquire into the aspects of the particular case of sexual assault of 16th December 2012 and further has asked people to contact and send in complaints against the police or any other authority responsible and suggestions Another commission ihas been set up called the Justice Verma Commsion to specifically look into the laws regarding sexual assault for the purpose of giving speedy justice and formulate recommendations. This commission too invites suggestion from the people.
The recommendations for the changes in the Criminal Law that were finally prepared are considered to be a revolutionary set of recommendations in the India history of law. It sees rape in relation of power relations and rejects rape as ‘a crime of passion’ .The Indian Penal Code clearly states under the definition of rape, that a wife cannot accuse her husband of rape. In other words a wife becomes the property of the husband in marriage and hence cannot refuse to any act of sexual intercourse. The Justice Verma Committee recommends the consideration of marital rape under the Penal Code. Further in India it is a very common experience that women often face harassment by the police officers when filing a complaint and hence many women avoid going to the police station to avoid the harassment. The recommendations takes up this issue with all seriousness where it focuses on the harassment a complainant faces by the police force. Moreover, the recommendations also hold the insensitive doctors and medical examination procedures responsible for the fact that women refuse and fear to file their complaints. Further, it also raises the issue of harassment women face by the paramilitary forces and that women face sexual violence in conflict zones and during communal violence on account of their identity. It further states both paramilitary and police force should be held accountable for such acts of sexual harassment and assault.
However, it is no surprise that the criminal law ordinance does not include most of ‘controversial’ recommendations, for many of the points are a direct attach on the patriarchy society and the State power, which the law must maintain. It refuses to consider marital rape; it also refuses to hold police officers, military forces and other office bearers accountable in additions to many other issues and concerns.
The movement began with the emotion of fervour and rage, with many possibilities and directions. But today the objective to push for Justice Verma recommendations is the focus of the mobilisation, where All India Progressive Women’s Organisation and All India Student’s Association (CPI (ML) Liberation women’s and student’s fronts) are taking the lead. Moreover, there are discussionsamong women’s organisations and lawyers of changing the language of some recommendations, make them sound ‘less radical’ in order to be accepted during the budget session in the parliament. (The ordinance will become a law once the President of India signs it and needs to passed by the Parliament within six months). Although these meetings with lawyers are open for public, there is no sign of ‘public’ in such meetings. What can be negotiated and what cannot be negotiated is the question the organisations are dealing with, so a recommendation like condemning military occupation in conflict zones has to be comprised, for it is too ‘radical’ a demand.
We saw voices, shouts, anger, slogans and poetry of freedom hovering over the city of Delhi a month back. While there is an immediate importance to engage with law and legal matters, these scenes of emotions are only scenes to remember, something that the books of law will not record. Pessimism? Certain questions and concerns that need our deeper engagement
The Effects of the movement and the rape culture
One of the after effects of the movement in 2012 was the demand of ban of the popular and much loved lyricist and singer Yoyo Honey Singh for his ‘obscene and vulgar’ lyrics, Yo yo Honey Singh (Snoop Dogg or Usher of India) who recently made his appearance in the music industry in India has sung in several places in Delhi and other cities in India, Delhi University is one such example, where Yoyo Honey Singh lovers and others came in large numbers, demanding their favourite songs. We must however locate his music and the lyrics in the society itself which not only supports such an industry but gives birth to these industries too, where this popular culture portrays ideas and thoughts that already exists in the society and also further contributes to the making of this society. For example Honey Singh as a character in his songs and lyrics is not fictive, I say fictive because this character represents the north Indian masculinity. Ashley Telis in his article ‘Study Honey Singh, don’t shut him down’ writes: “A study of his lyrics, his videos, his personae, his attitudes and his body would tell us much about North Indian masculinity, the political economy of Punjab, the coordinates of upper caste/upper class Punjab and the tensions and contradictions that ravage its subconscious.”
Thus while opposing and condemning the violence on the female body and mind which has been put to words, sung and appreciated, one must question the ban itself, where Yoyo Honey Singh’s music has been singled out and labelled obscene and vulgar. We do not support a ban, if it means a mere cleansing of the society from the ‘obscene and vulgar impurities’, a censorship, we do not support a ban of music, which humiliates a women, a goddess, which needs to be worshipped decorated within the four walls. We support a ban of music, pornography, films, advertisements, T.V. programmes ETC., products of capitalism, because they commodifies the women’s body, displaying her body for sale in the market. We support a collapse of this very society and culture where this industry breeds. Talking about commodification of the women’s body and the four walls of a house, these four walls, a symbol of protection imposed on women by a capitalist and a feudal society that practices and preaches disciplining and taming of women’s body, these four walls, the private sphere, holds in an innumerable incidents of violence, humiliation, abuse and rape inflicted on the women by the man. The four walls, which define the private sphere of two lovers in a relationship or marriage, terms the above mentioned acts as personal matters, matters where an ‘outsider’ must not interfere. The law in India does not consider marital rape, rape of a woman who is not a wife of the rapist is considered by the Indian law. Mere changes in law are not the solutions to the end of violence on those who are oppressed.
Is law the only solution?
We do not see a solution limited to the legal realm, where law is in the end of the day an apparatus of the State. A state, whose military forces are given the license to rape and harass women in many parts of the World. We are asking the very state to pass laws to combat violence on the women, we are asking the very state to punish its very police forces and military, in many cases the accused. Gender sensitive laws, a must for a gender just and democratic society, is a way through which our capitalist societies accommodates the many protesting voices, this society shall continue to change its very law every time it becomes ‘obsolete’. While the protection of women against sexual violence in workplace bill is on its way in becoming a law, unequal wages among women workers, which is illegal as the law says, is still a reality in India and other parts of the World.
Sexual violence and violence on the women’s body and mind
While the sexual assault case in Delhi has provoked us to ‘remember’ many other horrifying cases of sexual assault, we fail to ‘remember’ women sexually assaulted and abused by their partners or men. What is it that disturbs us? When violence on the body becomes evident through the body injuries? Where body injuries and the manner in which the violence is inflicted on the body measures the act and level of violence? The society with its institutions of law and policing thus defines brutality, where it differentiates violence on the genitals and violence on the mind. Further it undertakes the task of protecting the genitals of the women. Where the attack on the genitals is marked as an act of shame, where the ‘care takers’ and ‘owners’ of the vagina, the father, brother, husband and other relatives face the society with their heads low for the weight of shame is too heavy!! The victimised has to prove her ‘innocence’ to the society (though in a legal proceeding she is not required to) where for a wife or a prostitute the ‘case’ to prove that they are sexually assaulted becomes difficult because in their case consent is a given fact. (in case of a wife the vagina becomes the property of the man, hence no room for consent)
The city which recently witnessed huge number of people on the streets, protesting and continues to witness , is also protecting a growing surrogacy industry where women ignorant of the health hazards rent out their womb for a wage. Unaware of the short term and long term complexities these working class women are provided with a ‘healthy’ diet for a ‘healthy’ production. Many among them have gone through several pregnancies for it pays enough for their survival. The women give their consent (though based on partial information) and are free to sell their labour. Many women ‘choose’ this job over a job in factory for the daily abuse of physical and mental nature in a factory is far more severe. On the other hand the surrogacy industry like other industries gives them the freedom from financial dependence on the man (to some extent). The market works on these principles of freedom, where the workers are free to sell their labour and receive a wage for this very purpose. And hence the exploitation which the capitalistic mode of production attaches with the mechanical nature of work is termed natural and inevitable. It is hence natural for workers to work overtime. The violence on the body and mind is not brutal but is understood as the very nature of the work. The women selling their wombs are bound to undergo a brutal violence but that becomes part of the job which the workers choose.
We were sharing our opinions with strangers during the movement. Many spoke and are speaking around this time when the movement is moving. Many expressed their experiences of sexual harassment in public areas, inside homes by uncles and cousins, many expressed and many related to those who expressed. Many spoke of their independence. A middle class housewife asserted her independence of mobility in a conversation in Jantar Mantar, saying that ‘I never let my husband pick me up from the railway station.’ Further she added, ‘several cases of sexual assault and harassment take place within the house itself which go unreported’ and admitted that in some other scenario she would have never thought of talking to us, strangers on topics like these, which are on a normal day talked about in a private sphere of neighbours, friends and families. One also noticed a similar scene during the Anna Hazare movement where many came out to discuss their daily experiences where they face corruption; businessmen, housewives, students, factory workers, schoolteachers and so on.
The potential of the spaces created by these movements have been immense, people are talking to people they know and people they do not know, building solidarities based on opinions and experiences. People are not only talking about their experiences of sexual harassment but also for example talking about a ‘western’ culture which is responsible for such ‘acts of barbarism’. While we observe the creation of such spaces, one must also observe the class and gender of those who are joining the space. Is their belonging to a particular class and gender influencing the space? The task is not only to create spaces where we simply talk, but also to defeat and overpower spaces where fascism breeds and where a particular perspective of the bourgeoisie prevails. Our task does not ultimately end at building spaces, where people simply talk, but create this space as a means to organise and challenge the police force, the law, the social norms!
(This article has been written with an intention to NOT draw attention to a specific incident of sexual assault in the India, but to draw attention to every other form violence on the female body and mind, visible and invisible all over the World!)
*** On workers’ violence: Lonmin, Maruti Suzuki, Foxconn 2012 -
A text by Mouvement Communiste on the question of workers’ violence, debating the examples of struggles in 2012 at Lonmin in South Africa, Maruti Suzuki in India and Foxconn in China. On this page you can find the French version, an English translation will be on their website shortly. Click here for French text: LTMC1336FRvF
*** Important material on the question of class struggle in China -
On the website of the Gongchao collective you can find various important articles analysing the current stage of class confrontation in China.
*** Commentary No. 351 by Wallerstein: “End of the Road for Runaway Factories?” -
Wallerstein briefly describes the structural limits to ‘global re-location’ of production as we have witnessed it during the last four decades and as it has first undermined the strong-holds of workers in the global North and created at the same time the material foundation for a global cycle of struggles.
Commentary No. 351, April 15, 2013
“End of the Road for Runaway Factories?”
Ever since there has been a capitalist world-economy, one essential
mechanism of its successful functioning has been the runaway factory.
After a period of significant accumulation of capital by so-called
leading industries (usually about twenty-five years), the level of
profit has gone down, both because of the undermining of the
quasi-monopoly of the leading industry and because of the rise in labor
costs due to syndical action of some sort.
When this happened, the solution was for the factory to “runaway.” What
this means is that the site of production was transferred to some other
part of the world-system that had “historically lower wage levels.” In
effect, the capitalists who controlled the leading industries were
trading increased transaction costs for reduced labor costs. This
maintained significant income for them, if nonetheless lower than in the
previous period when they still had a quasi-monopoly.
The reason why labor costs were lower in the new location is that the
runaway factory recruited labor from rural areas that were previously
less involved in the market economy. For these rural workers, the
opportunity to work in these runaway factories represented a rise in
real income, while at the same time for the owners of the runaway
factory these workers were being paid less than those who had been
working in the previous location. This is what is called a win-win solution.
The problem with this seemingly wonderful solution has always been that
it was not lasting. After about another twenty-five years, the workers
in the new location began to launch syndical action, and the cost of
their labor began to rise. When it rose enough, the owners of the
runaway factory had only one real option – to runaway once again.
Meanwhile, new leading industries were being constructed in zones that
had accumulated wealth. Thus, there has been a constant movement of the
location of industries of all sorts. Quasi-monopolies after
quasi-monopolies! Runaway factories after runaway factories!
It has been a marvel of capitalist adjustment to a long process of
constant change of circumstance. This marvelous system has however
depended on one structural element – the possibility of finding new
“virgin” areas for relocation of runaway factories. By virgin areas, I
mean rural zones that were relatively uninvolved in the world market
However, over the past 500 years, we have been “using up” such areas.
This can be measured quite simply by the de-ruralization of the world’s
populations. Today, such rural areas are reduced to a minority of the
world’s surface, and it seems likely that by 2050, they will be a very,
very small minority.
To see the consequences of such massive de-ruralization, we need only
turn to an article in *The New York Times* of April 9. It is entitled
“Hello, Cambodia.” The article describes the “flocking” to Cambodia of
factories that are fleeing China because of the rise of wage-levels in
China, a previous recipient of such runaway factories. However, the
article continues, “multinational companies are finding that they can
run from China’s rising wages but cannot truly hide.”
The problem for the multinationals is that the incredible expansion of
communications has caused the end of the win-win situation. Workers in
Cambodia today have begun syndical action after only a few years, not
after twenty-five. There are strikes and pressure for higher wages and
benefits, which they are receiving. This of course reduces the value for
the multinationals of moving to Cambodia, or Myanmar, or Vietnam, or the
Philippines. It now turns out that the savings of moving from China are
not all that great.
The *Times* article notes that “some factories have moved anyway, at the
request of Western buyers who fear depending on a single country.”
Conclusion of a manufacturing consultant: There are risks of moving to
Cambodia, but “there’s a risk in staying in China, too.” In any case, is
there somewhere to move the runaway factory? Or is Cambodia the end of
The bottom line is that the combination of already enormous and still
increasing de-ruralization and the rapidity with which workers can learn
of their relatively low wages and therefore begin to take syndical
action has resulted in a continuing rise in the pay levels of the least
skilled workers, and therefore a worldwide negative pressure of the
possibilities of accumulating capital. This is not good news for the
This is all one element in what has become the structural crisis of the
modern world-system. We are experiencing a combination of
ever-increasing austerity pressures on the 99% with a capitalist system
that is no longer so profitable for capitalists. This combination means
that capitalism as a world-system is on its way out.
Both sides are seeking alternatives – but obviously different ones. We
are collectively facing a “choice” over the next decades. One
possibility is a new non-capitalist system that replicates (and perhaps
worsens) the three essential features of capitalism – hierarchy,
exploitation, and polarization. The other possibility is a new system
that is relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian. The latter
system, one should underline, has never existed in the history of the
world. But it is possible.
In any case, Cambodia is not the future of the modern world-system. It
represents rather the last vestiges of a mechanism that no longer
performs its task in salvaging capitalism.
by Immanuel Wallerstein
*** Angry Workers of the World: Issue #1-
New workers’ bulletin from London, around 2,000 copies for free circulation on working class housing estates, in warehouse districts and commuter hubs.
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Mazdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch. For more background on Faridabad Mazdoor Talmel see: http://faridabadmajdoorsamachar.blogspot.com/p/fms-talmel.html
For current issues (May 2013) of the newspaper in Hindi see:
March 16, 2013
GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 56 – March/April 2013
Gurgaon in Haryana is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via:
In the March/April 2013 issue you can find:
1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective
2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
*** From the 4th of June 2011 to the 18th of July 2012 and beyond – On the cycle of struggle at Maruti Suzuki Manesar -
Political summary and critique of current attempts of organising resistance, distributed in fariadbad majdoor Samachar February 2013 issue. Plus short look at current wage agreements and crisis in the automobile industry in India.
*** Summary of struggle at Eastern Medikit in Gurgaon
Difficult experiences of hundreds of permanent workers employed by an medical equipment manufacturer, who has abandoned the factory.
*** Report on struggle at Senior Flextronics automobile supplier in Manesar
Senior Flexonics is a multi-national automobile supplier. Workers in the Manesar plant have been trapped between lock-out and symbolic actions.
*** Text on strike of hospital nurses in Faridabad
In 2012 around 330 nurses employed at Asian Institute of Medical Sciences and 130 nurses at QRG Central Hospital in Faridabad went on strike for higher wages and workplace related improvements.
*** Report on blind workers strike in Faridabad
In two small industrial areas in Delhi and Faridabad around 250 and 200 blind workers of the National Blind Peoples’ Union (NFB) work in factories. They don’t receive the minimum wage – so they went on strike.
3) Theory and Practice -
Contributions for the Movement
*** ON THE QUESTION OF WORKERS’ ORGANIZATION, by Mouvement Communiste
Recent article for debate, written for a meeting in Nagpur, India.
*** Leaflet for general strike in February 2013, by Parivartan ki Disha
The leaflet is followed by funny quotes from the middle-waged class on the general strike and their experiences in Gurgaon. A workers’ perspective will follow…
*** Towards a workers’ organisation, by GurgaonWorkersNews
French translation of the first part, published in GurgaonWorkersNews no.50
*** Delhi’s Calling: Take Part in Faridabad Mazdoor Talmel -
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Mazdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch. For more background on Faridabad Mazdoor Talmel see:
1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar / no.289 / July 2012
The permanent workers in the Faridabad Escorts plant are in a difficult situation. Since about three months management has repeatedly put up notices saying that the plant will be closed for some days due to lack of work, while at the same time individual workers who are called by management to attend work will have to come, otherwise they will be marked as absent. Apart from a department in the spare parts division these notices had been put up everywhere. And, apart from a few workers, all permanent workers were actually called to come to work during the days of plant closure, while all casual workers and workers hired through contractor were absent. At Escorts more than half of the work-force is casual or hired through contractor. During the days of ‘production stop’ production actually ran as normal. Behind all this seems to be an attempt of Mahindra management to wrestle control of the Escorts management from the group around Nanda. With the help of the top-management of the Reliance Group Nanda has managed to get the chairman position at Escorts. We have asked other workers in tractor manufacturing companies – at Eicher, for example, production levels are above average, so why these ‘closure days’?
Jayshri Polymer Worker
(Plot 176 – 77, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There is not even one permanent worker employed in the factory. Around 40 casual workers and 450 workers hired through four different contractors manufacture rubber parts for Yamaha, Honda and Maruti Suzuki on two 12-hours shifts. We work seven days a work, on Sundays we work from 7 am till 3:30 pm. Overtime is paid at single rate, although legally it should be double. ESI and PF contributions are cut from the wages, but if you quit the job within the first six months you won’t get your PF money, even if you quit after six months it is a big hassle to get the money. They don’t pay the annual bonus. Management has put up letter boxes all over the factory, they ask the workers a lot, but they do nothing. There is no canteen in the factory. All workers put a note into the letter box asking for a canteen – now management gives 2 Rs worth of biscuits with the tea during the nightshift. It is very hot at the workplaces and it stinks of chemicals.
(Plot 666, Udyog Vihar Phase 5, Gurgaon)
there is not a single permanent or casual worker in the plant, all 400 workers are hired through two different contractors.Normal working-times are from 8:30 am till 8:30 pm, but they make you stay and work till midnight. They pay single rate for overtime. The main job of the bosses is to swear at the workers, they also misbehave with the female workers. They cut money for ESI and PF, but not a single worker ever received PF money when leaving the job.
SMS Export Worker
(D-28, Okhla Phase 1, Delhi)
There are 50 permanent workers and 450 workers hired through contractor. No ESI, no PF. The helpers get 200 Rs for an eight hours shift, the tailors get between 225 and 260 Rs.
Super Age Worker
(Plot 109, Sector 6, Faridabad)
Management did not pay our May wages in tyime. When wages were not paid by 10th of June we decided to work only eight hours instead of twelve. Now it’s the 27th of JUne and the boss says that he will pay, but we should first start to work overtime again. We manufacture parts for Yamaha.
AA Autotech Worker
(Plot 190, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
There are 200 permanent workers, employed as operators, in the tool room and in maintenance. There are 900 workers hired through contractor employed on two 12 hours shifts. The guys who start night-shift at 7 pm on Saturday have to work till 3 pm on Sunday. There is no weekly day off. In two, three months there is three or four days break down. If the workers hired through contractors leave the job within the first six months, they don’t get PF money. There is a canteen, but the roti is machine-made and hard as stone. We manufacture alloy parts for Honda, Hero, Suzuki and Yamaha. It is die casting work, it’s very hot on the shop floor.
(Plot 397. Udyog Vihar Phase 3, Gurgaon)
Around 80 of us are hired through Sodeksho Facility, based in NOIDA, working in the factory in Gurgaon. In March they suddenly sacked 25 of us – they said that Lenko was reducing staff numbers. They assured us that we will get our outstanding wages and one month extra-wage within the following 15 days. It’s mid-June now and they still haven’t paid us. They said that they are in negotiations.
Bright Brothers Worker
(Plot 16, Sector 24, Faridabad)
There are 100 permanent workers employed on three 8-hours shifts and 600 workers hired through two different contractors on two 12-hours shifts. The contractors embezzle 100 to 500 Rs every months from new workers wages. The workers of the contractor who has recently made a runner don’t receive PF money. We manufacture platic parts for Whirlpool and other companies.
Metak System Worker
(Plot 517, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)
When management hired operators in August 2011 for 6,500 Rs a month they said that they would increase the wage by Diwali. When Diwali came they said that they will increase it by April. In April again nothing. When they said on 16th of May that they will not increase the wage, I quit the job. On 9th of June I went to the factory in order to get my outstanding May wages. The boss had told the guard not to let me in and asked me why I had quit the job. He said that he won’t pay my final dues. Workers in the plant work from 9 am till 7:30 pm, manufacturing filters for refinery oil.
Adhunik Overseas Worker
(Plot 17, Sector 6, Faridabad)
In the factory 300 workers on two 12-hours shift die cloths. No permanents, no workers hired through contractors, we are all casuals. No PF, no ESI and for 12 hours shifts, 26 days a month the helpers are paid 6,000 Rs and the operators 7,500 Rs. Wages are paid in installments, sometimes 500 Rs, sometimes 1,000 Rs. March, April and May wages have not been paid yet, now it is middle of June. Most workers have outstanding wages of 15 to 20,000 Rs. The drinking water in the factory is bad. We have to get water from a neighbouring factory.
(Plot 4, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
The roti in the canteen are like plastic, you can’t chew them, they won’t fill your stomach. And the company deducts 234 Rs canteen money per month from our wages.
India Forge Worker
(Plot 28, Sector 6, Faridabad)
There are 20 to 25 permanent workers employed and 400 workers hired through 25 to 30 different contractors. We manufacture axles and other parts for Maruti Suzuki. The workers hired through contractor get neither PF, nor ESI, no bonus and their wages are between 4,000 and 5,000 Rs. Wages are paid delayed. On 23rd of June Maruti Suzuki was closed for maintenance and the same happens here at India Forge. I myself, in order to avoid the landlord hassling me for rent, leave the room early in the morning, despite the temporary company closure and days off work.
Orient Craft Worker
(Plot 15, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
At the beginning of June there is little work at the garments export company Orient Craft. Sometimes they send workers of this line home, sometimes from a different line. There are less workers in total, may be around 1,000. They started to cut more money for the Haryana Welfare program, now 15 Rs instead of 5 Rs. And the company still hasn’t given us the promised bicycles.
Yunimex Laboratories Worker
(Plot 7, Sector 24, Faridabad)
The wages of the 35 workers hired through contractor are between 4,000 and 4,500 Rs. No ESI or PF. They use some filtering system in the factory, but the clean water is for production of medicine, not for the workers. Workers have to drink the stale water. From the chemicals, workers fall ill.
(Plot 5, Sector 6, IMT Manesar)
Workers in the manufacturng department work two 12 hours shifts. None of the workers is permanent all 200 are casual workers. They manufacture electrical boards. The fixed revenue target increases every year, They fixed 80 crore for the first three months of 2012. In these three months you cannot take a single day off, they don’t issue gate passes and you have to work each Sunday. There used to be a canteen, but they closed it two years ago. They used to give you a new uniform every year, now every two years. There used to be bottled drinking water, they stopped providing this two years ago.
The company SIS Security has a contract with Amul Diary to employ 26 guards on their premises in Manesar. We work from 6 am till 3 am. We also help loading trucks with milk. On the bases of 9 hours day, 30 days month you earn 4,500 Rs. Wages are delayed. many guards leave the job quickly. You have major difficulties to get your outstanding wages. I left the job on 10th of September and haven’t received my last wage, despite asking frequently – now it’s end of December. They tell you: come in three months, the contract with Amul has ended, we have not received their cheque yet etc..
P and G Worker
(Plot 9, Sector 6, IMT Manesar)
We are 400 workers, manufacturing leather jackets. We work from 10 am till 1 am, on Saturdays you work 18 hours shifts. If they make you stay after 10 pm they give you 50 Rs extra for food. The official wage for the helpers is 4,650 Rs, but the company pays 4,000 Rs. Only 10 or 15 workers have ESI cards. Workers who leave the job don’t get PF.
A Security Worker
HISS, based behind the Satya Cinema in Sector 7, Faridabad, supplies security guards and workers to other companies. At the Auto Lek [?] factory on Mathura Road, District Palwal, the HISS guards work on two 12 hours shifts, 30 days per month. The factory spreads out on 8 to 10 acres. During night-shifts from 8 pm till 8 am there are two gun men, four security guards and one supervisor employed for security. The factory workers work on one shift from 8:30 am till 8:30 pm. At 8:50 pm an official of Auto Lek seals the factory. At 7:30 am the Auto Lek security officer checks the seal and if everything is okay, he signs the register and opens the seal. In the factory there are also about 70 cameras. On 9th of February the seal was checked and opened, in the evening the guards were paid their January wages. Then a manager of Auto Lek said that there has been theft in the factory and that a director of HISS would come to the plant. Everything had been fine with the seal, no windows were broken, no wall dmaged and they had 70 cameras… nevertheless a gunman and two security guards were taken to the Gadpuri police station. When they were sent of the HISS director took their mobile phones and their January wage. They were kept in the station all night and then transfered to Palwal police. There they were beaten. “We don’t know – ask the supervisor”. They were kept in police custody. They sold jewelry of their wifes and asked for money from their village… then they were released. They went to the office of HISS to get phones and wages. These were not given back. Instead they were abused and they were told that they had taken part in stealing five lakh worth of copper.
2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
After the shock and awe of wildcat workers action, management of automobile companies in India now face a new challenge: how can they tie the minority of permanent workers back in by offering them wage increases which widens the pay-gap between them and the majority of casual and temporary workers, when at the same time the pressure of crisis and over-capacities forces them to squeeze down on labour costs? Just some indications and news snippets below, followed by a recent article of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar distributed amongst workers in various industrial zones in Manesar, Gurgaon, Okhla and Faridabad. It is a political summary of the cycle of struggle at Maruti Suzuki manesar and a critique of the current attempts to organise resistance of the sacked and jailed Maruti workers.
*** Wage (Gap) Increase – October 2012
“Another sector analyst, also on condition of anonymity, said it was in the interest of the auto companies to heed the demands of workers.
Even during last year’s unrest at the Manesar plant, we were telling the company to increase the wages to solve the problem as the impact of such an increase was nominal on margins,” the analyst said. “But look what has happened. The company suffered a revenue loss of Rs.4,000 crore while increasing wages would have increased the wage bill by only Rs.150 crore in three years time.” For most car companies, the wage bill is in the range of 2-3 per cent of their sales. Following Maruti√ïs move, auto industry workers are optimistic of a bigger raise than they would have otherwise expected. “We are all eagerly waiting for the wage hike. We hope we get a good hike of Rs.24,000,” says Guru Ragavendran, a line relief worker at Hyundai who takes home a salary of Rs.33,500 a month. Ford has 1,500 permanent workers in India and 3,200 trainees who will be confirmed in their jobs after three years depending on their performance. Permanent employees received a hike of 15 per cent in April, adding Rs.3,700 to an average monthly salary of Rs.33,000 for permanent workers. According to estimates available with industry experts, the wage bill of Maruti Suzuki, the country’s largest car maker, is expected to increase by Rs 65-70 crore after the increments.
“Employee costs as a proportion of net sales may go up to 2.7 per cent from the current 2.4 per cent,” said Yaresh Kothari, auto analyst at brokerage firm Angel Broking. In a pact inked with the Gurgaon-based Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union (MUKU), Maruti Suzuki increased gross salary by Rs 14,800 per month spread over a period of three years for permanent workers in the company. While 75 per cent of the gross salary increment will be given in the first year, the company will give 12.5 per cent each in the second and third years. Workers at India’s top two-wheeler companies Hero MotoCorp. and Honda Motorcycle and Scooters India have submitted demand notices to their management teams for increased salaries and a housing scheme, among other benefits.
(Livemint, 12th of October 2012)
Wage Struggle at Hero Motorcycle Plant Gurgaon – January 2013
Over one thousand workers at Hero MotoCorp√ïs (HMCL) Gurgaon and Dharuhera plants√ëboth in the northern Indian state of Haryana√ëcarried out a ‘go-slow’ campaign on January 23 to demand higher wages. Workers at the Gurgaon plant have been demanding a monthly wage increase of 15,000 rupees (US$273) over the next three years. Management has only offered a 7,500 rupees (US$136) increase. The same offer was given to workers at the Dharuhera plant last December. Gurgaon workers have pressed for a larger wage hike, citing the relatively higher cost of living in the area and their demand has been supported by the Dharuhera workers. “We will ask the Deputy Labour Commissioner to kindly resolve the matter. We are not for a fight. We want to resolve the issue amicably,” Lal told the WSWS. On this basis, the HMCWU has organized various impotent protests, including calling on workers to wear black badges and refuse tea and snacks offered by the company. The intransigence of Hero management reflects growing concern over the impact of the world economic crisis on the global auto industry and Indian exports in particular. (WSWS, 28th of January 2013) Representatives of employees at the Gurgaon facility said workers would stop cooperating with engineers and supervisors from tomorrow. “The management was concerned that if they hiked our wages significantly more than the Rs 6,500 hike given to our colleagues at Dharuhera, there would be protests. But the workers there understand that living conditions are more expensive in Gurgaon. They are supporting us unconditionally,” added the union leader, who did not want to be named. Hero workers have been asking for a similar increment as at Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India” (HMSI) Manesar unit, Haryana, where a 50 per cent hike of Rs 14,770 in monthly salary was announced recently. Hero MotoCorp employs 1,200 permanent workers and 4,000 contract workers at its Gurgaon facility. Wages of temporary workers at Hero, Honda HMSI and Maruti Suzuki are at about 8,000 Rs per month – the pay gap between them and the permanent workers will have further increased after this round of wage agreements.
Struggle at Bosch automobile supplier – March 2013
Auto component maker Bosch Ltd today said workers at its Bangalore plant have gone on a tool down strike from yesterday without prior notice. “Workmen of the company’s Bangalore plant have resorted to an illegal ‘Tool Down’ strike w.e.f. end of first shift of March 7, 2013, without giving any prior notice to the management,” the company said in a filing to the BSE. The company’s Bangalore plant has a history of workers unrest and in September 2011, the plant was shut down temporarily following strike by workers. The strike at Bosch comes on the same day when auto major Mahindra & Mahindra announced that the 3-day tool down strike by workers at its Nashik plant has been called off. At Bosch, an agreement was reached on the working model for the new production line and the suspension of one employee has been withdrawn. The workmen have resumed work at the factory premises starting from the night shift of March 9.
(Economic Times, 8th of March 2013)
*** Crisis – March 2013
The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) had, in January, revised car sales projection for the fourth time in the current fiscal, forecasting a meagre 0-1 per cent growth, the weakest recorded growth in nearly a decade. This has an impact on the shop-floor. Previously Maruti HR-boss Siddique said, “[the] MSIL plant is coming up at a cost of Rs 4,000 ($727 million) in Gujarat and is expected to take off in 2015-16″. He admitted that “[although] the growth rate was projected at 14 per cent for the auto-industry, it has [now] slowed down to 4 to 5 per cent in the current fiscal period. Thus, he added that “it [has] created a bit of confusion about our Gujarat plans.” The annual production capacity of the plant will be around 1.5 million units which along with current installed capacity at Manesar and Gurgaon will take the total annual capacity over 3.2 million vehicles. In early March 2013, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, announced to undertake a one day-production cut at its Gurgaon plant on Saturday to reduce its stock piles amid flagging domestic sales and a tepid demand outlook. Auto demand in the country has slumped due to rising fuel prices and higher interest rates on loans to purchase vehicles. Earlier, in November, Tata Motors had announced a three-day closure of its Jamshedpur plant from November 29 “as part of an aggressive effort to align production with demand”. Maruti Suzuki had reported a 7.89 per cent decline in its total sales at 1,09,567 units in February 2013, with domestic sales down over 9 per cent at 97,955 units.
(ENS Economic Bureau, 9th of March 2013)
*** Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – no.296 – February 2013
From the 4th of June 2011 to the 18th of July 2012 and beyond (1) -
The practice of Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers
‘What to do and what not to do?’ ‘How to do and how not to do?’, these are important questions. All workers are confronted with these questions at all times. Today and in the near future, the practice of the Maruti Suzuki workers can make an important contribution to find an answer to these questions. Situations like at Maruti Suzuki Manesar will intensify and become more widespread. The position of workers seem to become increasingly favorable, while the condition of the companies and state, despite all of their major efforts, seem to become more and more brittle.
The 950 permanent workers who were union members at Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant were dissatisfied with the union. Company management deducted the union dues from workers’ wages. Some permanent workers secretly prepared for setting up an alternative union. In order to register the new union workers sent documents to the Haryana government’s labour commissioner in Chandigarh. The labour department immediately informed the company about it. Management started to put pressure on workers to accept the existing union and to refrain from setting up a new one.
On the 4th of June 2011 during the time of shift change, both A-shift workers and B-shift workers remained inside the factory when the turmoil started. All workers gathered in one place. Commotion. Workers refused to listen to the factory manager. two-shifts of permanent workers, trainees, apprentices and workers hired through three different contractors who are directly linked to the production process undermine the ‘occupation of the factory through management’. Workers control exits and entrances, advancing towards the control of the whole factory. A company which has an annual production output of 40,000 crore Rupee hasn’t got a clue how to deal with the situation. The central government, which takes over 4 crore Rupee excise duty from Maruti does not know either. The Haryana government, which takes 800 crore annual tax from Maruti is as clueless as management and the central state. This situation lasted for thirteen days. Workers’ representatives/supporters, who see workers as ‘to be pitied’ and ‘un-knowing’ come to an agreement with management and get production going again.
In India today, there are very few workers who you call permanent, the majority are temporary workers. Under these conditions today, only permanent and temporary workers together can form a workers union/organisation. On the 4th of June 2011 at Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory permanent workers, trainees, apprentices, workers hired through contractors together brought a workers union/organisation top the fore. That was not a ‘union’ as it is officially known. Nowadays companies-governments are not able to finish off an actual and practical workers union/organisation.
Workers have (been) stopped. Those permanent and temporary workers directly connected to production, those who work separated in different departments, at different machines and assembly lines, those workers have joint together on the 4th of June 2011. But those workers who take care of water, electricity, canteen, security and other services, those workers hired through 48 contractors have remained at the margins. The 350 drivers hired through contractors employed in sales and dispatch have remained at the margins. The 300 workers employed by suppliers, who work on the Maruti premises remained separate. The drivers who bring parts from the suppliers were not involved. Those 2,500 construction workers, who are working on the expansion of the factory, were not involved. The workers employed in Maruti supplying factories of Belsonica, FMI Energy, Krishna Maruti, SKH Metal and JBM, which are situated on the 600 acre Maruti premises remained at the margins. All these workers could immediately link up with an emerging workers union/organisation. The workers of the thousands of automobile, textile, pharmaceutical, IT factories, which surround Maruti Suzuki in IMT Manesar could join in without major difficulties. It would not be too hard for workers in Gurgaon, Okhla, Noida, Faridabad who work in factories of the 300 official Maruti suppliers and in thousands of inofficial work-shop suppliers to become part of it. And Maruti is not only connected to Japan, cars are exported to 120 different countries… The global dimension and international character of an emerging workers union/organisation is in front of us.
While companies support-foster ‘workers trade unions’, they cannot bear actual workers unions/organisations. The workers union/organisation which emerged at Maruti Suzuki Manesar on 4th of June 2011 did not grow and expand and the company stuck to the plan of finishing it off. On the other side those permanent and temporary workers directly linked to production proceeded on their path to deepen their bond. At the end of August 2011 company and state were prepared to attack them. Permanent and temporary workers together kept up their organised bond and sat outside of the factory for 24 hours over a month. All kind of people and groupings came to meet the workers. Workers listened to everyone, but did what they thought is right. Seeing that it won’t get through the company changed course. Workers representatives/supporters who think that workers have no consciousness and don’t understand again forged an agreement on the 30th of September 2011. On 3rd of October 2011 the company let all permanent workers, trainees and apprentices apart from 44 suspended workers back to work, but refused entry to 1,200 to 1,500 workers hired through contractors who had been directly employed in production. The company proceeded quickly on the path of breaking the workers’ union/organisation when… when on 7th of October 2011 both A-shift and B-shift workers remained inside the factory and shook the ‘occupation of the factory through management’. Workers controlled the exists and entrances and either expelled those workers who had been hired by the company during the lock-out or convince them to join them. This time workers of 11 other factories in IMT Manesar also remained inside their factories and questioned management’s control. The whole issue was on the way to become bigger and to spread. Those workers’ representatives/supporters who see workers as poor and unknowing reduced the emerging organisation to the four factories of the Suzuki group. On the 14th and 15th of October 2011 workers – facing a huge police army and influence of prominent workers’ leaders – were forced to leave the factories. Workers sat outside and production in the four factories remained suspended. Company and government did not understand what it was what workers wanted. Then on 19th and 21st of October 2011 an agreement was settled and all workers hired through contractors were taken back, while 30 workers were secretly given money and made to resign.
Workers were angry about the fact that 30 workers had resigned for money, but they were not disheartened. The notion that ‘we will make decisions ourselves’ was strong. The company slowly-cautiously started to undertake steps. The company themselves gave what is called concessions. The work-pace was slowed down, instead of one car every 45 seconds speed was reduced to one car per minute. Wages for trainees, apprentices and workers hired through contractors were increased. Permanent workers were promised a significant wage increment. The number of company buses was increased. The parents were included into the health insurance scheme. They increased the number of annual holidays… A second union was registered and management recognised it. The union gave management a demand notice. Negotiations started between management and union about a three-years agreement…
When in February-March 2012 workers started to feel that after having done so much, nothing had really changed. ‘To take care of workers’ was seen as management talk. Workers remained workers – so what had changed? This is why the suspension of a worker on 18th of July 2012 was not to remain an ordinary act. Workers rebelled against being workers. There are two symbols standing for making-keeping a worker a worker: workers made managers and the factory building the target of their attack. The large numbers of security guards and 60 to 70 police men just stood aside and watched. No guard (or bouncer/muscle-man) got injured. If the new union leader would have tried to hold back workers, he had been the first to be beaten. This was not an act of a group of 20 or 50 workers, but over thousand of young and old, permanent and temporary workers were involved in the rebellion. It was a coincidence that it happened on the 18th of July, it could have happened on the 15th of may or 25th of August. It is true that the manager and the factory building are symbols, they stand for a social relation… but in practice the embodied/tangible form becomes a first target and consecutively the social relation comes to the fore. Workers can extinct a factory in an half an hour attack… the fear which it instills amongst the bosses is not limited to the Delhi region, but spreads to other places.
All workers know that company and state will attack in revenge. The government installed a permanent commando of 600 police in IMT Manesar, 147 workers are in jail and there is a arrest warrant for further 65 workers. The company has sacked 546 workers and kicked out 2,500 workers hired through contractor. After six months of jail, till now end of February 2013 none of the jailed workers has been granted bail. According the leading manager of Maruti Suzuki this is class war. A Maruti Suzuki Manesar worker: “If the 18th of July had been a thing of the whole of IMT Manesar, it would have been a real thing”.
For workers it is the first priority to increase their own power. Who is the workers’ own? The workers’ own is the other worker. Therefore the first act is to go to other workers and to form a bond with them. This is why for the Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers, after the 18th of July 2013, the thousands of surrounding factories became their potential terrain of activity. The impact of the events in IMT Manesar on the government was direct, but moreover the knowledge that the wave might spread to Gurgaon, Okhla, Noida, Faridabad. This is not supposed to happen, therefore… Workers’ representatives/supporters who see workers as victims (2) and as lacking consciousness adviced the Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers to start on a path of falsehood. thousands of leaflets were distributed amongst workers in Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad. Knowingly or not, these ‘do-gooders and well-meaners’ motivated workers to proceed on a path which will tire them out. Honest and dishonest workers’ supporters, both gave information notices to the deputy commissioner, to legislators, to the ministers, to the prime minister, they demonstrated in Gurgaon, they demonstrated in Delhi, demonstrations in Zind and Bhivani, protests by the family members of the jailed and sacked workers, hunger strikes, bicycle protest tours from all four corners of Haryana to Rohtak… these can be important additional steps, but to focus and rely on them will lead to nothing else but tiredness amongst the workers. The workers hired through contractors are also left on the margins of these protests. Without a doubt, the workers in jail and the sacked workers are still firm and committed. If the 400 or so sacked workers outside jail would now focus on going amongst the workers of IMT Manesar, then…
For detailed reports on the cycle of struggle at Maruti Suzuki Manesar:
Some examples of turning a mass of unruly energetic young workers into tired victims:
“CITU has asked workers in Gurgaon and Manesar to organize a ‘lunch boycott’ at their respective units, in protest at the mass sackings conducted at Maruti’s Manesar plant after the July episode of violence and arson there. The union members have urged workers in all factories operating in this belt to give up on their afternoon and evening meals on October 19. A gate meeting for all workers has also been scheduled for October 17. “On October 19, we want the workers to work at their units, but they should refuse to have any food at the plant, as an expression of protest against such management practices,” said a CITU representative.”
From a press release by the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, 12th of November 2012:
“We spoke to the minister, Surjewala, who listended to our demands, and gave assurance to resolve the issue at the earliest and speak to the Labour minister, Shiv Charan Lal and the Chief Minister after diwali. Earlier, starting on 7th morning, the MSWU completed its two-day hunger strike and dharna on the evening of 8th November in Gurgaon with a spirited mass rally of over 3000 struggling workers joined by over 1000 workers from Eastern Medikit and other factories, and others who came in solidarity, forcing the government to take notice of our present condition. We broke our hunger strike in front of the DC Office and inside the jail at 4pm, and took out the mass rally from the Mini Secretariat to the Youth and Sports Minister, Sukhbir Kataria’s residence in the Bus stand-Railway station road in Gurgaon, who came down to the street to listen to our demands, and gave us assurance of resolving our demands by taking it up with the Chief Minister after diwali.”
PUDR: “The entry of corporations and multinationals in the absence of any semblance of protection for workers√ï rights makes the working class vulnerable to the violence and illegal actions of the state machinery and capital today that we need to collectively resist.”
*** Summary of struggle at Eastern Medikit in Gurgaon
Difficult experiences of hundreds of permanent workers employed by an medical equipment manufacturer, who has abandoned the factory.
Eastern Medikit Worker
(Plot 195 and 205, Udyog Vihar Phase 1 / Plot 292, Phase 2 and Sector 37, Gurgaon)
On 18th of May management suddenly ‘disappeared’ and abandoned the factories in Gurgaon. The company has 25 to 30 crore debts with the Punjab National bank and the Union Bank of India. They owe 2.5 crore to the Provident Fund, they owe money to the raw material suppliers, they owe 60 lakh Rs to the Gurgaon Grameen Bank – money was cut from workers’ wages in order to pay back the loan, but the money has never been transferred to the bank. Outstanding payments for the electricity bill of 60 to 65 lakh Rs Outstanding wages for 1135 permanent workers according to the three-years collective agreement between management and union dated 2009. Since July 2011 money which has been cut from permanent workers’ wages for ESI and PF has not been paid into the funds – embezzled. The labour department gave us dates for hearings till 30th of May, then they stopped meeting us – they try to contact the managing director, but they don’t succeed. We gave a notification to the Deputy Commissioner in Gurgaon on 15th of June. No one listened – because there were no demands, no one got suspended or dismissed, there was no protest. Having heard all this, the destitute leaders of the Eastern Medikit Employees Union announced that the respective ailing factories can not be run.
In 1988 Eastern Medikit started on a small rented plot in Azadpur, Delhi. In 2007 there were 1,100 permanent and 3,000 casual workers employed in Eastern Medikit factories. Since 2000 there is a trade union: the permanent workers work 8-hours shifts, while the casual workers work 12 hours; production target for the permanent workers is 500 piece, while for the casual workers it is 800 to 1,100. permanent workers get their wage on the 7th, while casuals get it on the 22nd or 25th of the month; the wages for the same work differ significantly. Casual workers get even less than single rate for overtime – according to the union, if the company would pay double rate like prescribed by the law the company would not be able to survive in the competition and would have to be closed. Money for ESI and PF is cut from casual workers wages, but they neither get an ESI card, and only with a lot of struggle they get the fund money. When 3,000 casual workers in the Gurgaon Udyog Vihar factories engaged in a wildcat strike during night-shift on 18th of December 2007 in order to obtain their November wages, the management called the police. It has become a routine that management calls the police against the casual workers. In October 2011 the company started to kick out casual workers on a large scale. By December 1,700 were left, during December itself further 900 were sacked. And they started to delay the wage payments of the permanent workers. Since 16th of April the permanent workers had to work on two 12-hours shifts. When electricity was cut at the 292 plot plant in December 2011 due to unpaid bills, production continued with the help of generators. When in the other factories electricity was cut on 12th of May work continued with generators for five further days… on 18th of May management disappeared.
The chairman – managing director has opened a new company in nearby Dehradun, under the name of Global Medikit. They have four factories there, production has started in two of them. They have started to send components from here to Dehradun. Several times the permanent workers tried to stop the dismantling and relocation of machinery, but the union representatives, referring to the threat of suspensions, actually helped to get the machines transported away. So what is the use of a union? This is the question of Eastern Medikit permanent workers. Since more than a month now the 1,100 permanent workers guard the factories. What comes after the labour department and the visits to the DC? The union has proposed a protest sit-in in front of the company’s main office in Delhi. Workers went to Delhi, but referring to the law the police chased them away after two hours. On 5th of July the same sad story repeated itself in front of the residence of the deputy labour commissioner. So what is left to be done apart from the known ritualistic evasion in form of calling other unions and make their leaders give speeches?
It is clear that the company does not belong to anybody. It is also clear that the government will not be able to give workers hope. If we take into account the recent experiences of collective wildcat actions by Eastern Medikit casual workers and the fact that shortly before the Eastern Medikit dispute workers at Harsoria Healthcare, another medical equipmnet manufacturer, briefly occupied their factory in the same industrial area, we can state that the question of a new trajectory for the Eastern medikit workers is not a theoretical problem. Eastern Medikit workers face the necessity and have got the time to go to the hundreds of neighbouring factories in Udyog Vihar Gurgaon and to address the hundred thousands of workers. to raise the problem of workers in one factory as a problem of thousands of factories is the first step towards a new trajectory.
Short article on casual workers wildcat at Eastern Medikit in 2007:
Article on struggle at Harsoria Healthcare in 2012:
Further news snippets:
“The management has stopped production since May 18 without any prior notice and stopped coming to work since then,” said Sanjay Malik, the president of All Eastern Medikit Employees’ Union. “There is no electricity or drinking water, just a few security guards and 2,000 workers sitting idle,” he said. On August 2, the factory owner did not come to the office of the deputy labour commissioner where the workers and other officials had been kept waiting. The workers were expecting something from the talks between the labour department and company owners. “It seems that the company is not interested in anything now, so now we have hopes that the court will get us our dues,” said Malik. “We met the district commissioner 15 days ago and he said that he would look into the matter, but has failed to do so. We met the DC again to remind him of our woes and told him that we would sit on a hunger strike if the operations do not get started and our salaries are not paid.He will be responsible if the agitation goes out of hand,” said Sanjay Malik, president, Eastern Medikit employees union.
Advocate Santosh Pandey, representing the company, said the employees had stopped working. “The workers wanted to go on an illegal strike and prevented the release of finished goods worth Rs 5 crore from the factory,” he said, adding that the management stopped going to the factory for fear of violence. Apart from shop-floor workers at its five plots in Gurgaon, Eastern Medikit had around 400 managerial staffers. “We have not been paid for even longer than the workers,” said a senior manager of the company who didn’t want to be identified. “We have been in touch with the management for our dues, but there have been no clear answers,” he said, adding that the unstated plan seems to be to abandon the business and gradually dispose off the land assets in Gurgaon. CARE downgraded Eastern Medikit’s ratings in December 2011 to ‘CARE D’ – indicating that a default had already occurred or was likely to occur. “The rating revision took into account the delays in debt servicing by EML,” said the CARE analyst in charge of Eastern Medikit.
(Economic Times, 9th of August 2012)
*** Report on struggle at Senior Flextronics automobile supplier in Manesar
Senior Flexonics is a multi-national automobile supplier. Workers in the Manesar plant have been trapped between lock-out and symbolic actions.
Senior Flexonics Worker (Plot 89, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)
We have already written about the lock-out at this international automobile supplier. Workers were kicked out by the police on 19th of May 2012, since then they are running back and forth between small demonstrations and meetings at the labour department. In mid-June workers started a sit-in protest in front of the labour department, far away from the industrial area. On 21st of May management had given a dismissal letter to those workers hired through contractors who had been employed at Senior Flexonics for a longer time. Representatives of various unions met with the DC in Gurgaon about the situation. A demonstration was organised. Inside the factory production runs with the help of workers hired in January 2012. On 2nd of July around 60 permanent workers of Senior Flexonics again have a sit-in protest at the labour department. Management says that aprt from 15 workers, all the other can come back on duty. After six months of struggle experiences do the workers at Senior Flexonics not see the need to find a different path of struggle? Instead of sitting in front of the labour department office, Senior Flexonics workers could find more relieve and support by addressing other workers in IMT Manesar directly.
Article on earlier stages of the Senior Flexonics dispute:
On 7th of May 2012 around 330 nurses employed at Asian Institute of Medical Sciences and 130 nurses at QRG Central Hospital in Faridabad went on strike for higher wages and workplace related improvements. Going back and forth between the Haryana labour department, the administration and the chief minister, the struggling nurses became disheartened. The support of various trade unions and members of parliament in Keral (most nurses are from Keral) could not bring about significant changes of the situation. When the police raised serious charges against the nurses at Central Hospital, it was the last straw – after one month of strike the nurses went back to work. But with a demonstration on the 8th of June the nurses at the Asian Hospital continued their strike. The female and male nurses continued their sit-down protest in the open summer heat. Contrary to the hope of management the nurses remained determined. Several negotiation meetings between management, labour commissioner and SDM took place. The dispute circled around the question “We won’t take the five [suspended] back on” and “All should be allowed to return to work”. The leadership of the National(ist) Kongress Party demonstrated in support on the 20th of June in front of Kerala House in Delhi and ministers issued announcements about the struggle. On 27th of June the deputy labour commissioner declared that there wont be any wage increase, that nurses will be shifted between departments and that the five [suspended] will remain outside for fifteen days – there will be an inquiry. ‘Accept these points and management will return to the negotiation table’. The nurses did not accept these proposals by the labour commissioner and Asian Hospital management. In return, labour commissioner and manager did not agree to the offer of the nurses’ representatives: no wage increase, but paid strike days; no shifts between departments; the five will be taken back after 15 days. The chief minister of Kerala announced the agreement on 3rd of July. When the nurses went back to work, everything turned out to be different from what was announced as agreement. Many nurses were told that they won’t be taken back, because new nurses had been hired. Workers were shifted from here to there. All nurses refused there conditions. The chief minister of Kerala was phoned. Another agreement: 80 per cent of the nurses will attend a six days class, they will then work where they had worked before; for the remaining 20 per cent of nurses it will take 40 to 45 days before they will be taken back on duty. The nurses’ representatives signed this agreement, but because the managing director of the Asian Hospital had left, management did not sign the agreement. The nurses who returned from the strike now sit in the hospital hall and watch documentaries…
From: Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. No. 283
In Mundka (Delhi) and Mujesar (Faridabad) work around 450 blind workers of the National Blind Peoples’ Union (NFB) in factories. They don’t receive the minimum wage. They don’t receive ESI cards and PF forms. Between April and June 2011 a lot of them lost their jobs. They were often forced to stay longer than 8 hours and they received nno payment for these extra-hours. On 9th of November management said that they will shift payment to piecerate, according to calculation of the blind workers they would be paid 2,600 Rs per months for working 12 hours every day. In order to resist management plans the blind workers went on strike. On 24th of November 2011 workers and supporters hold a demonstration in front of the headquarter of the NFB. According to the workers the actual goal of the NFB is not: “Leadership of the blind through the blind”. but “exploitation of the blind through the blind”. Blind people have posts high up in the NFB. After the demonstration on 24th of November did not show results the blind workers started a protest assembly in the governmental district. Further demonstrations and meeting on 3rd of December, on ‘World Disability Day’. Another big demonstration on 21st of December. A sit-down protest in fronbt of the ministry for social justice on 2nd of January. The NFB has hired some new workers for 4,000 to 5,000 Rs per month, supposedly to replace the protesting workers.
3) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News
*** ON THE QUESTION OF WORKERS’ ORGANIZATION, by Mouvement Communiste
Recent article for debate, written for a meeting in Nagpur, India.
ON THE QUESTION OF WORKERS’ ORGANIZATION
“Workers emancipation will be the task of the workers themselves” First International statutes. Karl Marx
“Communism is for everybody or for nobody” Unknown militant
“Movement creates organization but organization does not create movement” Luciano Parlanti, Fiat worker, founder of the Worker Student Assembly 1970.
These three sentences set out the basis of what is to be done, give the goal, and indicate the method and the actor, but do not provide recipes because we don√ït need recipes but we need to restore praxis to understand what to do.
Necessity of organization
The question of organization is at the heart of any transformation process, whatever class carries it out. There is no revolution without organization. Organization is the most obvious material proof of social being, of social nature. It is equally an expression of its state of consciousness, as the collective subject of social transformation.
Historically, proletarian organization corresponds first to the emergence of the exploited class as a class that does not define itself by its reality of oppression and exploitation. Proletarian organization thus corresponds to its process of overcoming its nature as a class for capital. It experiences backwards as well as forwards steps. Proletarian organization is the concrete manifestation of the lived contradiction for the proletariat between its being for capital and its being for itself.
Without organization the dual nature of the proletariat would not have any tangible reality. Organization translates and formalizes the consciousness of this contradiction, this dual nature, and of the necessity of its overcoming through the process of liberation from the wage system. Organization is above all a matter of consciousness. To say it better: it is consciousness embodied in the revolutionary class.
The question of organization is asked correctly above all by making it dependent on a formalization of revolutionary consciousness gained collectively by means of the real daily struggles against capital and its State. To create an organization those struggles must be sufficiently intense to generate revolutionary consciousness. The form of these struggles can only be political, that is potentially overcoming the simple restructuration of dominant social relationships to sketch out other social relationships incompatible with societies divided into classes and possessing value.
Its political dimension
The expression of this antagonism can only be political, not in the sense of the bourgeois art of mediation, but in the sense of the revolutionary theory of rupture with the dominant social relationships, of methodical deconstruction and of the planned foundation of a society without value, classes and State.
Communism as a real movement cannot be reduced to the immediacy of its demand, even by radical means. On the contrary, this is a long term process, uneven, made of steps forwards and backwards that impose on the class that bears it, in the actual world, the need to define a project, a complex plan of social transformation, a plan with a political form and a social content, a plan that is not conceived in Marxist laboratories but that is built within struggles and through political class struggle. This struggle, along with the organization that it produces, performs life-sized experimentation with a new power.
This new power is first restricted to a prohibitive power (prohibition of the orders of factory management, prohibition of commodity circulation, prohibition of the use of ruling class power, etc.), Once the demolition of the existing order is widely in evidence, then working class power rushes along the narrow path towards the reconstruction of social relationships on a new communist basis.
To do this, political organization that exists inside this project that was born for this purpose must plunge its roots into the productive and reproductive processes of capital. The decomposition movement of capitalist social relationships exists only in relation to the dimension of these fully deployed social relationships. It grows through all spheres of capital. A society of capital that is extremely centralized, planned and diffused to integrate and subordinate every relationship between individuals everywhere in the world. Capital rules both by globalizing and individualizing social relations
Our role in this process consists of politically and theoretically defending this perspective and, through intervention in class conflicts, contributing to the growth of the collective capacity to understand and criticize the real terms of confrontation. For this task we want to stress the importance of two major tools:
1. The concrete critique of capital and its real movement, realized by means of a rigorous but not dogmatic application of the categories elaborated by Marx and Engels in their critique of political economy.
2. The worker’s enquiry as a method used to understand the thousand and one facets of exploitation in the greatest possible detail, the living composition of the exploited class and its perception of its own condition, all at the same time. When proletarians appropriate worker’s enquiry for themselves it becomes a tool of organization and understanding.
For us, production is the main sphere of capital’s existence, capital√ïs contradiction and thus the possibility of overthrowing it. This does not mean there is nothing to do in the reproductive sphere – on the contrary! – but that sites of production are the centre of the capitalist system where the collective worker is confronted with the collective machine (i.e. the whole assembly of machines, production process and ‘factory order’) This is the place where the naked truth of capitalism can be understand by workers and where it can be attacked.
Then two questions arise:
1. What are the places of production today where the big factories of the √ï60 and √î70s have disappeared in the Western countries (but obviously not in India and China, for instance)?
2. What are the means to make the collective worker into a living thing?
A site of production is a place where raw materials, semi-finished products or parts are transformed or parts are assembled in a finished product. But production is not restricted to this place. It must include all the places (upstream and downstream) necessary to the realization of commodities (a commodity only becomes a commodity when it is sold on a solvent market) transportation, storage, etc. This is fundamental to understand because this knowledge is a necessary basis for struggles to do the most harm to the most bosses with the least cost to the workers.
“In the first place, according to Marx, the reproduction of capitalist society resides in the act of productive consumption of labour power, that is to say within the factory, while the capitalist sets in motion and uses the creative power of the collective worker in the labour process (process of immediate production). If this is the case, it is erroneous to look for the foundation of consciousness elsewhere than in the workshops of social production, i.e. elsewhere than in the daily struggles against the machine, the factory authorities, and the organization of concrete work.” MC Letter #11 October 2003
But we (like the operaists before us) understand the factory not as a place of production (while continuing to analyse the cycle of production so as to understand what type of organisation of production requires what form of workers’ struggle) but first of all as a place of struggle where workers constitute themselves as a class in itself.
There have been and still are political groups or workers collectives that still like to criticize union policies because they are not enough this or too much that. They focus on the form (Unions) but don’t question what is the basis in capitalist society that allows the existence of unions.
“The reproduction of the exploited class, of the commodity of which it is the exclusive bearer ‘the ability to do the work which creates new value’ is at the origin of the union question. The commodity labour power therefore possesses two specific properties:
1. On the one hand, it is the only commodity having the faculty, in certain objective conditions of production, of expanding wealth in the form of capital. This is a fact generally known and accepted.
2. On the other hand, it is the only commodity which is systematically sold below its value. The value added does not serve to remunerate labour power as such but only to buy the things necessary for its reproduction. It is considered by the capitalists as an objective resource of production, an innate use value, in the same way as the earth is.
Even on this level, that of the mercantile exchange of equivalents, labour power is not situated at all on the same plane as other commodities. This is no mere detail. It is, on the contrary, the profound reason for the workers having an interest in organizations which, despite their political compromises with the dominant classes and their integration into the state, try to make this selling relation more equitable, more balanced.” MC Letter #11 October 2003
Once the existence of unions is understood as a product of the position of the working class within capitalist relationships, there is another trap to avoid. This is that of restricting struggles (both inside and outside factories) to the demand level that in essence recognizes a status to the owner (bosses or/and the State). Against this the principle to be followed is ‘Don’t demand it, take it, and so organize to do this’ If you want to reduce the pace of the assembly line, if you want to reduce the working day, if you want to suppress dangerous production, let’s organize ourselves to do it. This long time motto dating from the days of the IWW was exemplified and fully developed in Italy in the late 60s and 70′s.
This is also the only mean to practically undermine the influence and power of the unions whether rank and file or bureaucratic ones. Because it√ïs not only a question of methods, of recipes for organization: if we stay on the terrain of improving conditions or ‘more of this, more of that’, ‘deeper this, deeper that’ we will remain sooner or later on the terrain of unions, and play the role of radical critics but not of communists trying to overcome present conditions, contrary to the unions that can√ït and won√ït overcome the restricted point of view of capitalist society.
Obviously we are not against improvement of conditions but the ones we like most are those that are ‘gained’ by workers own struggle and own organization.
“The communists, though concerned about improving the material condition of the working class and its wage, know that the best way to defend it is to attack the foundations of capitalism, the relations of exploitation themselves. The economic struggle only makes sense in the framework of the perspective of proletarian revolution. For communists material demands are not therefore an end in themselves. They are understood only as an expression of a balance of forces between struggling labour and capital.”
“‘The satisfaction of workers’ demands is always ephemeral, because the concessions made by capital can at any instant be taken back again, exclusively according to its imperatives of valorisation. If the defensive everyday struggles remain the school of communism, on a historical scale, they have to go beyond the narrow horizon of category, of enterprise, of nation, of prices and value.” MC Letter #11 October 2003
For us the necessary tool is the workers committee , i.e. a body created by workers themselves for a clear goal. Generally minoritarian at its beginning, it is not an organ created by decree or a principled declaration of comrades within a factory. The founders of the committee must have been selected by previous struggles and must be recognized by other factory workers (even by opponents) because they are able to launch initiatives and don√ït just follow the unions.
The method for action and reflection (even if we advocate a fusion of these two poles of proletarian activity) is the refusal of delegation and the participation of the greatest number of workers whenever actions are an open struggle or action against the bosses. Even negotiations must be held in front of the workers.
A workers committee is rooted within the entire factory and organized on a workshop, department and factory basis. Workers committees are a place where workers understand their actions and struggles before, during and after in order to draw up a clear balance sheet and prepare the next step.
To go back to workers committee activities, once they have a strong basis within factories they must take in hand √íoutside the factory√ì activities; such as free or low-fare means of transport for getting to work (‘It is the boss who should pay to transport us to work, commuting time is work time’), lower utility bills, reduction or free appropriation of foods in super markets, reduction of rents, occupation of empty houses, etc. These actions are not items on a list to be strictly followed. They are only examples to show what the activities of such proletarian formations can be. Let’s also remember that this is not an already defined progressive advance. Class struggle is made of ups and downs, steps forwards and backwards. But this way is the continuation along the same path of what has already been practiced in factories, in the continuity of ‘don’t demand it, take it and organize’. The same goes for proletarians conquering ‘free spaces’ to live and experiment practically what another society can be like. Thus workers committees make it possible to anticipate communism and to understand the main obstacle that remains on this road: the state.
One thing must be made clear: if workers committees have a clear ‘guide for action’ as described before, they are within this frame open to every worker, even from different political tendencies. But two things have to be remembered:
1. They are not a discussion group or workers parliament.
2. They are a political tool prepared for the long term struggles and are first of all against the unification of the class for the sake of unification but rather act as a cornerstone pushed into the ranks of the working class to clearly mark the separation between the ‘workers left-wing’ and the ‘workers right-wing’ in order to attract the ‘workers centre’.
That is to say they are a first of all a moment of delimitation within the class itself in order to prepare the future assembly. It is well known and widely known that there are enemies of the workers ‘outside’ the working class: Bosses, political parties and, above all, the State. But workers uprisings have all been first defeated from within the ranks of the working class to be, secondly, slaughtered and repressed from the Russian revolution, the German revolution, the Spanish revolution and, closer to us, in 1968-1980 in Italy and Argentina. Unions, Stalinist parties (or, according to national differences, others such as the Peronist ones in Argentina) are strong opponents to workers emancipation (not to say Communism) are not alien to working class – they are counter revolutionary organs composed of workers who do not share the idea of revolution. This an important point to stress because we have no angelic vision of the working class.
Now the next step in the process is the association, merger of workers committees in regional then nationwide, then worldwide autonomous assemblies. This is not a territorial expansion but rather a progression from the particular to the general, from partial specificity to general concreteness in its full meaning of developed and defined reality in all its parts. A single committee can (even if it is unlikely) embody this concreteness contrary to a larger, broader national or international organization that can be, at that time, only an addition of partial specificities √ê for example, this is the case with the so-called class struggle unions.
The process to create these new broader proletarian bodies is for us a centralisation from bellow because it must come from the needs and the will of the workers committees and not be imposed form the top by whatever organizations. This process is obviously not straight forward but will be complex and not without conflict. Some committees, according to different understandings of their situation or their political links, may decide to separate at one moment to re-associate at another one. This process is neither a pre-defined plan nor the only way to do things. These examples are drawn from Italy in the ’70s:
1. the Autonomous assembly in the Venice area created in 1972 and surviving up to 1976, based on workers committees from the chemical industry (but not only), suburb-dwellers committees, neighbourhood committees, students committees,
2. the workers committees coordination in the Milan area from winter 1976 to summer 1977, that merged factory committees and neighbourhood committees.
But Assembly can be created in a different manner as also happened in Italy. An assembly (like the student-workers assembly in Turin from June to September 1969 or at the beginning of the one in Venice) is a kind of pre-Soviet but such an assembly either must go upwards towards a Soviet (if the course of things allows it) or it must disappeared. Also an Assembly is a step towards the unification of workers.
When we talk about centralization from bellow we have explained that this centralization comes from the necessity of worker struggles and of common actions against the same enemies. And ‘from below’ means clearly against a ‘top’ that will claim to lead the process. But we must not forget that centralization a word that clearly is opposed to federalism, i.e. an association of ‘free’ parts which never consider themselves as part of an assembly but as a ‘master in its own house’ jealous of its independence not understanding that this gives strength to the state and the bosses. Centralization is clearly a process, and an organization may at one moment, after free discussion, decide for this choice and not that one.
But as we have no religion of organization, it is possible at one moment to have two possible actions to perform and only the practice can be the ‘criterion of truth’. Every possibility must be examined, including the risk of questioning. This risk is necessary to progression, like an imbalance of the body is necessary for walking. Centralisation comes through the political unification of workers bodies.
The proletariat will have to attack the global and concentrated dimension of capitalist relationships along with their innumerable specific and individual variations. The scale of its organization is required to cover all the dimensions of modern social relationships. It is an organization able to strike according to plan at the most important nerve centres of the integrated capitalist system but also at its most peripheral and secondary derivations.
Proletarian organization is international and global. On one side, it is centralized not in its form but regarding its general political plan. On the other hand, proletarian organization is local, and draws its strength from the specificity of social relationships, of the diversity of productive and reproductive territories. It is even the immediate product of those specificities and of struggles that they triggered. There is no non-rooted proletarian organization.
Proletarian organization is born in factories, in offices, in neighbourhoods, in the countryside. It could not be any other way because it is an effective tool of struggles coming from factories, in offices, in neighbourhoods, in the countryside. Revolutionary organization is composed of proletarians and poor peasants whose consciousness of the necessity of social transformation asserts itself first in an inductive way, through confrontation with situations of real oppression and exploitation. The reflexive dimension, the theory of the necessity of social transformation, never lacking in fact, becomes the main item on the agenda when struggle is able to secrete a stable organization of the most determined proletarians, √íthe nucleus of the party√ì.
The constitution of the world proletariat’s political organization is not decreed. It is the consequence of a connection first, then political centralization around a plan made by proletarian political bodies produced by struggles. This process has nothing in common with the federalist ideal dear to anarchists, because the reason for being of proletarian organization is to concentrate forces from oppressed classes around a single plan for social war – a plan that does not forget to target the specificities of global capital domination but that hopes to supersede them in the general movement towards communism.
This movement wants to target capitalist social relationships as such, beyond the differences of its articulation. The kind of organization that we want looks like the First International. It is a structure where to some extent various sensitivities and various expressions (including contradictory ones) of the formalization of revolutionary consciousness live side by side united by a single tension and a centralized action plan.
MC/KpK December 10th 2012
Leaflet – Issued by a workers journal, Parivartan ki Disha, Nagpur
on Feb 12, 2013, Translated from Hindi
Make the nationwide general strike on 20, 21 February a success through your own initiatives!
Central Trade Unions have called for a countrywide general strike on 20-21 February. Workers from all central institutions and industries like Banking, Coal, Transportation, Postal, Shipping, Ordinance (Defense), Steel will observe this two-day all India level strike by organizing rallies against anti-worker policies of the government. Unions have demanded that the price-hikes should be controlled and concrete measures should be taken towards employment generation, contract workers should get wages and benefits equal to permanent workers, every citizen should get pension, and minimum wages should be at least Rs 10,000 per month. We support these demands of the unions and appeal to the workers and common masses to give the strike a massive support. However, we would like to underline the fact that there is an established opinion among union leaders and workers that a general strike of unionized workers in the organized sectors is enough to ensure a 100% success of the strike. But is this understanding correct? Without the participation of millions of unorganized workers (those who are not members of unions) in our struggle, in our movement and in our strikes, can our movement attain its aims and objectives? We the workers should give serious thoughts to this question.
The Call for a Strike and Today’s Situation
Last year on Feb 28 there was another one-day countrywide strike on the call of the unions. What did we achieve from that strike? There was a hope among union leadership that the strike would pressurize the government to agree to bring the unions to table to discuss their demands, but this hope proved to be false. Whether the government is that of UPA or of NDA, or of any party or alliance, Indian government itself is a big capitalist, an investor. Indian government is itself selling capital to foreign capitalists by taking it out from the public industries, for investing in other countries for more profit. In this situation, for unions to think that workers√ï interests would be protected if their mother parties form or join the government is very distant from the reality. Today throughout the globe the slowdown of capitalist production and distribution has plunged the system into a deep crisis because of its own contradictions. The efforts of the G-8 and G-20 countries to come out of this crisis have taken the forms of new economic policies, new labour policies that establish contract system, outsourcing, foreign investment, divestment, privatisation, multinationalisation etc. Capitalist governments everywhere are indulging in deception, fraudulent practices and measures in order to provide oxygen to their respective economies. In this situation, to differentiate between the American and Indian governments and support the latter is purely a bourgeois point of view. In the same manner to differentiate between foreign capital and national capital and take the side of national capital against foreign capital is anti-working class since the colour& character of both the foreign as well as national capital is same√ëto exploit workers in every possible way. On the contrary, we must adopt a working class position and advance on the basis of a long-term working class understanding. Today to say that the working class should follow the ideals of Gandhi, Vivekananda or other saints (as some unions have said this in their leaflets) will amount to a gross neglect of the specificities of the changed reality. Could anyone have imagined 100 years back that India would attain such a high level of production, which it has attained through the capitalist mode of production?
The need for a new approach to the question of Struggle, Movement and Organisation
What did we achieve from the 28 Feb 2012 strike? If nothing, then why not? How are we being deprived of even the minimum that we had? Are the tactics that we are adopting to regain them correct? What are the new means that need to be invented to attain our objectives? There is a growing need to give priority to a discussion on these questions.
Today, union leaders are formulating our demands and calling for strikes. When we formulate our own demands in a collective manner and take our own measures to attain them, then whether the strikes will be for one or two days or indefinite will not be decided beforehand. Then our struggle and movement will not be limited to slogan shouting at factory gates or street-corners. Then our struggle would generate a massive workers unity, long-term movements and revolutionary organisations. The beginning to ‘Take your own initiatives’ ‘be organised’ ‘implement on your own’ must be made at our own workplaces – we will have to start thinking of struggles and movements on the basis of our self-activities on the everyday questions.
False Unity, Real Unity
As long as we accept the present relationship between capital and labour, we will have to deal with the problems generated by their contradictions. More and more exploitation, attacks on workers to gain profits √ê all these are necessary for capital, they are its compulsions. Capitalist production process has itself arrived at its final stage. Worldwide depression, inflation, unemployment, outsourcing, contractualisation, increase in the amount of work, increase in the working hours, shutdown of the newer companies before they could attain their maximum capacity are all symptoms of a moribund capitalism. In order to save ourselves from destructive wars, to save environment, humanity and all other species it has become extremely necessary to remove this inhuman capitalist production system by establishing a collective production-distribution system or socialism that is based on associative collectivity of workers-producers √ê their control and management.
Present organisations and unions are associated with political parties who are entrenched within the capitalist parliamentary system. These organisations and unions do talk about workers but they are ever ready to establish secured positions for the leaders in the present society and within their own organisations – they reproduce the distance between leaders and general workers. The unity among today’s unions and organisations are enforced from above, and thus are unstable and illusory. On the other hand, struggles and movements initiated by workers themselves would generate workers organisations (factory committees, workers councils etc) promoting a true unity with a commitment towards revolutionary transformation. A strong, long-term unity is possible only on the initiatives of the workers themselves.
The need for a struggle based on the unity between permanent and temporary
The capitalist class in India has achieved two goals in the general interest of capital by implementing the new economic policy. By employing cheap contractual labour in place of permanent workers, they have, on the one hand, subsidised the production cost, and on the other, they have intensified intra-class competition and discrimination on the basis of permanent and temporary categories. Permanent workers look down upon temporary contract workers instead of recognising them as equals, thus fragmenting the workers unity. Hence, in order to intensify the struggle against their exploitation and oppression by capital through their own initiatives, establishment of a unity between permanent and temporary workers is extremely necessary. In this regard, permanent workers will have to take the initiative. In 2011-12, workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar led a heroic struggle on the basis of such unity between permanent and temporary workers and despite an intensive crackdown by the management, government and police on the workers after the July 18 incident the struggle is still on – on the basis of this unity.
Learning from the struggle of Maruti Suzuki workers, during the upcoming Feb 20-21 strike, let us build workers committees uniting workers across all segmentations and divisions – permanent-temporary, men-women etc. Let us build our struggle on our own initiatives on the principle of ‘Do not demand, but implement’, and continue it even after the strike! Only then we will be able to pressure the government and the capitalist class to concede. Only by a continuous struggle based on our own initiatives beyond any ritualistic confines can we make this two-day strike successful.
The quotes below are from Gurgaon lower-managers, their impressions from the general strike. Workers’ impressions will follow…
“Bandh gives bonding opportunities
The bandh was a relief from our hectic schedule. Since mine is a production company, whenever a strike is declared, my labourers are the first to participate. I’ve been living in Gurgaon for three years, but had never been to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, which is just 20km from my place. On Thursday, my colleagues and I took our bikes and went to the sanctuary, and spent the day there. Such bandhs give us the opportunity to enjoy together!” – Parth Sarthi, production manager, Maruti Suzuki, Manesar plant
“This bandh did what I couldn’t – give me a break. Main jab boss se poochta, he’d bring up some work. I almost let out a whoop of joy when we were called into the boss’ cabin to be told about this chhutti. Gurgaon doesn’t just have a work culture – it has a workaholic culture. But this was easy! And I stay in Delhi, I just work in Gurgaon. The first thing I did was call up my friends in Delhi and make them jealous. Then I sat back and watched TV.” – Vivek*, manager, software firm
“It is very funny, actually. Since many offices in Gurgaon have headquarters abroad, they get very scared about things like bandh and untoward incidents. The rest of Delhi did go to work, but we had a chhutti. It came as a last-minute circular the day before the bandh – that for their employees’ safety, they were closing the office. It was a surprise day off – I went shopping, and met a few friends.”
- Priya Phadnis, MNC employee
“I am not really punctual and reach late to work on most days. Ab kyunki Udyog Vihar mein office hai, you can always say traffic tha, late ho gaye. So on Thursday too, I was late and reached in during a meeting. I apologized to my manager, saying traffic mein phas gaya tha. Later, I got to know that many factories were shut because of the bandh and roads were almost clear with no traffic jams. It got really embarrassing.” -
Hemant Mehta, MNC employee
*** Towards a workers’ organisation, by GurgaonWorkersNews
French translation of the first part, published in GurgaonWorkersNews no.50, translated by Henri Simon
Vers une organisation ouvrière (1ère partie)
(Gurgaon Workers News, mai 2012)
Dans ce numéro et dans le suivant de Gurgaon Workers News, nous voulons débattre de la question d’une « organisation ouvrière » : comment les organismes ouvriers de base formés dans les luttes quotidiennes se relient aux coordinations »politiques » de travailleurs, dans une continuité avec la lutte contre les relations sociales existantes.
Ce débat doit être basé sur une analyse sérieuse :
a) du courant présent des expériences ouvrières de lutte et de la problématique et des tendances prometteuses qu’elles révèlent
b) de la relation entre une lutte particulière et les conditions générales du cycle capitaliste
c) de la composition changeante de la force de travail et du rapport entre les ouvriers et le présent procès social de production – comme base matérielle de l’auto organisation.
Cette première partie traite des thèses politiques générales concernant la question des organisations ouvrières et, en rapport avec cette question, nous présentons six rapports plus longs sur les luttes récentes dans les zones industrielles de Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad. La seconde partie mettra l’accent sur les développements sur Maruti Suzuki et ses réseaux d’approvisionnement en relation avec la recomposition de la collectivité ouvrière après la lutte de 2011. Avec cet arrière plan nous soulèverons les questions générales sur les relations entre les organisations ouvrières et l’enquête ouvrière. S’il vous plait, contribuez à ce débat
***Points cruciaux pour le débat sur l »organisation ouvrière :
Les approches d’une organisation ouvrière sont basées sur des hypothèses politiques, l’une d’elles étant que la distinction entre « luttes syndicales » et « lutte de parti », dans la lutte « économique » et « politique » est devenue un écueil.
***Une répétition inutile : la lutte à Harsoria Healthcare, Gurgaon : le 24 avril 2012, les travailleurs de Harsoria Healthcare, un fabricant de canules et de cathéters ont entame une grève sur le tas qui s’est terminée une fois de plus dans l’impasse d’une protestation légale toute symbolique.
***Le lockout du sous traitant Senior Flexonics, Manesar : les travailleurs de la multinationale Senior Flexonics à Manesar font enregistrer un syndicat et veulent le faire reconnaître dans l’usine. Ils sont lockoutés du début janvier à fin février 2012-06-11
***Emeutes à Gurgaon sur les sites d’Orient Craft et Larsen and Tubro Construction : le 19 mars les travailleurs de l’usine de confection Orient Craft se soulèvent après qu’un des travailleurs eut été attaqué par un cadre. Le 23 mars les travailleurs du bâtiment attaquent les locaux de la firme après le décès d’un des leurs dans un accident du travail.
***Lakhani Vardan Samuh à Faridabad : de décembre 2011 à avril 2012, les travailleurs de Lakhami mènent des lutes sous différentes formes concernant le retard dans le paiement des salaires, depuis des actions directes dans l’usine jusqu’à des grèves sauvages à des blocages de rues et des manifestations devant les bâtiments officiels.
*** Troubles à l’usine Theme Export Garment à Okhla : avec succès les travailleurs de la confection à Okhla mènent des actions le 16 avril pour retard dans le paiement des salaires , actions qui attirent des travailleurs des usines environnantes et des cités ouvrières alentour
*** Ce que révèle la lute potentielle à Globe Capacitor, Faridabad. En avril 2012 les travailleurs ont mené diverses actions collectives planifiées pour obtenir des augmentations de salaires qui ont contraint les employeurs à certaines concessions ; cette lutte a influencé les travailleurs des sous-traitants et ceux des usines du voisinage.
***Un appel pour que les travailleurs de Delhi soient impliqués dans le Faridabad Majdor Talmel : pour l’abolition du travail global, la lutte doit être plus qu’un travail d’information. Si vous vivez dans la zone de Delhi, vous être bienvenus de prendre part au Faridabad Majdoor Talmel, une coordination ouvrière. Nous avons distribué 10 000 tracts de Faridabad Majdoor Samachar pendant 10 jours chaque mois dans diverses zones industrielles autour de Delhi et essayé d’organiser des réunions locales de travailleurs.
*** Points essentiels du débat sur les coordinations ouvrières. : Nous présentons d’abord des considérations générales sur la question des organisations ouvrières. Nous examinerons ensuite les rapports sur les luttes présentes dans la zone industrielle de Delhi et formulerons les conclusions préliminaires concernant la question de l’organisation. Nous tracerons finalement les avances concrètes vers une organisation ouvrière dans les conditions présentes.
1) Sur les organisations ouvrières, considérations générales
2) Sur les lutes actuelles
3) Sur les tâches concrètes et les premiers pas.
1) Sur les organisations ouvrières, considérations générales
La proposition pour une organisation ouvrière est basée sur des hypothèses politiques – l’une d’entre elles étant que la distinction classique entre « lutte syndicale » et « lutte de parti », entre luttes « économique » et »politique » qui prévaut encore parmi nous st devenue un écueil. Cette perspective « parti/syndicat » autorise une participation « tactique » dans le travail « syndical » institutionnel en dépit des résultats problématiques évidents pour le développement d’un pouvoir ouvrier collectif. Les impasses évidentes du travail syndical « institutionnel » peuvent être justifiées comme un problème relevant des « premiers stades des luttes ouvrières » problème qui serait résolu par les partis politiques dans une seconde étape.
La perspective « syndicat/parti » nous permet aussi de laisser de côté une analyse plus profonde des conditions matérielles et des tendances internes des lutes ouvrières, analyse qui serait nécessaire pour expliquer les limitations habituelles de cette perspective. Au lieu de telles analyses, ces limitations sont « expliquées » en affirmant que les luttes ne sont « qu’économiques » et manquent « d’une conscience politique et d’une direction ». Ce sont des explications tautologiques qui visent à donner un crédit définitif à son propre « rôle et position extérieur à l’égard de la lutte ouvrière. Elles ne sont guère utiles en vue du développement d’un pouvoir ouvrier collectif en tant qu’appels généraux pour l’unité ouvrière. L’unité des travailleurs n’est pas une question de « cartel d’organisations » mais apparaît seulement dans la lutte de la nature contradictoire du procès de production capitaliste, qui en même temps assemble et divise les travailleurs. Les travailleurs doivent trouver les formes d’organisation qui matériellement mine le segmentation imposée par le procès de production – ils ne peuvent seulement agir et « généraliser de l’extérieur »
Les thèses qui suivent ne disent rien de nouveau, elles ne visent qu’à résumer une position générale avec en arrière plan le débat sur les luttes actuelles et les tâches futures – principalement avec des camarades et amis des organisations marxistes-léninistes, actives dans les zones industrielles régionales.
b) composition de classe et mouvement de classe
La forme de la production sociale détermine la forme de la lutte sociale et la vision d’une « alternative sociale ». Quoique cela soit généralement admis, la plupart de propositions politiques du genre « comment organiser » et la plupart des « programmes communistes »sont plutôt a-historiques ou reliées au siècle dernier. La production sociale capitaliste change rapidement, les centres régionaux, les secteurs industriels dominants et les « figures ouvrières » sont transformées avec chaque cycle. Dans ce processus, « la classe ouvrière » change, nous devons parler d’une composition de classe spécifique à chaque cycle spécifique. La « composition technique de classe » en tant que forme dominant historiquement le procès social de production contient le procès et le potentiel de la « composition politique de classe », la forme du mouvement de classe (1)
Par « composition technique » nous parlons de la forme présente historique de la manière dont les travailleurs coopèrent dans le procès de division du travail influencé et modelé par les différents niveaux de développement par les machines ; comment le procès de production immédiat se rattache au procès plus large de (re)production et les formes et niveaux de consommation ; comment les compétences formelles individuelles se rattachent aux compétences sociales plus étendues nécessaires pour accomplir le travail ; comment les différentes catégories et sections de travailleurs sont assemblées et sont segmentées ; comment les conflit de classe est dévié institutionnellement et culturellement.
Par « composition politique » nous parlons du processus par lequel la « classe ouvrière » et « l’unité ouvrière » se forme réellement dans les conditions matérielles et les expériences des luttes : la forme concrète de l’organisation de lutte que les travailleurs développent est basée sur la nature collective du procès de production capitaliste, dépassant sa nature segmentaire ; les revendications concrètes et une critique sociale plus large qui surgit des conditions concrètes et des « aspirations de productivité » – une relation historique spécifique entre le travail vivant et le travail mort, la forme de la manière dont les lutes particulières se rattachent les unes aux autres et deviennent un mouvement général à cause de la dimension sociale de la production et les conditions générales dans un cycle capitaliste ; comment cette généralisation tend à se produire dans les luttes dans les industries centrales qui peuvent exprimer un stade avancé du conflit entre le capital et les travailleurs ; basé sur cette relation entre les secteurs centraux et la société au sens large, des formes spéciales d’organisations « économiques et politiques » ( conseils, assemblées) du mouvement de classe sont formées et peuvent exprimer une « alternative sociale » spécifique, un communisme historique spécifique.
c) Composition de classe et périodisation
Bien que la périodisation historique présente un certain danger de devenir schématique, nous pouvons constater que, par exemple le cycle de transformation du travail agricole et de la petite paysannerie en travail industriel urbain correspond à la formation des « partis communistes » comme organisations de liaisons (2), l’étape plus récente du travail industriel qualifié donna naissance aux organisations ouvrières « conseillistes » et « syndicalistes révolutionnaires » et la période des industries « fordistes » à grande échelle qui étaient plus intégrées dans la société générales amenèrent les formes organisationnelles des » ouvriers masse » comme les assemblées générales et de plus larges coordinations politiques avec une « vision communiste » totalement différente de perspectives antérieures d’autogestion (3)
En ce sens, les « potentiels révolutionnaires » des lutes et des mouvements sont inscrits dans le présent procès de production sociale. Les activités « communistes » doivent se relier aux « fossés » entre les potentiels sociaux matériels donnés et les luttes concrètes présentes. _ last but not least en se référant aux expériences dans d’autres régions ou d’un passé récent. Le challenge, de toute évidence repose dans le fait que la « composition technique » est en mutation constante et qu’une relation dynamique existe entre la composition technique et la composition politique. L’écrasante rapidité et la dimension spatiale de ces mutations explique en partie le retrait gauchiste vers des « modèles fixes organisationnels », depuis les « partis » jusqu’au « syndicalisme ». Ce que nous avons à proposer à la classe ouvrière aujourd’hui n’est que le poids mort du temps passé.
d) composition de classe et capitaliste développement
Les formes de pouvoir collectif que les travailleurs développent basé sur leur position dans le procès de production est constamment miné par les tentatives du capital de « décomposer » : sous-traitance, démantèlement, introduction de nouvelles technologies et de nouvelles méthodes de production requérant de nouvelles qualifications, délocalisation dans d’autres régions du globe, introduction de nouvelles catégories de travailleurs avec différents statuts, etc.… Le caractère dynamique du capitalisme et du « développement » en général ne s’explique pas seulement par les « forces du marché » ou « un appétit abstrait pour les superprofits » que par cette relation dynamique entre la lutte et les changements dans la production qui y répondent. Le capitalisme endigue les conflits de classe par des bonds dans son développement. Cela implique que la « décomposition (la segmentation de la classe ouvrière dans le procès de production) est faite d’une manière qui la recompose à un niveau plus élevé de productivité sociale. Le capitalisme n’est pas simplement « isolant » les travailleurs en réponse à leurs « efforts unis », il les isole dans des formes spécifiques de socialisation.
c) Contradictions économico – politiques de la coopération productive
Le capital est contraint d’accumuler, moins à cause de sa « composition interne » mais pour être capable de répondre aux luttes ouvrières en élevant le niveau de consommation alors que dans le même temps il augmente leur exploitation. Dans le but de « décomposer » les places fortes ouvrières et de recomposer le travail social à un niveau plus élevé, le coût général des machines s’accroît. Cet usage accru des machines et de sa part croissante dans les coûts totaux de production exprime la manière dont le capital cherche à contenir la lutte de classe. En ceci, nous trouvons la contradiction « économique » et « politique » associée au procès de production. , sous les yeux mêmes des travailleurs et faisant partie de leur expérience : d’un point de vue « économique » une coopération étroite et pacifique entre travailleurs est nécessaire en vue d’accroître la productivité sociale. Dans des relations de classe données la « proximité » productive du producteur social constitue un « danger politique ».En dépit du fait que cela entrave la productivité sociale, ce dont chaque travailleur est bien conscient, le capital doit segmenter le procès de production « politiquement », que ce soit dans la division immédiate du travail, division entre le travail manuel et intellectuel,, entre secteurs, entre régions, entre différentes sphères de production et reproduction, entre régions développées et sous-développées, entre secteur public et secteur privé, et entre nations. C’est la sphère de la théorie communiste de comprendre et de révéler les « formes politiques systémiques » basées sur l’expérience directe des travailleurs.
La « segmentation politique » du procès de production sociale n’est pas seulement une question de contrôle et de domination sur la classe ouvrière. Elle est aussi une exigence politique pour le capital en vue d’obtenir sa principale légitimation sociale et « fétiche » ; d’être vu comme une pré condition de la production sociale. Le capital rassemble les travailleurs individuels dans le procès de production industriel qui ne peut être mis en mouvement sans que les travailleurs soient rassemblés. Le rassemblement se produit « sous le capital », la productivité sociale qui en résulte paraît être celle du capital. La classe ouvrière reste séparée à la fois du produit et des mayens de production à travers la nature « séparée » » du procès de production lui-même : la forme matérielle de la production (division du travail, technologie capitaliste) éloigne les travailleurs individuels de leur nature collective et par suite de leur produit. C’est la base des relations capitaliste de classe. Le fait que des millions de nouvelles connections dans la production globale soient établies seulement « dans le capital » est la principale colonne vertébrale de l’exploitation. Ce qui semble être une habile tactique de diviser pour régner – les divisions politiques dans la production – crée des milliers de hoquets dans le procès de production, des milliers de problèmes et de défauts de coordination. Que les choses fonctionne sans heurts en dépit de toutes les barrières ainsi imposées dépend largement des travailleurs (improvisation, créativité, dépassement des problèmes) qui, individuellement peuvent percevoir des problèmes comme des problèmes de « mauvaise gestion ». En cela, de nouveau, les organisations ouvrières doivent en révéler la nature systémique.
Ce « fétichisme du capital » (le capital comme pré condition de la production) ne peut être combattu qu’en révélant la dimension sociale et politique du procès de production, – en l’interrompant dans la lutte. Pour obtenir même les « victoires » les plus mineures et des gains économiques, les travailleurs de plus en plus sont contraints d’aller au-delà du niveau immédiat. Si le cours quotidien de la chaîne globale d’approvisionnement commence à faiblir parce que les travailleurs d’un des maillons interrompent le flot de la production, cela nous donne un espace pour créer des relations directes. Les activités communistes doivent se référer à « l’existence pratique » du « travailleur collectif », la totalité de la coopération nécessaire pour produire, la force vivante antagoniste dans la relation capitaliste de production. Le « travailleur collectif » est le point de référence nécessaire pour conquérir du pouvoir dans toute lutte pour des revendications immédiates et la base matérielle pour une transformation sociale radicale à une échelle mondiale. En ce sens, le « travailleur collectif » est un concept plus historique, matériel et dynamique pour analyser le procès entre les luttes particulières et le potentiel de changement que la notion de « classe en elle-même et pour elle-même » qui laisse un fossé dans la transformation, généralement rempli avec de vagues considérations sur la conscience de classe.
f) Généralisation et cycle du capital : boom et crise
Il n’y a eu que peu de débats historiques sur la relation entre lutte de classe, changement dans le système de production et grand cycles capitaliste en termes de « boom et crise » (4). Les débats ont évolué séparément sur cycles production et technologique d’une part et cycles « d’expansion » et financiarisation d’autre part. La question que les travailleurs doivent affronter boom ou crise, en partie exprimé dans les conditions sur le marché du travail, implique évidemment la question de savoir comment ils peuvent lutter, comment leurs luttes peuvent se généraliser et pose la question d’une alternative sociale. Les questions sur le système apparaissent principalement quand la classe ouvrière garde encore le pouvoir structurel et les aspirations d’une période « d’expansion », ce qui ouvre aussi un espace pour une large critique de « la forme aliénante et despotique » de l’expansion, mais doit faire face à une crise qui détruit les espoirs pour « un meilleur futur », en dépit des potentiels encore flagrants de la productivité sociale. La période entre 1968 et 1977 en est un exemple, on se trouve aujourd’hui devant une situation similaire mais à une échelle plus globale.
Avec la présente crise globale il devient de plus en plus difficile pour le capital de prétendre qu’il est une pré condition et coordinateur de la production : la coopération capitaliste sociale productive doit passer par les canaux fragiles des compagnies, des marchés, de l’argent. Dans les conditions de crise, la coopération de déchire, les petits maillons de la chaîne se brisent, des millions sont rejetés dans le chômage, des millions sont contraints de travailler jusqu’à épuisement total. « Les managers » sont supposés être responsables de la « coordination » dans la coopération de milliards d’êtres mais ils sont de plus en plus englués dans les « petits maillons de la chaîne » qu’elle soit sectorielle ou régionale. La seule réponse à la crise – renflouement accompagné de l’austérité- ne fait que l’aggraver.
Les gestionnaires du capital tentent de renforcer l’austérité à l’encontre des potentiels évidents pour l’abondance. Ils peuvent seulement y réussir pour autant qu’ils peuvent séparer l’expérience sociale de travail surproductif de la pauvreté du sous-emploi. Evidemment cette séparation ne prend pas la forme pure d’une « classe ouvrière employée » d’un côté et d’un « prolétariat appauvri » de l’autre. La séparation apparaît dans les différentes variantes du développement et du sous-développement, de l’emploi des hautes technologies et de l’intensification du travail, d’appauvrissements régionaux et de centres prospères, d’ouvriers respectables et de lumpen prolétariat, d’embauches et de licenciements. La séparation apparaîtra aussi avec toutes les colorations ethniques imaginables. Avec la disparition des anciennes classes remparts du système, avec la mort sociale de la paysannerie et des artisans dans le Sud global, la disparition de la classe moyenne petite bourgeoise de professionnels instruits indépendants, le capital ne peut que se reposer sur lui-même. Alors que par essence il est le coordinateur violent du travail social – globalisation, chaîne internationaux sous-traitants –dans cette crise, le capital doit plus que jamais à cacher et segmenter le caractère global et la coopération sociale d’une classe ouvrière globale émergente. Dans les tentatives de segmenter et de recombiner, le capital devient un fardeau pour la coopération sociale. Il l’a à sa façon. Il s’ensuit que le challenge pour les communistes ouvriers est de souligner la « séparation politique » du développement (productivité sociale) et sous-développement (pauvreté), le potentiel de l’abondance en regard de la misère noire. Dans ce but, nous devrons reconsidérer les veilles conceptions utilisées pour décrire les relations entre le centre et la périphérie, c’est-à-dire les concepts « d’impérialisme », de Tiers-monde, etc…qui paraissent émoussés pour analyser l’émergente composition globale de classe.
g) La question syndicale
Avec comme arrière plan du processus de « décomposition et recomposition de casse », nous pouvons aisément voir que le problème avec la lute syndicale n’est pas simplement celui de sa « forme bureaucratique antidémocratique » ou des limites des « revendications économiques ». Le cadre formel et légal de l’organisation syndicale n’autorise pas les travailleurs à s’organiser aux mêmes niveaux et portées car le capital tente à la fois de composer avec eux et de les désorganiser. Alors que les compagnies modernes rassemblent les travailleurs au-delà des limites de catégories, compagnies, secteurs, frontières nationales, les syndicats ne peuvent ni refléter la portée ni la rapidité des changements. De plus, ils doivent s conformer aux formes de lutte légalement prescrites lesquelles, par définition doivent contraindre les travailleurs à rester sur le terrain de jeux de l’Etat et du capital. Il ne devrait pas y avoir beaucoup de désaccord entre les communistes sur ces questions.
Les désaccords concernent plutôt la question des la relation entre lutte « économique » et lutte « politique », entre « lutte syndicale » et « organisation politique ou parti » (5) Sans entrer dans des détails on doit constater que la position qui perçoit la lutte « politique » et la lutte « économique » de la classe ouvrière comme deux étapes distinctes – dons le « parti » comme une sorte de complément politique des syndicats – tire son origine d’un stade historique spécifique dans le développement des relations capitaliste : un stade antérieur. La conception léniniste traditionnelle est basée sur les conditions sociales alors que la production industrielle et la classe ouvrière étaient encore marginales, alors que l’Etat n’était pas essentiellement impliqué dans les relations industrielles, alors qu’il existait encore un fossé important entre l’usine et une large reproduction sociale ( école, sciences), alors que le procès de reproduction immédiat pouvait être vu comme relevant principalement de la sphère économique avec peu de connexion avec le reste de la société et des la « politique »
Depuis Lénine, avec le développement d’un « Etat planifie » ( industrie d’Etat, intervention directe dans la planification industrielle et les relations de travail, etc..) comme l’extension de la planification de l’usine à la société, avec l’extension des formes industrielles « scientifiques » de la production dans toutes les sphères de la vie sociale et avec la classe ouvrière devenant la majorité sociale, la question de ce qui est « économique » dans le procès social d e production et ce qui est « politique » a évidemment changé. Avec ces changements le rôle institutionnel des syndicats s’est transformé radicalement. D’une « école »pour les travailleurs dans semblant de processus graduel vers une « conscience politique », ils ont été réduits à des institutions qui – confrontés à la vaste extension du procès social de production – sont légalement et formellement confinés dans une sphère sociale très étroite. Leur principale influence est basée sur la nécessité pour le capital de contrôler le développement salaire-productivité. Dans ces conditions, maintenir la notion classique d’une distinction plutôt schématique entre lutes économiques et politiques ne peut avoir que des résultats négatifs.
h) des luttes ouvrières à la transformation sociale
Le modèle en deux étapes de « formations syndicales » et « parti politique » fait qu’il rend impossible la découverte des « contradictions révolutionnaires » dans la coopération sociale productive. Il disperse plutôt qu’il élève vers un niveau élevé de conscience : limités dans le cadre syndical, les travailleurs ne seront pas capables de généraliser leurs luttes selon les tendances de leurs relations déjà existantes dans la production et « la globalisation politique » par l’intermédiaire du parti, dans la plupart des cas sera détachée de la production social, orientée vers la « sphère politique » (campagnes, mobilisations, etc.)
La généralisation dont la production sociale elle-même est la principale pré condition matériellement, mine la segmentation et le « fétichisme du capital »’ le capital comme organisateur de la société). C’est la « lutte économique »à travers laquelle les travailleurs ont à découvrir la véritable nature de la production capitaliste – le contenu de classe de la science, de la technologie, des institutions. Le processus de masse de la découverte ne peut être contourné, la généralisation ne peut être court-circuitée par les différents canaux que la politique bourgeoise peut offrit, du syndicalisme au parlementarisme, des politiques identitaires au régionalisme ou au nationalisme.
Le mouvement de classe devra développer une organisation selon les orientations des connexions globales productives et changer matériellement ces connexions : dans ses stages intensifs, la lutte de classe aura simultanément à créer les (pré)conditions pour la « production du communisme ». Les luttes ouvrières non seulement « attaquerons le capital et l’Etat » mais entraîneront le retrait du travail social – les grèves interrompront la reproduction sociale pour un degré existentiel et par suite contraindront le mouvement de classe à réorganiser la production et la circulation tout en combattant. A ce stage, de la lutte de classe, nous devrons pouvoir découvrir non seulement collent le travail social est globalement intégré, mais aussi que la plus grande partie du travail social sous le capitalisme est superflu – personne ne se plaindra sur l’absence d’un travail de recherche pour le marché ou les sous-traitants de Tata Nanos. Une masse énorme d’énergie et de créativité humaine sera libérée. En même temps, me mouvement de classe devra affronter la question : comment réorganiser la production sous une forme qui non seulement garantira réellement la subsistance mais aussi étendra « l’auto organisation de la lutte » en auto organisation de la production sociale, l’abolition de la division hiérarchique du travail et du développement inégal. La révolution n’est pas seulement un acte de « destruction/prise du pouvoir » mais de révolutionner les relations sociales, de se débarrasser de la contradiction entre l’individuel et le social en transformant matériellement la manière dont nous (re)produisons notre existence sociale. En ce sens, il est seulement logique que la perspective « syndicat/parti » sépare la « révolution » de la « production du communisme » et voit le communisme plutôt comme une « politique » qui peut être introduite.
La conception léniniste de la lute du « syndicat » et du parti était basée sur une société moins développée industrielle/agricole. L’expression pratique de cette notion s’est révélée quand le nouvel Etat (bolchevique) démantela les soviets, les organisations économico politique ouvrières, dans les premières années qui suivirent la Révolution Russe (6). La « Nouvelle Politique économique » (industrialisation fordiste avec des incitations du marché) requit à ce moment d’imposer « un régime strict centralisé dans les usines et dans la société ». On peut discuter sur la « nécessité historique » de cette politique, c’est-à-dire de la nécessité historique d’apaiser la classe moyenne paysanne émergente ou de maintenir une armée sur pied de guerre, le fait est qu’en vue d’imposer ce régime, le nouvel Etat contraignit les travailleurs à abandonner leur pouvoir économico politique que représentait le pouvoir des soviets. Le nouvel Etat réintroduisit une séparation : les travailleurs étaient supposés se tourner vers les « syndicats » pour leurs « besoins économiques » et vers le « parti » pour la direction politique. De cette façon, le pouvoir collectif productif des travailleurs était sapé et la force menant la révolution éliminée.
i) Les tâches et la continuité d’une organisation ouvrière.
Avec tout ceci en arrière-plan, nous estimons qu’il y a une continuité entre les organisations « économico – politique » d’aujourd’hui depuis les plus petit niveau de la base dans les zones industrielles – et ce futur des organisations » économico – politique » dans une révolution communiste. (7) Dans une société capitaliste moderne il ne peut pas y avoir de fossé conceptuel organisationnel entre les formes embryonnaires et développées. Les organisations ouvrières doivent trouver les réponses pratiques collectives à travers les luttes ouvrières quotidiennes d’une manière qui laisse qui garde toujours ouverte la possibilité d’une expansion et d’une généralisation – vers les « travailleur collectif ». Les pas vers une coordination collective doivent être capable de « donner quelque ouverture » aux travailleurs ici et maintenant en les aidant à gagner des « victoires » concrètes , en se référant en même temps organisationnellement et conceptuellement à la nécessité de la révolution sociale.. Ils doivent utiliser la petite dimension de « l’anticipation » (la question de quelles formes de lutte et de revendication peut à catalyser et à généraliser les luttes dans un temps et un espace concrets) basée sur la connaissance des luttes en cours et de leur position dans l’ensemble de la production sociale. Ces organisations doivent utiliser la dimension globale des luttes en cours et construire des liens internationaux qui survivent au flux et reflux des luttes particulières et peuvent conduire à une véritable perspective globale et une pratique organisée. Les organisations ouvrières en ce sens ne sont pas les « organisations avec lesquelles la classe ouvrière lutte », elles sont plutôt les organisations qui soutiennent les tendances à l’auto organisation et à l’émancipation dans les luttes comme elles surviennent.
Dans les pages suivantes, nous tenterons aux questions soulevées ci-dessus quant aux luttes régionales en cours et nous formulerons alors des « propositions concrètes » sur les avancées vers une organisation ouvrière.
1) Pour un débat historique sur ces concepts voir :
2)Loren Goldner discute cette thèse concernant la relation générale entre développement capitaliste et révolution agraire
3) Deux textes essentiels sur le changement dans la composition de classe et les formes changeantes du « mouvement communiste
4) une des quelques tentatives entre prise dans « Forces of Labor » par Beverly Silver
5) Texte essentiel du Mouvement Communiste sur la « question syndicale »
6) Sur la relation entre l’Etat « bolchevik » et les soviets ouvriers
7) L’expérience des coordinations ouvrières en Italie dans les années 60-70 illustre le caractère « économico-politique” et la cohésion entre la lutte directe et l’organisation révolutionnaire
February 16, 2013
“Vast expanses of absolutely nothing” –
Gurgaon, Urbanisation and its Systemic Disasters
* Description of Class Composition of Urbanisation in Gurgaon
* Land Appropriation and the Anti-Corruption Movement in Gurgaon / Haryana
* Slum Demolition
* Water Wars
* Energy Crunch and Report by Casualised Energy Workers
* NH8 – Highway to Hell
* Affordable Housing Swindle
* Private Developers, Local Authorities and Gated ‘Civil Society’: Re-Making of the Local State
* Urban Anonymity and Patriarchal Brutalisation
* No Conclusions
/// Material on Chakkarpur – A Village in the Heart of Gurgaon
* Excerpt from “The Maruti Story – How a public sector company put India on wheels” on Chakkarpur Housing project
* Excerpt from “Fragmented citizenships in Gurgaon: An urban zone of exception”
For the February 2013 issue of GurgaonWorkersNews we summarised material on the urbanisation process in Gurgaon. Gurgaon’s population has grown from a few thousand to more than 1.5 million in 30 years. In previous newsletters you can find reports on different proletarian areas in and around Gurgaon, which express different stages or segments of urbanisation. We visited Mandkaula , a village in the rural hinterland of Haryana, which became a labour reservoir, supplying the first peasant-workers for Faridabad’s industry in the 1970s and 1980s. We described the situation in Chakkarpur , an old village now situated in the centre of Gurgaon, where former peasantry and migrant service proletarians live next to each other. We wrote about life in Kapashera , one of Delhi’s biggest new informal labour colonies, where 200,000 garment workers live in dormitories built by local ‘former peasantry’. Finally we published a short report on Aliyar , a small village situated next to the Maruti Suzuki plant in Industrial Model Town Manesar, where thousands of mainly automobile workers live in rented accommodation. We summarised general material on Gurgaon’s urbanisation in various issues of GurgaonWorkersNews – feel free to re-read. 
The first part of this newsletter is formed by a critique of reformist views on capitalist urbanisation. Most reformist positions complain about the ‘private character’ of development, which neglects ‘public infrastructure’ and demand a more democratic urban planning. This perspective neglects the class character of urbanisation. Consequently we start our critique with some short points about the systemically contradictory process of urbanisation, we then describe the class composition and stratification of urban development in Gurgaon. We finally summarise some of the expressions of urban crisis and raise some questions about ‘working class struggle’ within the urban space.
In the second part you can find old and new material on the development of Chakkarpur, which can be read as an addition to our previous report on this ‘urban village’. In his auto-biography, Maruti Suzuki’s leading manager R.C. Bhargava describes the industrial conflict with the Maruti workers union in the early 1980s around the question of workers’ corporate housing. It is revealing that Maruti early on tried to use the ‘housing question’ as a way to privatise the space outside the factory gates and as a means of integration on the inside: instead of a company housing scheme, legally obligatory for every public sector company, Maruti asked their workers to form a housing cooperation and become house owners. Thanks to the real estate boom in Gurgaon from the late 1980s onwards, certain segments of permanent Maruti workers actually ‘profited’ from their private ownership and became landlords, a process which had its parallel e.g. in the neo-liberal Thatcherite housing politics in the UK.  Ironically enough, a decade later the liquid force of the ‘neoliberal regime’ made over 2,000 permanent Maruti workers redundant and replaced them with casualised temporary workers. The passage from Bhargava’s text is followed by a paragraph from a dissertation “Fragmented citizenships in Gurgaon: An urban zone of exception”, describing the conflicts between Chakkarpur’s ‘local population’ and the process of urbanisation and commercialisation around them.
Urbanisation is a historically specific process: the separation of town and countryside under capitalism. Urban areas grow due to disappropriation of the means of subsistence of the rural population and subsequent increase in rural poverty; and due to the concentration process of industry and the labour market. The war-type situation of the partition in 1947 and the exodus after 1971 increased Delhi’s population, but since then Delhi and its satellite towns (Gurgaon, NOIDA, Faridabad, Gaziabad) mainly grew with the attraction of migrant workers into urban (industrial) employment. Compared to other mega-cities, the Delhi area is an ‘industrial melting pot’ rather than being merely an informal container of rural misery. Gurgaon’s urbanisation was closely linked to the building of the Maruti Suzuki car plant : Gandhi’s idea of developing an Indian version of a ‘Volkswagen’ mirrored the German developmental ideology of a sanatised people: the industrial project, the expulsion of slum dwellers from Delhi and other urban centres, and the sterilisation campaign targeting the urban and rural poor went hand in hand.
On the wider social level ‘urbanisation’ itself is an expression of class stratification. Leaving the countryside is enforced by impoverishment, and it is a claim: people starve in the countryside, rarely in towns, given the different power-situation of a concentrated proletariat. Urban planning therefore is the management of social crisis and struggle. India’s celebrated architect Charles Correa recently expressed this conjuncture between ‘urban planning’ and control of the proletariat from the perspective of the ‘neutral’ professional: “Migrants must be diverted away from the main cities to second or third-tier towns where planners have an opportunity to anticipate the changes ahead and build better public transport for instance.” “They come to the cities for jobs. If you can find ways to employ more people in the villages, that’s wonderful, but if they are coming for jobs they don’t have to come to Delhi and Bombay.” 
With the urban concentration process the segmentation of ‘rich and poor’ creates constant tension and need for social control. This is one of the systemic pillars which leaves little scope for ‘democratic urban planning’. The other pillar is constituted by the fact that urban development has to obey the commodity form. The budget and foreign debt crisis of the state in India in 1991 pushed urban development like in Gurgaon seemingly into ‘private hands’: the state co-managed ‘private funds’ of global over-accumulation by trying to mould a real estate bubble into a urban landscape. Urban development expands and contracts with the boom and crisis cycle of the real estate commodities and the price of credit money – see previous articles on real estate crisis in Gurgaon. 
The ‘urban form’ itself – not merely the conflict between rich and poor and the instability of the commodity form of land and buildings – contradicts any ‘collective and conscious determination of life’. The separation from ‘the rural’ (agriculture), the subsequent increase in the need for transport and energy production and the higher concentration of population enforce a disciplining/labour regime which reproduces hierarchies, not least between generations and differently-abled human beings. All this has to be kept in mind as a ‘systemic framework’ when we now look at the different class segments which constitute the urbanisation process in Gurgaon: the ‘agents’ of urbanisation are not in control of the underlying and determining social process – something very difficult to understand for bourgeois thinking.
* The State
The main violent organised force of urbanisation is the state. In Gurgaon state organisations like Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructural Development Corporation (HSIIDC)  and Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA)  are the main enforcing and mediating bodies between ‘private interests’ and land. The state materially depends on land sale and tax revenue.
* The Industrial Management
In industrial regions like Gurgaon, the bigger industrial capital and their formal associations like ASSOCHAM  have a major influence in the urbanisation process. The first stage of transformation of land into a commodity is legally frame-worked by the ‘Land Acquisition Act’ for industrial projects.
* The Real Estate Management
Once industrial capital and state have formalised the transformation of land into commodity, real estate developers become the agents and profiteers of the speculation on this ‘rare commodity’. ‘Private’ companies like DLF  ‘developed’ large areas of Gurgaon for middle-class residents and corporate office-space and own large areas as ‘land-banks’ – DLF still owns between 3,000 and 4,000 acres of undeveloped land in Gurgaon.
* The Political Class
The political class in the form of political parties functions as a buffer zone and sensory element between state apparatus, capital, landed class and ‘population’. Protests against land acquisition or slum demolition are largely translated into ‘legal or electoral questions’ by the transmission belt of the party system.
* The Landed Class
As commodity owners, the ‘landed class’ and local peasantry first turn into a lobby group of ‘sellers’, be it vis-a-vis the state or the private developers. They often have the local state structure, the ‘village council’ (Panchayat) as a representative. Their ‘united front’ dissolves quickly, given the differences in amount of land owned and subsequent diversification as ‘capital owners’. Some manage to become land speculators, others land lords, others small business men and many turn into proletarians – see report on Aliyar.
* The Local Population and Petty Bourgeoisie
Overlapping with the ‘landed class’ is the category of ‘local population’ in a region whose population mainly consists of migrant workers. ‘Local’ might mean ownership over shops and houses and/or a network of remaining ‘village community’ and political affiliations. They are the main actors when it comes to ‘water or electricity’ protests – see previous articles on road blockades.  They also form the back-bone of the emerging ‘anti-corruption’ movement in Gurgaon and wider Haryana.
* The Squeezed Middle-Class and ‘Civil Society’
Parallel to the ‘petty bourgeoisie’ of the local population there is a formation process of the ‘squeezed middle-class’, e.g. residents of private development projects and so-called ‘professionals’ (e.g. engineers, middle management in software companies) in Gurgaon. This section is excluded from the ‘real estate drip’ and lacks influence in the local political power structure. As ‘civil society’ in the form of urban NGO’s and resident associations they re-group as a social force. As ‘gated communities’ they have a specific socio-psychological relation to the rest of Gurgaon – see previous article. 
* The House-Owning Working Class
To a much lesser extent than in older industrial regions like Faridabad there is a section of the working class in Gurgaon which managed to buy a small plot of land before the real estate bubble and to build a house as part of an ‘irregular colony’ or shanty town. Their main concern is the threat of ‘demolition’. An even smaller segment of the permanent work-force is affected by the question of ‘corporate housing’, sometimes mediated by the trade unions – see paragraph on Chakkarpur and the Maruti housing scheme.
* The Renting Working Class
Most workers and therefore ‘residents’ in Gurgaon are ‘recent migrants’ who live in rented accommodations set-up by the local former peasantry. They are organised within the factories and largely invisible as ‘citizens’ – officially most of them still live 1,300 kilometres away. Their main concern is rent price, limited water and electricity supply (often controlled by the landlord) and problems of commuting and police/thugs harassment. Having to commute to work becomes an issue of class violence itself – see article on riot at Faridabad station.  The ‘industrial zones’ as part of the urban space itself have changed: while in Faridabad workers’ slums are next to the factory wall, in newer Gurgaon Udyog Vihar workers live separate from the industrial areas, though there are still chai stalls and other ‘public spaces’ within the industrial zones. In Manesar, the newest industrial zone, even these small pockets of ‘proletarian public life’ have been marginalised within the industrial area, mainly ‘thanks’ to canteens and company buses.
* The Slum Dwelling Proletariat
A smaller sections of the proletariat live in make-shift slums. These are either service proletarians, such as domestic workers or corporate cleaners who have to live close to their masters; or they belong to formerly nomadic artisan and cattle-rearing tribes from neighbouring Rajastan, which have been paralysed by industrialisation and urbanisation – see article on slum fire in Gurgaon. 
* The Patriarchal Domain
Apart from the domestic sphere the urban space is the main domain of direct expressions of patriarchal power, be it against women or lower caste proletarians. Urbanisation is a process of dissolution of older patriarchal village communities, which opens spaces for ‘bourgeois individual freedom’, but at the same time contains dynamics of indifference and brutalisation. The recent public rape near Gurgaon has to be seen against this background.
This sketch above can serve as a rough framework in order to read some of the recent news concerning ‘urban conflicts’ in Gurgaon. Most of these news describe ‘inner-bourgeois’ tensions arising from the struggle about the distribution of land and rent revenues. Others describe the ‘urban breakdown’ as a consequence of these tensions, such as lack in infrastructure.
“Gurgaon was nothing but a land grab operation by builders and politicians”, the media quoted a World Bank official recently. During the 1980s and 1990s the real estate developers created a deep-link with the political class from the top-level to the village representatives – see previous articles in the land-grab politics.  The main company in the sector was DLF. Between 1981 and 1990, DLF got 57 of the 101 realty project licences awarded in Gurgaon – about 56 per cent of the total. In his autobiography ‘Against All Odds’, DLF Chairman K P Singh’s refers to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi as being key to India’s real estate’s transformation: “He asked me what I was doing out in the wilderness and heard with great interest about my plans and how archaic laws and policies were stifling real estate development. Not long after, he became the prime minister of the country and was instrumental in ushering the private sector back into urban development. These reforms would revolutionise the real estate sector and also allow DLF to expand at a scorching pace….”. 
The personal connection between DLF and the Gandhi family became one of the main issues of the emerging ‘anti-corruption’ movement in Gurgaon and Haryana, centred around Kejriwal and Khemka. The ‘anti-corruption’ activists criticise amongst others the ‘concessions’ which DLF and the Haryana government made to Robert Vadra, who is married to Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter. For example, DLF Magnolias project showed 70 per cent increase in prices just before Vadra’s investment. In recent media interviews the ‘anti-corruption’-activists remarked: “The misuse of Section 42 of the consolidation act to transfer Panchayat [village council] land worth hundreds of crores to newly-formed companies with a paid-up capital of as little as Rs1 lakh is well known. There is another scam in Gurgaon and Faridabad where forest and hill areas are sought to be partitioned to corner prime plots near highways to build farm-houses and resorts. Panchayats are losing their lands due to deliberate under-valuation during the consolidation proceedings.” “Some senior public servants misused their position for a favorable exchange for themselves or their relatives or their companies floated for this purpose. Huge investments of black money and ill-gotten money have been made through companies in the purchase of land in some villages in Gurgaon and Faridabad districts to benefit from the consolidation scheme.” 
The ‘anti-corruption’-populists mainly link up with parts of the former peasantry which feels left out of the big money game. In late 2012, Kejriwal blamed Haryana Central Minister Bhupinder Hooda of favouring the ‘private developers’. ‘He was addressing farmers at the Rashtriya Kisan Mahapanchayat [National Peasant Council] who had gathered to protest against land acquisitions from farmers at cheap rates. “Hooda is working on the behalf of private builders. He had to change the use of land bought by Robert Vadra so that he could sell the same land to DLF at much higher price. The chief minister knew that if he did not change the land use, Sonia Gandhi would have removed him from his post,” said Kejriwal. In Manesar region, villagers are critical of the manner in which the state government had been passing on the acquired land to private builders for developing townships and colonies. “The biggest problem the landowners are facing is due to the acquiring of land by HUDA to benefit builders in the region developing townships and colonies”. The region has over 600 acres of land acquired by the state government that is under litigation in different courts.’ 
In GurgaonWorkersNews no.51 we described the relation between the local peasantry / land-lords, who are the backbone of the ‘anti-corruption’ movement and the workers in Manesar, residing in villages like Aliyar. During the wildcat occupation of Maruti Suzuki factory in 2011 and the subsequent mobilisation, the local ‘panchayats’ at large offered support to Maruti Suzuki management and the repressive organs of the state. The state itself tries to mediate between the interests of industrial management and landed classes by tax and revenue redistribution:
‘With the first phase of enhancement money collection in Manesar over, the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructural Development Corporation (HSIIDC) has recovered only 20 per cent of the target amount. Senior officials told TOI that Rs 400 crore of enhancement money has been collected so far. Earlier this year HSIIDC had paid Rs 1,500 crore to the district revenue officer, as compensation money for the local farmers. And it is this money, with 11 per cent interest added to the amount, that the HSIIDC says is recoverable from factory plot owners in Industrial Model Town Manesar in the form of enhancement fee. Industry representatives, especially the local associations, have mounted a protest movement against enhancement fee.’ 
At the same time the state makes sure that the compensation money does not just sit in the pocket of the former peasants. The state government puts pressure on the local state to increase taxation. Given that many of the ‘villagers’ rent out rooms to the working class, the taxation is likely to be passed on:
‘After the state government made it clear to the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon that it should not expect any financial assistance, the local body is now planning to increase its revenue through property tax by to issuing house tax assessment notice in all the villages that come under its jurisdiction. So far, the MCG had refrained from collecting property tax from villagers, but now, authorities say, they have to do so in order to manage the budget. According to the officials, about 46,000 people live in the 39 villages that come under the MCG’s jurisdiction. Half of them have already been served the notice.’ 
We can see that the system is churning. Under the crisis the tension between the different levels of the state apparatus increases. ‘Corruption’ is one expression of this churning. We can see that ‘corruption’ has two main elements, both entirely neglected by the populist anti-corruption movement of the ‘marginalised middle-classes’: a) corruption as a form of ‘extra legal’ redistribution of profits and posts within the social hierarchy becomes prevailing in times when property relations in particular and social relations in general change so rapidly that the formalised legal channels are not able to mediate between the emerging tensions within the ‘owning classes’; corruption in this sense is a spontaneous re-creation of balance within an unstable, but expanding system; it is grease in a cranky mechanism, it is a systemic element, rather than an exception b) in times of crisis, corruption is an indicator for the fact that the ‘owning classes’ have lost trust in the ‘normal affairs’ of profit production and long term investments; it becomes an indicator for the struggle over pieces of a shrinking cake. From a workers’ point of view the ‘anti-corruption’ movement is either a delusional effort or an expression of mere re-shuffling within the ruling class.
For the state or real estate developers to get hold of land they often have to get people and their houses off the land. In Gurgaon this is less the case compared to older urban working class areas in Delhi region – see article on slum demolition in Faridabad and Kolkata.  The slums seem to be an ‘irregular’ space, but in fact ‘irregular’ slum dwellers are often more closely tied to the representatives of the state and their control. The threat of ‘eviction’ creates space for dependency on political party representatives who promise ‘regularisation’. A recent example from Gurgaon confirms this general experience:
‘A day after the city municipal corporation demolished some houses in Rajiv Nagar a large number of residents in the area staged a demonstration by blocking traffic for several hours, condemning the high-handedness showed by the civic agency.
“The buildings that were demolished by MCG on Friday are at least two decades old and no new construction was taking place in them. We are protesting at the way they were demolished. On the one hand, the MCG is not willing to provide basic infrastructure in unauthorized colonies and on the other hand it is quick to bulldoze the homes of poor people,” said Indian National Lok Dal [main opposition party in Haryana] councillor Gaje Singh Kablana, who led the demonstration.’ 
Gurgaon’s water situation is symbolic, a high-rising city sucks itself dry and the struggle over the vital resource becomes a barometre for social power – see previous articles on water politics and ‘shaky foundations’ of Gurgaon’s towers.  According to the groundwater department, in summer 2012 the water table plunged by 90 centimetres to 1 metre. In some areas the water-table in Gurgaon’s semi-arid belt has reached depths of 51 metres, a serious concern. The state blames the ‘more than 30,000 illegal tube wells’ in Gurgaon, while most of the water is used for the industry and the golf courses and lawns of the upper classes.
The hoarding of water results in health risk, in recent years the cases of dengue fever during summer months has increased. In summer 2012 over 400 cases were reported, often from areas with a high concentration of water tanks. The local state seems to have difficulties to intervene within this ‘semi-private sphere’: “The reason why we have not been able to issue any challan [fine bills] so far is because we haven’t received any written order from the concerned authorities. We have only received some verbal orders on how much fine we can impose on those who are not maintaining unhygienic conditions that lead to mosquito breeding,” said Dr VK Thapar, chief medical officer, Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon. 
The other problem concerns waste water: “A city drowning in its excreta”.  Between 2006 and 2011 over 35,000 new dwelling units were built in Gurgaon. Only a third of Gurgaon is connected to a sewerage line. Residents who live in private colonies say HUDA officials turn their complaints down, arguing sewerage lines are the responsibility of private builders like DLF. The private developers in turn blame the state. They allege that development charges collected from them towards providing for infrastructure were diverted. ‘”More than Rs 12,000 crore was collected and made available to the state government. But all this money has been used up by politicians in their constituencies. Nothing flows back into the city,” says a senior executive with a prominent real estate company who did not wish to be identified.’ 
Gurgaon’s energy supply depends to a significant extent on fossil fuel operated generators – see previous article on energy crunch in the industrial sectors . With the government’s decision to increase diesel prices, energy ‘back-up’ costs in Gurgaon are expected to rise by 30 per cent in 2013. ‘Malls, offices and luxury hotels burn thousands of litres of the fuel every day just to keep their backup systems running. “Gurgaon is a city that virtually runs on diesel. The entire commercial sector depends on it for power backup,” said a businessman. Commercial buildings consume as much as 1,000 litre of diesel a day and having to pay Rs 10 extra for every litre of diesel. Call centres are looking at an average increase of about 15% in maintenance costs, hotels will pay even more. “The upkeep costs here will rise by 25%. Considering the kind of diesel consumption Gurgaon’s hotels register, this is going to pinch really bad,” Anirban Sarkar, executive manager of the Radisson Blu hotel. In Sahara Mall diesel consumption is around 1,000 litre a day, a figure that shoots up further during peak summers.’ 
Usually the criticism of ‘bad energy infrastructure’ is launched from the perspective of the large consumers. Following a report by energy workers about the impact of ‘privatisation’ on their working conditions.
Haryana Electricity Board Worker: From Electricity Board to Electricity Corporation
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.289, July 2012
After the central government and the Haryana government passed new laws, on 14th of August 1998 the Haryana State Electricity Board was dismantled and divided into four corporations: Haryana Power Generation Corporation Limited, Haryana Electricity Distribution Corporation, North Haryana Electricity Distribution Corporation, South Haryana Electricity Distribution Corporation. After the board was turned into corporations contractors entered in mass into the power generation and distribution sector. They started to sub-contract all electricity-related work. Regular employment was turned into irregular work, permanent employees into temporary workers. The contractors changed frequently, the workers remained the same. Obviously there are rules for the corporations, there is no lack of laws. Nevertheless, transgression of laws is the norm and adherence to the law the exception. Apart from some construction workers all workers are ITI [skilled] workers or diploma holders. In order to get hired through contractors even the educated youth has to pay bribes to university teachers, members of parliament and ministers. In the South Haryana Electricity Distribution Corporation in Faridabad a contractor disappeared after having settled all accounts with the corporation, while the workers were left with three months of unpaid wages.In the Haryana Electricity Distribution Corporation in Gurgaon on the 1st of April a new contractor came in and together with the talk about opening new bank accounts the wage payments of the workers got delayed. The previous contractor had been holding the contract for five years, but he did not pay contributions to the workers’ IPF, neither did his predecessor. They did not issue pay slips or PF numbers. Those who had left the jobs have not received their PF money after two years. The typists are hired through contractors, as well. The billing department the meter reading and the bill distribution is also done through contractors. Drivers and computer operators are hired through contractors. In each electricity sub-station there are seven workers hired through contractor for each permanent employee. Given the involvement of the central government in the breaking up, can workers expect anything from the Haryana government? This is something to consider. What can be done and what should be avoided?
An even more precarious situation in the outsourced refuse collection in the ‘private colonies’ of Gurgaon: ‘Residents of Sector 23A have complained to the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) that private sanitation contractors were making children collect garbage from the area. The area residents claimed the contractors hire boys, mostly from slum areas, on daily wage basis. “It suits the contractors to hire boys since they get paid very less,” said a resident.’ 
The highway NH8 is another symbol of ‘fatal and failed’ neo-liberal development – see previous articles on the highway.  For people who have to cross the highway in order to go to work there are still long stretches without save crossings. In 2012 more than 250 people were killed in accidents on the 40 kilometres from Delhi/Gurgaon border to Manesar, most of them pedestrians. The main concern for automobile drivers in turn is the fact that the traffic jams in front of the toll gates reduce the average speed during rush-hour to just above 20 miles an hour. Every day around 200,000 cars have to pass the toll gates. The highway was developed by the private company Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Ltd’s (DGSCL). This company is more or less bankrupt and has 1,600 crore Rs [1 crore = 10 million] credit debt. End of 2012 Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said that either the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) or the state government could “purchase” the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway – a major bail-out for Punjab National Bank, Bank of India and other creditors of DGSCL.
While crores have been pumped into deadly highways the ‘affordable housing scheme’ of the Haryana government turns out to be an election gimmick. The Gurgaon Citizens’ Council (GCC) – a middle-class residents’ association – alleged: “In 2009 the government of Haryana gave wide publicity to the proposal that it would build one lakh low-cost houses in the state. Out of them, 40,000 were to be built in Gurgaon, 30,000 in Faridabad and Panchkula and the remaining 30,000 in the rest of Haryana in places like Rohtak, Hissar, Panipat, and Sonipat. While Gurgaon was stated to be a high potential zone, the rest were considered medium- and low-potential zones. However, even after three years there is no sign of these housing complexes, meant for the poor, coming into being”. 
Parallel to the ‘anti-corruption’ mobilisation focussed on the land-owning class / peasantry there is a second formation of middle-class discontent, based on a disillusioned professional middle-class and centred around the issue of ‘living in New Gurgaon’, a space of scary rapid social change and little regularities. Similar to the land-owning middle-strata the relation of these ‘middle-class activists’ towards the working class is arbitrary. For them it is no contradiction to run NGOs for illiterate children and at the same time pressure the state to remove slum dwellers from their neighbourhood. They are largely ‘corporate professionals’ with their characteristic illusions that ‘things can be fixed, you just have to know how to’, an illusion which arises both from their social isolation as ‘intellectual workers’ and as residents of gated communities. We quote from a dissertation which captures the reality of this class segment and their ‘political activism’ nicely:
‘Residents are able to escape the dysfunction of the urban in high-rise communities offering “exclusive conveniences…stringent security, wide-open space, parks, schools, health centre and shopping arcades” (Unitech Heritage City). The gated enclaves are serviced by 24-hour generators and privately sourced water; and disparately linked by “secessionary networks” of private infrastructure and transport services. DLF provides residents a private shuttle service to metro stations, mall and workplaces, whilst the in construction 16-lane DLF toll way 11, and private rapid metro system services DLF’s Cyber City SEZ.’
‘I Am Gurgaon’ represent one such group, aimed at “awakening a responsible, aware and vigilant populace” and bringing together “the administration, corporate organisations, schools, RWAs [Resident Welfare Associations], NGOs and developers” to “make a true ‘Millennium City’” (I Am Gurgaon website). Lead by a group of residents from DLF City, the group’s primary project has been the “Million Trees Campaign” through which the group organise tree-planting, monitor sanitation and street-cleansing workers and have developed a Biodiversity Park at the heart of DLF City. The campaign is sponsored by multinational corporations such as Coca-Cola, Canon, and KPMG and has the willing support of both the HUDA administration and the Municipal Council (Hindustan Times 2012). The Biodiversity Park is built on land previously used for mining and over the past few years has been occupied by slum “encroachments” and illegal developments; cleared and gated to make way for the park’s development (Hindustan Times 2010).’
So they petition, make regular visits to the HUDA office and slap Public Interest Litigations against authorities for not taking action against illegal wine shops that have come up all over Gurgaon. They organise tree planting programmes and cleanliness drives and campaign for women’s safety. The people organising these programmes are bankers, architects, doctors, IT professionals and businessmen.
[from: Fragmented citizenships in Gurgaon: An urban zone of exception. Candidate Number: 53037]
In Gurgaon the triangle of local state, private developers and contractors and ‘civil-society organisations’ toss and turn about responsibilities and finance of social reproduction.
‘The Haryana government has decided that the developer, as defined in the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1975, shall transfer the administration of the condominium to its residents’ welfare association (RWA) immediately after the grant of the occupation certificate. Raman Sharma, president, Gurgaon Progressive Forum explains the reasons for the reluctance of the colonizers to hand over administration to RWAs, he said : “Before the hand-over the colonizers will have to pass on the entire details of the project that include the super area, common area and other factors like commercial and basement aspects. Now this will open a Pandora’s box and result in conflicts.”‘ 
Sometimes this escalates into actual confrontation:
‘The South City-I residents’ welfare association (SCRWA) protested against Unitech’s apathy towards the maintenance of one of the earliest private colonies (set up in the early 1980s) in Gurgaon on Saturday. The protesters alleged that the builder showed utter disregard to the residents, majority of whom were senior citizens and women. Instead of addressing the problem, they locked their office gates and hired goons, bouncers and outsourced securitymen to attack the residents. Over 200 residents belonging to all age groups participated in the protest, which was led by the SCRWA president, Ashok Bhardwaj. The protest was also attended by R S Rathee, president of Gurgaon Citizens’ Council, and other RWAs.’ 
The urban space is a space of bourgeois freedom and its double-character. The old patriarchal village communities, the sexist and caste-based hierarchies are, if not dissolved, then transformed. As proletarians, Hindu and Muslim garment workers and their families live together in extremely confined spaces in rented houses in Kapashera – see report – sharing one tap, without any major tension. Under the pressure of ‘individualised sellers of labour power’ the boundaries between ‘individual freedom’ and ‘escape from the shackles of the village oppression’ on one side and atomisation, indifference and brutal competition on the labour market on the other are free floating. If workers don’t manage to create new collectivities of struggle as a process of an association of free individuals, the urban space will turn into a mixture of battlefield and solitary confinement.
‘At least one suicide, on an average, is taking place every 36 hours in Gurgaon as victims hang themselves, consume poison or jump from a height, according to police figures which show that 104 people have ended their lives in the first four months of 2012. Nearly 88 of the suicide victims since January were aged between 20 and 40 and a bulk of them were in their 20s. A total of 13 victims were aged 15-19 years, police data showed. The chief medical officer of a government hospital here told IANS: “Increasing suicidal tendency is a social as well as medical problem. We are ready to provide psychologists at special camps if some NGO takes the initiative.”‘
Some violence is internalised, other violence targets others, most often those close to us. Domestic gendered violence is wide-spread, the shrinking families cannot cope with the pressure of proletarian existence. Patriarchal violence existed in the village, but there were other (female) family members who could intervene. In the urban sphere a female proletarian community has still to be created – as we witnessed ourselves in Chakkarpur.  The material background for the more rampant and openly aggressive masculine violence is the gender heritage of the patriarchal (peasant) community whose ‘communal aspect’ is dissolved by massive (short-term) influx of real estate money, which gives young men command over a mass of newly arrived migrants, as land-lords, as contractors, as the people with local roots and power. A sudden boost of power in an increasingly anonymous space, a space which due to 80 per cent male migrant workers is a largely male space. This is combined with the feeling that ‘despite the money, there is no future for the sons of the soil’ – a precipitation of social death. The public gang-rape at the Gurgaon – Delhi border was an expression of this aggressive hyper-masculinity. The ‘social indifference’ is often projected into the urban architecture, like in the following women’s descriptions of Gurgaon, which also express the fear of the (male) ‘rural uncivilised world’ and of the (men of the) dangerous classes:
‘If Delhi’s bad, Gurgaon’s worse: girls’ 
Anything can happen in Gurgaon’s barren stretches
I think it is the mindset of the majority of people in Gurgaon that makes it worse in terms of safety. The young corporate professionals and nuclear families just form a small percentage when compared to people who come here from the neighbouring border areas. And not just that, our mindset too, that ‘oh this is Haryana and that kind of people’, makes it difficult for me to feel safer here. Also, for me, I know Delhi roads well, there are people on those roads and you understand the routes. But in Gurgaon, the place is still developing and sometimes you have to cross these barren stretches to get to your destination
Bhavna Chaudhary, 21, self-employed
Day or night, you are subject to harassment
For me, Delhi is a little safer than Gurgaon. I lived in Greater Kailash for one-and-a-half years, and then shifted to Sohna road, Gurgaon, in an apartment. I shifted because I got a job here. But I think it was a bad decision. Even in daylight, people stare at you. You step out of your door and people start staring at you so hard, you get very uncomfortable. That is not the case in Delhi – at least, not in daylight. I have visited GK’s M-Block market even after 9pm, and still never had people staring at me or passing comments, but here, after 7, you shouldn’t be out. – Anushka Saxena, 28, sales manager
You never know when someone will take out a gun
The biggest problem in Gurgaon is the local guys there who create a ruckus very often. Being a girl, I have to stay away from them; you never know when someone picks a fight and one of them pulls out a gun or a knife. And if this were to happen in Delhi, there will be at least some cops in the vicinity. In Gurgaon, there is police only in the few check posts, and many areas, due to this, are not safe. – Shamita Khanna (name changed), 24, works at a financial consultancy firm
There are vast expanses of absolutely nothing
Outside the apartment complex where I live, there is literal wilderness at night, and it is pitch dark. The safety is limited till my complex’s gate, where the guards stand. There are way too many pockets of deserted or not-so-developed areas and a stark contrast between what’s behind the complexes’ gates and outside it. Outside complexes’ gates, the roads are far from developed, there’s barely any lighting, and a lot of the people who roam the streets there are rowdy and uncouth. – Rishika Bhatnagar, 26, MNC employee
The reaction of many ‘radical left groupings’ to the gang-rape was knee-jerk, demanding ‘tighter control’ (GPS for public transport) and law and order – which has been criticised by comrades.  It is a lost race to try to deal with brutalisation by demanding more ‘control’ in the anonymous hands of the state. The combination of ‘bourgeois atomisation’ and delegation of power to the state is the material basis for indifference, which in turn becomes a precondition for (gender) violence. It will be largely in the hands of the female workers, to break patriarchal violence. The female call centre workers and other ‘young professionals’ will have to enforce that their recent position as wage earners and night-shift workers finds an expression in the freedom to move around freely outside the office walls – which will have to be enforced against the ‘men on the street’ and the ‘protectionism’ and moral conservatism of the ‘public opinion’ (the middle-class opinion of ‘safety’). The sexual harassment within the factory – like most forms of violence in the factories – remain invisible in most cases. Women in the garment and electronics factories, where they sometimes account for half of the work-force will have to find ways to translate their collective self-confidence into the domestic sphere. It will be first priority of any communist politics to support this.
‘The urban’ has become the preferred space of a certain faction of the academic and bohemian left, which waters down Marxist class perspective with post-modernism and/or insurrectionist romanticism. Consciously or not they follow the bourgeois ideology of ‘post-industrialism’ which tries to render invisible any significance of ‘workers collective productivity’ for society and reduces workers to either ‘subjects’ or an unruly mass of poor people. We can relate to this bluntly with a quote by Otto Ruehle, a left communist in Germany in the 1920s, whereby ‘factory’ might well be replaced with any work-place which brings workers together under one roof in a systemic cooperation / division of labour:
‘Only in the factory is the worker of today a real proletarian, and as such a revolutionary within the meaning of the proletarian-socialist revolution. Outside the factory he is a petty-bourgeois, involved in a petty-bourgeois milieu and middle-class habits of life, dominated by petty-bourgeois ideology. He has grown up in bourgeois families, been educated in a bourgeois school, nourished on the bourgeois spirit. Marriage is a bourgeois penal institution. Dwelling in rented barracks is a bourgeois arrangement. The private household of every family with its own kitchen leads to a completely egoistic economic mode. There the husband looks after his wife, the wife looks after her children; everyone thinks only about his interests. Even the child in bourgeois schools is directed to knowledge influenced by the bourgeoisie, which is tailored in accordance with bourgeois tendencies.’ 
The class character of the space outside the work-place is evident, the slums next to the mansions. ‘The dwelling in rented barracks’ sometimes turns from a bourgeois arrangement into collective proletarian resistance against the land-lord. Many working class initiatives keep these ‘proletarian experiences’ in their separate spheres, they either focus on the ‘workplace’ or the ‘area’. This newsletter hasn’t broken the dichotomy. It mainly refers to ‘workers’ in the urban space and does not manage to trace the social links to their reality within the production process. We have seen how certain ‘urban struggles’ become channeled into ‘problems of disadvantaged citizens’, we haven’t seen yet how collective conflicts which arise from the fact of ‘being a proletarian’ in the urban sphere (around housing, water, traffic, oppression) are influenced by or influence the numerous conflicts in the factories. Instead of conclusions we want to refer to a text by Sergio Bologna, which tries to understand the ‘productive political background’ of the ‘urban movements’ in Italy in the late 1970s, after the struggles in the older industrial strongholds had been defeated. 
“In 1988, Mathew Abraham was elected president of the union for one year. While he agreed that workers should cooperate in increasing productivity and improving quality, he wanted to establish his leadership by trying to secure additional benefits for the workers. In this effort, I believe, he often became unreasonable.
The first major issue he picked was housing for workers. The guidelines issued by the government for public sector undertakings stipulated that they should build a housing colony for a part of the workforce. The Maruti management was aware of this. However, during the preparation of the project report, SMC [Suzuki Motor Company] flatly refused to provide funds for housing. This was partly to keep down project costs and the amount which SMC would have to invest. In addition, SMC wanted the management to concentrate on learning how to make good cars and not how to manage a township. Krishnamurthy [CEO] was also aware that often issues relating to the management of a township trigger industrial relations problems. So he was happy to accept the view of SMC. Hence, the cost of housing was not included in the project, and it was decided to explore other avenues for providing housing. To this end, In November 1984, the board even considered issuing preference shares to finance a housing project. However, even that would have thrown the economics of the project out of gear.
The union, led by Mathew, however, was adamant on Maruti adhering to public sector guidelines and building a housing colony. Several discussions were held with the union to find a viable alternative. For example, public sector personnel rules also stipulated that employees could be given housing building loans. Maruti suggested that such loans would be arranged from a bank, and the interest on these loans could be subsidized. The workers could form a cooperative housing society and build the houses inside the factory premises, provided the houses were used only by employees and ex-employees. The housing colony would have to be managed by the society. In June 1986, the board gave in-principle approval to this idea. However, the union would not agree, and wanted Maruti to build a housing colony, manage it and rent out flats to workers. The issue dragged on for two years.
In 1988 Abraham upped the ante on the issue of housing and the union included a production incentive in its demand.It initiated a tool-down strike, starting with one hour on the first day and increasing progressively by an hour on each subsequent day. This continued for a few days, with the tool down reaching four hours of a shift. At this stage, the management sent notices to all workers, saying the tool down was illegal, as no proper notice of a strike had been given, and asking them to show cause why eight times the salary for the period work was not done should not be deducted from their wages. In due course, I went ahead and deducted this amount from all those who had participated in the tool down. For many years the union pleaded for restoration of the deduction. Ultimately only half of the deduction was restored. It was meant to be a message that while the management would be very worker friendly, illegal actions would not be tolerated.
Simultaneously with the notice, I also started talking directly to the workers and explained that under the scheme being followed in PSUs, when a worker retired, he had to vacate the rented house and he had nowhere to live. I showed calculations which established that the amount of rent paid during the service of the worker was several times the cost of the house he was living in. On the other hand, the alternative of a housing cooperative would result in the workers owning their houses and having a permanent asset, where they could live after retirement. The workers wanted to know how they would pay the instalments of the housing loan. I explained that the instalments would be fixed that they could be paid from the house rent allowance. This allowance would rise as salary levels increased, and workers would not face any hardship. Maruti would get involved in finding a good contractor for building the colony, and provide the engineering supervision free of cost, so that the cost of construction was as low as possible. Maruti would also help getting land alloted by the Haryana government, since by that time it was not possible for land to be given inside the factory.
In reality, this scheme was far superior to the practice being followed in public sector undertakings and the workers were smart enough to realize this. A majority of them agreed to try out the scheme. The tool-down stir had in any case been given up after notice of wage deductions and our talking to the workers. Mathew found that he was in a minority on this issue of a housing colony.
I was able to persuade the Haryana government to allot land at the governmentr price, at Chakkarpur village, not far from the factory site. Raj Chopra, a Maruti dealer who also owned a construction company, agreed to build the housing colony without charging any profit. Loans were arranged from public sector banks and Maruti agreed to pay the instalments directly to them from the salaries of the loan takers. Maruti’s civil engineering department undertook the supervision of the work. It was decided that double-storeyed houses would be constructed, though the workers wanted independent plots. I explained that this would drastically reduce the number of flats and many workers would have to go without a flat. Nearly 1,000 one-bedroom and two-bedroom houses – the cost ranging between 125,000 Rs and 175,000 Rs – could be built on the land.
The idea of workers owning and managing their own housing colony was quite novel. The Prime Minister, the late Chandrashekhar, thought this development was important and agreed to come to Chakkarpur to inaugurate the colony. The scheme was a huge success, with twenty-five-years-olds finding that they owned flats. Soon after the colony was built, the development of the Gurgaon area started in real earnest and the property prices started shooting up. These flats, being quite centrally located, appreciated sharply in value. Some of the workers started renting out the flats and the rentals were far more than the instalments of the loan.
Even as the Chakkarpur colony was being built, those who had stayed away from joining the scheme saw its benefits and wanted Maruti to develop another colony. By then, the Haryana government had no more land to allot to Maruti, and suggested that land should be bought by negotiations. Accordingly, about 107 acres of land was purchased at Bhondsi village in 1989, and a second cooperative group housing society formed in 1991. Houses in the new collony were alloted and occupied in 1994. However, purchasing this land, even on behalf of the workers’ cooperative, showed how difficult it was to operate as a public sector undertaking.
The party in power in Haryana changed. The district magistrate of Gurgaon, who helped Maruti in buying the land, was apparantly not in the good books of the new government, and was charged with corruption and suspended, only to be found innocent many years later. One of the allegations related to the purchase of the Bhondsi land. Some other district-level officers were also included in this charge. Attempts were made by the Haryana vigilance to also start inquiries against me and other Maruti officers. This was perhaps necessary as otherwise the case against the Haryana officers would not stand. The CBI was also given a complaint. The workers, who were paying for the land, had no complaint, and only wanted the houses to be built fast. When the full facts of how the transactions was made, including the basis of the pricing, were made known to the authorities, the inquiries against Maruti personnel were dropped. [...] The Chakkarpur and Bhondsi projects solved the issue of Maruti having to provide a housing colony. But a much larger benefit, of permanent value, came in the form of the management winning the trust and confidence of the workers.”
The last sentence is wonderfully cynical, given that less than a decade later the same permanent workers got under severe attack by the management, which resulted first in a months long lock-out and in the ‘voluntary redundancy’ of over 2,000 workers.  The following paragraph demonstrates the relation between the more ‘marginalised’ local population and the ‘commercialised space’ around Chakkarpur, where most of the ‘migrant population’ of Chakkarpur find employment.
“The Sahara Mall sits at the entrance to Chakkarpur, itself owned by formal villagers, the Mall has been a particular point of resentment for Chakkarpur’s locals. Whilst, there is no explicit prohibition of locals from the mall, visits by locals are often met with resistance from security guards and bouncers of the middle-class bars. One newspaper claims “almost every week there is a brawl, a shooting, or a case of molestation” between locals and Mall staff at the malls on MG road (Sen 2012). After a group Chakkarpur teenagers were beaten up by security guards at the mall in 2011, the Chakkarpur community called a dharna 10 at the gates of the Mall demanding a closure of all bars in the mall and the right for locals to access the mall freely (Yadav, 2011b). The protest amassed 3000 villagers from surrounding villages, who destroying water and electricity lines to the mall, closed the mall for seven hours, costing the mall US$500,000 (Times of India 2011b) and eventually closing the bars down permanently (Yadav 2011b).
When speaking to residents in Chakkarpur a recurring issue of concern was the village’s lack of water provision; locals derided the Haryana State government for failing to provide water to the village. In conversation with the village Councillor he told me he had recently received budgetary permission to construct a distribution line for drinking water in the village, after some 12 years of negotiating with local officials. The delay in infrastructure provision, he claimed, was due to undercounting of migrants, 90% of the village population from the village census. I asked whether a political effort to include migrant populations in the census might be beneficial to the village; to which he disagreed: “If they get counted in…then what about the locals? We don’t want a Bihari councillor!””
General Urbanisation Process
Real Estate Crisis in Gurgaon
DLF and Gandhi
Water Wars and Shaky Grounds
DLF – State
January 10, 2013
Picture: Workers in the USA
Workers’ History and Struggle against Re-Structuring at Kelvinator Fridge Factory in Faridabad (India) from the 1980s to 2000
For the January 2013 issue of GurgaonWorkersNews we translated reports of workers employed at two Kelvinator/Whirlpool fridge factories in Faridabad, which in the early 1990s accounted for 40 per cent of India’s total fridge production. The reports were published and circulated between 1989 and 2000 by the still existing workers’ newspaper Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. They describe the struggle against the re-structuring process in a multi-national white wares manufacturer, the difficult relation between workers’ initiatives and trade union representation. The reports reflect the political consciousness of workers concerning the main contradiction in capitalist society: the increase in productivity causing greater relative immiseration of the producers. The reports could therefore stand by themselves as workers’ collective memories and be passed on to workers engaged in current struggles.
The re-structuring process at Kelvinator/Whirlpool in Faridabad took place in a wider context. Under the pressure of the 1990 global slump and subsequent ‘neo-liberal offensive’ the production of fridges, washing machines and other long durable consumption goods experienced a massive concentration process and attack on the work-force in terms of speed-ups and on their wage levels. We stumbled across material written by Franco Barchiesi and Andries Bezuidenhout on the re-structuring and final closure / re-location of Kelvinator fridge factory in South Africa in the late 1990s. We also dug out older reports about the struggle against re-structuring at Bosch Siemens washing machine factory in Berlin, written by comrades of wildcat in the mid-2000s, telling the story of re-structuring and struggle since the 1980s.
If we relate these global experiences to each other a picture emerges which questions the quite wide-spread leftist assumption that ‘neo-liberalism’ post-1990 was an ‘evil policy’, a greedy scrapping of former welfare or charity or an expression of wrong political decisions on the (inter-)national level: the leftist critique of the ANC’s ‘broken promises’ in South Africa, or of the neo-liberal BJP model of ‘Shining India’ or the ‘New Labour’ ‘German Model’. We can see that it was a contradictory structural response to the ‘global profit crisis’, which had it’s main reason in the undermined, but still substantial collective power of the working class on shop-floor level in the 1980s. In the workers’ reports we find traces of this power.
At Kelvinator fridge factory in Faridabad workers organised weekly visits at management offices in rotating groups of 20 to 30 workers of different departments in order to enforce safety measures. This collectivity survived into the early 1990s: “In July 1992 a three years agreement was forged between union and management. For the workers in the lamination division the agreement meant that for a 170 Rs monthly wage increase for the first year their fixed daily target increased from 1,400 to 1,800 rotor stators. The agreement also meant that for the lamination workers the 250 to 500 Rs monthly incentive bonus was also done away with – consequently the 170 Rs wage ‘increase’ of the agreement results in 80 Rs to 330 Rs monthly wage loss. Workers have started to fight back. They say that they don’t want the new agreement, they want wages according to the old rate. Both management and union insist on the new agreement. In reaction, in January 1993, workers in the skewing, die casting, welding departments undertook some steps. In January 1993 all workers started to curb their production output to the fixed target defined by the management’s time study. Management was very troubled by this fact and started to dish out charge-sheets (for future suspensions) and issued warnings. This tug of war continued for five months when finally on 28th of May management gave in. Management started to pay the old incentive scheme of 250 to 500 Rs per months again. “
We find a similar situation in Berlin in the 1980s: “In the beginning of 1987 young second-generation Turkish workers organised a slowdown strike against the steady rise in unit-quotas at the assembly line. They did this so well that that the employer couldn’t enforce the new quotas, not even with foremen, spare men, snitches and forced transfers of workers around the factory. After a while the workers even reduced the quota. Finally they agreed on more spare men at the line. The workers learned a great deal during their struggle, they could flip the cooperation at the line at their will. When they had idle time during reorganisation they could force their ideas about how many machines they wanted to produce. Since fall 1987 they didn’t need to protest against legally obligatory overtime: they just subtracted the machines they had produced in overtime the days after from the “normal units”. “If we wanted to, we just reduced the units anytime”.”
(Bosch Siemens Hausgeraetewerk – Washing Machine Factory in Berlin)
The attack in the 1990s on this workers’ collectivity had various forms. The re-structuring on the shop-floor level by changes in work-organisation and automation was only enforceable through the ‘credit financed’ redundancy programs (severence payments, early retirement schemes), which let to a general increase in unemployment and subsequent casualisation. The old work-force was then surrounded by a growing mass of temporary employment. The threat of ‘re-location of production’ to low wage regions was in the air – to Eastern Europe in the case of Germany, Swaziland in the case of Kelvinator in South Africa – , financed by neo-liberal ‘cheap money’ politics. Most of the features of neo-liberalism in the 1990s (share-holder options, company consultancy, marketisation of inner-company relations, trade liberalisation) have to be seen in this regard of ‘softening’ workers’ strongholds.
Between 1994 and 1999 Kelvinator/Whirlpool in Faridabad reduced the workforce by 40 per cent, the company paid 50 crore Rs (1 crore = 10 million) as ‘voluntary retirement money’ to 2,075 workers. This was possible after a lost struggle in 1991 and nearly six months of lock-out of workers. We find a very similar situation in South Africa and Germany. In all cases the re-structuring was co-managed by the trade union institutions. In Faridabad the unions negotiated first the increase of production targets through incentive schemes, then subsequently the lay-off money for superfluous work-force. The NUMSA at Kelvinator in South Africa agreed to two-tier wage systems on the shop-floor in the mid-1990s in order to ‘save the company’. In Berlin, in 1992 management decreased production. In the three years which followed more than 1000 workers left the factory, mostly with seemingly ‘handsome’ compensation payment. The IG Metall union actively tried to isolate the attempt of workers at Berlin washing-machine factory to extend their protests against further layoffs in the mid-2000s. As legal and sectorial/national institutions the trade unions had no means to stop the attack of the 1990s, which lead first to their own erosion and then to their collaboration.
As a system of social (re-)production the ‘victory of capital’ in terms of undermining workers’ power and increasing productivity aggravated it’s inner contradictions. The mountains of cheap washing machines and fridges grew as fast as structural unemployment and the masses of working poor. While promising proletarian women that their entry in the wage labour market will be compensated with ‘appliances’ reducing time for housework, the ‘deluge’ of cheap washing machines in the global north was accompanied with a demise of ‘the family’ as a re-productive unit. At Bosch Siemens in Berlin 2,100 workers produced 450,000 machines a year in the mid 70′s. In the mid 90’s 2,500 workers produced more than one million washing machines and more than 200,000 tumble- dryers. During the same period structural unemployment increased by 10 per cent and temporary work proliferated rapidly. In South Africa the amount of households owning fridges increased only slightly between the end of 1970s (670,000) to 2001 (770,000), despite ‘cheap production and cheap imports’. In India the demise of the peasantry throughout the 1980s and 1990s produced such large amounts of urban poor that given the wage levels of house servants it seems uneconomic for most middle-class families to consider buying a washing machine. Even with a ‘double income’, at a monthly wage level of around 5,000 Rs for industrial workers, a new Whirlpool fridge for 20,000 Rs is out of reach.
The crisis continues. Whirlpool, announced in October 2011 to cut 5,000 jobs, about 10 percent of its workforce in North America and Europe. The crisis hits a production system which has become globalised throughout the 1990s, fridges are produced by young workers in SEZ’s in Poland under similar conditions as their are produced in other parts of the globe. Compared to the crisis in 1990/91 the crisis in 2008 has deeper structural characteristics: further discovery of ‘low wage regions a la Pearl River Delta or markets a la former Eastern Bloc seem unlikely and the Toyotist (holistic team-work with company anthem in the background) or robotic alternative has lost its sheen during the 1990s – it is back to old-school Taylorised drudgery. The following reports demonstrate that the working class was beaten during the 1990s mainly because their struggle was not able to overcome the legalistic and company-limited / national framework. This poses challenges for the future and reiterates the importance of continuous organisational and internationalist efforts like Faridabad Majdoor Samachar.
1) Kelvinator, India
2) Kelvinator, South Africa
3) Bosch Siemens, Germany
Picture: Worker in the USA
1) Kelvinator, India
In India 4.1 million fridges were produced in 2005, fridges form the second biggest sector in durable consumer goods. While in the US per capita spending on air-conditioning and cooling appliances was 200 USD in 2005, it was 0.25 USD in India. Less than 15 per cent of households own a fridge.
*** Time-Line of Kelvinator/Whirlpool Re-Structuring
Kelvinator starts production of fridges and electrical parts in two factories in faridabad and nearby Ballabhgarh.
Major workers’ struggles in Faridabad, e.g. strike and police-shooting at Goodyear in 1973. During time of emergency 1975 to 1977 in many factories work-loads were increased, while outside of the factory the police enfoced slum demolitions and sterilisation programs. At Kelvinator a ‘incentive scheme’ was launched in 1976. After emergency was lifted, major workers unrest flared up, culminating in a police massacre of over 100 workers in 1979.
Indian economy dips into debt crisis. The state tries to subsidies exports and to keep up import tariffs, partly an expression of the stalemate on the shop-floor. Re-structuring and changes in production process is regulated by state, company and trade union negotiations. In the case of Kelvinator, the company applied for the increasing the production capacity of refrigerators from 200,000 to 500,000 in 1983.
In June workers went on strike against a new wage agreement which had been imposed by the former trade union leadership. In response the company kicks out 450 casual workers. Contrary to their promises the new agreement forged by newly elected leaders contains three different professional categories and an increase in workload. Now workers are supposed to manufacture 2,300 instead of 1,700 fridges per day and 2,500 instead of previously 2,000 compressors. In September 1989, the company raised 10 crore Rs for undertaking modernisation (new machinery), increasing capacity by 20 per cent to 600,000 fridges per year.
India external debt crisis and adjustment program (casualisation, ‘liberalisation’ etc.)
In April, 80 Kelvinator workers are suspended after they raised voice against higher work-load and lower basic wages. In May the Kelvinator management declares a first lock-out, it lasts over 56 days. There is no union response, no solidarity actions. Workers go back inside leaving 125 work-mates suspended. In October the Company again declares a lock-out, which lasts from 3rd October till 2nd of December.
In August new productivity/wage agreement is settled, containing higher work load, and less incentive payment.
In January workers reduce output in response to last year’s agreement. At the end of the year Kelvinator announces net loss for 1993.
Electrolux buys into Kelvinator with 12 per cent shares, but finally opts out. Whirlpool shows interest.
Whirlpool acquires Kelvinator India Limited. Whirlpool then owns three manufacturing facilities at Faridabad, Pondicherry and Pune. Whirlpool has manufacturing operation in 13 countries. Between 1994 and 1999 Kelvinator/Whirlpool India reduces the work-force by 40 per cent, from 8,000 to 5,000. In Faridabad the company spends 50 crore Rs (1 crore = 10 million) on severance payments for 2,075 workers. The first Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), agreed on by the union, was launched in May 1995. In September 10995 a short strike by two dozen operators in the compressor department stops production of 4,000 workers in the rest of the factory.
Whirlpool sells manufacturing units for compressors to Tecumseh and also gets rid of the automotive division, both part of the Faridabad factory. In the compressor unit around 1,500 workers used to be employed. Now around 2,600 workers are left in Faridabad, the numbers of temporary workers increases.
In February management and trade union announce a new agreement, containing further reduction of work-force. The production of some parts has been outsourced to suppliers. management announces that in March 1,000 workers will have to go. management refers to the new fridge plant in Ranjangaon where supposedly only 330 (casual) workers are employed. In March it becomes clear that the union has agreed to a daily production target of 2,800 pack re-fridgerators; the old incentive scheme which paid extra once 1,875 fridges were produced has been abolished. The agreement also says that future VRS schemes will be supported by the union after negotiations. Whirlpool management decides to pay 5 Rs extra per worker, but fixes this sum as an extra due for the union. At the same time Whirlpool tries to cancel the registration of a staff (white collar) union, which was formed under the threat of further dismissals.
Electrolux Kelvinator washing machine plant in nearby Gurgaon is supposed to be relocated to Butibori, where the factory is automated to a higher degree.
Another 511 workers at Kelvinator/Whirlpool in Faridabad are forced to / decide to take VRS.
*** Kelvinator Workers’ Reports 1980s to 2000
Memories on Collective Steps
(published in: Faridabad Majdoor Samachar, June 1995)
There is a close relation between practice and memory.Therefor our memories have a considerable impact on the social present and near future. There is a fierce struggle over memories in this society. Which are important memories for workers? How can we conserve/rescue them or keep them alive? What kind of lessons can we draw from memories? In order to become conscious of this a conscious exchange of memories is necessary. In collective steps of workers two processes are intertwined: 1) Workers frequently undertake steps by their own initiative; 2) Once a workers’ initiative gets going leaders or wanna-be-leaders jump on the train. When a section of workers is able to enforce a demand through their own activity, and when management assumes that other workers will raise similar demands and might undertake similar steps, management prefers to give concessions to workers through leaders. While in the former case the enforced demands give importance to collective strength and struggle, in the latter case leaders are garlanded for having ‘won concessions’. In the following short conversations with 10 to 12 workers employed at Kelvinator this dynamic becomes fairly clear.
In the machine shop the grinding machines created a lot of dust pollution and respiratory problems troubled a lot of workers. Despite frequent complains the managers and (trade union) leaders did not do anything about it. In 1985 the grinding workers decided that they would all gather once per week and go to the safety manager to demand better dust protection. Workers started to meet collectively and surrounded the safety manager as soon as he would enter the machine shop. After three, four month, in 1986, Kelvinator installed dust exhaust fans at each grinding machine.
In the first plant the ceiling in the compressor division is very low. There are also no windows or ceiling lights. The 300 workers in this department roast in the heat like tandoori chicken. When workers complained the manager in charge said that these conditions have to be accepted as given and did not say anything more. In response, in 1990 the workers in the compressor division all gathered and encircled the compressor division manager. Kelvinator management later on raised parts of the ceiling and installed ceiling fans.
Suffering under the work-load workers had put forward the demand of free gur (raw sugar) provision several times. In 1986 the workers in the machine shop decided to gather and to go to the production manager in order to re-enforce the demand. Workers from the drilling, grinding and other departments got together in several groups of 20 or 25 and one after the other these groups would go to the production manager. Three or four month later, management tried to settle the dispute by giving gur to a handful of workers. But workers kept their group visits at the management office going. In 1988 management agreed on providing 2 kilos of gur per month to each worker in the machine shop. As a result workers in other departments raised the same demand. As a response in 1990 management called the leaders and let them announce that gur would be provided for all workers.
Workers in the drilling and other metal processing departments had their hands exposed to cooling oil, which caused skin ailments. In 1983 workers of these departments met shift-wise and went collectively to the safety manager. After some month Kelvinator management decided to hand out hand-protection cream. Similarly, in 1980 the workers in the grinding department organised in small groups per shift and went to the production manager to demand working shoes. At the beginning the manager started to threaten the workers, but they continued their collective visits. They kept this up for a long time – in 1983 Kelvinator management gave working shoes to the employees in the grinding department. In other departments similar demands came up, in 1988 the trade union leaders announced that there will be shoes for all Kelvinator workers.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
By means of the incentive scheme, the Kelvinator management succeeds in squeezing its workers to the max, even those permanent workers who are employed at the company for 5 – 10 – 15 years. In the February 1989 issue of the journal ‘Business World’ it says that Kelvinator increased the sales by 33 per cent in financial year 1988, profits more than doubled during that period. After having pushed back the old (union) leaders, who had been in cahoots with management, the Kelvinator workers expressed their anger against oppression and exploitation in the company.Production stopped at the plant due to dispute over personal incentive payments. Unfortunately the new leaders seem to follow the path of their predecessors.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
Some workers, knowingly or not, divert the attention of the workers from the main issues of incentive schemes, lower wages and higher work-loads towards irrelevant conflicts and thereby weaken their strength and play in the hands of management. Labour department and management have taken the new (union) leaders for ‘negotiations’ to Chandigarh.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
On the 29th of June the Kelvinator workers engaged in an actual strike for the first time and and prove their will to fight. If workers win their first battle, it will serve as a pillar for the coming disputes – and management is well aware of this. Therefore it seems that with the very first step taken by the workers, management prepares for a long dispute. Given that the in this case the ‘carrot policy’ does not appear to work, management goes for the stick and prepares for crushing the workers’ struggle. Their first step was to kick 450 casual workers out from the factory, justifying it by saying that these workers had not shown up for work on the 29th of June.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
After the strike of the 29th of June the new leaders had diverted some of the workers’ force, but nevertheless, when faced with workers’ discontent management entered quickly into a three years agreement which meant some crumbs for the workers. After the strike the workers themselves did not undertake any steps in order to increase their strength. During a gate meeting the new (union) leaders openly accused each other for various things, which spread hopelessness amongst the workers. In order to strengthen the position of the workers in this situation a general assembly would have been necessary – but the workers did not undertake this step. Instead an atmosphere of accusations and rumors prevails. The normal workers at Kelvinators watch this scenery and think that it concerns some one else, but not them. This situation is what the Kelvinator management had wished for, given the rather precarious condition it finds itself in. The management has been successful in settling an agreement which suits them.
The new leaders have broken their promise. The three-years agreement (still) contains three different professional categories and an increase in workload. Now workers are supposed to manufacture 2,300 instead of 1,700 fridges per day and 2,500 instead of previously 2,000 compressors. Naturally, management is happy about this agreement, as naturally as workers are angry – but to say “we have to get rid of these leaders, as well” is not enough. To hope that new (or any) leaders will change the situation for us and to see these disputes as a ‘company internal matter’ are points of views we have to get rid of.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
Kelvinator is amongst the well-known and reputed factories in Faridabad. Around 40 per cent of all fridges made in India are manufactured at Kelvinator Faridabad. The company boasts that last year they sold 529,000 fridges and that this year they will sell 100,000 fridges per month. On the other hand, after workers had been raising their voice in April and the subsequent suspension of in total 80 workers, the numbers of suspended workers is increasing at a daily rate. The main aim of Kelvinator is to succeed in the competition with other fridge manufacturers, and for this goal the company has to suck out its workers. Night-shift bonus and lower basic wages for a higher work-load are two sides of the same coin. The question of low wages and work-load has been an explosive issue for some time. In 1989 workers got rid of old leaders and elected new ones, but the problem remained the same. Nowadays the thought circulates amongst workers that instead of a factory union, may be an external union, once management is forced to recognise it, could give them some relieve. The wave of suspensions over this back-and-forth is still rolling.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
The lock-out declared by management on 21st of May is a means to control the growing discontent amongst workers and to deal with the current market conditions.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
The lock out declared on 21st of May still continues, it’s now beginning of July. The workers, who had thought the new middlemen as all powerful and who now see their impotence facing the lock-out, still continue to put their hope in them. The all powerful middlemen did not have the courage to break the common capitalist law in form of section 144 [unlawful assembly] and so, from the perspective of workers’ movement, two valuable weeks have been wasted. The middlemen got tangled up in the assurances of the DC and by establishing a ‘blind unity’ of the Kelvinator workers, they undermined the potential for strengthening the struggle. Entering the second months of lock-out and having the feeling of being trapped in a dead-end, even amongst those workers who perceive the middlemen as all-powerful the number of those who swear at them increases. The combination of the leaders call for a ‘blind unity’ and the major hurriedness leave the workers in a state of confusion. This gives new life to the Kelvinator management – and a considerable share of the workers run danger of getting trapped in the to and fro of these middlemen.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
The Kelvinator workers spoke in big words about the HMS labour leader who represents the Escorts workers. On 21st of May Kelvinator management attacked the workers by locking them out. There was no response from the Escorts workers or their union. Only after fifty days of lock-out, some unions put up big posters and called for a general assembly at 5 p.m. – at Escorts plant shift ends at 4:30 pm.. Out of 12,000 workers of the various Escorts plants not even 50 workers came to the meeting on 10th of July. Leaders of HMS-BMS-AITUC-CITU hold fiery speeches at the meeting, which was attended by 5,000 to 7,000 workers, most of them from Kelvinator. The union leaders said that the first general assembly (after 50 days of lock-out!) is prove of the great unity of workers and that the leadership will come up with a struggle program within the next two, three days. On 18th of July, having found no answer to the management weapon of lock-out, workers went back inside the factory, leaving their 125 suspended work-mates outside. In order to get out of a dead-end, workers had to bent down, but they are not broken – the tool-down strike against police repression is a proof of that. The Kelvinator workers don’t want to repeat the lessons of made by USHA Spinning workers, Bhartiya Electrics workers, Hyderabad Asbestos workers etc. during the last decade, who had been dispersed and then beaten in small numbers. The back-and-forth outside the factory gave state and management enough excuses to make use of police and thugs. At Kelvinator it now looks like the struggle will be a long drawn out one.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
After management opened the factory again on 18th of July after 56 days of lock-out it became clear that their initial calculations failed. Workers had to bent a bit, but they were not broken. One of the results was that the chief executive was sent into holiday and a new leading manager from Maruti took over. management knows that they will have to squash the workers unity. Before paying the September wages management started to provoke the workers and found an excuse to impose a second lock-out, which lasted from 2nd of October till 3rd of December. This time management had been consciously opting for the attack in form of lock-out. The union leaders had first colected 400,000 to 500,000 Rs in contributions, but then infights started again amongst them. Workers have not found an answer to the management’s attack.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
At the Kelvinator lamination plant (23 Milestone Mathura Road) 300 workers are employed. The Kelvinator control division, cash registry, copper wire and micro oven plant is also situated on the premises. In the Kelvinator Ballabgarh plant another 700 workers are employed. In the lamination division, workers were given an individual incentive (bonus) if they produced more than the fixed daily target of 1,400 rotor stators, a part used for fridges. This incentive bonus can amount to 250 to 500 Rs per month. In July 1992 a three years agreement was forged between union and management. For the workers in the lamination division the agreement meant that for a 170 Rs monthly wage increase for the first year their fixed daily target increased from 1,400 to 1,800 rotor stators. This is connected to the fact that the fixed daily target for the 4,000 workers in the main plant in Industrial Area has been increased from 1,400 fridges to 1,800 fridges per day. The agreement also meant that for the lamination workers the 250 to 500 Rs monthly incentive bonus was also done away with – consequently the 170 Rs wage ‘increase’ of the agreement results in 80 Rs to 330 Rs monthly wage loss. Work load has been increased, wages cut. Workers have started to fight back. They say that they don’t want the new agreement, they want wages according to the old rate. Both management and union insist on the new agreement. In reaction, in January 1993, workers in the skewing, die casting, welding undertook some steps. According to the time study conducted by management in the skewing department the fixed target used to be 134 pieces, although workers were regularly producing 270 a day, in die casting it was 330 and 600, in welding 420 and 650 respectively. In January 1993 all workers started to curb their production output to the fixed target defined by the management’s time study. Management was very troubled by this fact and started to dish out charge-sheets (for future suspensions) and issued warnings. Management tried to spread the fear of closing down the company. The union leaders started to threaten-intimidate the workers in the lamination plant. But the workers continued to produced the fixed target and kept quiet. This tug of war continued for five months when finally on 28th of May management gave in. Management started to pay the old incentive scheme of 250 to 500 Rs per months again. The lamination workers receive the 170 Rs increase of the 1992 agreement on top of it. “If there is an agreement, we ought to accept it, don’t we”. So if workers are not happy with an agreement or any other formal-legal settlement, disagreeing workers can undertake steps together!
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
The workers hired through contractor employed at Kelvinator are not paid in time. In response to not having been paid their August wages, on 24th of September 1994 the temporary workers gathered and went to the office of the works manager. He got startled and surrounded by over one hundred temporary workers he promised that wages would be paid the next day. August wages were finally paid on 27th of September.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
Automatisation not only replaces 16 workers with 1 worker at an automated machine, also later the repairing of the fridge becomes more difficult. you don’t have nuts and bolts or single parts, but moulded and glued parts. According to management there are 74 manager, 204 executive and technician, 46 clerks, 1908 permanent and 390 casual workers employed in Faridabad. According to management in the Whirlpool factory in Pondycherry there are only 195 casual workers and in Puna 221 casual workers. The production runs well, 2,800 to 2,900 fridges a day, but management complains that this is too little. By end of the year management wants to sack 1,500 workers. The union has already agreed to VRS.
Whirlpool tries to cancel the registration of a staff union
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
A temporary worker at Kelvinator/Whirlpool: they pay commission and minimum wage to the contractor, but the contractor pays only 45 Rs a day to us; the permanent workers have their own canteen, they get cheap food there, we have a separate canteen and only get tea for the normal price; we are not allowed to eat outside during lunch break; we don’t get a weekly day off; we don’t get ESI or PF; even if we work eight hours overtime (double-shift), they only pay 45 Rs; We gathered and went to the personnel manager, in order to coplain about the contractor; we shouted slogans; the personnel manager refuse do do anything against the behaviour of the contractor
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
A Whirlpool worker who had taken VRS: wherever I go and ask for work they say that the normal work-times are 12 hours a day, plus overtime; they pay 1,200 to 2,000 per month, for 12 hours days, 7 days week. At Kelvinator we earned more for an 8-hours day, with a weekly day off.
Picture: Strike in the USA
2) Kelvinator, South Africa
Similar to India, South Africa was a developmental industrial state from the 1950s onwards, showing parallels in terms of peaks of industrial working class struggle and dips of crisis. During the 1970s growth in both manufacturing and agriculture stagnated. In South Africa the first recession of this period occurred in 1976, following dramatic oil price hikes – both India and South Africa heavily depend on oil imports. In the industrial outskirts of Johannesburg the high-time of workers’ violent attack on exploitation and racial oppression was in the early and mid-1970s, i.e. the Durban strike in 1973. The Soweto uprising of 1976 happening at a time when India was under the blanket of State of Emergency. The general strike in Faridabad, India and the police massacre in 1979 happened at a time when in South Africa the regime tried to contain unrest by legalising trade union representation. In South Africa, similar to India in the early 1980s external and state debts increased in relation to productive investments. As a result of these policies, South Africa’s net indebtedness to the international banks increased sharply, and about two-thirds of its outstanding loans in 1984 had a maturity of one year or less. South Africa was hit with a major foreign debt crisis in 1985, when a group of banks withdrew substantial credit lines. As a result, the value of the rand dropped precipitously, and the government temporarily closed its financial and foreign-exchange markets. Unable to meet debt obligations so suddenly, the government declared a standstill on repayments. In India this was to happen five years later. Since then both states have become ‘role-models’ of so-called neo-liberal politics: the ‘opening of the national market’ facilitated or was used as explanation for the attack on workers in form of casualisation of employment.
“During the 1990s, the East Rand region of Jo’burg [where the Kelvinator factory was located] has experienced rapid productive and labor market changes in an increasingly competitive scenario. Large conglomerates, which have historically dominated the area, used layoffs, outsourcing, and contingent employment in response to the pressures of market liberalization. Since the mid‐1970s, the East Rand (now the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality) has been a stronghold of the South African labor movement. The unionization of a rapidly growing African working class, largely made of contract migrants from apartheid’s rural “homelands,” accompanied the rise of the region as the country’s manufacturing core. In the 1990s, layoffs became generalized: approximately eighty thousand manufacturing jobs were lost in the East Rand between 1988 and 1999. (…) The country’s main industrial union, COSATU‐affiliated NUMSA, lost 45 percent of its East Rand members between 1989 and 1999. (…) Equally important in the decentralization of production was the shift of labor recruitment towards temporary employment agencies (“labor brokers”), which bring their own employees to work in companies that no longer employ them directly, thus further fragmenting employment contracts and collective bargaining coverage inside workplaces.” (Barchiesi)
Barlows appliances, the original stove and fridge manufacturing company located in Alrode/East Rand, which was taken over by Kelvinator in the mid-1990s, had its original expansion as an arms and army supply manufacturer during the Second World War. Barlows Appliances was first taken over by a financial investor in 1995, during that time there were discussions with the trade union NUMSA for an employee take-over of the factory. Instead management and NUMSA negotiated retrenchment packages, as part of attraction for further investments 800 workers were sacked. Kelvinator finally bought the company in 1996 and re-hired the sacked workers, under the condition that they would invest their severance pay into the company, as employee shares – a total of 20 per cent of the shares were held by these workers. In addition to this ‘participation’ NUMSA agreed to a wage freeze, a no strike pledge and to a two-tier wage system on the shop-floor: the newly hired 170 workers were paid only the minimum wage settled by the general sector contract, not the company collective contract. Originally this two-tier system was limited to a year or two, but the company extended it, which caused a certain radicalisation amongst workers and shop-stewards.
“Kelvinator management agreed that continuing the wage differential was ‘not a great strategy’, since it created a potential for disruption. It is, however, interesting to quote Simon Koch’s analysis [director]: ‘It was a mistake to employ workers with matrics. I thought they were smarter and I wanted to give them a chance, but labour intensive production was not suited for them.’ This statement recognises that hiring educated and conscious workers into a production process based on routinised manual labour ad lowering wage levels could only intensify factory militancy among what Koch describes as ‘disruptive young workers with nothing to lose’.”
The ‘older ‘share-holding’ workers supported ‘new workers’ demonstrations, partly because they had not been paid any dividends since 1996. Under the new director Kelvinator fridge market share increased from 8 per cent in 1996 to 23 per cent in 1997, but allegedly no profits were made. Production was pushed from 200 units per day in 1996 to 1,000 by the end of 1997 with target of 1,300 for following year – here it is unclear whether these figures refer to fridges or cooking stoves. Kelvinator management started to complain about companies like Whirlpool starting to ‘dump’ cheap fridges into the South African market and other fridge manufacturing companies using ‘cheap labour’ in Swaziland and other ‘under-developed regions’ in South Africa, where workers’ wages were 1/5 of the Kelvinator workers wage in Jo’burg. Kelvinator was finally liquidated in 1999, around 1,200 workers lost their job. Production was taken over by first Defy and then Palfridge, which now manufactures the Kelvinator brand in low-wage region of Swaziland. In 2004 the South African government dropped import tariffs from 25 per cent to 0 per cent for fridges imported from the EU.
Another study written by Bezuidenhout in 2005 looks at the working and living conditions at the Defy white goods factory in Ladysmith, South Africa and compares the situation of workers there with white goods workers at LG in South Korea and Elekrolux in Australia. “In each of these plants, workers are faced by insecurity brought about by corporate restructuring, including the relocation of production, work intensification, and casualisation through outsourcing. We enter the ‘hidden abode of reproduction’ and the communities in which these households are located, to examine the impact of restructuring on workers’ lives. We show how households in Orange, Changwon and Ezakheni are structured differently and respond differently to these external pressures as they search for security.”
For us some of the following comments of temporary workers at LG in Korea show a lot of commonalities to the situation of white goods workers at LG in NOIDA, an industrial zone close to Faridabad. The LG plant in NOIDA opened in 1998: ‘The orders for production is very precarious and fluctuates. Because I belong to the outsourced company as a dispatched worker, I am so worried about my unstable employment situation. I do not know how long I can work.’ Or: ‘LG company wants to utilize the outsourcing company with big flexibility … If LG stops making orders from [the company] where I work, my employment agency can dismiss me.’ According to our experiences in Faridabad, fear of job loss is actually more prevailing amongst permanent workers, while a new generation of temporary workers demonstrate time and again that they are no victims, but that they give the bosses a hard time. Just read the report of temporary workers’ wildcat action in one of LG supplying companies (Globe Capacitor) in Faridabad in 2012 and you will see that instead of having to be pitied, these guys know how to kick up shit:
Franco Barchiesi: Industrial Unionism: Manufacturing Workers in the East Rand/Ekurhuleni Region in the 1990s
Andries Bezuidenhout, Rob Lambert and Edward Webster
Picture: Workers in the USA
3) Bosch-Siemens Washing Machine Factory, Germany
Wildcat Germany in 2005
“…the only thing they can expect from us…”
How quickly things change. It was only 40 years ago that major household appliances were mass-produced in Western Europe, but there are already few factories left and most have been shut down or relocated. It’s nothing new that almost entire branches go abroad. What is new is that no new branches arise which hire significant numbers of people. Between 1990 and 2003 roughly 330,000 jobs were relocated from Germany to Eastern Europe. This was around 25,000 per year. Through the worldwide relocation of production, Germany loses up to 50,000 jobs each year. With around 38 million employees in Germany this is a little more than 0.1 percent a year. In comparison, the little cyclical boom in the year 2000 increased employment by 700,000.
The first washing machines, refrigerators and stoves were produced as industrial mass-products in Italy for the (West-)European market in the late 50s and early 60s. Before the 70s, companies which were limited to “their” national market were more profitable than afterwards, when all of them had to expand. They were threatened by companies which tried to compensate massive class struggles in production with aggressive price competition. As a result Bosch/Siemens (BSH=Bosch Siemens Hausgeräte) became a “cheap Jack”, churning out low-grade products at discount prices. In the second half of the 80s the factory in Berlin/Spandau (Hausgerätewerk Berlin, HWB) had to deal with product return rates of 15 per cent and a similar degree of sick leave. We often wrote about struggles in this factory in Wildcat, and some of us had worked there. Now this factory is supposed to be closing.
A branch is migrating
More people work in industry in Germany than in the most developed capitalist countries. 27 percent of German employees worked in industry in 2003, five percentage points above the numbers in France and ten percent above the numbers in Great Britain; in the USA even less people work in industry. This is the fundamental reason why Germany has always been the export world champion. But like elsewhere in Europe in Germany the numbers sunk steadily in the past 15 years (in 1992 it was 35 percent). In the German electrical industry the amount of employees sunk in the past 15 years by about one fifth (1991 1,087,331; 1993 980,000 with less than 74,000 in East-Germany; by June 2005 less than 810,000). But the electrical industry means everything from the production of a hair dryer to a generating plant. More important are the movements in between the generic term “electrical industry”. For example the relocation of consumer electronics had already started to take place in the 70s and 80s, during the heyday of the major household appliance. Today conventional telephones, small household appliances like mixers, and consumer electronics in general are no longer produced in Germany. The rationalization in household appliance production in the second half of the 80s and the increasing internationalisation and concentration of the sector since the 90s lead to the steady decline of jobs in Germany (in the beginning of the 90s the turnover was getting higher, since then that too has sunk). The production of washing machines in Germany increased from 1.6 million pieces in 1982 to 2.8 million in 1992 (record rates during the re-unification boom). Between 1987 and 1989 US companies got into the European production of household appliance, for example Whirlpool had taken over Phillips and Bauknecht. In the beginning of the 90s Bosch/Siemens had bought Spanish and Turkish household appliance producers. After that Electrolux took over Italian companies and AEG in Germany and has since been the world market-leader. BSH is number three in the world ranking (worldwide 34,000 employees, 14,000 still in Germany; 16,000 three years ago) and makes more than three-quarter of its turnover (of 6.8 billion Euro) abroad. Of the 42 factories, seven are still in Germany, the others in Spain, Greece, Latin America, USA, Poland, China and Turkey. In the last few years Turkey has become probably the most important location for production of major household appliances in the world. In 2002 the Turkish Arcelik group took over Blomberg (the last German producer of household appliance except Miele), two years later Blomberg stopped the production of washing machines in Germany. Miele too, which had marketed its expensive products with the label “Made in Germany”, is going to get rid of every tenth employee of the 11,000 in Germany until 2007. The core segments of the household appliance sector have being shifted (i.e. for 15 years there has been no development in cooling units and no big progresses are expected; the lowering of consumer prices, the increase of laundry and the shift to electronic control was for washing machines a key development in the last few years, in the future there will be only gradually advances). What happened with electrical goods in Germany is now taking place in the production of top loader washing machines; in about two years no top loader will be produced in Germany anymore. It happened in France with the production of refrigerators, in 1960 there were 20 producers of refrigerators, in 1967 only Thomson-Brandt was left, and since 1993 no refrigerators are produced in France anymore. Except the Miele factory in Gütersloh there are only three and a half washing machine production locations in Germany: Bauknecht in Schorndorf – “threatened”; AEG in Nürnberg – “threatened”; Bosch/Siemens in Berlin and Nauen close to Berlin. The plant in Berlin is supposed to be closed by the end of 2006. Officially the plant in Nauen is suppose to produce the new generation of washing machines, but it has been made known that doubts exist over the continued existence of Nauen as a location for production. The decision “for Nauen” depends on the increase of subsidies through the provincial government in Brandenburg.
Crisis of production
In the production of household appliances in the last 40 years the typical mass-production worker compassion was employed: unskilled assembly workers who were hired from rural areas. Maybe one forth were women, up to 90 per cent migrant workers. This reservoir of labor is exhausted in Western Europe. Significantly no workers with Turkish descent of the third generation are working at Hausgerätewerk Berlin. For them this kind of work is completely uninteresting. The employer is able to get a little time advantage when they build factories in rural areas with high unemployment rates in Eastern Europe. But these areas are in industrially shaped regions. The situation they are attempting to escape appears quickly. In general the employers are looking to leave those regions in 10 to 15 years, when the wages will be “too high” or no “appropriate labor” will be available.
Crisis of consumption good
In general the employers make the “cost pressure” responsible for relocation. In 1992 40 per cent of all washing machines sold in Germany cost less than 600 Euros, by 2004 it was over 80 per cent! In 1987 1300 DM represented the average delivery price of a washing machine in Germany, in Italy it was 580 DM. Correspondingly in Germany in 1987 there was 12.3 billion DM worth of major household appliance in Italy, in it was Italy only 7.3 billion but Italy produced double the amount of washing machines than Germany (in Germany over two million, one third of those in HWB!). Not many people pay these high prices: firstly because “cheap brands” like Eko and LG deliver almost the same quality, and secondly because the German brands lost their leadership in technology (they had it with ecological criteria but they didn’t develop new ones). In the past years this development was aggravated, because of sinking wages and shrinking domestic markets in Germany. There is no “national protection for brands through label oriented behavior of consumers anymore”, not only because of the processes of industrialization in Turkey, but also because of increasing single-households and increasing rates of divorces: a washing machine is no longer a long term purchase.
The household appliance plant in Berlin
From 1960 to 1980 the amount of employees working in electrical plants in West Berlin halved to 66,000. But it was still the biggest branch in West Berlin. After re-unification and after the decline of the “re-unification boom” a clear structural change of industry in Berlin begun. In May 1992 the whole of Berlin had 223,000 industrial employees; this was less than 21.4 per cent a year before, in April 1993 only 152,900. The developments lead to a strong increase of the unemployment rate. Since January 1992 the Western part of Berlin has the highest unemployment rate of former West Germany.
History of the plant
For about 50 years washing machines were produced in Berlin/Spandau, at first little units together with other household appliances. With the acquisition of the Constructa Company and the amalgamation of Bosch and Siemens in 1966, they began to produce only washing machines in Berlin/Spandau. In the mid 70’s 2,100 workers produced 450,000 machines a year. In the mid 90’s 2,500 workers produced more than one million washing machines and more than 200,000 tumble- dryers. The increase in unit-production took place in the 80’s: from 600,000 devices in 1982 up to one million in 1986. The units of washing machines and dryers produced per year per worker doubled from 1978 to 1988 (from 205 to 442). In the beginning of 1987 young second-generation Turkish workers organised a slowdown strike against the steady rise in unit-quotas at the assembly line. They did this so well that that the employer couldn’t enforce the new quotas, not even with foremen, spare men, snitches and forced transfers of workers around the factory. After a while the workers even reduced the quota. Finally they agreed on more spare men at the line. The workers learned a great deal during their struggle, they could flip the cooperation at the line at their will. When they had idle time during reorganisation they could force their ideas about how many machines they wanted to produce. Since fall 1987 they didn’t need to protest against legally obligatory overtime: they just subtracted the machines they had produced in overtime the days after from the “normal units”. “If we wanted to, we just reduced the units anytime”. At this time the vanguards of the struggles became, in their own words, “professional saboteurs”. More and more machines had scratches, planned or “just because” (it was possible to buy such machines on a discount at the factory-shop). Once the early shift came to work and every single machine was scratched. Now and then the line stood still because of sabotage of the “robots” or because of a cut drive belt. Despite the fact that a spare man (a worker who replaces other workers when there is a problem) supervised the drive belt it was sometimes broken three times a day. “Then they put a security guard at the line for three weeks, he was walking around the belt. He had to listen to a lot of stuff from the workers! But it didn’t help. They just didn’t understand how we did it.” At late shift the spare man had to stay until every worker left the factory. Nothing worked. In spite of repeated transfers of the suspects, nothing helped.
The management never tried to raise the quotas at this line; instead they transferred the workers through the whole factory. In 1992 they decreased production. In the three years which followed more than 1000 workers left the factory, mostly with very good compensation payment.
Since the mid 60s the HGW in Berlin was now and then an object of investigation for industrial sociologists and work scientists. In the end one had the impression that they became desperate: all attempts at “humanization”, “team-work”, and all of those buzzwords failed. Today when a system of team-work rules the line which largely corresponds to those dreams of the work scientists, the plant is in line for closure.
“In sum one can assert that almost all serious difficulties with personnel are caused by the execution of the Taylor System.” Wexlberger, former director of industrial science at HWB
This is an article from Wildcat no. 74, summer 2005. Further reports about the struggle against redundancies, the debates about factory occupation and a ‘workers’ collective tour’ through Germany, see:
Picture: Sign for Necessity of Proletarian Non-Legalistic Internationalism
December 4, 2012
GurgaonWorkersNews no.53 – December 2012
*** A worker’s Life – What all we/you do – Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.288
A conversation with a worker from Faridabad, his upbringing in a village in UP, his labour migration to the Punjab as an agricultural worker, his life as an industrial worker in Delhi area. It is his individual story, but it is at the same time the story of a dominant part of global working class today: the migration between village and town, the wandering between different jobs and sectors, the dissolution of old social structures, the necessity to form new ones.
*** Suggested Reading for Future Armament
The global and historical character of the current crisis forces us to coordinate both debate and practice ‘for workers self-emancipation’ on an international scale. Following recently written or translated texts are selective, but we think that they can stand as examples for ‘general theses’, ‘concrete analysis’ and ‘historical debate’ of class struggle and revolutionary movement.
A longer article dealing with the question of the ‘market’-character of capitalism, questioning out-dated ‘socialist’ concepts which equate capitalism with the anarchic market and socialism with the state-planned economy:
A text describing the relationship between the struggles and ideas of the workers of the Porto Marghera chemical plant in Italy, along with the group Potere Operaio which they were closely linked to, and the ex-student activists in West Germany who tried to learn from the Italian example and develop similar workers’ initiatives in their own part of Europe.
An historical and political overview on the non-proletarian and therefore non-communist character of international Maoism:
A worker’s Life – What all we/you do – Fms no.288
A conversation with a worker from Faridabad, his upbringing in a village in UP, his labour migration to the Punjab as agricultural worker, his life as an industrial worker in Delhi area. It is his individual story, but it is at the same time the story of a dominant part of global working class today: the migration between village and town, the wandering between different jobs and sectors, the dissolution of old social structures, the necessity to form new ones. Their existence bridges the knowledge of agricultural work, the knowledge about the misery of village life, the skills of modern industry and industrial struggle, the anger towards the urban betrayal. In the face of their social experience, any claim that workers’ consciousness is necessarily reduced to the ‘economic dimension’ will be doomed to wither in the shadow of irrelevance. The ‘falling back’ into the village becomes untenable, so does the ‘leap ahead’ into the urban whirlpool. The whirl’s centre is formed of mainly temporary employment in core industries, connected to both, global production-chains and the large fringes of slum economy. The centrifugal forces are growing and hardly allow a settled existence. The new desires and collectivity emerge from the central point and are washed into the periphery. Only if future working class movements are able to keep the social connection between urban industrial centres and periphery will they be able to express a communist tendency. The current social connection is on the shoulders of the migrating workers. The Pearl River generation of migrating workers has become the pendulum of global capital. Their pushs-and-pulls between southern hinterland and global workbench and the rushes of northern austerity crisis will have to crack the systemic borderline of under/development and reiterate the necessity to make the step beyond. Another recent descriptive report on ‘village exodus’:
A worker, 33 – 34 years old.
I get up at 5 am in the the morning. After I have washed myself I wake up my wife, so that she can prepare food. I take the food in a lunch-box and leave on by bicycle towards Badarpur at 6:15 am.
A bicycle and a slum hut are essential. In 1994 I bought a slum hut for 1,300 Rs in Faridabad Sector 33. When I was living in Faridabad, but worked in Okhla, which is about 20 km away, I still went by bicycle, the same when I worked in a factory in Bahadurgarh. In the morning, after having prepared food, I cycled three and a half hours to Bahadurgarh, in the evening I cycled three and a half hours back.
I arrive in Badarpur at 7:40 am. I leave my bike at a work-mate’s house in Badarpur. The company bus arrives at 7:50 am in Badarpur. It arrives at 8:30 am at the factory in NOIDA, Sector 80, Phase 2.
I was born in a village in the east of Uttar Pradesh. My father had four bigha of land, an ox, two buffalos and a cow. My father shared an ox with a neighbour and used them to plough land. He did this till 1997. Our neighbour then sold the ox and since then my father uses a tractor to work the land. After the death of my maternal grandfather, my grandmother went to work in Kolkata at his place. My grandmother had sent my mother to school until the 5th class. My mother’s first husband died, she was married again. My father is illiterate. My mother taught me. After I learned a bit here and there I was enrolled straight into the 5th class. When I was in the 6th class I fell very ill. They brought me to a ‘healer’. Then to a [village] small doctor. Then to a big doctor. I would not be cured, in a state of tension on our journey back to the village my father through me into the canal. My mother fished me out and cleaned me, crying, she said that I should go and live with older relatives in Gorakhpur. Expenses, they had to pay 47,000 Rs for my treatment. All my mothers savings [jewels] were spent. She had borrowed money from some people in the village, for six per cent interests per month.
I enter the factory at 8:55 am. I change my clothes, after drinking some water and going to the toilet the machines start. I polish steel. It is hard work. you continue to get hurt.
I failed in the 10th class. Shortly after my illness my brother got separated from the family – my father had not given him any land, so my brother worked for wages or on leasehold in the village in order to sustain wife and children. The money-lenders asked for immediate repayment of debt. I left the village, jumped a train towards Punjab together with a friend who had also failed his 10th class, I had a school book in my pocket and the my school identification-card. In the Punjab the black commandos of the police where everywhere. I found a job in a village, milking cows and buffalos, washing them, grazing them, collecting their dung. I did not like it. I left the Punjab for Delhi, first stayed with someone from my village, then with the husband of my sister in Faridabad. In October 1993 I started working in the Allied [Alight] factory in DLF Industrial Estate Phase 1. We manufactured steering elements for tractors and pistons. I had to clean the moulded parts, make new moulds, dispose of scrap. We worked eight hours shifts and were paid 1,600 Rs, no ESI, no PF. I walked on foot to and back from the factory. I kept 350 Rs for my daily expenses and sent the rest back to the village to repay the debt. I worked there for seven months… I then changed to BPL factory in the same sector, where I earned 1,800 Rs. In the department where they prepare the colour people worked eight hours, in the dying and printing department 12 hours on two shifts. In order to earn some pennies more I went after work to a metal workshop in order to learn metal polishing. There was only one thing going round in my head: money. Earn more money, reduce expenses to the max, repay your debt. I wore second-hand clothes. I found another job in Tekhand, Delhi, in a metal-polishing workshop, it paid 2,000 Rs. I bought a bicycle – it took an hour to reach Tekhand. Then another job, same area, same wage. Then a factory in Okhla D-45, polishing brass, it paid 2,500 Rs. Then, after five month, I started a job at Vedit Engineering in Faridabad, because it was nearer, I earned 2,400 Rs. I worked there for two and a half years. Some guys close to management had me kicked out. I went back to a factory in Okhla, Phase 2, Plot T 7, they paid 2,800 Rs. There we had to work four hours overtime per day, so I rented a room in Ali village for 200 Rs per month. A fitter working in this factory went to Bahadurgarh. We talked. I shifted to Bahadurgarh Industrial Estate, worked in Crown Bros. factory, they paid 3,000 Rs. But no ESI, no PF. I had worked there for a year when I heard that a metal-polishing factory in Okhla was opened and offering permanent jobs. they only paid 2,400 Rs – but my sister’s husband said that you will see the benefits of a permanent job only later on. So I started at M.A. Export in 2001, as a steel polisher. I cycled 12 km to work, it took me an hour. you are forced to do physical exercise, the machine itself enforces exercise. Steel-polishing is hard work, it makes you sweat. With the sweat, you lost half of the illness inside. I was 21 – 22 years old at the time. There was no tiredness. I thought that I had found a permanent job, that I cannot give it up, that I should increase production and make the company happy. Lost in this logic we also increased the pollution surrounding us, the company went also into trouble.
Tea-break is at 11 am. For 15 minutes we laugh, make jokes. Nowadays, I also only work according to norm. We have to save ourselves from pollution, we should not increase it. Experience had told me that to do extra-work means to pull the rug beneath your feet, it increases the difficulties for your fellow workers. This is why you have to work only according to the norm. At 1:30 there is a meal break. In the factory there is only a canteen for white-collar guys and management, not for the workers.
At the beginning I thought it was great to have a permanent job. For the first two and a half month I worked day shift, then for four month I alternated between day and night shift, finally I worked for two years on night-shift continuously, the day shift was for the senior workers. To work nights means enormous difficulties – lack of sleep, not being able to sleep during the day, not eating properly, no time to meet friends. If you refuse, they tell you to quit the job. I worked, because I was forced to work, at first 10 hours shifts, then 12 hours. The workers on day-shift started to engage in a struggle with management in 2004. I did not know what it was about. trouble started and when the guys from the labour department arrived I got to know that it was about double payment of over-time and other benefits. All managers started to work in the production department. After some days four workers were suspended, then another four, then another four – when twelve workers were kicked out the a case was filed through the union. But did the factory continue to run, or not? Several workers took their final dues and left. I decided to stay with those who struggled and not to leave the job. I had paid back my debt, there was no tension from that side, no pressure anymore.
In 2005 rumours emerged about conflicts between the company directors. They stopped paying our wages. They said that they would close the factory… and opened a new factory under a different name for the same work in Okhla. My mother told me, “Son, fight till the end”. My father and my wife also told me to fight. My father sent 700 Rs as support from the village. My wife took a job at Shahi Export garments factory in Faridabad. If I found the time I worked two or three hours a day on piece-rate in a small metal-polishing workshop. Management not only stopped paying our wages, they also stopped production in the old factory. We complained about that at the labour department, through the union. But instead of waiting for the next court date and sitting in front of the factory gate we went to other factory workers in Okhla industrial area. We wrote our issue on placards and stood with them during shift-start in the industrial area, we changed our location every day. We went with our placards to Delhi, to meet other people. We heard fifty different stories every day, talking to people. We focussed on what seemed right to us. We did not fear the police, nor did we provoke them. If the police told us to bugger off, we left and re-grouped at a different place. We met all kinds of people and this encouraged us. the company exported their products to America, some friends in America took placards and stood in front of the shops where our metal artifacts were sold, The fact that they stood there and that we met a lot of workers in the industrial areas here put a lot of pressure on management. After five months we were paid our outstanding wages. We were hired in the newly opened factory as regular permanent workers with a non-probationary status. For us, for our friends, for our fellows, for our parents and wives 2006 was a very happy year.
The machines run again after the meal break at 1:35 pm. If you work at the machine all kinds of thoughts come and go through your brain. What will we do in the future? What should we not do? My parents educated me, but I polish steel. What will our children do?
The new factory in Okhla ran under the name of M.A. Design. We worked there for one and a half years when management shifted the factory to NOIDA Sector 63. The company provided a bus service from Delhi to NOIDA. I had to get up one hour earlier than before. After one and a half years the company suddenly stopped the bus service. The company had laid a trap for us in order to be able to kick us out. Apart from us the company had hired other permanent workers and in NOIDA they employed workers hired through contractors. We undertook a collective action, supported by friends and the company re-started the bus service. We focussed on our collectivity, which had weakened over time. It is necessary to extend this collectivity… A year ago the company shifted the factory within NOIDA. The company shifted a lot of people without giving them transfer letters. In the old factory only our group of 20 workers, who had taken part in the placard actions, were left – the company hoped that we would insist on transfer letters and once isolated and tied up they would have been able to deal with us. When they told us to shift to the new factory we just did that, but once we started working in the new factory we put forward the demand for transfer letters. After one year they gave us the transfer letter.
At 4 pm we get tea and biscuits. Then we do the final work of steel polishing – to get out the shine. At 5 pm we wash ourselves and at 5:30 pm the shift is finished. Us 20 workers refuse to stay longer and work overtime on piece rate, but the other workers are made to do it. The bus leaves the factory at 5:45 pm. I arrive at home at 8 pm. I go for a stroll. We greet each other in the street, but we don’t go to each others houses to talk. A friend of mine from Bihar and me we see each other every day since four or five years and feel the need for it, but we don’t sit down and talk. I talk to my wife and children. I finish dinner at 9 pm. I watch a bit of tV. At 9:30 pm I start to get sleepy.
November 4, 2012
GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 52 (November 2012)
In the recent issues of GurgaonWorkersNews we tried to capture how different sections of the working class in India relate to each other, which tendencies of generalisation exist and which kind of divisions still prevail. In no.49 we focussed on the situation of the rural proletariat and the work-scheme of the state regime, in no.50 on struggles of industrial workers in the garment, electronics and construction sector, in no.51 on the struggle within the concentrated automobile industry.
In the current issue we publish the preface of the Indian edition of ‘Hotlines: Call Centre, Inquiry, Communism’, published by Phonemebooks. We try to give an overview on the changes in global call centre industry between 2002 and today, the decade when India became the main call centre of the world. We summarise some of our experiences relating to call centres in Gurgaon. The preface is followed by a report of a computer worker from India employed on a short-term work-visa in the UK, describing the experience of ‘relocation of labour power’. Finally we circulate the current leaflet of Mouvement Communiste concerning the struggle at Ford plant in Genk, Belgium, which Ford management wants to shut. If you work in one of the call centres of this world, feel invited to send us a report about your experiences. We will try to publish a collection of reports in the newsletters to come…
The ‘Hotlines’-book can be ordered here:
Call centres were the archetype of a workplace for the capitalist cycle between the early 1990s and late 2000s. Located in the dominant sectors of the cycle in the global north, e.g. banking, insurances and personal services, they were able to absorb and combine both surplus capital (which had escaped the shrinking profit margins in the industries); and surplus labour (in form of the unemployed graduate and dismissed industrial worker). Call centres became de facto outsourced university departments where students were forced to work off their student debts and get used to their future perspective as precarious wage dependents. The call centres’ outer-face resembled less the factories of the past; but rather their culture of ‘work-time/leisure-time’-balance was supposed to turn the collective experience of work into a question of individual life-management. They formed part of the general propaganda proclaiming the ‘end of the working class’, which prevailed since the 1980s – while at the same time concentrating and ‘proletarianising’ large sections of previously ‘white-collar’ workers under one roof and subjecting them to a Taylorised ‘factory-mode’ of production. Instead of individualising neo-liberal subjects, call centres simply extended the industrial system into the office world and collectivised a section of the working class who previously saw themselves as ‘educated employees’, such as bank clerks or administrators. As a labour intensive and mobile industry, call centres quickly combined labour in different parts of the globe.
We published the German version of this book in 2002 as a balance-sheet of three years of collective efforts. In hindsight it is astonishing that at the time we mentioned little about call centres in India. Only two years later this would have been impossible – see below. Call centres were as much the embodiment of the hailed ‘post-industrial’ boom of capitalism, as they were subjected to its ephemeral nature. In 2001, the bursting ‘New Ecomomy’-bubble sent shock-waves through the sector and washed call centre jobs towards the lower wage regions of the globe. With the financial crisis in 2008, ‘off-shored’ call centres in the English-speaking global south were equally shaken, new geographical shifts and technological re-structuring took place. Since then the ‘wage competition’ between call centres in impoverished and deprived regions in the crisis-ridden global north (rust-belts) and in the small pockets of development in India, the Philippines or South Africa has intensified.
However, the struggles of an emerging global working class have also intensified. After more than a decade of defensive struggles in the sector, automobile workers at Honda in China in 2010 and their colleagues at Maruti Suzuki in India in 2011 pushed things forward. Their struggles over-lap with emerging movements against the impact of the crisis in the USA and Western Europe (occupy-movement, large scale mobilisations in Greece, Spain etc.) and the uprisings against ‘neo-liberal dictatorships’ in Northern Africa. So far these struggles only over-lap on the common background of a global crisis; they don’t yet communicate directly. During the late 1990s call centre jobs had been re-located from France to the French speaking ex-colonies, like Morocco and Tunisia. But they only absorbed a faction of the unemployed local youth – the generation that lead the social explosions of 2011. For us the question remains whether call centres, as part of the global industrial structure, can become the ‘telegraph stations’ of this emerging global strike movement [http://www.wildcat-www.de/en/wildcat/90/e_w90_in_our_hands.html]. This question will not be answered through distant research, but active participation in workers’ struggles.
This is why we are pleased that friends in Delhi re-publish this book. At first, call centres in India were criticised only for being part of a ‘cultural degradation’ and ‘westernisation’. Soon enough the focus turned on the actual working conditions and the fact that, once seen not as a temporary stop-gap between graduation and future career, but as a life-time wage-prison, call centre jobs become less attractive. This book is only partially about call centres; and mostly about the relation between communist theory/inquiry and practice. It documents an attempt to reconcile both, based on our own proletarian subjectivity. In India, due to the specific class constellation, the gaps between professional political activism, ‘the conditions in one’s own class situation’ (as students or intellectual workers) and ‘working class reality’ are still huge. We hope that the book can contribute to the debate on how to overcome these separations.
Since this book has been published our collective efforts changed with the world around us. We distributed leaflets in front of the Hewlett Packard call centre in Holland in 2002. Five years later we stood in front of a call centre of the same company in Gurgaon, India, distributing a small pamphlet which summarised some of the call centre workers’ struggle experiences in Europe. We worked in market research call centres in London in 2003 and in 2007 re-located ourselves to a market research call centre in Gurgaon, where real wages were significantly higher at the time. Between 2003 and 2007 we tried to extend the ‘inquiry and collaboration’ of communist collectives through a newsletter; [http://libcom.org/tags/prol-position]. We attended international meetings and took part in the translation and debate on Beverly Silver’s book ‘Forces of Labor’ [http://www.wildcat http://www.de/dossiers/forcesoflabor/fol_preface.htm, which inspired us to relate practically to the emerging global character of the working class. Some of us went to China [http://www.gongchao.org], others to India [www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com]. We kept in touch within the political collective of German ‘wildcat’ [www.wildcat-www.de].
By the end of the decade times started to rock again… In these times we need collectives engaged in working class reality, with open minds and hearts. Get a job together, read Marx, write job diaries, share your experiences and let’s meet in the future…
Kapashera, Gurgaon, India – May 2012
The Big Shift…
After the crisis slump of the ‘New Economy’ at the beginning of the 2000s the international re-location of call centre jobs accelerated. The public media, political representatives and national trade unions presented this as ‘job losses’. Before looking at the actual geographical shifts within the sector, we first question this nationalist-protectionist position. Call centres themselves are in many ways result and ‘accelerators’ of ‘job losses’. From the 1980s onwards, General Motors earned more money by selling credit schemes than by manufacturing cars. The company down-sized factories. Thousands of industrial jobs were wiped out, while a smaller number of jobs were created in the more profitable banking sector where call centres were situated. Call centres themselves reduced the numbers of workers employed in offices and bank branches by introducing ‘labour saving’ organisation of work and technology, which turned formerly skilled white collar work in taylorized jobs.
Within the ‘national framework’ call centres were put into regions of ‘under-development’, such as old industrial or mining areas with high unemployment. This is the general process of capitalist expansion – none of those ‘saviours of labour’, from protectionist politicians to trade union institutions criticised this general process, they only started to cry once ‘jobs went abroad’. Here we also see one of the main shortcomings of the ‘anti-globalisation’ movement; this global ‘movement’ never questioned the protectionist ideology of the labour movement or social democracy by developing a new ‘proletarian internationalism’.
The following summary of a Los Angeles Times article from 2004 illustrates the problems of re-location at the time:
“Clintwood, Va. – This remote Appalachian town doesn’t get many visitors, but every day it sends thousands of travellers on their way.
If you buy an airline ticket off the Travelocity website and need to call with a change or a question, the phone rings here. (…) The Travelocity call centre brought 250 jobs to a community wounded by the decline of coal mining, its mainstay for a century. It plugged the town’s 1,500 residents into the global high-tech economy, offering the prospect of a secure future. That illusion crumbled last month when
Travelocity fired Clintwood, saying it would close the call centre by year-end and move all the jobs to India. (…) The call centre clerks in Clintwood start at $8 an hour. In India, their replacements will earn less than a quarter of that. (…). More than a quarter of the 2.25 million call-centre jobs in the U.S. are expected to go offshore. (…)”.
It had taken the garment textile industry about a century to move from the UK to the US to Asia. Under the conditions of micro-electronics and a more integrated world market the call centre industry went global within a couple of years. The following examples of early summer 2005 represent well the atmosphere at the time.
“Datamonitor predicts that more firms are set to follow the likes of British Airways, Citibank, General Electric and HSBC, all of which have spun off a part or all of their operations to India.” [Datamonitor - 21st of March 2005] “350 call center jobs to go at British Gas: Workers in Oldham have been told that 350 of them will lose their jobs because a new £430 million computer system can do their work better. The company is considering transferring any remaining clerical work that cannot be done by the computer to workers in India.” [www.oldhamadvertiser.co.uk - 21st of July 2005]
“IBM shifts jobs from USA to India: Even as it proceeds with layoffs of up to 13,000 workers in Europe and the United States, IBM plans to increase its payroll in India this year by more than 14,000 workers, according to an internal company document.” [The New York Times - 8th of July 2005]
“NAB shifts call center jobs: NAB outlined the plans to axe 4,200 jobs from its Australian and UK operations as it revealed its half-year financial results. At the same time Lloyds TSB announced it intended to have 2,500 staff in India by the end of this year.” [The Times - 12th of May 2005]
“Call centre operator Sykes Enterprises shrank its U.S. operations and last year added close to 10,000 call centre workstations in Costa Rica and the Philippines.” [Times Business - 2nd of May 2005]
As in the garment sector, capital compared global absolute wage levels for a global product like ‘back office calls’ and was drawn towards the lower wage regions. “Per agent cost in USA is approximately $40,000 while in India it is only $5,000.” ['Outsourcing' - 7th of February 2004]. “Average call centre salaries in the UK are about £12,500 ($22,000) a year, compared with £1,200 ($2,100) in India.” [BBC - 11th of December 2003]. In case of the call centre sector, capital does not even have to take into account the transportation costs for the finished commodity. With call centres, the pre-condition for global re-locations is the stable supply of english-speaking work-force able to use computers and to adjust to the alienation of market research standards and customer services. In addition a certain infrastructure both for the operation (office space, communication networks etc.) and the work-force (accommodation, attractive surrounding) is necessary. In the case of India we can say that in the process of re-location actually more jobs were created, given that you find a much higher share of auxiliary workers in Indian call centres than in the UK such as ‘housekeeping workers’, and huge fleets of company cabs driving people between home and work-place.
These are additional wage costs – with increasing rent prices in the metropolis of the global south and wage pressure from below the difference of ‘per agent cost’ between the US/UK and India will have become much less pronounced than as stated above. Most of the (union) initiatives about of re-location were limited to protectionist propaganda for the ‘defence of our jobs’. We can recall the ‘Pink Elephant’ campaign of the CWO [Communication Workers Union, UK] when British Telecom announced to slash jobs in the UK to shift them to India. We don’t criticise the fact that workers fight against redundancies and threats of relocation, like at Wanadoo in France in 2005, when the management planned to shift work to Morocco. But too often unions tried to conjure up nationalist sentiments; talking about ‘British quality’ of call centre services and similar bull-shit. “We already know the answer to any survey that the government has commissioned and so do the British consumers,” said David Fleming, the national secretary of Amicus [trade union, UK]. “Services will suffer, cost savings will not be transferred to the consumer, poor business decisions will be made in pursuit of short-term cost savings and company brands will be damaged by outsourcing” [BBC - 12th of February 2005]. There have only been a few campaigns where activists tried to break down the national perspective of their unions, e.g. when a US- delegation of unionists visited colleagues in India or campaigns of Spanish and Argentinean activists in the early 2000s, when the Spanish telecommunication company Telefonica tried to play workers off against each other on both continents.
The New Workers…
Call centre companies shifted jobs in space, but not only the absolute wage levels dropped on the way, also the class composition of the work- force changed. The English-speaking call centre workers in India were mainly recruited from young graduates of the ‘middle-waged’ class, with a clear social and cultural division to the general working class. This has not been the case in the US and Europe. This entailed that although the wages paid in Indian call centres were very low compared to those in the global north, the wages compared to the general wage level in India were high. This and the general working conditions (night-shifts, male and female employment etc.) created the material basis for a fundamental shake-up of generational and gender relations. Working in a call centre, the nineteen-year-old daughter of a teacher or hospital doctor earns more than her father. The fact of having the first job after school or university in a call centre, the night- shifts, the technological control and general pressure, the shared flats, the purchasing power, the expensive food in the neighboring shopping malls, the long hours in cabs, the frequent job changes, the more open gender relations at work, the burn out, the difficulty to keep the perspective of an academic career or to find jobs as academics… are experiences of a new proletarianised middle-class generation. To these general experiences others are added. We had gatherings with call centre workers in their flats, they arrived in Gurgaon coming from various states in India and they worked in different call centres in the area. One guy had been put into an Australian detention centre for several months and has not seen his two-year-old son for a year, since being deported. Another guy, a heavy metal guitarist, originally from Mizoram grew up under a militarised state of emergency. Someone was about to open his own small call centre, having worked four years night-shift he has the money and business connections. Our conversations mainly evolved about the sense of this new life, the question of love-relationships opposed to classical married life, the shattered illusion that a well paid work is a fulfilling one, the threatening perspective of depending on call centre jobs, the lack of other opportunities, migration. The following working life story of a work-mate we met in one of Gurgaon’s call centres during lunch breaks expresses the experiences of this new generation of workers.
(Female worker, 22 years old – May 2006)
“In April 2004 I was still living in Bhopal when I had my first job interview with a call centre company in Gurgaon. After a first interview over the phone I was invited for a second interview in Gurgaon. I went with my mother. The company said that they were interested, but that they currently had no job, that I should wait another week. A friend of mine arranged me a different job, so I moved from Bhopal to Gurgaon. I first had to convince my family, but when my father saw that the flat is fine, they let me go. It was for the first time that I went to a big town. In the following one and a half years, I worked in fourteen different call centers and by changing jobs I increased my monthly wage from 8,000 rupees that I earned at my first job to 20,000 rupees, my current wage. All jobs were outbound, I was calling the US, Canada or the UK. First I had a quite glamorous picture of call centers, you know, free cabs and meals and all. But all that changed after a while, after working six days a week from 2.30 am to 12.30 pm plus travel-time. I started working in small call centre with ten employees, later I worked in companies with up to 2,000 employees. The smaller call centers are less organised, they often do not give you a contract, and they do not pay in time. And do not get promised incentives as well. They also often do not pay the Provident Fund (unemployed/pension insurance), they do not give you a PF-number, although it is obligatory. They also hire more or less anyone who can speak a little English.
In the smaller units I called for Rogers Canada, they do business in telecommunications, or I called trying to convince people in the US to make use of the Government Grant Profit. They are supposed to pay 299 USD into this scheme, but often it turns out to be a con-trick. The shift-times for the US are tough; you work from 11 pm. to 6.30 am. I called for Three-G-Network or OneTel, selling mobile phones to private households in the UK. A lot of call centers here call for telecommunication companies.
Most of the call centers had automatic dialers, meaning that you cannot influence when a call is made. Sometimes you have to make 400 to 500 calls per shift. Bigger companies like Infovision or Technova sometimes share a building, so that you have one row of Infovision workers the next from Technova. Big companies have their own buildings, unlike smaller companies, which often share a single one. It can happen that in one row there are people working for seven different companies. Infovision also has several branches, one still in the US, three or four in India. Some people start working while they are still living with their parents. For them it is pocket-money for party or gadgets. For them it is also not such a problem if wages are not paid on time. But I guess that 60 to 70 per cent of the people actually have to pay rent, they came from various places in the North, if there is no money, they are in trouble.
Once at Icode Customer Management wages were not paid in time. It is a small call centre, only 25 people worked there. The management made cheap excuses, said that the client was not paying, that money will come in soon. That happened several times before people got despondent. During a night-shift people decided not to work as long as they were not given their wages. The manager actually went and got cash money from the bank and paid people the next morning. Later several people left this company, now there are only ten workers left. Similar things happen at bigger call centers, as well.
There was trouble in taking leave also. For example my brother was ill and I had to go back to Bhopal. The team leader said it was fine, but when I came back he asked me “Who allowed you to take holiday?” Sometimes I just left the job because I needed a holiday; and took a new job on returning. You can find jobs through internet, newspapers or you hear about them from friends. There are call centers like Wipro or Convergys which are seen as better and more established call centers, also because they have good clientele, for example BT or Orange. The problem is that they are far away from Gurgaon, one has to travel at least two hours plus and then work a ten hours shift. The atmosphere in the call centers is a bit like in college. There is a culture of parties, people share flats, keep in contact via google-groups. Sometimes it is fun, people come to work after a party still drunk, falling asleep, waking each other up when a CIO comes. Sometimes it is childish, even embarrassing. Boys play their games, make jokes about girls. We are also mistreated when calling the US, but mainly from private people, not from employees. We do not know much about working conditions in call centers in the US, also we did not talk about it much. We have only seen the senior US managers from time to time; that is it. When I observed that more and more people are entering into the call centre business I felt that only speaking English was not enough, because so many people could speak English. I learnt French. In call centers you mainly learn about working time and discipline, you are physically busy, but mentally free. You do your task. I also tried to get a job teaching French, but that is difficult and the wages are not that good. I finally joined Evalueserve, here you are under less pressure. In a call centre, if you do not sell, you are fired. A lot of people try to continue their studies while working in a call centre, about 40 per cent study through correspondence. But it is difficult, a lot of people stop after a while. Also for managers working in a call centre is not a step towards career, they can stay within the industry, but outside, the call centre experience is not valued.”
The lines of divisions…
Although the experiences of workers in English speaking call centers seem fairly homogeneous, the experiences and conditions in the wider sector are not. We see main lines of segmentation within the sector: between in-house call centers and outsourced processes; between English speaking international call centers and Hindi speaking domestic ones; between call centre agents and ‘service workers’ (cleaning, driving); between the call centre workers and the other industrial workers situated in the same industrial zones.
Most of the bigger companies not only off-shore their work to India, but outsource it to tele-service companies like Wipro, Convergys, Genpact, IBM. American Express in Gurgaon, for example, has an outsourced process at Convergys, at the same time and just across the street it runs its own in-house call centre. IBM has an in-house call centre and at the same time acts as a service provider for Amazon and various bigger airlines and travel agencies. Wipro employs 1,200 people in the Dell process while Dell is opening its own centre only few kilometres away. It is unclear yet whether Dell will keep on running both processes parallel, but during conversations we heard that workers in the area are also affected by re-locations of their work. Some workers reported that the process they had worked was re-located to a call centre in Hyderabad in South of India.
While workers in English speaking call centers start with monthly wages of Rs.17, 000 and can earn up to Rs.30, 000, workers in domestic Hindi speaking centers earn between Rs. 7,000 and 11,000. There is a parallel boom of English schools and American accent learning classes. Many workers feel compelled to learn another European language in order to compete on the market and counter-act the pressure on wages.
Another major wage gap exists between call centre agents and service workers (canteen, security, drivers. cleaners). Their wages are extremely low and their service work is supposed to keep the call centre workers content despite stress and night-shift burden. Most of the perks of call centre employees, such as free food, transport, leisure activities, are based on the shoulders of low-paid manual workers. In January 2010 housekeeping workers hired through contractors at FIS call centre (handling calls for American Express) were paid a basic wage of Rs 3,300 per month, Rs 12 per hour overtime, they received no ESI health insurance card, no Provident Fund – as statutory.
The spatial proximity between call centre and factory is obvious, as obvious as the social abyss that still opens between them. The work in call centers has lost its ‘intellectual’ attractions, it consists basically of industrial mouth movements and Taylorised emotions, but the social gap between different sections of working class is significant and can also be expressed in monetary terms: in 2007, while call centre workers earned around Rs. 20,000, an unskilled building worker in the Dell call centre building site earned 1,000 to 1,500 Rupees per month, working 80 hours a week; a textile or metal worker employed through a contractor earned about 1,500 to 2,500 Rupees for the same working hours; the official minimum wage for unskilled worker in Haryana for a 48 hours week was about 3,000 Rupees, a contract worker at Maruti or Honda was paid between 3,000 and 5,000 Rupees for 50 to 60 hours per week; a guy at Pizza Hut serving the call centre agents got 3,700 Rupees for a 60 hours week. Pre-condition for bridging of this gap, is that call centre workers start to act as workers, which they have started to do within their sector, but which rarely crosses it and becomes visible to other industrial proletarians.
The new aspirations…
Capital moves, looking for profitable conditions, trying to escape the contradiction of workers’ collective aspirations and resistance within profit production. In its flight it re-establishes the contradictions on a higher and wider social level. Call centers are no exceptions from that rule. The sheen of call centre jobs in India wore off quickly, so did the illusion of the representatives of capital to have found an investment paradise of docile and cheap labour. As during the times of industrial revolution, it was the ‘middle-class’ which first voiced the already existing discontent amongst workers, and they voiced it in their narrow-minded moralist ways:
“Author Praful Bidwai said that in effect the centers reduced the young Indian undergraduates to ‘cyber-coolies’.”They work extremely long hours badly paid, in extremely stressful conditions, and most have absolutely no opportunities for any kind of advancement in their careers,” Mr Bidwai told BBC. “It’s a dead end, it’s a complete cul-de-sac. It’s a perfect sweatshop scenario, except that you’re working with computers and electronic equipment rather than looms or whatever.” [BBC - 11th of December 2003]
Meanwhile call centre workers ‘voted with their feet’. “Staff turnover at Indian call centers is worse than that at UK operations, with Indian graduates only willing to stay in a job for an average of 11 months, compared with three years in the UK.” [BBC - 12th of February 2005] “An annual attrition rate of 50 per cent plus is par for the course and a company that boasts of an attrition rate of 30 per cent struts about like a prima donna. The attrition is forcing BPO companies to pay more. Wages have risen so quickly in India that it’s not much cheaper in comparison to Canada as an off shoring location. [The Telegraph - 20th of April 2005] “Indian back-office firms are facing a growing challenge of holding on to employees, even as they hire tens of thousands every quarter. Staff tends to account for half of a back-office operation’s costs and the battle for talent has led to an annual 10-15% rise in employee’s salaries. Employees often hop to new jobs for slightly more money, and many do not view back-office work as a career. Companies provide free transport, subsidised meals and housing to retain staff, and try to enliven the environment with musical entertainment, yoga classes and costume contests.” [The Hindu - 08th of July 2004]
This workers’ behaviour was common in Europe, as well, during the time of the boom. We only rarely hear of collective steps of workers within the call centers to improve conditions – which does not mean that they don’t happen. The following example from August 2005 illustrates the collective and creative nature of possible steps:
“Not satisfied with their earnings, some BPO employees feel they can outsmart technology and earn bonuses for themselves. Some employees at Convergys were sacked because they managed to ‘create’ fake favourable ratings apparently from customers of SBC Yahoo, a popular ISP in the USA who has outsourced customer services to Convergys. The employees created new email IDs in the name of SBC Yahoo customers they were sent a positive feedback to their company from this email ID. Apparently this was discovered when Convergys noted unusual patterns of excellent ratings for some employees. On pinging, it was found that these feedback forms had been originating from an Indian server (used by Convergys, Gurgaon) rather than from the US servers from where they actually should have come. Money seems to have been the greatest lure for such employees, as an excellent rating can get them bonuses of up to Rs 4,000 a week”. [Times of India, 21st of August 2005]
The new struggles…
There have been open collective struggles in call centers in India in particular once wages were not paid in time or workers were sacked. In May 2005, three cops were injured when call centre workers threw stones during a strike at Hope India Ltd. in Mumbai – unfortunately we never found out more about this unrest. In July 2007 workers at Gnome Business Solutions call centre in Gurgaon protested against being dismissed from one day to the other. “After a round of slogan-shouting outside the office of the BPO – Gnome Business Solutions at the Global Business Park on MG Road, Gurgaon – the management issued the sacked workers post-dated cheques by way of a final settlement. For many among the retrenched, this wasn’t the first jolt of their young careers. “Many in this group were earlier working with another call centre, Avancore. Last Diwali, it declared a two-day holiday. When they returned to work, the call centre had vanished.” Industry leaders say the episode is part of a larger trend. According to Deepak Kapoor of BPO News, an industry-related website, a study done by the organisation shows more than 60% of small BPOs in India – those employing between 20 and 100 people – close down within months of their launch.” [Times News Network, 4th of July 2007] A similar incident took place in NOIDA on 10th of January 2010, when a fake BPO company took money for employment from some students. When the students noticed the scam they did not allow the company owners to move out the building till they paid them back. Eight students suffered minor injuries in a subsequent clash with the police personnel at Knowledge Park-I. The students alleged that the police was helping the company and ignoring their complaints. We documented an actual collective strike at a domestic call centre in Gurgaon in the Hindi workers’ newspaper Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.267:
Sparsh BPO Service Worker
(409 Udyog Vihar Phase 3)
“We currently operate through 20 state-of-the art facilities across nine locations in India. Our dedicated workforce of over 16,000 motivated professionals provides qualitative solutions in the areas of transaction processing and calls centre services, aiming to achieve excellence in every transaction.”(From company web-site: http://www.sparshindia.com/)
The call centre is in a 12-floor building, several thousand workers are on the phone 24 hours on three shifts, phoning for BSNL, Airtel, Airsale, Reliance Com, Orient Bank of Commerce. For 26 working days per month they get Rs. 4,800 after 8-hours shift they are often made to stay two hours longer, for which they are not paid. The company does not pay for transportation and those workers who use the ‘employee cabs’, 1,000 Rs per month is deducted from their wages. In addition Rs.210 is deducted for PF and Rs. 80 for ESI – but no ESI card is given. The food break is only for 15 minutes – there are two 5 minutes breaks for tea. There is never enough time, but no matter what, you are suppose to work. You cannot make the customer wait, that’s what they say. Against this the workers stopped working at the end of March 2009, they stopped it for three days. They went inside the office, but they did not log in. The management reacted by smashing 4-5 computers and trying to blame the workers for it, saying that they will file a police case and send them to jail. Bit by bit they started to kick people out – in the end there must have been about 2,000 workers. Actually a lot of workers handed their resignation, but the company refused to take it – instead they said that the workers just left the job. After having worked there for more than two years employee went to the office in order to get his PF form signed, but just threw it away and said that he left the job without giving notice and he won’t get the PF. The company keeps 200 workers for housekeeping. They work 12-hours shifts, 30 days per month and get only Rs. 4,887 – no ESI and no PF. The company has another office at 195 Udyog Vihar Phase 1. The employees work for Vodafone, Shubh Yatra, Bhartiya a Jivan Bima Nigam and some others.
[Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar no. 267]
Here things gets even more interesting. Sparsh closed down the Gurgaon call centre soon after this strike and re-located it to a small town in Rajasthan. About two years later several hundred kilometres away Sparsh again faced workers’ anger: “AJMER: Employees of state’s first call centre – BSNL – went on strike alleging the organization for illegal deduction of money. They said they got payments lower than what was promised to them during their appointment. The call center was inaugurated by union IT and telecom state minister Sachin Pilot. About thirty people working with call centre ‘Sparsh’ walked out of the office on Friday morning. They shouted slogan against the officials. “They promised to pay Rs 5,500 at the time of appointment but they are paying us Rs 3, 700 only,” Minali, an employee, said. They also accused the HR and operation officials of harassment, “They have zero tolerance. Even when the system fails they deduct half day’s salary,” another employee said. When contacted, the officials refused to talk and said there was some misunderstanding, which they were trying to solve.” [Times of India - 22nd of June 2011]
Another dispute at the other end of the globe expressed the increasing internationalisation of call centre companies in concrete and – taking companies like Mittal and Tata into account – the development of an intertwined multinational management of capital. In November 2009, in Timisoara, Romania, the French telecom giant Alcatel-Lucent announced that one third of the work-force will be outsourced to the ‘Indian’ It-service giant Wipro by early 2010. Wipro runs major call centres in Gurgaon and other cities in India. The workers in Romania then formed union to defend their rights and ‘terms and conditions’. On 10th of November 2009 a joint-action of Alcatel workers in France, Germany, Italy and Romania took place against job cuts. In September 2009 Wipro shut down an IT research and development-centre in Sophia Antipolis, France. About 60 engineers got the sacked.
Blog of the Wipro/Alcatel union in Romania
Article on Wipro job cuts in France
The flight into the desert…
We can see two main current structural problems of capitalist: where to find a fresh supply of labour which could be combined with a new mode of production, a new productivity regime? By the mid 2000s capitalist started to complain about wage pressure and labour shortage in China and other Asian countries. This is obviously a shortage of a certain kind of labour. Capitalist wanted to fly forward, to capture a new virgin section of working class (peasant workers) which can be subjected to intensified conditions of exploitation, but the regions of the globe where capital could find such a working class have become sparse. Similarly, the hailed ‘Toyotism’ of the 1990s, which was supposed to revolutionise the old ‘Fordist’ mode of assembly-line manufacturing of the ‘American century’, had lost its ‘lean sheen’ by the turn of the millenium. Manufacturing today is more dependent on the brutal contradictory pace of the line than ever before.
Call centers ran into this structural problem of fresh labour supply and production model with full speed. By the mid-2000s the propagandist of capital announced that call centers will move away from towns like Gurgaon, Bangalore or Manila – where call centers had just arrived – and settle down in smaller towns and rural areas in order to cope with wage pressures and ‘high office rents’. This could never happen due to, only, theoretical availability of skilled mass labour in these areas. The desperation of capitalist to find these untouched reservoirs of labour turned farcical when trying to re-valorise fields of social disintegration and decaying dictatorships:
“Now, India’s IT revolution has arrived in Kashmir with the opening of the state’s first call centre, in the city of Srinagar. With 500,000 unemployed, there is no shortage of willing job applicants, while wages in Kashmir are among the lowest in India.” [Economic times - 12th of August 2011 ET]
“We believe that our country is an ideal destination to start a BPO because of the conducive atmosphere we have. To begin with, we have a stable government that is eager to set up an outsourcing industry. Apart from Genpact, we are also in talks with Wipro and few other players to start their operations in Bhutan,” said Kezang, executive director, ministry of information and communications.”
[Financial Express - 24th of August 2011]
Similarly the call centre industry in India repeated the propaganda of ‘tele/home-work’ as an alternative mode of production to the mass concentration of call centre workers under one roof. The industry had churned out the futile talk and had failed to turn it into practice in the US and Europe before.
“With just one laptop or desktop computer with internet and phone connections, people could operate from their rooms, attend to inbound calls that otherwise land at the call centre. With this, housewives, who would never otherwise dream of joining a BPO, would be able to take jobs and do it from their homes,” said Mike Manson, director of the ‘Innovative Company’. “Virtualisation of voice technology would help setting up of one-seater or 3-5 seater micro BPOs in tier 3 and 4 cities from where the BPO companies are drawing talent pool,” said Sriram Srinivas, vice-president. “This would not only benefit the employee to save on overheads such as rentals and high cost of living in metros like Gurgaon but also helps the company reduce cost on things such as employee transportation expenses.” [Financial Express - 13th of May 2011]
Experiences in the US and Western Europe taught us that even in call centers, capitalist production is still mainly a ‘socially enforced’ type of productivity: despite rent costs the mass office is still more productive due to mass cooperation, flow of creativity, discipline and surveillance.
Having to face up to lack of fresh labour supply and the general absence of new modes of production, capital’s flight ahead became more and more of a disoriented stumbling. And then approached the big crunch – and Gurgaon’s call centre workers have been the first who saw big shit hitting the global fan:
“In a glass tower on the outskirts of New Delhi, dozens of young Indians are on the telephone, calling America’s out of work, forgetful and debt-stricken and asking for cash. ‘Are you sure that’s all you can afford?’ one operator in a row of cubicles asks politely. ‘Well, how do you take care of your everyday expenses?’ presses another. Americans are used to receiving calls from India for insurance claims and credit card sales. But debt collection represents a growing business for outsourcing companies. Armed with a sophisticated automated system that dials tens of thousands of Americans every hour, and puts confidential information like Social Security numbers, addresses and credit history at operators’ fingertips, this new breed of collectors is chasing down late car payments, overdue credit card debt and lapsed installment loans. Debt collectors in India often cost about one-quarter the price of their American counterparts, and are often better at the job, debt collection company executives say.”
[Economic Times - 24th of April 2008]
The big bang October 2008…
The financial crash of autumn 2008 shook the main sectors of call centre work in particular and the global wage cascade in general. In the glass-towers of Gurgaon’s industrial areas the impact of the melt-down was direct: the conditions of the call centre workers phoning for the US and European market worsened suddenly. And not only the call centre workers felt the blow, also their unknown brothers and sisters in the garment sector were very much aware of the dwindling numbers orders coming from the export markets. The political climate changed and one of the populist reactions of the Obama US-government – apart from demonstrative vegetable growing on the lawn of the White House teaching the unemployed working class in the USA their future modes of survival – was the protectionist promise that ‘jobs will stay in the US in future’. Was it a promise or a threat? Actually the crisis pushed down wages in the global north to such an extent that they became close to competitive again compared with IT-service related wages in the south. The division of labour had to be re-configured and capitalist had to transform the pressure of the crisis into a new global wage scale.
The Union of Information Technology Enabled Services (UNITES) estimates in January 2009 that between September and December 2008 10,000 jobs were lost in the IT industry and anticipates a further 50,000 cuts in the first half of 2009. As if to mimic the US Enron scandal that buried the new-economy bubble in the US, the Satyam scandal came at the right time to finish off the last doubts about the state of the sector in India.
“Rajeev, a Senior Customer Care Executive at Convergys has worked at five different call centers in the last seven years. He’s looking for a change again, but this time not out of choice. “This is the first time I feel I am heading nowhere. I have been asked to leave because of something I haven’t done,” he said. Rajeev is one of the 450 employees fired in the last two weeks by a Gurgaon BPO called 24/7 Customers. Reason being that this UK-based mobile phone company has decided to cut back its India operations. The Orange crisis has led to lay-offs at two other Call Centers, Convergys and EXL services. And this comes after 400 people were let go last month by another BPO giant, Keane India, after a merger and a scaling down of size.”
[NDTV - 13th of July 2008]
“Mid-tier IT company Hexaware Technologies is in the process of shutting down its Gurgaon centre where about 130 employees currently work.”[Sify - 14th of August 2008]
“Convergys is shutting down its Malad facility in Mumbai which employs around 400 people, Patni Computer Systems laid off 400 people citing non-performance, while Fidelity Management and Research Company India plans to shut down its Gurgaon facility by September this year which employs around 350 people.”
[Economic Times - 17th of August 2008]
We spoke to a call centre worker during his cigarette break in front of Convergys in June 2009, asking him about the impact of the crisis: “Since this recession has started, companies are not offering more than Rs. 16.000 – 17.000. Before this, they were offering Rs 20.000 plus. And apart from this they are making people to work for longer hours. If 50 companies were hiring, now only 10 or 15 companies are hiring. American Express, for example, chucked out a large sum of employees and they hired new batch, but they are paying very less to them. Even we have seen, in our company also there are a process of layoffs. Recently 50 people have been asked to leave because of the recession. They were getting very good salary. They weren’t new, but still they had to leave. The situation is not as bad as compared to US or England. At least the people are able to manage – able to survive. And I think, as the recession is getting over very soon – another 5-6 months, things will definitely change.” They did not. In November 2011 in Gurgaon alone around 2,500 workers at Nokia-Siemens Networks lost their job, most of them paid salaries only slightly above the minimum wage. Globally the company cut over 20,000 jobs between November 2011 and February 2012. In Germany 3,000 workers were sacked. Blamed for the job loss was the ‘price war’ with Chinese vendors.
Call centre companies in India tried to translate the (credit) crunch into a (literal) squeeze of their workers, by reducing space per person in call centers and cabs, by cutting wages and additional perks. “The IT-enabled services (ITeS) firms are taking stringent measures to cut costs. They are reducing space per employee, and decreasing the size of common areas like cafeterias and conference rooms. At a Gurgaon offshore office, space per employee has been reduced to 60 sq ft from 100 sq ft; at large IT companies, 125 sq ft per employee is a standard. Workstation width has dropped from 3-4 feet earlier to 2 feet. All this is leading to severe work related stress. “I can’t move my hands in the fear of hurting someone. And all day one has to hear colleagues talking about issues from boyfriends to food recipes to childcare, which is not just distracting, but irritating,” says Rajsekhar. (…) Margins in business process outsourcing (BPO) have been stagnating at 18% for the past years even as revenues declined in 2011. For IT services the drop in profitability is worse: margins have plunged from 32% in 2006 to 18% in fiscal year 2011.”
[Financial Express - 3rd of August 2011]
On-Shoring? What the f…
Talk about ‘on-shoring’ made the rounds from 2010 onwards, meaning that US or UK companies closed their call centers in India and re-opened them in the US/UK. Most of these cases were blown up and didn’t represent a major trend. The reasons given for the ‘on-shoring’ are often populist, catering to both the patriotic sentiments and the ‘client pride’ (local accents, ‘good quality’ etc.). In general the share of IT-BPO service work done in India still increased, the global market share stood at about 55 per cent in 2010. Nevertheless, with the crisis deepening in the north some shifts were taking place. High unemployment levels have driven down wages for some low-skilled outsourcing services in some parts of the US, particularly among the Hispanic population. Genpact, India’s main call centre operator employed around 1,500 call centre workers in the US in 2010 and announced that “company expected to treble its workforce in the US over the next two years.” “”We need to be very aware [of what's available] as people [in the US] are open to working at home and working at lower salaries than they were used to,” said Mr Bhasin, the chief executive of Genpact. Wipro, the Bangalore-based IT outsourcing company, started to recruit workers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa during the global economic downturn.” [Financial Times - 17th of August 2010]
Similar news came in from the UK. In June 2011 the banking giant Santander announced to bring its call centers ‘back’ to the UK: 500 jobs would be created by the switch of call centre work from India to staff based in the UK cities of Glasgow, Leicester and Liverpool. “This year, BT has also created several hundreds of jobs in the West Midlands through the opening of a new call centre in Sandwell in the West Midlands. UK insurer Aviva moved back some jobs from its Indian BPO partner WNS to Norwich, UK, earlier this year. Although it did not give a reason, people familiar with the matter said it was facing quality issues. In June 2011 the Indian firm Aegis announced to create 600 jobs by opening call centre in Manchester, UK.”
[Economic times - 4th of July 2011]
Not only ‘jobs’ come ‘back home’ to the US, in some cases call centre workers are brought over from India, employed by ‘Indian’ call centre operators within the US. “Companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Genpact and Infosys are the largest users of the US-American H-1B visa program and have collectively brought as many as 30,000 workers into the country in 2010. The workers are often paid “home-country wages” in America. That’s as low as $8,000 a year with housing allowance. Similar to the situation in the UAE, employers keep the visas – so the workers can’t bargain for wages, and if they lose their job they have to leave the country.” [Financial times - 20th of May 2011] We can see the whole dimension of current shifts of actual work-places and workers.
The future potentials for class re-composition…
As we have read on the walls of Athens after the riots: “The Future is Unwritten!”. We will not be able to tell how exactly the global crisis will develop, but we can anticipate its impact on the specific class composition [http://www.wildcat-www.de/wildcat/64/w64opera.htm] in the garment, manufacturing and call centre zones in Gurgaon and other industrial metropolis in India.
While having a stroll through Gurgaon, the main revelation is that the planners of the industrial zones have not studied European revolutionary periods in the late sixties, or the struggles in Latin America or the movements in South Korea in the 80s. Or they think that due to the general deeper divisions in Indian society, putting call centers with ‘student-workers’ right next to huge motorcycle and garment factories will not create explosive potentials in case of bigger turmoil. While we were distributing a call centre workers’ brochure in 2007, the temp workers of the Hero Honda factory organised a wild occupation of the plant which went on for five days [http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no4/#fn2]. Right opposite the factory is a bigger call centre with 1,000 young students, capable of communicating in international languages and with access to modern means of communication, having to work ten hours night-shifts under severe pressure, while looking at the police sleeping in the shadows of the occupied factory. Only a couple of weeks later we heard of trouble in the call centre because incentives were not paid in time. We were not able to verify the rumours but during a visit at the site a lot of young workers complained about having to travel and wait for two hours in cabs before shift starts and about delays in wage payment. During times of revolutionary upheavals the students first had to “discover” the workers, here they work right next to each other and are in similar ways connected to the global movement of capital, e.g. the IBM call centre is right next to the Delphi plant, the world’s biggest car supplier, and in the US both companies are in deep economical shit.
In October 2008, at one point in time, workers in one space – who might otherwise have thought that they have little in common but chai stalls – faced a common situation: cut in bonuses or piece-rates, suspension of free company meals and transportation in call centers, threat of job cuts. The potential for a socially explosive tea-party of english-speaking call centre night-shift youth, migrant garment and construction workers and young skilled workers in the car part plants entered the Industrial Model Towns – a mass base of actual ‘internal threat’. If call centre workers and other industrial workers would come closer together in movement, this would be a true cultural revolution of the hierarchical relationship between intellectual and manual labour in India and give the working class struggle a whole different dimension and potentiality. What would be the material condition for such a coming-together, apart from the crisis impact?
We think that the workers in domestic call centers could play a specific role. Their wages are low, often even lower than the wage of (skilled) garment workers – but they use the same means of production as the international call centre agents and could therefore ‘explain’ the form of exploitation to other industrial proletarians who otherwise see call centre ‘staff’ just as the better-dressed middle-class youth. Another direct (international) link between call centers and other sections of workers is outsourced ‘admin-work’. Workers in these ‘back-offices’ not only handle ‘private consumers’, but form part of an actual global productive cooperation. For example a back-office in Gurgaon organises all shift-shedules for the German railways ‘Deutsche Bank’. In June 2011 India’s largest IT-related service provider Genpact got a seven-year contract from Nissan. The centre in Gurgaon will “provide payroll, benefits, staffing, training and other key HR services to Nissan’s 54,000 employees. Genpact already manages procurement for Nissan from its offices in Gurgaon.” In July 2011 Capgemini opened a back-office in Gurgaon with 4,500 seats, amongst others the centre will “deliver Global Order Management services to Nokia Siemens Networks to support the company’s global Supply Chain Management.” [Economic Times - 27th of July 2011]
Apart from this we can also refer to the development of a global (proletarian) youth movement, expressed in various ways, from university occupations in the UK and Chile, to Tahrir and Tottenham riots and the ‘Occupy’-movement. This movement will find some repercussions within the open-space offices and reverberate under the head-sets of the global call centre generation. During 2007 we distributed about 1,000 pamphlets in front of call centers in Gurgaon – at the time workers surely complained about the general boredom of the job, but their anger seemed to be rather individual. Since then the world has changed, the global crisis has given a mighty blow to the relation between individual fate and fate of society. Based on these material connections of the production process (global back-offices) and based on the developing youthful anger, organised efforts around this existing international communication network are necessary and possible. Let’s organise around the proletarian conditions within it. Let’s help turning it into the ‘telegraph stations’ of the currently emerging global strike wave.
For Workers’ Self-Emancipation – For Communism!
I come from a poorer working class background. My family makes and sells sweets. I was the only child which received higher education. In the early 2000s I received my BETEC graduation, after a four years course. We learned C-language programming, Java. The whole course had cost my family around 300,000 Rs. Companies came to the college in order to recruit workers. I found a job in NOIDA two months after my graduation.
When starting to work I had to learn a lot of new things, mainly web-development. We programmed web-sites and web-applications for Indian medium-seized companies. We worked between 9 and 9.5 hours per day, every second Saturday off. Initially the company had offered 250,000 Rs per year, but after joining they said the actual wage was 180,000 Rs. That was in 2006. The company employed about 500 to 600 workers. There where little discussions about wages on a collective level. People negotiated about wages individually or looked for better jobs. Young workers look for jobs all over India. I stayed with the company for four months, then found a job in Hyderabad.
I went alone to Hyderabad, but found people from Delhi area there. In Hyderabad the work again was different. We had to start as freshers again. The company did programming jobs for multi-national clients. They gave us two and a half months training. During this period we were living in company flats, they paid us 14,000 Rs. After the training they paid 18,000 Rs, but we had to pay for rent ourselves. In Hyderabad the main client was an US energy and gas company. I worked for this client for two years, after that we worked for Philip Morris, from the company’s branch in Gurgaon. We programmed an application for Philip Morris which enabled them to process company data, e.g. the accounts and exchanges with small shops and retailers.
The company in India likes to send people to work with clients abroad. They make more money then. The client companies want workers from India to come to work at their place in US or the UK usually when a new process starts and things have to be developed. There is a lot of communication and coordination necessary, this is better done under direct surveillance and cooperation, rather than through the net communication. Recently the company in India signed a two and a half contract with a UK bank. During the initial transition period they wanted workers from India as ‘coordinators’ in the UK bank office. We were sent on one year work visas. We are still employed by the Indian company, but work in the offices of the client.
In India my last wage was 35,000 Rs per month. Here in the UK, a small town of the UK, I get 1,800 pounds per month. We have to pay rent from that. The control is higher here, if the client management wants changes, they have to happen immediately. I coordinate with my work colleages and supervisors in India, mainly through mail and video-conferences. We work 10 to 10.5 hours a day. Every four weeks we are on ‘night-call duty’, meaning that if something is wrong with the process we get a call and have to come out at night. During that week that happens during on average three nights. It disturbs your sleep, even if you only expect a call.
In the office there are 60 locals and 40 workers from India. Some of the locals also work for the outsourced company, but most of them work for the UK client, a bank, directly. The local workers get between 200 to 300 pounds per day, our client company gets 100 pounds for us per day, we get around 60 pounds. There are no comments from the locals saying: “You work for so little money” or “You take our jobs”. Relationships are formal, they relate only to the work. We program applications which increase the speed of certain services, by making them automatic. For example if people want to switch bank accounts. I live with Indian work colleagues. Two of us share a room. There is not much to do after work. It is a small town.
The guys from India are ‘happy’ to be here, because the pay is better, although they miss friends and family and although ‘the place is silent’. We all remember the slight shock in 2008, when after the financial crash a lot of programmers temporarily lost their job. The companies in India said: ‘the client did not send any money, you have to go’. There was no resistance. During the last six years, I would guess that 60 per cent of my class mates from college have been working abroad at some point. Wages in India have not really increased since I graduated, going abroad is the only chance to earn money, also in order to pay back the debts of education.
Ford Genk: FIGHT AGAINST CLOSURE?
LET’S FIGHT HARDER TO MAKE THE BOSS AND THE STATE PAY!
On 24 October, Ford announced the closure of the factory in Genk and probably those in Southampton and Dagenham as well. Ford is restructuring all of its production sites in Europe. In Belgium, that’s 4,300 working at Ford Genk and close to 6,000 working for subcontractors who’ll lose their jobs some time in 2013/2014. In Britain close to 1400 workers are under threat. Once again, the unions, the town hall bigwigs, the MPs, the Flemish Region officials, the ministers are “astonished” and “scandalised” by this decision and act like it’s a case of vile treason by some nasty boss, “foreign” as well… who scarcely two months ago gave them a “guarantee” that the new model of the Mondeo would be produced in 2013 !!!
It is “a veritable catastrophe”, a “social bloodbath”…, there are no words strong enough. While the situation of the car industry in Europe, and particularly that of Ford, never ceases to get worse, they moan, organise symbolic “citizens’” protests, and promise some crumbs as consolation, planned redundancy schemes, redeployment, while above all calling on the workers to remain calm and “responsible” and to stay at home, while they negotiate with Ford. It’s not like this that we can fight effectively against the consequences of closures and redundancies.
Workers, comrades, all these people are FALSE FRIENDS !
The boss is not going to change his mind! Before even making vehicles, Ford, as a good capitalist business, must make profits. With a posted loss of close to 1.5 billion dollars in Europe this year, Ford has to do something. The rate of utilisation of its sites in Europe is only 50 to 60%, while to make a profit a car factory needs to be running at at least 80% of its capacity. At Ford Genk, this rate is only 48%, far behind the Spanish and German sites (Saarlouis and Cologne, which are comparable in terms of costs of production). And the vehicles produced at Genk are coming to the end of their life. Briefly stated, an analyst (Colin Lagan of UBS) has calculated that the cost of closing Ford Genk will be 1.1 billion dollars, but will save between 500 and 700 million dollars per year. This is the implacable logic of capital, but Ford can’t hide the fact that restructuring is essentially happening on the backs of the workers. First and foremost, you can only count on yourselves, on organising yourselves, among yourselves with your workmates and with people from the sub-contractors which are also affected by the long process of restructuring of the car industry. After having accepted wage cuts and a speed up of work two years ago – to save jobs! -, your backs are to the wall and there is no other solution than struggle, to go on strike. You need to keep the stock of parts and cars under your control to use as a bargaining chip so as to screw as much money out of Ford as possible. After the announcement of the closure of Volkswagen-Forest, in November 2006, it was enough for a work stoppage and the fear which it created for those laid off to get millions in redundancy money. The workers of Volkswagen-Forest got, on average, 144,000 euros each, and those of Opel Anvers, 153,000 euros.
The operating profit of Ford will be more than 2 billion dollars in the third quarter of this year. So there’s plenty of margin for more than the 77,000 euros redundancy money proposed, which will be less than 50,000 euros net, because the state which “supports” the workers is going to take its cut in the form of taxes. We have to fight against the state to make it drop the taxes imposed on redundancy payments. The state and the region, completely “mired in debt”, are not going to come to your aid. The capitalists and their state prefer to save the banks rather than the companies which don’t make enough profit. You must not consider yourselves as only car workers but as workers who face the attack of the bosses seen by other workers, above all in the Belgian context where all the nationalisms and regionalisms are there to divide us. Whether workers are Flemish or Walloon, factory closures will have the same consequences for everyone. Nationalism, in Flanders like anywhere else, is not the solution. The workers have no country: the “nationality” of the workers is their class.
The government has been ready to help the Belgian car industry financially, but not the workers expelled from production. What we propose is the opposite: wages must be guaranteed by the bosses and by the state whatever happens to their factories. And this goes for all the staff affected directly or indirectly by the restructuring plans. The objective is ambitious and political, but this is what is at stake here.
Take your struggle into your own hands, without waiting for a hypothetical and illusory “trade union solution”. What compromise can they propose, faced with the final stage of closures? We have to make them pay! Only struggle can do it!
Mouvement Communiste/Kolektivn proti kapitálu, 4 November 2012
GurgaonWorkersNews no.51 – Towards a Workers’ Organisation (Part Two) – Material on Maruti Suzuki Struggle
September 21, 2012
The struggle continues…
Towards a Workers’ Organisation (Part Two) / Material on Struggle at Maruti Suzuki – GurgaonWorkersNews no.51
3.1) State of Workers’ Collectivity one Year after the Occupations (June 2012)
3.2) State and Limitations of the Trade Union at Maruti Suzuki
3.3) Preliminary Thoughts on the Unrest of the 18th of July 2012
3.4) Theses for the Future Armament of Workers’ Struggle at Maruti and Beyond
8.1) Open Letter on Maruti by Mouvement Communiste to Comrades in Delhi
8.2) Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle and Leaflet on Struggle at Citroen PSA in France
8.3) Proposal for Critical Debate on ‘Academic Research’
8.4) Phd by Bose on Automobile Industry in Delhi
8.5) Links to Future Readings
Mobile Tea Stall in Manesar – A Workers’ Meeting Place…
The current repression against Maruti workers is severe – since the unrest on 18th of July 2012 over 150 workers have been arrested, more than 500 permanent workers have been fired, more than 1,500 temporary workers might have lost their – or rather ‘this’ – job and over a thousand state and private cops have been stationed in and around the Maruti factory in order to secure industrial ‘peace’. Repression tends to focus our view and acts on itself – it forces us to react, instead of acting ourselves. These are difficult times for engaging in critical analysis of the struggles of our own class. To criticise our own activities while the enemy attacks seems rather paradox or untimely – but we think it is necessary.
In this newsletter we want to continue the debate about ‘workers’ organisation’, based on what we see as both pre-condition and process of organisation: workers’ self-inquiry into the production process, how it constitutes the working class and how it can be transformed into the basis of self-organised attack on the existing social relations. We present some general and historical thoughts about the relationship between inquiry and workers’ organisation, but our focus is concrete material on the conditions at Maruti after the waves of struggle in 2011 – and a proposal to engage in a process of workers’ inquiry in Manesar.
Between April and June 2012 we asked workers at Maruti and automobile suppliers the following questions: how does your collectivity look like now, a few months after the strike? which changes took places since then, which either weakened or strengthened your collectivity? what did management do in order to undermine your collectivity? what did workers do or can do in order to strengthen and extend the collectivity? which role does the new union play in this process of de- and re-composing workers’ organisational basis?
We summarised a preliminary balance-sheet based on these conversations, which forms the core-part of this newsletter. In addition there is further material: workers’ reports from various departments at Maruti and its suppliers; an interview with a comrade of a Marxist-Leninist group reflecting on his experiences during the 2011 struggles; a summary of ‘The Maruti Story’, written by the Maruti chairman, about the history of the Maruti Gurgaon plant, from the enemy’s perspective. A comrade summarise material on the Suzuki Hungary plant, which supplies the global markets with the same models which are produced in Manesar – and in 2005 workers showed their discontent about the working conditions. To illustrate the newsletter we took some photographs in Manesar and surrounding villages.
Friends of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar distribute the workers’ newspaper every month, both in front of the Maruti Manesar and Maruti Gurgaon plant – we hope you will help out with distribution and/or contribute to the debate. We hope this newsletter provides some instigating material.
Auto Slaves (Graveyard Shift – Stamping Plant)
With automatic movements timed to great
Machines, these metal-workers seem to reel
In some weird dance. Like marionettes they wheel
With some insane music at a maddening rate.
Automatons… What if they learn to hate
Machines whose hungry maws demand a meal
Of metal-piece upon piece of sweat-stained steel?
They work. Monotony and madness wait…
For these are human beings racked with pain,
Grotesquely hued by blue-green mercury lights…
Monotony within this noisy hell
Will breed maggots of madness in the brain
Stop the tongue so it never tell
Of torturing toil through these unending nights
(from: Industrial Worker, IWW Newspaper, 1930)
Over 2,000 Trucks come and go daily from the Maruti Manesar plant…
The question of communism is the question of collective criticism of the existing state of being, the class power to change it and the social productivity to create an alternative. Answers can only be found in the material process which re-produces at the same time (but contradictively) both society and class relations and the subjective experience of organisation of the working class within. In other words: between potentials and their realisation. The process of organisation of collective power and the process of analysis of these objective and subjective conditions are therefore one.
Most of the leftist balance-sheets of the 2011 Maruti struggle remain on the surface of things. Groups of radical left are caged within their usual categorisation of ‘political and economical’ struggle depending on their own influence on the struggle. Those who had a closer influence on ‘the leadership’ declare that the Maruti struggle was a ‘political advancement’, given that workers’ did not fight primarily for higher wages and other economical demands, but for the political (and ‘constitutional’) right to be organised in a trade union. The historical problem of workers’ struggle and the concrete weak-point of the Maruti dispute – the development of institutionalisation and formalisation of ‘leadership’ – is glorified as ‘political expression of advanced consciousness’, when they claim that after the ‘sell-out’ of the old leadership the new union leadership emerged without major transitional problems. Even less serious are the ways that other groups discard the struggle as ‘economical’ with lack of political leadership. In this way the potentials and limitations of the struggle won’t be understood.
“The extend to which the Maruti struggle should have recomposed the left, it did not. There are some structural limitations for that. The vision of organisation which is distant from workers’ life and struggles inhibits to take lessons from struggles. This cannot be subjectively dissolved, this depends on the development of working class struggle, on reflections on it and the review of Indian left movements. That depends on the fact how we deal with erstwhile successful strategies which now become more and more problematic. The critique of left groups is an internal criticism, a self-critical approach – of the left movement vis-a-vis the working class movement.” (Interview with comrade -see this newsletter)
The underlying motivations and driving forces of the struggle – which surface officially as a common slogan and demand for ‘union’ – are not easily to be categorised as ‘economical or political’, if at all, they have to defined seen as systemical.
a) it was a struggle against the factory system, both against its personal and impersonal disciplinary agents (supervisors and machinery) – under the specific situation of Maruti pushing work-loads to limits before being able to leap into expansion (B- and C-plant), driven by the post-2008 global squeeze and race into over-capacities
b) it was a struggle of workers who felt their collective power of being in the centre of both the current economical regime in India (industrial development, integration into the global market on basis of highly productive cheap labour) and the productive cooperation of hundred thousand workers in the automobile supply-chain
c) it was a struggle about the political question of workers’ consumption: current wage-levels do not allow workers in the most advanced industrial sectors to reproduce themselves and their families and/or to take part in the wider society around them; a claim towards higher wages under these conditions is also a political claim for ‘equality’ and in struggle turns into a measure of class power
d) the struggle was driven by the temporary status of workers, which forms a systemic part of the current regime: temporary not only in terms of employment, but also in terms of the urban-rural status of the workers; workers can not be disciplined anymore with the prospect of a ‘rural petty bourgeois / peasant future’ (small trader, peasant, artisan), but the current set-up does not allow them to ‘save money for a settled urban future’ either; the current state of being is symbolised in the division of the working day into ‘stress of the assembly-line’ and ‘boredom of the dormitory villages’, whose main offer of leisure are cheap multi-media mobile-phones of Chinese brand
e) the struggle created a new collectivity which broke with previous limitations and divisions; in the course of the struggle workers had to confront and break the law; the focus on the official demand of union recognition did not help to realise the potentials of generalisation of the struggle: the general discontent in the area;
Instead of crying about victimisation of workers and the denial of rights we have to analyse the systemic tension – the unability of the current system to offer anything else and the collective power of workers not to accept this. The struggle at Maruti asked systemic questions and through wildcat occupations engaged in practical criticism, but workers did not find a collective language towards other workers beyond Maruti. An organised workers’ inquiry into the current conditions within and beyond Maruti is necessary – see also the contribution and open letter of comrades of the collective Mouvement Communiste from France after a visit in Manesar (appendix).
The Historical Legacy of Workers’ Inquiry
For this effort we can refer to historical experiences within the communist movement, from Marx’s workers’ questionaire to the initiatives of the Italian Operaismo in the early and late 1960s. The comrades back then were confronted with a double crisis of the communist movement. By 1956 it was clear for most workers that the emancipative elements of the ‘old communist movement’ in form of the CPs were finally dead: disarmament of workers after 1945 through the Italian CPI, official party line ‘participation on parliamentary level and national development’, massacre of struggling workers in Berlin 1953 and Hungary 1956 through the ‘workers’ state’. At the same time the material base of the ‘old communist movement’ (peasants and skilled workers in the manufacturing industries) were undermined by social re-structuring. The workers in the north of Italy were confronted with the introduction of assembly line production and the ability of capital to employ peasant-workers from the poorer south. Both unions and political parties had given up the shop-floor as a space of social struggle and provided therefore no answers for the new composition of old skilled workers and seemingly ‘unorganised’ migrant industrial workers. In this situation dissidents of the CPI and PSI (Socialist Party) engaged in a collective effort of workers inquiry, in rounds of workers reporting about the new conditions, trying to formulate political strategies and to circulate it amongst other workers. Following are passages from a longer article on workers’ inquiry and the legacy of Operaismo, we then formulate some practical conclusions for their current relevance at Maruti and in Gurgaon/Manesar area.
“In the introduction to the Italian edition of the Diary of the Renault Worker, Daniel Mothé, Panzieri expanded on the antagonism in the production relation. »The book [...] goes beyond the usual testimonies of the conditions of the worker, testimonies that mostly merely express sympathy with the situation of the factory worker (and no more that this). In Mothé’s diary the problems of the working class in a large modern factory, in all their complexities and specific reality, are shown step by step through the keen and thoughtful observations of the everyday life in one department. The book deals with the beginning of the rational organisation of work. There is a contradiction between on the one hand the attempt at a rational organisation of work that isolates the workers more and more; and on the other hand the conditions within which the work has to develop, that themselves lead to the constant breaking of the rules in order that the production can run and has a sense. The worker has to fight against the implementation of these ›rationalisations‹ that have to shut out any human qualified experience in order to be put into practice: even before the legitimate need to connect to the colleague next to him – a need within which appears the value of an unshakeable solidarity – and the experience of work itself which brings the worker to understand his own problems as collective ones. (Panzieri)
The industrial sociological analyses also discover conflicts everywhere. But usually the bourgeois sociologists examine these conflicts as problems that are there to be solved in order to guarantee the smooth functioning of the factory. And the ›critical‹ sociologists expose the conflicts to prove that the factory does not function perfectly. In contrast to this the comrades, schooled on Marx, took the contradiction of the work process as the starting point of the inquiry. Thereby they could understand how conflicts could also be functional for the valorisation and which functions of the hierarchy are there to prevent these conflicts turning into a united struggle.
“From a revolutionary standpoint, the act of gathering this kind of information could enable us to show how a worker fuses with his class and whether his relationship with his social group is different from a petit-bourgeois’ or bourgeois’ relationship with his or her own group. Does the proletarian connect his fate, on all levels of his existence, consciously or not, with the fate of his class? Classic expressions like class consciousness and class behaviour are often too abstract: Can we check them concretely? According to Marx, the proletarian, in contrast to the bourgeois, is not simply member of his class, he is an individual, a member of a community, and he is conscious of the fact that he can only liberate himself collectively. Can we concretely verify this Marxist assumption?” (Lefort)
›Biographical approach‹, ›intensive interviews‹… today everyone from Feminists to left Sociologists practices these inquiry methods. The difference of the ›workers’ inquiry‹ is that they started from a collective dimension: the self-constitution of the class, the detection of communism in the movement of the working class itself. »Porto Marghera [location of the petrochemical industry on the mainland across from Venice] was the laboratory in which we verified the situation with scientific methods. One could not begin to have a political discourse without what we called ›workers’ inquiry‹. We were determined to clarify once again what the workers standpoint was in concrete, because they were the social figures that were strategically relevant in the process towards the ›new‹. (Guido Bianchini)
There was a serious political confrontation within the group around the fundamental question of whether the instrument of sociology could be applied critically. This went from the tendency which reduced Marxism to a mere sociology, through the critical application of sociological instruments up to an attempt at a full abolition [Aufhebung] of the difference between inquirer and the objects of the inquiry, the workers, with the aim of ›workers’ self-inquiry‹. Both the last two positions called their practice ›Conricerca‹, word-for-word meaning; ›with-inquiry‹. Liliana Lanzardo explained in November 1994 in Turin, that today it is much clearer to see the difference between those who wanted to do an academic inquiry and those for whom it was about a political project; at the time there was no terminology at all. A few of their fellow fighters of the time are today recognised industrial sociologies in the worst sense.”
for full text: http://www.wildcat-www.de/en/wildcat/64_65/w64opera_en.htm
Negation of Academic Research
Today, more then ever, a criticism of ‘academic research’ is necessary. There are very apparent problems with academic research: material and formal dependence on state institutions, individualistic academic knowledge production, reproduction of divisions between intellectual professional and working class which leads to instrumentalisation – which applies similarly to other ‘movement professions’ such as trade union organising, labour-NGOs and labour journalism. The challenge will be to go beyond an individualistic criticism of ‘academic comrades’ – which nevertheless remains necessary – in order to ask the question of how the working class movement itself can develop collective intellectual processes and, last but not least, find the material resources for it, independent from the educational state institutions. Since trouble in Gurgaon started the area is flooded with labour NGOs and ‘researchers’. The International Metal Workers Federation (international organisation of the main institutionalised trade unions) offered larger sums of money to the new Maruti workers’ union – at a moment where the influence of the established trade unions was at a low and spaces were opened for independent generalisation of the conflict. There needs to be an open debate ‘within the movement’ about academic work, ‘revolutionary activities’ – the relation between ‘individual aspirations, recognition and wish for material security’ and collective work. Here the ‘academic comrades’ are asked, not to justify, but to explain themselves. For the time being we refer to an older text on the question of ‘union organisers’ and to a ‘letter of questions’ written for the debate with ‘academic comrades’ researching automobile workers in India – see appendix.
Towards a Workers’ Inquiry at Maruti and Beyond
The workers’ reports in this newsletter do not reflect the situations from which they emerged. Most of the Maruti workers we spoke to are workers who friends of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar and of Inqualabi Mazdoor Kendra met during the occupations in 2011 – and engaged with in discussions about their struggle. We usually meet after the distribution of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in Aliyar or other villages in Manesar. Particularly the temporary workers, trainees and apprentices live together, four share a room, forty or more workers share a common backyard, latrine, tap. What bourgeois media describe as ‘miserable living conditions’, we see as potential and actual base-camps of proletarian collectivity. Workers of different departments, of different supplying companies, of different sectors live together. Our conversations take place in groups of five or ten. Most workers have experiences of working in other companies in Manesar or Gurgaon, everyone has friends in other factories. The temporary paint-shop workers have actively taken part in the occupations, they see the need to extend the organisational forms and to strengthen direct contacts between workers. This is the material and organic base for an organisational process.
Since the Maruti struggle in 2011 the atmosphere in Manesar has changed and in some cases workers make active use of their connectedness beyond company walls. A small, but very important example was the direct solidarity action of temporary Maruti workers of various departments for an injured temp workers at Allied Nippon, a supplying company who some of them had shared a room with – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.44/45 – and the spontaneous intervention of Maruti workers during the lock-out at nearby Senior Felxtronics – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.50. In embryonic form workers create an organisational structure – the challenge of a process of workers’ inquiry would be to turn it into a workers’ coordination. We made the following suggestions to the workers we met: put the question ‘what happened to our collectivity since October 2011′ in front of all Maruti workers. What has changed, what did management do, what did we do, how does the union help or not? Answer the questions on the level of your own department or company and invite others to do the same. Find an adequate form to pose this question: leaflet, newspaper, informal meetings. Refer to the experience of the occupations and succesful actions like like at Allied Nippon to demonstrate that the coordination can and must go beyond Maruti and can and must have practical results.
We suggest to working class activists to shift the focus from the sphere of ‘formal representation’ (small union body, negotiations, legal back-and-forth, repression) to this daily form of organisation within the production process and within the wider industrial area. Longer conversations are necessary in order to understand the set-up of Maruti, the management strategies, the potentials and difficulties for workers to form collectives on the shop-floor and to coordinate beyond. We have to see Maruti and Manesar as ‘a workers’ organisation’ in itself, with material and ideological divisions, with regional and international ties, with connections to the rural sphere. This is the organisation we have to work within and to turn into a base of workers’ power – instead of seeing it as a recruitment ground for ‘membership’. Maruti dominates the class relation not only in a material sense, dictating paces of development right into the sphere of slum production, it also dominates the political landscape in its collaboration with Haryana and central state power. The results of workers struggle at Maruti will open or close space for the struggle in the wider industrial landscape, not only in the Delhi industrial belt, but in the whole of the subcontinent. As we have seen, the challenge will be to establish organisational link from this centre of unrest to its productive periphery.
In concrete this would mean to form an initial group of five to ten comrades who are willing to focus on the situation in Manesar for at least half a year to a year, until a structure is established which maintains itself. Rounds of documented conversations with workers from different departments and suppliers are a first step. These conversations have the aim to look for ways to increase collective power and to de-mystify capitalist organisation of work – where it hides its class character behind the seeming neutrality of technology, efficiency, quality, knowledge, science. In the centre of the conversations are the following questions:
* how did you experience the struggle in 2011 and 2012, which internal and informal form of organisation did you experience and how did this relate to the official form of organisation?
* which changes in daily production and life in Manesar do you see since 2011?
* how does the work-step you perform relate to others? on whose work do you depend on and who is dependent on your work-step in order to be able to work?
* in which other departments or companies or sectors do you know workers? how did you get to know them? what do you know about their conditions?
* what kind of experiences do you have of collective forms of resistance on the shop-floor, as little as they might be? what would be ways to extend this collectivity, what would be necessary?
* how could meetings of workers be organised, taking into account both the lack of time and space resources and the question of security
* in case of future conflicts either at Maruti or at other companies in Manesar, how can we support them and/or take part in them in terms of breaking out of isolation and out of the control of institutionalised unions? how can we prepare ourselves at our daily work-place and beyond?
The conversations should be organised and documented in a way which reveals the already existent contacts and knowledge to other workers – face-to-face if possible, through leaflets and newspapers if necessary. General political aim of the process should be:
* making future struggles independent of institutional mediation and making formal leadership unnecessary
* making use of the productive connectedness of production in order to hit the company most and in order to extend the struggle
* find ways of extending the struggle or spread the news about it through the already existing channels of communication that workers have (work-place, life in Manesar)
* develop an understanding of self-organisation (informal committees and coordinations) to plan steps ahead
* be aware of other disputes which go on in other companies and areas at the same time and try to relate to these workers directly
* generalise the issue of the struggle to a wider level: question of more money and less work, general question of existence as proletarians in Delhi area
* establish a political coordination of workers in Manesar which survive single conflicts
* find ways to get in touch with workers outside Delhi region, first of all with those who will play an important role in future disputes, e.g. FIAT workers manufacturing Maruti engines in Maharashtra
Following some preliminary material which can be used as the basis of this process of inquiry…
Trade union flag in front of Suzuki Powertrain – Symbol of institutionalisation…
After the occupation in October 2011 Maruti management had to deal with an emerged collective of 3,000 workers in the assembly plant and their extended collective of workers in Suzuki Powertrain and other suppliers. Modern capitalist factory production and this degree of workers’ collectivity don’t go together. Management therefore faces the question how to undermine the collectivity and re-establish control over the shop-floor and the wider productive system. The required control can neither be enforced by brute repression, nor by ‘divide-and-rule’-tactics alone, the material transformation of the production process, the physical change of the cooperation between workers of different departments and productive units is required. From management point of view, concessions given to workers have to contain future potentials of re-division and productivity increase. The productive cooperation – the working side-by-side – was the fundament of workers’ togetherness in 2011, so consequently it has to be changed.
Within the left the understanding of these types of shifts within the productive system are only rarely seen as political measures of re-establishing the rule of capital, focus is on the more obviously ‘political’ measures of management repression against workers. Workers in turn face similar questions. If the Maruti assembly plant and its closest suppliers has been the basis of our collective power so far, and if management is planning strategically to undermine this basis, what can our answer be? These are in noway abstract contemplations, but very concrete facts, moulded in metal: (also) in order to undermine the power of Suzuku Powertrain workers as sole suppliers of diesel engines for the Maruti Gurgaon plant, Suzuki management ordered engines from FIAT factory based in Maharashtra. Since October 2011 the Gurgaon plant is not only supplied by Suzuki Powertrain in Manesar, but also receives 350 engines from FIAT each day, confirming the tendency of capital to react to workers’ struggle by expanding the socialisation and re-division of labour. In their future struggles Maruti workers will have to face up to this fundamental change in their material cooperation, which now includes FIAT workers.
On the background of these questions we have to soberly analyse the role of the newly established unions at Powertrain and Maruti Suzuki. Being structured by the framework of labour law and formal representation, is the union able to counteract the material changes imposed by management? Can the union strengthen workers’ power and expand their collectivity? In the following we will try to draw some preliminary conclusions, based on conversations with workers of different departments and suppliers in April to June 2012. What did management do after October 2011 in order to re-compose the work-force and re-gain control.
Management kept around 100 police stationed 24 hours in the Maruti Suzuki assembly plant till December 2011. At Suzuki Castings and Powertrain the police had tents on the factory premises, with 50 to 60 police and 15 police respectively, till at least June 2012. After the riots of the 18th of July a 600-head strong special police battalion was stationed permanently in the industrial zone of Industrial Model Town Manesar. These are the most obvious expressions of the fact that management does not trust their own power in the factory and that for a re-composition this presence of state violence is necessary.
Shifting of workforce
Obviously the management’s attempt of a major shift of work-force was defeated by the workers when they re-occupied the factory in early October 2011 after 1,200 temporary workers were not taken back. This move of re-occupation was not so much due to the ‘political consciousness of unity’ of the union leadership, but due to the enormous (physical) pressure of the temporary workers on their permanent work-mates. After October 2011 management shifted those 800 workers who were hired as ‘scabs’ during the ‘lock-out’ to the new B-plant, which became operational in September 2011. This creates a plant-level division between workers of different histories. In addition management shifted individual workers from A-plant to B-plant, whenever it seemed appropriate and possible to isolate individual workers.
Between April and May 2012 management started a campaign against ‘faked’ ITI certificates in all departments. They accused workers who had been employed at Maruti since several years of having presented a faked professional qualification (around 25,000 Rs in UP) and kicked them out. In total only 70 workers became victims of this campaign, but they were employed in nearly all departments, so the campaign created a certain atmosphere throughout the plant. There were only few incidents of collective resistance by workers on line level, see for example workers’ report from the weld-shop. Other workers reported about an increase of dismissals of temporary workers due to minor mistakes and fabricated reasons from April 2012 onwards.
Arbitrary trainee tests
In order to filter the workforce and to give the decision ‘who gets on the company pay-roll and how many’ a seemingly objective touch, companies like Maruti make use of ‘trainee tests’. Workers hired through contractors, after several years of employment, have to pass a test in order to become trainees. Trainees have to go through three years of trainee-status in order to get the chance to become permanents. At Honda HMSI management used the trainee status to re-compose the workforce after the 2005 struggle, Maruti Suzuki in Manesar will very likely modify the trainee status after the unrest 2011/12. A trainee from the bumper department said in June 2012: “Some of us try to become trainees, we have to pass a test. Around 500 questions, mostly on health and safety and quality, also “where have you been during the strike period in 2011″. We have to undergo a medical test, too. In the bumper-shop 24 workers went for the test in early 2012, only 7 were taken on as trainees.”
Uneven work-load distribution
What is common in other big companies, such as neighbouring Honda HMSI, that permanent workers are given ‘better’ jobs (maintenance, quality, supervision) and temporary workers do the main productive work has not been the case yet at Maruti Suzuki Manesar. But things start to change. A permanent worker employed in the weld-shop said in June 2012: “There is a clear policy to divide permanents from temporary workers. Supervisors don’t put any pressure on permanents, you can do your job, you can walk around. Pressure is solely on temporary workers. These workers obviously complain, but they don’t complain in front of the supervisor, they express their anger towards the permanent workers – they in turn tell the temporary workers to shut up and work.”
Increasing wage gap
First reaction of management after the occupation in October 2011 was to give a considerable wage increase to temporary workers and apprentices, without formal agreement or negotiations – see workers’ report from the final assembly department. Since then wage developments were tied to formal negotiations. The wage gap between temporary and permanent workers has increased significantly after the wage agreement settled by the recently established trade union at Suzuki Powertrain. According to permanent workers close to the union leadership, the demand notice put forward at Maruti Suzuki assembly plant puts a strong emphasis on productivity bonus, which is only available for permanent workers. If Maruti wage dynamics follow the general trend, then the wage settlement will most likely result in productivity-related wage increase for permanents and relative wage stagnation for the temporary work-force.
Changes in the supply-chain
We already mentioned the most significant change introduced in October 2011 concerning the supply of 100,000 diesel engine annually from FIAT plant in Ranjangaon, Maharashtra. FIAT India has considerable over-capacities and Maruti Suzuki needs to undermine the position of Suzuki Powertrain workers – Management had to realise in 2011 that two days strike at Powertrain suffices to stop production at the ‘appeased’ Maruti Gurgaon plant. Apart from that the struggle in 2011 forced Maruti to re-think their supply-chain lay-out. While the spacial distance between the assembly plant and most of the suppliers prevented copy-cat effects during the strikes in 2011, workers at companies like Bellsonica, FMI, Krishna Maruti, SKH Metal , which operate on the Maruti premises, might be too close to the centre. Another major change in the near future will affect hundreds of truck drivers and loaders – some of them took part in the strikes in 2011. With the development of the industrial corridor connecting Delhi industrial area with port-towns in Gujarat and Maharashtra Maruti management intends to increase the finished car transport by rail from currently 5 to 35 per cent. Every day around 500 trucks leave Maruti Gurgaon plant with finished cars, the number will be only slightly smaller in Manesar.
Carrot of the C-Plant – Threat of Gujarat
Maruti management will try to use current investments and fusions in order to undermine workers’ position. In June 2012 Maruti announced the fusion with Suzuki Powertrain, which leaves scope for speculation about future conditions of workers in both companies. Similarly the speculation about the future of assembly work at Gurgaon plant. In March 2012 newspapers announced management decison to reduce the Gurgaon capacity from currently 700,000 cars to 400,000 cars and to increase diesel engine production – production start by mid-2013, around 150,000 units. The new engine-shop will need less workers than the shutting down of the assembly-departments will make redundant. Investments into the C-plant in Manesar and the R&D centre (and expanded Suzuki Motorcycles factory with 4,000 new workers) in ‘the new auto-export-hub’ Rohtak (also in Haryana) and the resulting ‘creation of 1,900 new Maruti jobs’ in the region will be used as a carrot and as a possibility to re-shuffle the workforce – while the construction of the Gujarat plant (estimated production-start 2015) will be instrumentalised as a means of black-mailing against the ‘workers in Haryana’.
These are just some superficial snapshots of current and imminent changes of the conditions at Maruti which will impact on workers’ collectivity and structural power. It is obvious that most of the changes reach beyond the formal boundaries of the trade union frame-work.
Union demonstration during lock-out at Senior Flexonics automobile supplier…
The question whether workers are able to use the trade union structure as a vehicle to counteract these significant material changes (or attacks) imposed by management depends on objective conditions (who can the union formally represent, what can the union legally do) and subjective factors (how engaged are workers within the union framework).
Most of our conversations with Maruti Manesar workers took place in March 2012 to June 2012, less than a year after an enormously intensive wave of struggle, after a struggle which meant considerable risk and (monetary) sacrifice, but which also created an atmosphere of collective excitement and enthusiasm. Official goal of the struggle was the recognition of an independent trade union. Less than a year after the struggle and after the union got registered in early 2012, the interest and engagement of workers in the trade union seemed close to zero, not only amongst the temporary workers, also amongst the permanents. This reminds us of the participation level in the parliamentary elections in Egypt, which hovered around 20 per cent, after a mass wave of struggle ‘against the dictatorship’, and officially for the right to vote a different government. The union was a symbol of struggle and unity, which brought the Maruti workers together, but also under certain illusions – e.g. many temporary workers were little aware of the fact that they will not be represented – which now come out into the open of ‘normal and formal industrial relations’.
Some of the permanent workers express the hope that a ‘recognition on paper’, either of the union itself or of agreements concerning pay and conditions, will secure the gains now that the immediate pressure of the struggle has decreased.
“We can struggle, we can gain something. But without union recognition the gains are lost, the company will turn back the wheel within three months and we are back at start. Once we have the union we will also take care of the temporary workers”. (Permanent Worker, assembly department, March 2012)
The actual form of organisation excludes the majority of workers. Apprentices, trainees and temporary workers don’t fulfill the official norms as ‘workmen’ and are therefore excluded from membership in the permanent employees union. At Maruti the composition looks like this: 850 permanents (potential union members), 1,000 trainees (no members of union), 300 apprentice (no members of union), over 1,200 workers hired through contractor (no members of union).
“The temporary workers in the paint-shop haven’t seen the demand notice. There are rumours that ‘wage demands for workers hired through contractors’ are included. We heard about 17,000 Rs for non-ITI and 22,000 Rs for ITI workers. Also the permanent workers in the paint-shop haven’t seen the demand notice. There hasn’t been a union general meeting for two months. During the struggle itself we should have put forward our own demands directly: at least 10,000 Rs per month, bus service for everyone and so on.”
(Temporary worker, paint-shop, April and May 2012)
One of the most important questions is obviously whether the form of delegation, which developed during the struggles in 2011 is still intact and alive. During the struggle decisions about the direction of the struggle were announced by line coordinators, one line-coordinator representing around 15 co-workers, in total there were around 150 coordinators. These workers worked together day by day and sat together during the occupations and during the lock-out – it was the basic unit of the struggle. It seemed in hindsight that the line-coordinators were not ‘representing the debate of their co-workers’, but were rather used as disseminators of the decision of the leadership.
“Since October 2011 the line coordinators have no function anymore, apart from being the extended hands of the union body. If any line coordinator talks or acts in a way which does not please the union body, they have ways to shut him up. The demand notice has not been discussed, it is not based on debate. In this sense the whole physical confrontation between union president and HR manager was a show – they suspended the president afterwards, the union guys walked through the plant saying that if the suspension is not withdrawn there will be violence and the HR managers will be beaten up, then the HR withdrew the suspension. We tried to organise Sunday meetings amongst active permanent workers to debate the situation, but these meetings stopped – they had no results.”
(Permanent worker, weld-shop, June 2012)
“The line coordinators in the paint-shop have been elected by everyone, but they had to be permanent workers. They take care of ‘problems’, if the AC does not work or similar things. If they can’t solve it with the supervisor, they go to the ‘union body’. Some line-coordinators are more like the right-hand of the supervisor. Normal workers can also go to the ‘union body members’ on an individual level, that’s no problem.”
(Temporary worker, paint-shop, May 2012)
The usual leftist response to these problems would be to demand more ‘internal democracy’. A permanent worker, union body member since the first hour of the struggle, criticises the attitude of the current union body, but also questions whether union elections would actually benefit workers’ unity.
“The ‘union body’ (eleven members) has not been elected. After the ‘sell-out’ of the 30 union leaders union members initially demanded ‘more control’, for example people said that before an agreement is signed by the union all members should see and sign it; they said to the ‘union body’ that ‘you first have to prove, before we can trust’. After registration of the union in early 2012 the question of elections came up. The constitution requires elections after registration of the union. The eleven member union body tried to avoid having elections, they also asked workers to sign agreements that they don’t wish to have elections at that point. But actually, if there were elections now, it would not have a positive result. It would rather create more divisions between workers due to struggle over posts and votes.”
(Permanent worker, press-shop, June 2012)
At Suzuki Powertrain, where workers refer to the union as the ‘union of the locals’ (workers from Haryana and Rajasthan), as opposed to the ‘outsiders’ (Bihar, UP etc.) it can be seen how quickly ‘the union’ can turn from a symbol of workers’ togetherness in struggle into a medium of ‘managing the status quo’ and therefore managing and re-producing divisions within the work-force. This description of the ‘local workers’ union’ might be superficially true, but does not explain the underlying reasons for why unions tend to represent a smaller or bigger minority of workers. Under the current economic pressure (profit-squeeze, market crisis etc.) and given the legal constrains unions are only able to survive if they offer some benefits to a minoritarian section of the working class, which they have to mobilise every now and then, and manage the division between them and other workers responsibly. Only then management will accept them as ‘representatives’. At Suzuki Powertrain, apart from the division into permanents and temporary workers, the division took regionalistic forms. Following a short summary of the development of the union at Suzuki Powertrain.
“After the joint occupation of Maruti Suzuki and Suzuki Powertrain in October 2011, negotiations took place between Powertrain management and recently established union (HMS) on 19th of October. Three representatives of Suzuki Powertrain were kept separate from the rest of the union leader-ship (HMS) during negotiations. These three leaders had pushed the joint-occupation with the Maruti Suzuki workers. The remaining Powertrain union leadership signed an agreement on 21st of October. The three Powertrain leaders remained suspended and were finally sacked on 17th of April.
On 10th of November 2011 permanent workers at Suzuki Powertrain debated during a general union assembly. Despite having been called several times, the union leadership did not come to the general assembly. The debate had mainly evolved around the issue of the three suspended [more militant] leaders. Workers called for a general union election, and said that no 3-years agreement will be signed with management before the three suspended are taken back. But then it became clear that the union leadership had already signed a three years agreement on the 9th of November. The inquiry against the three suspended was finished on 2nd of December.
In early 2012 around 500 Powertrain workers signed a letter complaining about the agreement settled by the union, one point of conflict was the link of wages to productivity increase. Workers decided last minute not to go forward with this protest in order to ‘keep the unity’. By then the union leadership, in order to deal with the ‘competition’ of the more ‘radical’ suspended leaders turned towards a certain kind of regionalism, presenting themselves as the representatives of the ‘locals’. The fact that Powertrain management announced in June 2012 that in future it will hire only ITI apprentices from ITI’s in Haryana is very likely not by chance.
In order to put pressure on management to take the suspended leaders back on workers refused company tea on 30th and 31st of January 2012 and company canteen food on 1st and 2nd of February 2012. After the food boycot management threatened workers with ‘accusation of undisciplin’ (a formal accusation which can lead to suspensions). On 1st of February 2012 20 to 25 workers were accused of having engaged in physical violence and against two workers a FIR case was filed by police. At the time, around 23rd of March 2012, there were similar protests (food-boycot) at Suzuki Motorcycles in Kherki Dhaula after three leaders had been suspended by management. These conflicts remained isolated from each other.
At Suzuki Motorcycles, the company had revised a new wage settlement for three years around July 2011, but in March 2012 management refused to implement some pending demands. On 21st of March 2012, when a union delegation went and discussed the issues with management, the HR Vice President Anil Munjal and the union General Secretary clashed in the canteen. Next day the three union leaders were suspended without charges. The company called in a large number of police personnel outside the premises.
At Powertrain, the union ordered another a food boycott on 10th and 13th of April, on 17th of April Powertrain management sacked the three leaders. On 17th of April 2012, after having heard that three permanent workers (union leaders) had been sacked, the B- and C-shift gathered at 00:30 am. At 1:30 am one of the union body members (HMS) arrived and said that the union will not be able to support any suspended or sacked (as result of this protest) workers. The B-shift workers went home and the C-shift workers started work. About half of the workers had supported the strike, the other half not. Many of us apprentices joint the strike, although we are not directly concerned, while a lot of the permanents remained passive.
On 21st of April the union leadership removed these three workers from their union posts and gave the posts to new people. On 27th of April HMS regional leadership under leadership of the union president of JCB called for meeting in support for sacked leaders, but the HMS union section from Powertrain did not attend. With Suzuki Powertrain now being ‘under control’ it will be very likely that Maruti Suzuki will try to use the fact that the two companies will fuse by end 2012 in order to ‘import the union agreements and structure’. On 12th of June Powertrain union body members return to work in production department after having mainly been in union office ‘off work’ during the last months. They probably felt the urge to ‘keep in touch’ with the workers as much as the union leadership at Maruti Suzuki felt the need to demonstrate its ‘militancy’, e.g. when the union president slapped a supervisor in mid-June 2012.”
(Based on conversations with Powertrain apprentices and dismissed Powertrain permanent worker, June 2012)
At Maruti Suzuki the MSWU union, though largely absent from the shop-floor, handed over their demand notice on 18th of April 2012. The media reported mainly on a propagandistic level that the union ‘demands a five-fold wage increase’, while most (temporary) workers were largely unaware about the actual content of the demand notice. A large share of the ‘wage hike’ would be linked to production level. “The PPRA (productivity and attendance bonus) forms 50 per cent of our wage. In the current demand notice there is a demand that the bonus should be attached to the amount of cars produced, e.g. if Manesar produces 900 cars per day, the bonus should be 4 Rs per car, if between 900 and 1,200 then 6 Rs, if over 1,200 then 8 Rs.” (Permanent worker, weld-shop, June 2012)
It remained unclear whether this bonus would apply only to the permanent workers wage. The union leadership made an attempt during negotiations to include temporary workers in the long-term agreement and offered to renounce one year of wage increase (for the period from April 2011 to 2012) if the temporary workers would be included. Management did not budge and the ‘preemptive renouncement’ probably also did not help to strengthen the unity between permanents and temporary workers. On 14th of June the union met with HR-head Siddiqui for negotiations about the payment of the annual spare parts bonus. The HR management said that the 53 days of strike in 2011 will be reduced from the bonus, so that permanent workers who took part in the strike get 27,900 Rs bonus, while the non-strikers get 44,000 Rs. The union agreed, which also did not help to build up more pressure for the wage negotiations.
The union was unable to enforce a wage settlement and unwilling or unable to mobilise workers for collective actions (how to mobilise after the main union structure had been paralysed for months? Would the temporary workers have gone on strike for an unclear demand notice? Would the union have been able to call for a legal strike during period of negotiations?) The pressure on the union leadership ‘to prove itself’ and to demonstrate that it is not ‘management-friendly’ increased. That might explain incidences like in mid-May, when a ‘physical’ confrontation between Maruti Suzuki union president and HR manager took place in the final assembly. Workers had complaint about lack of air, faulty cooling system, but there was no reaction from the side of management at all. Only when the union president came out of a meeting, supervisors and managers reacted, there was a back-and-forth and the union president hit a member of staff. Management suspended him, but after a tension grew amongst workers they revoked the measure.
If we return to our initial question whether the union frame work helped to strengthen and expand the workers’ collectivity which emerged out of the 2011 movement we will have to say that the union framework is not sufficient. It focussed the attention of workers onto the sphere of negotiations, suspensions, election politics, while management took material steps to transform the productive cooperation of workers in order to undermine their subversive cooperation. The legal framework of union representation is too narrow in order to organise ourselves on the same level as the company is trying to disorganise us. For the production system, management combines workers of various areas, sectors, companies, categories, from work in slum huts to robot-weldshops, from Delhi to Tokyo, while we are supposed to be organised as the small faction of ‘permanent workers in Manesar’. If we don’t reflect the totality of this productive structure and its constant changes in our coordination of workers (canteen, contracts, suppliers), we will end up in isolation and the paper of agreements and recognition will turn into dust for the majority of workers.
At Honda HMSI it took only two years before a major rupture within the work-force emerged: from the 2005 bloody united struggle for union recognition to the wildcat strike of temporary workers opposed by the union in 2007. Will this process repeat itself at Maruti Suzuki or will both permanent and temporary workers find a different organisational structure to re-compose themselves and re-establish their collectivity on a higher level? These were our questions before the 18th of July 2012…
A valuable weapon in workers’ hands…
On 18th of July a group of workers and management clashed in the Maruti Manesar factory, a manager got killed and around 100 others were injured by workers using automobile parts. Most Maruti workers fled Manesar after the incident, also as result of severe police raids. Maruti declared a lock-out which continued at least till mid-August.
We are not in the position to ‘provide any evidence’ about what actually happened. The general background of the incident is clear, the living and working conditions of workers in Delhi industrial area produce regular outbursts of ‘violence’. About the specific background and possible outcome of the violence at Maruti there is a controversy within our collective. This is also due to the fact that some of us are currently ‘out of town’ and followed the events from afar, while others are in Faridabad, Manesar and Gurgaon area, distributing Faridabad Majdoor Samachar newspaper amongst workers after the riot took place.
End of July, before the announcement of the mass dismissals, comrades in Faridabad said about the 18th of July incident that “Something new has happened, a shift took place. The management of the entire area is terrorised. Maruti has to announce that it will not use contract labour in the future. The head-manager of Shell had to admit that ‘it is perverse that a top-manager earns 820 times the wage of his worker’. While Maruti CEO has to talk publicly about ‘class-war’, the left keeps on talking about constitutional rights, proper legal inquiry and demand a ‘return to normalcy’. Workers are way ahead of them, they don’t care about their jobs anymore. Maruti will have to re-hire most of the workers, they cannot produce without them. There will obviously be some arrests and some people will be kicked out, but at large the workers have shifted the situation and atmosphere in the area. Management knows that a small trifle like suspensions of two workers can kick off anything now. During distribution, Maruti workers at Gurgaon plant told us that management is shit-scared indeed.”
From afar we raise further questions. In August 2011 a supervisor also attacked a worker inside the plant, but in reaction all workers of the department went on a wildcat strike together and forced the supervisor to apologise in front of them. Soon after police came inside the plant in order to arrest some people, but workers again went on strike and forced the police to return the workers. Since October 2011 the collectivity of workers has suffered. As we have seen, the union leadership was not able to maintain the collectivity and therefore was also not able to enforce themselves against management. In order to prove themselves despite their structurally weak position they resorted to ‘strong men attitude’. Instead of struggling as productive workers as part of a wide industrial network they created a position, mainly amongst permanent workers, that ‘we are 1,000 strong guys’. In mid-May 2012 the union president, who was seen as a ‘softy’, slapped a supervisor on the shop-floor, which has to be seen mainly as a show-act. The desperation of the union leadership of not being able to fulfill the large expectations of workers might have contributed to the ‘show-down’ on the 18th of July. We don’t know how collectively prepared and involved the mass of workers were, but we know that now they are dispersed. As Maruti workers they did not come out stronger out of the incident – although, and this can be true at the same time – the violence might have shifted the general atmosphere in the area in favour of the wider working class. Maruti workers have shown that management is not able to control them, but the difference to the wildcat occupations in 2011 is that a riot leaves less space for generalisation of workers’ autonomy. Maruti will continue to produce and will have no other option but to reproduce the same contradictions which led to the violence.
Two months after the incident the situation looks less bleak. Maruti had to take back a lot of the old workers, but promised better conditions. The 500 sacked workers continue their mobilisation with their family members and form some kind of ‘collective of the discontent’ in various towns in Haryana – the initial dispersion can turn into spreading the conflict. It will have to be seen whether a fruitful relationship can be formed between the situation in Manesar plant, between the ‘sacked workers agitations’ and the Gurgaon plant, where young workers force the union to take some kind of action in support of the Manesar workers – several hundred workers went to the union office to demand steps. Workers and working-class communists have to analyse how the collectivity can be expanded throughout the productive territory around Manesar and how they can hit management the hardest while at the same time keep their own harm at a minimum. The two suspensions at neighbouring Honda HMSI shortly after the 18th of July, which were issued after the Maruti riot, show that not all managers are scared enough yet. Below a very superficial chronology of the events of the 18th of July 2012.
16th of July
The union distributes a document amongst workers which had been handed to them by management, saying that management are not agreeing to union demands, which includes education allowance of 200 Rs for employee’s children.
17th of July
A-shift and B-shift workers boycott their pre-shift meetings with supervisors as protest against management’s non-compromising attitude during the ongoing negotiations about the demand notice.
18th of July
During A-shift a supervisor stopped some workers when they were returning from their tea break and told them to stop boycotting the pre-shift meeting. A dispute took place. The worker alleges that the supervisor engaged in casteist remarks, management alleges that the worker attacked the supervisor and decided to suspend him. B-shift workers continued production while A-shift workers decided to stay back in the plant at the end of their shift. Negotiations took place in the management office. Management alleges that the union leaders called workers in who were armed with auto-parts and who started beating management personnel, destroyed CCTV systems, destroyed parked cars and set control room and offices on fire. The media reports about a 1,200 men strong ‘mob’. One manager died in the fire, 100 others had injuries from being beaten. The union alleges that during the talks management called a group of 100 armed bouncers who started attacking the workers. Later during the night troops of police started raiding the area, but most Maruti workers had already fled from the places where they lived. Police arrested workers randomly, seeing that they were wearing a Maruti uniform. Two company buses with Honda HMSI workers were stopped and searched by the police and held over night.
19th of July
Further arrests, main target are union members. The media repeats management version of events.
21st of July
The company declared a lockout at the Manesar plant. Work at the Gurgaon plant continues. During distribution of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar at gurgaon plant workers say that “management is shit-scared”, similar voices from workers in other companies in Gurgaon and Faridabad. Powertrain reduces work from three to two shifts in engine department. Police conducted raids at various places in Haridwar, Ranchi, Rajasthan and Haryana, a total of 97 workers arrested. Haryana Government announced to permanently deploy a 600-strong police division of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) in Manesar industrial area, 10 acres of land required.
23rd of July
The First Information Report (FIR) issued by Maruti management reportedly names 55 workers and has added 600 others. Reports about local villagares aiding police to find workers and hand them over – comrades deny that this is a mass phenomena.
24th of July
Maruti HR-head Siddiqui announced: “We have received instructions from the parent, Suzuki Motor Corporation, to not compromise on issues of violence. We will derecognise the union at the Manesar plant. All those identified in connection with the incident will be dismissed immediately.Maruti announced to shift supervisors and senior workers from its Gurgaon facility to Manesar and to hire 1,000 new workers for re-start of production. The media circulated reports claiming Maoist infiltration of Maruti workers, a Naxal conspiracy.
25th of July
Union members from Maruti’s Gurgaon plant, Suzuki Powertrain, Suzuki Castings, Suzuki Motocycle, Lumax Auto Technologies, Satyam Auto Components, Endurance Technologies, Hi-Lex India Pvt Ltd, Rico and others attended the memorial meeting of police attack on Honda HMSI workers in 2005 despite imposition of Section 144 at the MSIL plant. The 144 order bars assembly of five or more persons within two km from the boundaries of IMT Manesar. Media reported about gathering of village leaders of 75 villages around Manesar in support of Maruti Suzuki. During the meeting in Dhana, Gurgaon Zila Parishad chairman Rao Abhay Singh said to the press: ” Our local boys could have never done this” and claimed that the ‘mob’ were ‘outsiders’.
26th of July
Maruti declared that they will go ahead with planned investments in Haryana, given that the “immediate arrest of 90-odd workers, shows sincere intentions of the government”. The investments include a Research and Development Centre at Rohtak and a new diesel engine-shop at Gurgaon.
27th of July
Maruti makes an announcement not to use contract labour from March 2013 onwards. they also announce the non-payment of monthly wages for 2,000 workers at Manesar; “No one working at the Manesar plant will be given salary. According to the rule, after the company’s lockout, workers are not paid till the time it (lockout) is revoked.” Siddiqui. Maruti has exhausted the inventory of Swift cars, around 15,000 parked in Manesar and Gurgaon.
30th of July
The price of Maruti shares has fallen by 8.5 percent since the 18th of July. Maruti announced that they expect to fire approximately 500 workers who were involved in the Manesar plant clashes.
31st of july
A tripartite meeting of Maruti officials, workers’ representatives and Government is supposed to “help in creating conditions to restart production at the locked-out plant in Manesar”. Reports claimed 114 arrests so far, a good number among them were apprentices. Accoprding to the press Maruti Suzuki “has sought the help of a vedic astrologer from Bangalore to help sort out the vaastu at the Haryana unit. As part of the vaastu-correction process, “all negative energy” that exists on the land needs to be removed by conducting an extensive puja. Only after two to three weeks from the rituals, the land will be rid of “all negative energy” , an astrologer said.”
3rd of August
Maruti announced to increase production of diesel cars in Gurgaon plant in order to counteract impact of lock-out, which causes a daily loss of Rs 90 crore. Meanwhile, representatives of the workers’ union at Suzuki Powertrain India said with production cut about 30 per cent, many contract workers had been asked to leave. “About 250 contract workers, whose initial tenure came to a end, were asked to leave. The company has decided not to recruit fresh workers at present.”
4th of August
A joint trade union forum met in in Gurgaon, debating the lock-out at Maruti.
7th of August
Tension at Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India’s Manesar facility following suspension of two workers after alleged manhandling of a manager (according to management). Police is stationed at the factory: “We are keeping a close watch,” SHO Manesar Om Prakash Bishnoi.
8th of August
So far 116 workers have been arrested and a list of 162 ‘wanted’ workers is circulated. Police visit homes of these workers and put pressure on their family, threaten them with arrest of family members if the worker is not handed over. Reports on police custody torture of arrested workers are published.
9th of August
Gurgaon police states that the ‘mob’ which ‘rioted’ at Maruti on 19th of July was only 100 people strong, not 1,200 as first claimed and not 650, as claimed later on. Criticism of MUKU Maruti union president, who asks, why the 70 police officers stationed at Maruti Manesar plant were not able to stop the ‘mob’. In the meantime talks on Honda HMSI dispute fail at city labour department in Gurgaon as main company management did not turn up. Unions declare that they will organise a protest during ‘workers’ rights day’ on 17th of August in case no solutions are found for Maruti lock-out and situation of Eastern Medikit workers, who are left without wages since several months.
10th of August
Gurgaon police hastened to add that 100 workers were involved in the incidences inside the office building. but “the violence later spread to the ground floor as well. There were around 2,000 workers armed with metal objects and police priority was to rescue the managerial staff. Even the reports of there being about 1,200 workers are an underestimation of the size of the crowd,” (DCP Daya)l. Their report also states that the ‘violence was not planned’. Further arrests, now a total of 142 workers. Extension of police remand of 17 union leaders.
11th of August
Management announced that the plant might open in the following week. the press wrote about “pressure from vendors to re-open”. A worker said on a mainstream television channel: “Our workers did not have faith in the union body. They were apprehensive about the union cheating them again…. [Yet they wanted that] the management should at least value and listen to the union body.” (NDTV)
16th of August
Maruti announced the dismissal of 546 permanent workers, including the 154 who had been arrested. According to media all workers hired through contractors will remain outside the factory, Maruti will look into re-hiring during mid-September. Maruti deposited 50,000 to 70,000 Rs in sacked workers bank accounts (not in those of the 150 arrested),saying these payments represent the workers’ wages for July plus three months’ salary and an additional 15 days of salary for each year of service.
17th of August
Around 7,000 union members employed at various companies hold a protest-rally in Gurgaon.
19th of August
Maruti announced to employ a security division of retired armymen headed by a top-ranking (retired lieutenant-general rank) ex-officer at the Manesar plant.
20th of August
CPI and CPI(M) announced to make Maruti and the dismissals an issue in parliament and to hold a protest rally in Delhi.
21st of August
The lock-out got lifted. Only few workers entered the Manesar plant, over 1,000 cops in Manesar industrial area. the media claimed that Maruti suffered 250 million USD loss since 18th of July.
22nd of August
Maruti announced to have produced 186 cars, in combined production of A- and B-plant. Other sources claim that only the B-plant started production in the press-shop and weld-shop, while assembly work is done in the Gurgaon plant. Maruti Chairman told during a shareholder general meeting that the conversion of contract workers into permanent workers would increase the labour costs only slightly, “as the starting salary of a permanent worker is only about 10 percent more than a contractor’s pay.” Managers who have been ‘traumatised’ are sent to Brahma Kumaris spiritual centre and to self-defense courses.
30th of August
Maruti announced to re-hire 1,000 out of 1,800 former contract workers, talks to turn them into permanent employees are supposed to take place in early September. Maruti claimed an output of 427 cars per shift, compared to 950 cars before the unrest. Current workforce at Manesar plant allegedly 2,000 workers, compared to 3,000 before. “We’re increasing output on a day-to-day basis, but would need at least 1,000 more people to be closer to full output. Right now, even the 400 supervisors are working on the line and they need to go back to their original roles,” a company official said. “After this, the 3,000 contract workers at the Gurgaon facility will also be given a chance to become permanent at Manesar.”
31st of August
Protest rally in Gurgaon, apart from members of main trade unions around 400 sacked Maruti workers took part.
3rd of September
Maruti announced that monthly sales in August were down by 40 per cent compared to previous year. The company also claimed to increase automation in Manesar: “In over a decade, the company has doubled the number of robots used in its plants to around 1,500. It will add another 50-100 new robots in the older plant at Manesar to increase automation to 99 per cent from the current 90 per cent. [in the press-shop department]”
2nd of September
400 Maruti workers and family members demonstrated in Rohtak, complaining about dismissals, repression and police torture.
4th of September
The main trade unions hold a convention in Delhi, proposed actions only include symbolic and legal protests, no strikes.
6th of September
Maruti announced to manufacture the model Dzire at Gurgaon plant in order to deal with backlog. The Dzire had only been produced in Manesar plant before the unrest.
8th of September
Maruti management acknowledged that they have difficulties finding ‘fresh skilled workers’. Suzuki chairmen announced simultaneously that they don’t intend to abolish the contract system in their plants, but that they will change the ratio and subject contract workers to a more severe check during the hiring process. “About half of the workers at the facility will now be completely fresh hires from vocational schools such as Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), with another 20 per cent coming from other companies. In all, Maruti expects to have 3,750 workers (earlier 3,300) at the plant, of which about 1,000 permanent workers have already joined. About 20 per cent of the workforce will abe temporary hires who will receive similar pay as permanent workers, but have a limited work contract of 8-9 months.”
11th of September
Haryana government approves hiring 11,000 new police constables, out of which a major share will be placed in Gurgaon.
Industrial desert IMT Manesar…
The following is a political summary of the workers’ reports…
*** Going beyond formal ‘international solidarity’ – starting from the material connections and divisions of a global working class war
The automobile industry is the most intertwined and integrated global industry and therefore the main organisational base of the emerging global working class. Struggles in the sector take place simultaneously in the global north and south. Some of the the struggles directly impact on each other, but at large the working class has to face up to the fact that the discontinuity of conjunctural cycles and uneven development still enforce a ‘political disjuncture in the direct communication of struggles’. The discontinuity can be described quantitatively: while in the US car production between 2000 and 2009 decreased by 50 per cent and in Japan by 25 per cent, it increased by 700 per cent in China – adding a manufacturing capacity of 2 million cars per year. This geographical shift expresses itself in the form workers’ struggles take: struggles for better conditions and against the factory despotism in the ‘automobile boom regions’ in the south (Honda in China 2010, Suzuki in India 2011), struggles to maintain certain standards achieved during struggles since the 1980s in countries of the ‘second wave’ of automobile expansion (South Korea, Brazil) and struggles against redundancies and severe attacks on conditions in the old centres in the US and Western Europe.
While the struggle is on at Maruti Suzuki we witness mass redundancies (8,000) at PSA-group in Europe and struggles around the closure of the factory in Aulnay (see leaflet by MC in appendix), Renault complains about slump in car sales during the first half of 2012 of nearly 15 per cent, in Italy the car sales decreased by 21.5 per cent during the same period. Since 2007 around 800,000 workers in the European automobile industry lost their job. In 2011, while Maruti was occupied, FIAT enforced a mass deterioration of conditions in collaboration with the main trade unions. General Motors closed its factory in Belgium, in the remaining 12 European factory the number of workers has been reduced by 8.000 workers to now 40.000, currently the General Motors factory in Bochum, Germany is under severe attack. Since 2008 General Motors sacked over 30.000 workers in US factories. On 24th of July 2012, three days after Maruti Suzuki declared lock-out in Manesar, General Motors declared a lock out at São José dos Campos plant in Brasil, undermining the protest of workers against 2,000 redundancies. At the same time production of General Motors in St.Petersburg, Russia is increased from 90.000 to 200.000 cars per year and production units in China are expanded. In July 2012 workers at General Motors in South Korea went on strike for higher wages (demand of a monthly increase of around 100 Euro, 6,500 Rs), together with workers at Hyundai and Kia. In March 2011. workers at General Motors in Halol, India, engaged in struggles with similar characteristics to the Maruti Suzuki dispute. In September 2011, simultaneously to the unrest at Maruti Suzuki, about 4,000 workers at the PT Suzuki Indomobil car and motorcycle assembly plant in West Java, Indonesia, went on strike, demanding year-end bonuses, meal allowances, health expenses and overtime payments. Struggles in the automobile sector in India are permanent and wide-spread, but in most cases we know only superficially about them:
“Among the prominent instances are: Mahindra (Nashik), May 2009 and March 2011; Sunbeam Auto (Gurgaon), May 2009; Bosch Chassis (Pune), July 2009; Honda Motorcycle (Manesar), August 2009; Rico Auto (Gurgaon), August 2009, including a one-day strike of the entire auto industry in Gurgaon; Pricol (Coimbatore), September 2009; Volvo (Hoskote, Karnataka), August 2010; MRF Tyres (Chennai), October 2010 and June 2011; General Motors (Halol, Gujarat), March 2011; Maruti Suzuki (Manesar), June-October 2011; Bosch (Bangalore), September 2011; Dunlop (Hooghly), October 2011; Caparo (Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu), December 2011; Dunlop (Ambattur, Tamil Nadu), February 2012; Hyundai (Chennai) April and December 2011, Ford (Chennai) March 2012.” (Rupe) We can add many more examples, e.g. the struggle at Rockman and Satyam Auto in Haridwar in 2011.
In parallel process to these seemingly dis-jointed struggles ‘North and South’, the actual global productive cooperation between these regions is intensified, e.g. the export of car parts manufactured in India, used in the assembly departments in the global north increases much faster than the export of complete cars. At the same time imports of parts manufactured in China to India increased rapidly. We can also see a deeper capital-integration of companies. Maruti Suzuki engaging in engine production with FIAT, which officially has a joint-venture with Tata, the main ‘competitor’ of Maruti Suzuki on the Indian market – the FIAT factory in India runs only on one-third of its capacity, which forced the companies into the collaboration. One of the share-holders of Suzuki are Volkswagen and General Motors, which also enter the Indian car market by expanding their factory base. FIAT subsidiary Magneti Marelli, which supplies Maruti Suzuki from two factories in Manesar recently engaged in a joint-venture with Motherson Sumi, while in early 2012 Continental bought 100 per cent of Rico Auto Ltd. The Rico factory in Gurgaon was engaged in a one month dispute in 2009, which interrupted supply of parts for General Motors and Ford factories in the US, while in those factories a dispute about the introduction of a two-tier wage system (half the entry wage for new workers) was going on.
This quick glance at some of the global developments of the last month demonstrate that obviously ‘formal international solidarity’ and exchange between workers in the sector is necessary, but workers collectives will have to focus on the actual material relations between workers in different regions, which first of all means to analyse how capital in the automobile sector makes use of the global wage cascade and uneven economic cycles in order to re-structure the industry and to undermine the direct solidarity of struggles. In the organisation of actual direct solidarity it will become more and more difficult to rely on the established union federations, what if for example the UAW (main automobile workers’ union in the US) having become a significant share-holder of General Motors since 2008 (17.5 per cent) and unions in Europe being mainly confined to ‘their national framework’, defending ‘national jobs’.
*** Demonstrating the cohesion between global crisis and development of wages and conditions in India – determined by relation of power between capital and workers
Most automobile suppliers and manufactuers faced first a credit squeeze after the 2008 financial crash and since then the devaluation of the Rupee increased costs for import of main raw materials and petrol. With petrol prices increasing (e.g. prices were raised by Rs.7.54 a litre, or 11.5 per cent, to Rs.73.18 in 25 May) and costs for credits expanding, car sales in India slowed down. The diesel price hike by 14 per cent announced by the government in September 2012 will increase the pressure on the industry. Car manufacturers are forced to squeeze the main resource they think they have the control over: the work force. The comrade from Rupe India analysed the relation between wages and productivity increase in the car industry in India, as one of the main determinants for the current unrest:
“Passenger car production has risen from 1.2 million vehicles in 2004-05 to 3 million in 2010-11. Real wages in the auto industry fell 18.9 per cent between 2000-01 and 2009-10. On the other hand, net value added per auto worker has been rising. Each worker added value of Rs 2.9 lakh in 2000-01; this figure rose by 2009-10 to Rs 7.9 lakh. In 2000-01 workers’ wages were 27.4 per cent of value added. By 2009-10, the ratio had fallen to 15.4 per cent. At Maruti workers’ real wages increase by just 5.5% when the consumer price index rose by 50% (2007-11).”
The fact that real wages of workers decline does not mean that company profits automatically increase. Profit margins per manufactured part or car are squeezed. A short glance at the official 2010 Annual Report of Maruti supplier Omax shows that net profits decreased from 2,366 lakh Rs to 2,143 lakh Rs between 2007 and 2011 while capital employed increased from 20,262 lakh Rs to 34,983 lakh Rs. Personnel costs, which includes wages and bonus for managers, was 11,000 lakh Rs in 2010, while general expenses stood at 108,000 lakh.
In the debates with workers we have to make clear that in their struggles over ‘more money, less work’ they do not mainly face ‘profit greedy (foreign) capitalists’, but a global system and wage [hierarchy]. The wage developments are determined by global developments and also reflect a relation of power between labour and capital. Under these conditions, to tie wages to productivity and to three years agreements – like most of the trade union agreements in Gurgaon area do – can only result in benefits for a small section of workers, and even for them only on a precarious level: “Since May 2012 the production of petrol cars in Gurgaon plant is down. For example there are four engine shops, each of them runs on two shifts. Normally we produce 450 engines per shift, since May 2012 only between 240 and 270. In the assembly department the assembly lines are also stopped for one or one and a half hours everyday, which did not happen before. Some casual workers have been kicked out, due to this overcapacity.”
(Permanent Worker, Engine-Shop, Gurgaon plant)
*** Generalising workers’ organisation on the basis of workers’ wider social existence – turning seeming atomisation into a collective weapon
Modern HR departments obviously have strategical recruitment patterns, e.g. they prefer to hire workers from distant areas in order to cut the ties between shop-floor and sphere of subsistence (patch of land, bigger joint-families) and thereby increase dependency of the worker on the company (wage) – which make long strikes near to impossible; Maruti initially refused to hire workers from other car manufacturers, because they try to avoid importing already made experiences of collective resistance. A deeper analysis of these strategies would be necessary in order to see the potential for turning the seeming weakness of workers into a strength. Historically, organisations which manage to turn the social existence and background of workers into a new form collective power had an enormously fruitful impact on workers’ struggles, such as the early Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which turned the seeming weakness of seasonal and migrant workers into a mobile, international organisation of direct workers’ action.
Apart from being together on the shop floor the most obvious possibility of turning the social existence into organisation is in the living sphere – see report on life in Aliyar in this newsletter. By cutting workers off from their original villages and families, capital brings them together in new groups, which have the potential of re-creating collective bonds on a more emancipated level. In GurgaonWorkersNews no.48 we reported about a spontaneous solidarity action of several dozen temporary Maruti workers for an injured colleague at Allied Nippon – a connection which were established through living in the same house in a Manesar village. Nevertheless, the fact remains that being away from family and other ties forced many temporary workers, particularly in the suppliers, to leave the area during the Maruti dispute – or they were forced to work: “During the first occupation the 150 housekeeping workers stayed inside with the other workers, but during the one month ‘lock-out’ (good conduct bond dispute in September 2011) around 140 out of 150 went inside and worked. These workers have very little resources to stay without wages and management promised to increase wages if we work.” (Maruti Canteen Worker). Here the relation between ‘locals’ and workers will be crucial in order to survive a longer dispute, and political initiatives will have to break the state and company attempt to buy the consent of the local ex-peasantry.
Maruti needed the strong ties with the ITI sector in order to hire fresh workers in preparation for the ‘lock-out’ in August 2011 – the campus being one of the main pools of skilled industrial reserve army. In May 2012 officially ‘adopted’ 12 ITI’s in Gujarat, promising substantial financial support, as part of their future recruitment strategies for the Gujarat plant. Most of the 1,000 ‘technicians’ hired by Maruti for the expansion of Manesar in 2012 will have come from ITIs. Here again, political initiatives ideally keep in touch with workers already before they get hired. Experiences in this regard – debating and agitating with ITI students – have been made by various comrades, but they have to be thrown in the wider debate.
In the regard of work-force composition the suppliers of electronic parts and electrical harnesses, such as Asti or Motherson Sumi are of particular importance for two reasons. First of all they have the highest level of femal employment in the industrial areas of Delhi, which will in the long run impact on the sexist gender relations within the working class – see report on Asti Electronics. Secondly, at least at Motherson Sumi Gurgaon plant we find a quite exceptional case of manual ‘student workers’. Given the shorter working-hours and the less ‘dirty and heavy’ character of work (electrical wiring) there are many workers at Motherson who study part-time. What is normal in other industrial countries, the mixing of factory and university in workers’ experiences, is quite exceptional in India. A workers organisation should explore whether this situation bears potentials for organic links between the two centres of social unrest.
*** Drawing a battle-map based on the productive cooperation of workers and turning the process of discovering the lines of cooperation into an organisational effort itself
We encourage to read the reports by Maruti workers in this newsletter not as accounts of miserable conditions requiring pity, but as material to draw up future collective strategies of attack. In GurgaonWorkersNews no.50 we wrote:
“As far as possible a workers’ organisation has to make use of regional and global productive interdependence of the labour process. A workers’ organisation would be able to turn this structure into a weapon in the interest of all workers in the chain, disregarding their specific categories. An organisation would make strategical use of the strongest position of workers in the chain (or to find the weakest link), e.g. central suppliers, transport chains etc. and at the same time takes into account the conditions and difficulties of workers in the weakest position. It would use pressure in the strong points to undermine the divisions and differences imposed by management, not due to charity, but need for collective power. A workers’ organisation would be able to coordinate actions disrupting the long chain of production with minimal effort and harm for us and maximal impact on company management. As preparational work we would have to dig out recent historical examples of how workers organised such kind of steps, e.g. during the so-called chess-board strikes at FIAT, Italy, during the 1960s and 1970s, but also during the Gurgaon plant strikes in 2000/2001″
There is nothing new or surprising about the fact that production at Maruti Suzuki depends on a very fragile, spaced-out chain of cooperation between different departments and companies, bridging different categories of workers, wage segments and levels of development. Here the passages of “The Maruti Story” about the setting up of the Gurgaon plant supply-chain – see summary in this newsletter – are quite revealing. The surprising fact is that the local working class so far has not been able to turn this structure against their dead enemy and its representatives.
“Sheet-metal is cut and pressed only ‘one day in advance’, meaning what is pressed today will be assembled tomorrow. The job of the guys in production planning is to make sure that all parts for the next day – around 60,000 different parts – are ready and in right order for the coming production day. A single part missing can cause trouble and production stoppages. If there is an emergency or the sheet-metal cutting machines at the Maruti press-shop cannot supply for ‘over-capacity work’, sheet-metal is cut for Maruti at other companies, such as Manesar Steel Processing” (Permanent Worker, Press-Shop)
“The outer-body press-parts like roof, doors, hood etc. mainly come from Maruti’s own press-shop. The inner-body parts come from about 20 different suppliers, such as JBM, Caparo, Krishna Maruti etc.. Of the bigger parts there is a stock of may be one hour.” (Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
“There is a 100 car storage between paint-shop and further assembly.”
(Temp Worker – Paint-Shop)
All parts used at the engine plant at Powertrain arrive more or less on a daily basis, in particular the bigger parts.The raw engine blocks arrive at Powertrain from three different suppliers, one of them is Amtek. Trucks come constantly from Amtek, you probably can fit 100 engines on a truck, daily production is around 1,100 engines, they all go to Maruti Gurgaon plant. There is no proper storage for engines, but in the dispatch area you can store around 200 engines. The engines are used at Maruti more or less immediately, there is no storage on their side either. If they find quality problems with engines they tell Powertrain during the same shift during which the problems occurred.
(Apprentice – Powertrain)
The supplying companies are kept in a relative distance, which might make direct contact between workers a logistical problem. Around 70 per cent of parts are manufactured in the wider Delhi industrial belt, some parts (e.g. like wheel-rims from Patiala, Punjab) come from further away. One potential facilitator in establishing connections between workers at Maruti and those in the supply-chain are workers of suppliers who permanently work in the Maruti Suzuki plant, mainly engaged in logistics and quality check. These workers know the situation at Maruti due to their daily presence on the shop-floor and they know the conditions in their ‘formal companies’, through work-mates, truck-drivers, regular visits. These workers, also due to their everything but privileged conditions, can play a hinge role.
“Suppliers keep workers permanently in the weld-shop, mainly for handling and quality work. Five suppliers jointly keep one worker for handling and one for quality, meaning that per shift there are about eight workers from suppliers on the shop-floor.” (Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
“Workers of supplying companies bring parts to the lines, for example the seats from Bharat Seats or Krishna Maruti company. The parts arrive in trucks from the supplying factory, which is in about 2 to 3 km. The workers from Krishna Maruti put the seats at the line and they have to put them in the right sequence of car models. There used to happen occasional problems with supply, but now they keep two trucks with seats extra near the line. The Krishna Maruti workers will get the same wage as we get.”
(Temp – Worker, Final Assembly)
“Some Denso and Lumax workers fit their own parts at the assembly line, but that is an exception.”
(Permanent Worker, Engine-Shop, Gurgaon plant)
“Compressors are assembled at assembly lines, the pipes for the AC’s are dispatched separately. Parts for compressors come from Japan. The pipes come from Korea. The rubber hose pipes come from Bridgestone. There is no storage, trucks leave continuously. The AC-components are delivered directly to the assembly lines at Maruti Suzuki, there is no storage neither at Sanden, nor at Maruti. There are four Sanden Vikas workers permanently employed at Maruti, Manesar, they also live in Manesar. Two for quality check, two for unloading trucks and dispatching AC’s to lines. About six trucks leave Sanden per day, the guys at Manesar plant work 18 hours shifts. Although they work permanently in Maruti they have to pay 30 Rs for a meal at the Maruti canteen. These workers know that there has been a strike at Sanden in 2010 and that there is still trouble. Since March 2012 there have been problems of completing the dispatch to Maruti, not enough or faulty AC’s arrived at Maruti. The problems emerged at a time when a new model was introduced. Maruti made Sanden pay penalties, if dispatches were not complete. In order to find out what the problem was Sanden ordered higher management people to stay during night-shifts and analyse the work process. The situation is that permanent workers only work on A-shift and since 4 permanents have been kicked out in 2009, permanent workers refuse working overtime. So workers hired through contractor employed on B-shift work from 2:30 pm till next morning 6:30 am – this is 16-hours on stretch. While on A-shift they work 8.5 hours. The solution of management for problems of dispatch: B-shift workers must be tired after 15 hours of work, so they changed shift patterns and introduced two 12-hours shifts instead. This also means that when shift changes on Saturday, workers have to work a 24 hours-shift, as ‘compensation’ workers get 50 Rs extra for food and two ‘breakfasts’.”
(Permanent Worker, Sanden Vikas, Faridabad)
Obviously the supply-chain does not stop at this first level of suppliers and it is well known that workers’ conditions deteriorate once we enter second- or third-tier suppliers.
“As an illustration of the three-tiered structure of subcontracting, we can mention that Maruti-Suzuki subcontracts to Munjal Showa which subcontracts to Mod Serap which in turn subcontracts to Modern High Tech Auto. Or, Maruti Suzuki subcontracts to Automax or Mark Exhaust which in turn subcontract to Hema Engineering which in turn subcontracts to Kiran Auto. As an example of first and second level of subcontracting combined, Jay Bharat Maruti, Plant 1 supplies directly to MarutiSuzuki, and indirectly via supplying to Delphi which is a first level subcontractor of Maruti.”
(Bose on Automobile Industry in Delhi – see appendix)
“There are 200 permanents and 400 workers hired through three different contractors. We work 12 hours shifts and manufacture parts for automobile suppliers like Napino, Denso, JNS, Pricol, Delphi. When shift changes on Sunday then workers in the plastic moulding department and in the copper press shop department have to work 20 hours on stretch, from 8 pm Saturday till 4 pm on Sunday. The newly hired helpers hired through contractor get 4,500 Rs.”
(Temporary Worker, Vinay Auto, Manesar)
“Bundy is a fuel-pipe manufacturer for Maruti Suzuki. Bundy has one worker permanently working ‘between’ Bundy and Maruti Suzuki doing quality check and coordination. Bundy itself employs about 550 workers out of which 300 through contractor. The workers are paid on piece rate, there is no basic wage. Workers have to operate bending machines, burring machines etc. and are paid between 10 and 30 paise per piece. daily target is around 3,000 pieces. One truck leaves Bundy for Maruti per day.”
(Bundy Company Worker, Manesar)
“The factory employs 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts. The company manufactures die-casting products for Honda, Hero motorcycles and Maruti Suzuki cars. During the weekly shift change the Saturday night-shift has to work 20 hours on stretch and the Sunday day shift 16 hours. Over-time is paid single rate.”
(Temporary Worker, Kiran Udyog, Manesar)
There are situations when workers can (and are forced) to discover their inter-dependence within the production process: once there is an interruption of part supply. This might be caused by workers’ struggles or other – from the perspective of capital – ‘natural disasters’, e.g. Honda Siel (India) sources several electronic and underbody parts from its Thailand plant, due to floods in Thailand in December 2011 parts supply was irregular. Politically workers were not able to make use of the fact that during the Maruti dispute and the current lock-out since 21st of July most suppliers were effected, many of them shutting down production completely. During this time conscious connections between workers could have been created. On the other way round there are daily conflicts in one of the 800, 900, … suppliers of Maruti, which have the potential to cause ripple-effects. A workers’ collective should make efforts to find out about these conflicts and encourage to develop their potential.
“In the factory 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts manufacture steering locks and keys for Mahindra, Tata Sumo, Toyota Inova and Maruti Suzuki. The overtime is paid at single rate. A first installment of 15 days of overtime payment for December was paid on 15th of February 2012, workers demanded that the rest should be paid by 25th of February – in response the company called the police and one worker was arrested. This worker was sacked and the company refused to pay him the outstanding overtime payment from December to February. The director said that he had to pay the police and that he now won’t pay any money to the worker.”
(Jay Switch Worker, Gurgaon)
In the 1990 the latest hype of ‘capitalist innovation’ which was supposed to overcome the industrial illnesses of the huge factory complexes of the 1970s was the so-called ‘Benetton’-model – a model of outsourcing of textile orders to smallest specialised textile units combined by big garment companies, which was set-up in the north of Italy. In the end it was clear that even with micro-electronics and flexible transport most of the industrial production requires close cooperation and concentration of capital. What was not possible in Western Europe in the 1990s seems a little more realistic in Delhi’s industrial areas in the 2000s. The combination of extremely low wages encouraging labour intensive production, of supply of over-used machinery from the industrial decadence in the global north, a hinterland of slum-production and flexible smallest-scale transport units (self-employed three-wheelers etc.) combined and coordinated by modern logistic management in the bigger plants seem to enable the local industry – at least in times of emergency – to enforce a very flexible exploitation of a network of small manufacturing units. For example during the lock-out at Senior Flexonics supplier – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.50 – management was not only able to hire temp workers within a few days and keep production running. They were also able to outsource within the first two weeks the more skilled work (CNC and power-press operations) to smaller units like Lakki Enterprises, Gurgaon and Ajay Engineering, Faridabad and limited the work in the ‘battled’ factory in Manesar to assembling operations. In this regard, current efforts of organising in the ‘workshop-territory’, such as the strike organised by almond workers in the north of Delhi, using a street-wise delegation system, will become important experiences once they are seen as part of a wider context of centres and productive periphery.
Last, but not least, this type of supply-chain requires a flexible transport organisation. There are at least 2,500 trucks, which enter the Maruti Gurgaon facility everyday with components, and at least 500 leave the factory premises with manufactured vehicles. In addition a similar amount of trucks for the Maruti Manesar plant. Even if we take into account that trucks might go back and forth six to eight times a day and that not all trucks have two drivers, we still speak of another department of several thousand workers.
The conditions of truck-drivers are well known. Two drivers drive three days non-stop from Manesar to ports in Bombay and back. Long-distance workers live in the trucks for weeks. Maruti relies on an army of workers who spend most of their time out of direct control of supervisors and other officials, and a generally volatile sector (strikes against petrol price hikes, road conditions etc.). Currently Maruti tries to deal with the emerging problems by ‘centralisation’ and rationalisation through shifting transport of finished cars onto tracks and by extending the electronic control to the time when workers are on the road. The shift onto tracks is a major infrastructural and therefore political operation – the plans to increase rail-transport from currently 5 to 35 per cent within the next two years seems ambitious. Up to now Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corp. Ltd (HSIIDC) hasn’t been able to acquire the land needed to lay dedicated tracks from Patli station in Manesar to the company’s plant 18km away. With a growing importance of export markets the assembly lines of Maruti will catapult over-produced cars from Delhi towards the sea ports in Gujarat and Maharashtra, thereby ploughing an industrial corridor through Rajasthan, connecting existing and emerging industrial centres on the way – see: http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-22/#fn62
The other focus is electronic armament to maintain control over the transport department. Maruti engaged in a contract with US-company Trimble in early 2012. From a company statement:
“Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) is deploying the Trimble trako Visual Cargo solution in outbound logistics trucks that transport new cars from the factory to Maruti Suzuki dealers across India. Trimble’s trako Visual Cargo is a software as a service solution that provides on-demand visibility — from loading to delivery location — of cargo vehicles using Trimble GPS devices. Trimble applies technology to make field and mobile workers in businesses and government significantly more productive. Solutions are focused on applications requiring position or location — including surveying, construction, agriculture, fleet and asset management, public safety and mapping. In addition to utilizing positioning technologies, such as GPS, lasers and optics, Wireless technologies are utilized to deliver the solution to the user and to ensure a tight coupling of the field and the back office.” Deeper conversations with truck drivers about the actual impact of these technological shackles onto their work have to form part of a militant research of the changing relation between living and dead labour.
*** Destroying the despotism of systemic and strategical uneven technological development
The struggles at the A-plant in 2011 hastened Maruti to take the B-plant into operation, since then management confronts workers not only with a divided workforce – the workers hired during the lockout were shifted to the B-plant – but also with uneven development on plant level. The degree of automation is higher in the B-plant. This creates a cascade of uneven development within Maruti, if we take into account the technological difference between the old plant in Gurgaon and Manesar A-plant. These differences in development are systemic, but used strategically, as Maruti chairman points out in “The Maruti Story”, his account of the development at Maruti.
“A new site was needed for future expansion and Manesar was selected. [...] SMC wanted this plant to be very similar to the plant in Kosai, Japan, so that there could be a high level of automation, and the best SMC practice could be established here from the start. Suzuki did not want this plant to become an extension of the Gurgaon plant, which had been built over twenty years and had much more manual operations. He wanted the plants at Gurgaon and Manesar to compete with each other in areas like productivity and quality, with each being a benchmark for the other.”
Workers in the A-plant have to face that in 200 metres distance their job is performed by machinery – they have to face their potential replacement.
“By now the B-plant has started production. There most of the workers are newly hired. The work load is higher, compared to the A-plant. In the A-plant there are 76 workers in the axle department, in the B-plant only 51.”
(Temporary Worker, Final Assembly)
“Since 2006 the numbers of work-stations came down from 16 to 8, to 4 since June 2011 – this happened through increased automation and usage of robots. So far work had been re-distributed in a way that workers numbers did not come down as much as work was replaced (one robot replaces about ten workers). Workers initially operated three hand-welding tools, now one workers operates only one. The work-load has become less in the A-plant.”
(Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
It is also important to note that with increasing automation the ratio of temporary workers also increase. This is most prominent in the weld-shop:
“In A-plant around 25 per cent of the workers are permanent, 10 per cent are trainees, 10 per cent are apprentices and 55 per cent are hired through contractor. In the B-plant the ratio is 10 per cent permanent and 70 per cent temporary, while at the same time there the level of automation is much higher. In the A-plant there are still 250 to 300 workers doing spot-welding by hand, in B-plant there is full automation.” We find similar situations in the paint-shop.
The question of when to introduce machinery and to replace living labour is only seemingly an economic question of ‘productivity’. First of all, capitalist productivity is not mainly defined by the question whether running a machine (which still requires living labour for operation) instead of engaging in manual work saves ‘labour-time’ to such an extend that the time to construct and maintain a machine (and to deal with social and ecological consequences) is made up for. Being a society based on wage labour and commodity production, ‘capitalist productivity’ is rather determined by ‘saving labour costs per produced commodity’. Workers directly compete with machines, as long as wages are relatively low enough, workers are employed despite the ‘technological possibility’ to replace their labour. This is the reason why unlike in the global north, the automobile supply-chain in India still reaches into the home-based production of the slum-areas. We can also see that before making the investment into new machinery, capital tries to squeeze living labour as much as possible. The phase before the opening of a new plant at Maruti is characterised by increase in exploitation, again a quote from “The Maruti Story”:
“The work on expanding capacity and establishing a second plant at the same site, started about the end of 1992 and was completed in 1994. With the plant, production rapidly increased to 278,000 in 1995-96, and the need for another plant was obvious. One of the reasons for Maruti being able to keep prices of cars low – and make profits – was the ability to run both these plants at about 140 per cent of the rated capacity. This was achieved by a combination of balancing facilities, innovative practices and full cooperation from the workers.”
During the phase before the B-plant got operational, workers in Manesar had to work double-shifts, there was an ‘off-line’ car assembly section without conveyor belt system, the A-plant was running on similar ‘extra-capacity’ but his time “the full cooperation from the workers” snapped.
This ‘illogical’ use of human energy and creativity creates a constant tension within the production process. Workers not only have to face up to ‘be made into a cog of a machine’ they are also confronted with this ‘political-social’ absurdity. Therefore the other ‘political aspect’ of capitalist use of machinery relates to the question of whether machinery creates a higher degree of productivity by being both means of control/segmentation of workers and means of combination of labour. Without the element of controlling despotism of machinery no capitalist productivity. Within the plant workers can see the contradiction of capitalist use of machinery every day.
“One one side are 12 painting robots. On the other, are workers carrying 25 kilo headloads of used screens up two flights of stairs and returning with a 30 kilo load of clean screens. Each worker has to carry 70-80 screens up and down the stairs, working an extra hour without pay if the job is not done by the end of the shift.”
(Temp Worker – Paint-Shop)
Despite the Manesar plant being a modern plant according to global standards there are still operations which are done manually, which in other plants would be automatised – a potential trump-card in the sleeve of management. It will be part of our work to identify these operations and to be prepared for battle. In a certain way related to this lower degree of automation is another major difference to most passenger car assembly plants in the global north – the fact that the assembly plants in Gurgaon and Manesar don’t run 24 hours, which has become a standard in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s.
“In the A-plant, at the work-station where the chassis meets engine and gearbox, the engine is fitted manually to the chassis. Similarly, the front-shield is put in by hand, not by a robot. At the station where the doors are fitted you get 45 sec for a door. If you are quick you can make it in 30 sec and work ahead. There were occasional night-shifts in the assembly-department, but now night-shifts are only run in the press-, and weld-shop and in the bumper-shop at the machine stations.”
(Temp Worker – Final Assembly)
In these regards the relation between workers and machines express the political power relation between working class and capital, the political contradiction between social potentials and the misery of class society. Alquati claimed that collective ‘workers’ science’ would be able to read machinery like a geology of class struggle, the conflicts of the past and the productive knowledge of workers of the past now moulded into the apparatus – appearing as features of power of capital. A more in depth debate with workers about the changing character of this relation will have to take place. Some have taken place:
“Most workers in the subcontracting chain have 1:1 interface with machines. Where there are U-shaped production lines such as in Clutch Auto, Gabriel, Echlin, BTR Wadco, and Sona Koyo, workers do multi-machining in terms of 1:2 to even 1:10 interface with machines. Gabriel is famous for cellular manufacturing. Tier 2 units such as Sona Okegawa, Sona Somic and Vital Castings have U-shaped cells with multi-machining in terms of 1:4 interface with machines. In some units, workers talk about multi-machining even on straight production lines. Multi-machining causes a lot of stress to the workers.”
(Bose – see appendix)
*** Destroying the veil of capitalist hierarchy: monopoly over machinery and information, fetish of quality and qualification
Obviously a mere technological control of workers is not sufficient, the control has to be maintained through personal hierarchy, which is first of all a hierarchical division of labour. Similar to the attempt to disguise the systemically despotic character of machinery behind ‘technological neutrality’, also the hierarchy between workers and supervisory staff is justified by the fetish of ‘qualification’.
“The promotion system in some of the units is as follows: from senior operator to supervisor in Automax; operator to line supervisor to shift-in-charge at Caparo; semi-skilled to skilled to supervisor at Engineers Combine; associate to section head to supervisor to executive at Motherson Sumi; operator to line monitor to supervisor to junior engineer at QH Talbros; and assistant to operator to senior operator to foreman at Subros.”
(Bose – see appendix)
First of all, a certain position in the production process is less determined by individual seniority, knowledge, skills, but by the hierarchical requirements of the production process: not everyone can become a foreman, department manager or engineer, because by definition a position within a hierarchy is exclusive. Who gets promoted is therefore a process of selection. Capital combines hierarchical functions (control, putting pressure to work etc.) with productive functions: if workers have to ask the supervisor for certain information necessary to perform their tasks, they will be more likely to accept the orders he gives them; if a foreman can criticise the ‘quality’ on ‘objective grounds’, he is more likely to be able to enforce higher levels of quantity. The capitalist production process isolates collective knowledge into individual functions as its material and ideological basis for hierarchy, in particular knowledge about machinery. At the same time ‘general knowledge’ of workers is not formalised and therefore degraded:
“Permanent workers get one day training how to program the robots, the temporary workers don’t get this training.” (Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
“Within your area at the assembly-line, which usually includes 5 to 10 work-stations, they change you around on a daily level. Even if you know how to work at five different stations, you might still be paid helper rate.”
(Temp-Worker, Final Assembly)
The capitalist contradiction between quantity and quality, between exchange and use value creates constant frustration. The ‘quality’ of a product is used in order to black-mail workers into accepting company rules and hierarchy, at the same time the requirements of profit-production – output! – undermines any sensible consideration about quality and creative use of humans mental capabilities. This is already felt by workers in their ‘formal’ qualification process, which is mainly a formation process of a certain position within hierarchical division of labour:
“We are 245 apprentices in the factory, coming from different ITIs. We have been sent here to see our trade in practice, to observe it closely, to make experiences and to learn. But here things run according to the will of Suzuki company. According to the needs of the companies we employed in the car engine plant, transmission plant or the two-wheeler engine plant and we have to perform work different from our ITI trade. We work in A, B and C-shift, not in general shift how it is officially said. Instead of observing-learning-making experiences we work as normal production workers. There are no classes for apprentices, neither inside nor outside the plant. The work load is so high that the apprentices have no chance to see the whole plant, they have to stay at their station. “
(Apprentice – Suzuki Powertrain)
Another hierarchical distinction is created by formal distinction between productive and reproductive labour. In a modern plant the work of housekeeping workers, cleaners, loaders, canteen workers and so on are essential for the workers in the production department to perform their tasks on a continuous basis. With the re-structuring process of the 1980s capital made an effort to segment these essential tasks of the production process as ‘service work’, which degrades the work performed even on a linguistic level. Attached to the segmentation and categorisation of ‘service work’ was an attack on workers’ conditions. At Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant the canteen workers work 12-hours-shifts plus unpaid over-time, they are not paid the minimum wage and are not included in the ‘official struggle – see workers’ report.
Gate at Maruti Suzuki Manesar…
4.1) Reports from Maruti Manesar Workers
4.1.1) Press-Shop Worker
4.1.2) Weld-Shop Workers
4.1.3) Paint-Shop Workers
4.1.4) Bumper-Shop Worker
4.1.5) Final Assembly Workers
4.1.6) Canteen and Housekeeping Workers
4.2) Reports from Suzuki Powertrain Workers (Engine and Gearbox)
4.3) Report from Maruti Gurgaon Worker (Engine-Shop)
4.4) Reports from Maruti Supply-Chain Workers
4.4.1) Asti Electronics Worker
4.4.2) Sanden Vikas Worker
4.5) Report on Life in Aliyar, a Workers’ Village in Manesar Industrial Zone
Aliyar auto-stand – New source of income for local ex-peasants…
There are 40 permanents working on one shift in the press-shop – which includes apprentices and trainees – plus 30 workers hired through contractor. The press-shop runs on three shifts. The harder work, such as taking pressed parts out of the machines, is done by workers hired through contractor and apprentices. In general the work in the press-shop is less hard, because most work-stations are machine-stations, meaning that you have a little breathing space while the machine works. In the weld-shop and assembly workers have a harder time.
When the union was formed workers in the press-shop were sure that they would be able to stop work and production, but they were not entirely sure whether workers in other departments – mainly the assembly department where a lot of workers hired through contractors were not informed about the union process – would support them. Six out of eleven current union body members are from the press-shop.
The production sequence changes every day, meaning that every day the ratio between different models changes and therefore supply of different parts is necessary. The supply of the right parts in the right sequence is the job of the PPC (Production Planning and Control) department.
In the press-shop the sheet-metal arrives in big coils. The companies which supply the sheet metal are:
Tata Steel Faridabad
TSPDL is equipped with processing plants at Jamshedpur, Faridabad, Pune, Tada, Pantnagar with a processing capacity of 2.5 Million tones per annum. TSPDL as Tier 1 supplier is using Roll Forming and Stretch Bending technology.
Maruti Suzuki keeps a strict ‘no single source’-policy. There is a storage for normal sheet-metal for nearly two month [?!], but certain types of steel, e.g. galvanised steel for export cars like the A-Star is not stored in such volume. The sheet metal is then cut to size. Different parts of the car require different sizes, and parts for different models also vary in size, meaning that there are about 200 different sizes of sheet metal. If there is an emergency or the sheet-metal cutting machines at the Maruti press-shop cannot supply for ‘over-capacity work’, sheet-metal is cut for Maruti at other companies, such as:
Manesar Steel Processing
Manesar Steel Procvessing is a joint-venture between Metal One Corporation of Japan and Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL). The company handles and cuts steel coil to carry out slitting, leveling, shearing, blanking, warehousing and supplying to fufil mainly Maruti’s vendor’s requirements. Main facilities: 1 large slitter line, 1 large leveler line, 1 mini leveler line, and 3 shearing lines. Processing capacity 13,000 tonnes per month.
Then there are six lines of power presses. The press-tools of these machines change automatically, according to different form of parts to be pressed. Sheet-metal is cut and pressed only ‘one day in advance’, meaning what is pressed today will be assembled tomorrow. The job of the guys in production planning is to make sure that all parts for the next day – around 60,000 different parts – are ready and in right order for the coming production day. A single part missing can cause trouble and production stoppages. Per shift there is only one guy doing this job – he is an ITI worker and gets 18,000 Rs (24,000 Rs including annual bonuses). They have to count parts, e.g. they have to see that a trolley with 1,000 parts is filled, and then enter the data into the computer system for the weld-shop, which is the next production department in line. Containers with parts are moved by fork-lifts to a storage / warehouse situated between press- and weld-shop.
Empty public housing complex in Aliyar – The rents are too high…
The outer-body press-parts like roof, doors, hood etc. mainly come from Maruti’s own press-shop. The inner-body parts come from about 20 different suppliers, such as JBM, Caparo, Krishna Maruti, Bellsonica etc.. Of the bigger parts there is a stock of may be one hour. In the A-plant you still have a lot of hand-welding work. First the three parts of the underbody are joint by hand-welding, then finally welded by robot at the main line. Similarly the main-body, first manual work, then finalisation by robot. there is also manual assembly happening in the weld-shop, e.g. the two door panels are fixed together by screw-gun operation. Suppliers keep workers permanently in the weld-shop, mainly for handling and quality work. Five suppliers jointly keep one worker for handling and one for quality, meaning that per shift there are about eight workers from suppliers on the shop-floor. Permanent workers get one day training how to program the robots, the temporary workers to get this training.
In A-plant around 25 per cent of the workers are permanent, 10 per cent are trainees, 10 per cent are apprentices and 55 per cent are hired through contractor. In the B-plant the ratio is 10 per cent permanent and 70 per cent temporary, while at the same time there the level of automation is much higher. While in the A-plant there are still 250 to 300 workers doing spot-welding by hand, there is full automation in B-plant. In the A-plant around 200 out of 300 workers are hired through contractor. Since 2006 the numbers of work-stations came down from 16 to 8, to 4 since June 2011 – this happened through increased automation and usage of robots. So far work had been re-distributed in a way that workers numbers did not come down as much as work was replaced (one robot replaces about ten workers). Workers initially operated three hand-welding tools, now one workers operates only one. The work-load has become less in the A-plant.
The PPRA (productivity and attendance bonus) forms 50 per cent of our wage. In the current demand notice there is a demand that the bonus should be attached to the amount of cars produced, e.g. if Manesar produces 900 cars per day, the bonus should be 4 Rs per car, if between 900 and 1,200 then 6 Rs, if over 1,200 then 8 Rs.
There is a clear policy to divide permanents from temporary workers. Supervisors don’t put any pressure on permanents, you can do your job, you can walk around. Pressure is solely on temporary workers. These workers obviously complain, but they don’t complain in front of the supervisor, they express their anger towards the permanent workers – they in turn tell the temporary workers to shut up and work.
At my line there are around 15 temporary workers out of which 6 did not have an original ITI. Last month the contractor said that they should return their gate-pass and that they will not be let to work again. I objected and enforced that the guys can continue working.
Entrance to Aliyar Gaon…
I work at the sealer-line, the cars arrive there from the weld-shop. There are about 38 work-stations at the sealer line, two workers at each station. I work with a hand-gun. Most of the workers at the line are temporary or casual workers, trainees. The permanent workers still do the same work here, it is not that they only do the easy work. There is a 100 car storage between paint-shop and further assembly.
One one side are 12 painting robots. On the other, are workers carrying 25 kilo headloads of used screens up two flights of stairs and returning with a 30 kilo load of clean screens. Each worker has to carry 70-80 screens up and down the stairs, working an extra hour without pay if the job is not done by the end of the shift. The lunch-break (30 minutes) and tea break (15 minutes) are not counted as part of the working time on the shift.
The Quality Maintenance Unit employs 95 workers hired through a labour contractor. Their job includes cleaning out the tanks that hold thinners and solvents. They are always on the C-shift – from 12.30 in the night to 8.30 the next morning. Workers on the C-shift work non-stop. There are no breaks for food or tea. The food allowance of Rs.44/- that they used to be given has now been slashed to half. By the end of the shift, they are exhausted, giddy and nauseous from the chemical fumes they inhale. Workers in the Quality Maintenance Unit put in 32 to 192 hours of overtime every month, for which they are paid only Rs.28/- per hour, well short of the legal minimum of 1.5 times the normal wage. For many of these workers, the shift can extend to 17.5 hours of non-stop work without breaks or food.
For A-plant workers there has never been a realistic promise that they will get a permanent job in B- or C-plant. Those workers who had been hired during lock-out still work through contractor in B-plant.
The immaculate cold face of capital – Factories bordering Aliyar…
The plastic moulding of bumpers takes place in the department itself, lights and other devices are attached to the bumpers, then ‘bumper-shop’ workers attach the bumper to the car at the assembly line. Out of 250 workers in the department only 20 are permanent, most are trainees and workers hired through contractor. Some of us try to become trainees, we have to pass a test. Around 500 questions, mostly on health and safety and quality, also “where have you been during the strike period”. We have to undergo a medical test, too. In the bumper-shop 24 workers went for the test in early 2012, only 7 were taken on as trainees.
Workers’ rooms in Aliyar – One shared by four, five…
On Situation after Settlement in October 2011
After the first wage increase for workers hired through contractors and apprentices the company pays those workers hired through contractor with ITI qualification 238.38 Rs per day, plus 75 Rs attendance allowance, 4 Rs allowance for cleaning working clothes, 19.62 Rs medical allowance, and 19.62 transport allowance, which sums up to 356.62 Rs per day. Compared to before the dispute this means an average wage increase from 6,500 Rs to about 8,500 Rs per month. The workers hired through contractor without ITI qualification receive 280.93 Rs per day. On bank holidays only the basic wage is paid, without the allowances. Now workers can take two holidays within three months – before the dispute it was only one holiday which also had to be approved by the supervisor – which hardly happened. The permanent workers can take 4 holidays within three months.
You still have to be at your workplace 15 minutes before official start of shift, otherwise you are marked as absent for half of the day.If you go to early into meal break or come back 5 minutes late, the same happens. Now, as before, in case you are ill you are supposed to take medicine and start working immediately – but at least now the worker can go himself and take medicine, before the supervisor came and gave it to you.
During the time when workers occupied the factory – or removed the occupation through the company – there was only the A-plant in operation. By now the B-plant has started production. There most of the workers are newly hired. The work load is higher, compared to the A-plant. In the A-plant there are 76 workers in the axle department, in the B-plant only 51. There are reliefers [replacement workers] in the A-, but not in the B-plant. In both A- and B-plant, out of the 127 workers in the MX department non is permanent, all hired through contractor. Where there should be 8 people employed, you will find 4 workers. The line is still holy, it’s not supposed to stop. Yes, before the dispute they called you ‘Eh, you’, now they call you ‘son’, but the threats continue. Difficulties have not decreased through the fact that there are now two canteens, because with the B-plant the number of workers has increased.
They do nothing for the workers hired through contractors. The new union leaders told us to hold back until 4th of February, until the union will be recognised. Now they say, wait till the 24th of February.
Temporary Worker, Final Assembly, Manesar B-Plant
Within your area at the assembly-line, which usually includes 5 to 10 work-stations, they change you around on a daily level. Even if you know how to work at five different stations, you might still be paid helper rate. You used to have problems with toilet breaks, this got better. If you have to go, the reliever takes over and does your work. The reliever tends to be a permanent worker. If both relievers are busy, the supervisor takes over. Supervisors went through special training at Maruti and they tend to have a diploma.Their behaviour changed a bit after October 2011, they tend to be friendlier.
Workers of supplying companies bring parts to the lines, for example the seats from Bharat Seats or Krishna Maruti company. The parts arrive in trucks from the supplying factory, which is in about 2 to 3 km. The workers from Krishna Maruti put the seats at the line and they have to put them in the right sequence of car models. There used to happen occasional problems with supply, but now they keep two trucks with seats extra near the line. The Krishna Maruti workers will get the same wage as we get.
In general there are not too many stoppages of the line. may be once or twice per day, if at all, and usually not longer than for a minute or two. Sometimes Japanese workers come to the plant in order to fix machinery. There is little to no contact with these workers, also due to language problems.
In the A-plant, at the work-station where the chassis meets engine and gearbox, the engine is fitted manually to the chassis. Similarly, the front-shield is put in by hand, not by a robot. At the station where the doors are fitted you get 45 sec for a door. If you are quick you can make it in 30 sec and work ahead. There were occasional night-shifts in the assembly-department, but now night-shifts are only run in the press-, and weld-shop and in the bumper-shop at the machine stations. The ‘off-line’ [without conveyor-belt system] production in the final assembly has been stopped in October 2011, after the occupation and after the B-plant came into operation.
From a Press Report:
“When I first began working for Maruti, assembly lines used to run right through my dreams,” said a worker with a laugh, “These days I suppose I’m so tired that I don’t get dreams anymore.”
In Manesar, Maruti produces about 180 variants of three basic models. When a car rolls in, the worker looks at a large matrix pasted on the vehicle that indicates if the car is a left or right hand drive, powered by petrol, diesel or compressed natural gas engines intended for the domestic, European or general export market. Depending on his work station the worker chooses from 32 different upholstered seats, 90 tyre and wheel assemblies, and innumerable kinds of wire-harnesses, air conditioning tubes, steering wheels, dashboard trims, gearboxes, switches, locks, and door trims, in an average time of 50 seconds per car. For parts like air conditioning tubes, the worker stands between a set of parts racks. As a particular car variant rolls in, a light above the corresponding parts rack blinks with increasing urgency as the worker runs to it, grabs a part and pulls a cord to acknowledge he has chosen the right part. He then steps onto the conveyor belt, fits the part and rushes back to match the next car to the next blinking parts rack before an alarm rings. If the line halts, signboards across the shop floor light up – flashing the number of the workstation where the line has stopped and the duration of the stoppage. Another board displays the total time ‘lost’ during the shift; a scrolling ticker lists the production targets at a given time of the day, the actual cars produced and the variance. “For every fault, the feedback is recorded and the worker has to sign against it… it goes into his record,” said a worker, speaking on condition of anonymity as every Maruti worker must sign ‘Standing Orders’ that, among 100 other conditions, bar them from slowing down work, singing, gossiping, spreading rumours and making derogatory statements against the company and management. The work record is examined during yearly appraisals. (Gone in 50 seconds, Aman Sethi, The Hindu)
Workers’ rooms in Aliyar…
There are now two canteens in the factory, in both of them workers work on two 12-hours shifts. the A-canteen is huge. there are `16 counters to take food, two canteen workers take care of one counter. then there are workers who cut the vegetables, others who cook the food, others who bring it to the counters, who clean the dishes, who clean the canteen, who make tea and who bring the tea to the departments. At 8:30 am workers get tea and snacks, at 10:30 am again tea, at 2:30 pm again tea and biscuits, at 3:30 pm tea and biscuits for the general shift and staff, at 6 pm tea and snacks. For the different shifts and categories of workers one meal-time break follows the other in a constant flow from 11 am till 3 pm. This is the work of the canteen workers of the 8 am to 8 pm shift. the same work is done by the night-shift. the A-Canteen supplies food for the assembly departments of both A- and B-plant, for the paint-shop workers of both plants, for Sand D (drivers and repair workers) and for the 2,500 construction workers of Larsen and Toubro who work on the construction of the third plant. In the A-canteen there are 350 workers for each shift, in the B-canteen more than 150 per shift. The shift of the canteen workers does not change – the night-shift workers work nights constantly. The contractor of the canteen changes frequently, but the canteen workers remain more or less the same. On 1st of March the contractor changed and the new one promised a wage increase. The old contractor paid the chef 19,000 Rs, the new contractor only pays 13,500 Rs. The workers who make samosa, roti and who operate the kneading machines used to be paid 5,000 Rs for 26 days of work of 12 hours each. the rest of the canteen workers used to be paid 4,000 Rs for the same amount of work of which 250 Rs is cut for ESI and PF. Now the new contractor announced that he will pay 4,400 Rs. For the 500 canteen workers per shift there are one general manager, five managers and 30 supervisors in both canteens. None of the canteen workers has an ESI card. Canteen workers don’t receive a pay-slip. When workers are forced to stay two to four hours longer after a 12-hours shift the managers say that they will be paid for this work, but actually they are not. the work load is high. If some workers take a day off you are supposed to take over their work and work at three different places the same time. Expecting trouble and abuses from the manager you run back-and-forth, supplying the production workers with tea. The factory is spread out on 600 acres – it’s quite an effort to supply all production workers with tea. At Suzuki Powertrain canteen the situation is the same, they just start and finish an hour later.
‘During the first occupation the 150 housekeeping workers stayed inside with the other workers, but during the one month ‘lock-out’ (good conduct bond dispute in September 2011) around 140 out of 150 went inside and worked. These workers have very little resources to stay without wages and management promised to increase wages if we work.
Shops in Aliyar…
(Plot 1, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)
Maruti Suzuki only started gearbox production in 2007, before that most gears were imported from Japan, because localisation was not seen as profitable as long as production volume was below 700,00 cars. Around 2010 Suzuki Powertrain in Manesar was actually able to produce gears cheaper than the imported gears (landed costs) and Maruti decided to fuse with Powertrain by end of 2012, also partly due the fact that at Powertrain the trouble with the workers now seems under control with the new trade union arrangement.
We are 245 apprentices in the factory, coming from different ITIs. We have been sent here to see our trade in practice, to observe it closely, to make experiences and to learn. This is why we are not given ESI and we are supposed to work only the general shift and go to a nearby ITI for theoretical lessons once a week. But here things run according to the will of Suzuki company. According to the needs of the companies we employed in the car engine plant, transmission plant or the two-wheeler engine plant and we have to perform work different from our ITI trade. We work in A, B and C-shift, not in general shift how it is officially said. Instead of observing-learning-making experiences we work as normal production workers. We are given the normal targets and have to meet them. Some supervisors swear at us a lot. During the 7 am shift you are supposed to be in the department at 6:45 and at the line at 6:58 am. At the work-stations you work standing upright all the time. To do the same job not only for 8 hours, but every day for 8 hours is oppressing. You only endure this because one can joke with the permanent workers, trainees and workers hired through contractor who work next to you. Since the agreement between union and management, which increased wages and production levels, the work load has increased a lot, also for us. Many of the permanent workers don’t find a single minute of time to catch their breath – the assembly line in the transmission plant is one of such places, we consider it as the worst place. There the canteen food is also bad and you have to cue up in six long lines, swallow your food and hurry back – because if you are a minute late you are in trouble. In the factories there are various injustices going on. The wage of the apprentices are cut by 16 Rs a day for food and tea, the wage of the workers hired through contractors is not cut. The permanent workers, trainees and apprentices get a night-shift bonus of 35 Rs in the B-shift and 50 Rs in the C-shift, but the workers hired through contractor does not get this bonus. The permanent workers on C-shift can leave at 7 am, while the apprentices have to work one and a half hours longer till 8:30 am. There are big differences between wages, and also when it comes to the company bus service. There are no classes for apprentices, neither inside nor outside the plant. The work load is so high that the apprentices have no chance to see the whole plant, they have to stay at their station. Eight hours overtime used to be paid 150 Rs, now they pay 240 Rs and you can also take time of in lieu – in order to visit home in your village you accumulate overtime. Now they don’t give you a permanent job after having finished your apprenticeship. Only few are re-hired as trainees or through contractor after finishing the apprenticeship. In the form of apprentices we are very cheap workers for the company.
Normally they give workers hired through contractors a break after six months of employment, which they don’t do at Maruti Suzuki. At Powertrain you might be able to re-apply after three months, but it will be difficult to get the job back. The contractors for Powertrain and Maruti Suzuki are different, at Powertrain there are three main contractors, at Maruti Suzuki there are four. They tend to stand at the Maruti Suzuki gate, they take your resume and ID. You are then invited to one day of safety training, you are not paid for this, then you go to Gate One in order to obtain your gate pass. This is how you get hired, normally you don’t need personal connections.
Before the strike we had to manufacture 500 engines at the short-block line, after the strike this came down to 419 currently. Another change since May 2012 is that Powertrain will only hire apprentices from ITI’s in Haryana, may be that’s a policy developed together with the new union.
Apprentice, Suzuki Powertrain, Engine-Shop (May 2012)
We, five apprentices and a temporary Powertrain worker, share a room in Aliyar. The apprenticeship finishes in August 2012 and we currently try to find jobs for time after apprenticeship. We don’t want to work through contractor, but then most workers hired through contractor are former ITI apprentices, some of them even have a diploma.
Casting plant (aluminum parts for engines)
All parts used at the engine plant at Powertrain arrive more or less on a daily basis, in particular the bigger parts.The raw engine blocks arrive at Powertrain from three different suppliers, one of them is
Amtek Auto Group, comprised of Amtek Auto, Amtek India and Ahmednagar Forgings, is one of the largest component manufacturers in India. It has 43 manufacturing facilities located in India (39) and Europe (4).
Trucks come constantly from Amtek, you probably can fit 100 engines on a truck, daily production is around 1,100 engines, they all go to Maruti Gurgaon plant. There is no proper storage for engines, but in the dispatch area you can store around 200 engines. The engines are used at Maruti more or less immediately, there is no storage on their side either. If they find quality problems with engines they tell Powertrain during the same shift during which the problems occurred.
On the long-block assembly -line there are about 200 work-stations, manned by one worker each. For the short-block you need about half the amount of work-stations. After the engine block arrived it is washed. A worker makes use of a crane, clamps the engine block, operates the washing machine, takes the engine out. That’s the job of one worker. Then different data entry has to happen, according to eight different engine models. That’s another work-station. Then you have to attach a bar-code and do the engine number punching. After that you fit the crank-shafts – they are also first checked, then washed, then fitted. The crank-shafts arrive from
Oriental Engine Pvt. Ltd.
The crank-shaft are fitted manually, this is physically the most demanding work, they weigh 15 to 20 kg.
The pistons come from
Supplier for Maruti, HMSI and Hero, amongst others. Manufacturing facilities at Bangalore, Manesar (New Delhi), Pune and Panthnagar.
Capacity of the Manesar plant 700,000 Air-Con Kits, total capacity of Subros including Chennai plant 1,5 million.
At the dressing-line there are around 12 stations, one worker per station. Here ‘attachments’ are fitted, such compressors or starter motors. these parts come from companies like
The heavy work, such as taking crank-shafts out of the trolley and testing it mechanically is mainly done by casual workers (hired through contractors). The relatively lighter work, such as data entry or final check, is mainly done by permanent workers.
Powertrain stopped producing the Euro V engine, but that did not reduce the total volume of production.
Since October 2011 there are more workers employed, meaning that you have a reliever, if you want to go to the toilet. At the dressing line they increased the number of workers, so the work-load is a little less. Since October 2011 the morning gymnastic to Japanese music has stopped.
In June 2011, when workers occupied the Manesar plant, the atmosphere heated up in Gurgaon. Mainly the young workers (hired through contractors, trainees, apprentices) were agitated and they were also in touch with Manesar workers. The older permanent workers expressed some passive sympathy for the action, the layer of older workers with supervisory functions were largely hostile. younger workers gathered at Maruti Gurgaon parking lot to discuss. They went in groups of 20 to 150 to the MUKU union office in order to press the union to take some form of action. When management sensed the discontent they called for MUKU union election in July, mainly to channel the anger into orderly directions. In 2009 there had been some action and gate meetings of casual workers to demand higher wages, but their leaders were sacked. Since then there had been little open conflict in Gurgaon plant. Workers started to collect money for the Manesar workers. They did this independently from MUKU and they did it secretly – collections were organised on assembly line and department level, a total of 86,000 Rs was collected. Only when in Manesar workers were supposed to vote whether they would accept MUKU Gurgaon union as a representative body in the negotiations for the settlement after the ‘good conduct undertaking’, MUKU sent three buses of Gurgaon workers in order to ‘show’ support and thereby to influence the vote. An independent gate meeting in Gurgaon was planned, but when the shooting happened at Suzuki Cycle-plant the meeting was cancelled. Since then MUKU has been approached by the 1,500 trainees at Gurgaon plant, but MUKU says they can’t do anything for them, not even make them members. Between 1999 and 2007 no worker has been hired on permanent basis in Gurgaon, in 2007 workers were hired as trainees. After three years of being trainee, some of them have been made permanent. These workers were the closest to the Maruti Manesar union.”
“Since May 2012 the production of petrol cars in Gurgaon plant is down. For example there are four engine shops, each of them runs on two shifts. Normally we produce 450 engines per shift, since May 2012 only between 240 and 270. In one shop around 150 workers are employed on two shifts, half of them through contractor.In the assembly department the assembly lines are also stopped for one or one and a half hours everyday, which did not happen before. Some casual workers have been kicked out, due to this overcapacity. Like in Manesar assembly department runs on only two shifts, 16 hours a day. There are rumours that all assembly work will be stopped at Gurgaon plant and that only diesel engines will be produced. they set up a new diesel plant on Gurgaon premises. So far these ‘future plans’ do not impact much on the atmosphere inside the plant. This is also due to the high share of contract workers in most departments, e.g. in the paint-shop on one shift there are eight permanents, four trainees, three apprentices and 59 workers hired through contractor. Some Denso and Lumax workers fit their own parts at the assembly line, but that is an exception.
Industrial desert IMT Manesar – In front of the Maruti Suzuki plant…
(Plot 4, Sector III, IMT Manesar)
There are 2,500 female [!?] and 500 male workers employed, manufacturing locks for Honda, Suzuki and Hero two-wheelers. The women work from 9 am till 8 pm – they get 75 Rs for the ‘two hours overtime’ as declared by the company. The male workers worl from 9 am till 10 pm, often they are forced to work till 6 am next morning. After three hours of rest they are supposed to start working again at 9 am. They are only paid 17 Rs per hour overtime and that only for 100 hours per months, when people actually have worked 150 to 200 hours. Wages are paid with delay. The company has recently added a floor to the factory building, which has resulted in the whole building becoming unstable. They propped it up with steel pillars, but the situation is unsafe. Eight trucks leave the plant and drive to Maruti per day, four to eight workers are permanently kept at Maruti for loading and quality check. The company has four factories in India, two in Manesar and Gurgaon, two near Chennai.
Vinay Auto Worker
(Plot 42, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 200 permanents and 400 workers hired through three different contractors. We work 12 hours shifts and manufacture parts for automobile suppliers like Napino, Denso, JNS, Pricol, Delphi. When shift changes on Sunday then workers in the plastic moulding department and in the copper press shop department have to work 20 hours on stretch, from 8 pm Saturday till 4 pm on Sunday. The newly hired helpers hired through contractor get 4,500 Rs.
Annu Auto Worker
(Plot 52, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 30 to 35 permanent workers in the factory and 300 workers hired through three different contractors. We manufacture plastic parts for Honda, Hero, Hyundai on 12 hours shifts. Also on Sundays 12 hours shifts. They pay only 18 Rs for an hour overtime. They embezzle 200 to 400 Rs each month. There is no place to take food in the factory. The park is just for show and taking pictures, we are not allowed to sit there. The toilets are dirty.
Shriram Engineers Worker
(Plot 54, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
Around 250 workers on two 12 hours shifts manufacture parts for Maruti Suzuki four-wheelers and Honda motorbikes. The workers hired through contractors are paid only single rate overtime.
Indo Autotech Worker
(Plot 338, Sector 24, Faridabad)
Here, around 1,000 workers manufacture parts for Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha motorcycles. In the power-press department workers are employed on two 12-hour shifts, this is where a lot of hands get cut. In the welding department around 50 out of 400 workers have ESI and PF – on the punch card there is neither name nor photo, just a number. Those 50 welders who work on Honda parts work on 12 hours shifts. The other 350 welders work 12, 14, 15 hours a day. The work load is high, you have to stand upright the whole time, they abuse you verbally and make you stay longer after 12 hours of work. Overtime is paid at single rate. There is no canteen or place to eat your food, you have to sit next to the machine and eat. Indo Autotech has other factories in Manesar, Bhiwari, Pune and another one in Faridabad, Sector 24, where they make parts for JCB.
The press-shop has presses from 10-400 tons, there are CNC machines for wire cutting and pipe bending and CAD/CAM facilities. Apart from Maruti and JCB, Indotech supplies Honda, yamaha, Recaro and FCC Rico.
DS Buhin Worker
(Plot 88, Sector 24, Faridabad)
Workers here work two 12 hours shift, manufacturing parts for Maruti Suzuki, Honda and Tata Nano. Only 35 workers are permanent, 350 workers are hired through five different contractors. There are 30 power-presses in the plant. Fingers get cut, there are a lot of accidents. In a year 150 hands get mutilated. The company does not fill in the accident form. They don’t take workers to an ESI hospital. They sack the injured worker after having brought him to a private clinic. The helpers hired through contractors get 3,600 to 3,800 Rs. Two to three day wages get embezzled each month. Managers swear at us.
DS also manufactures parts for General Motors and Maruti suppliers JBM and Caparo. The press-shop consists of 27 pneumatic and 12 mechanical presses. Most of the hinge components are manufactured by the progressive tools from Nagata Auto Parts Ltd. Japan. The Assembly Shop has 6 Pneumatic Special Purpose Machines for the assembly of hinges with a capacity of 20,000 hinges per day on two shift basis. DS manufactures parts for both Gurgaon and Manesar plant, such as radiator and seat brackets for the Swift.
(Plot 6, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 1,000 workers hired through five different contractors employed in the factory, plus 50 casual and 250 permanent workers. In the paint-shop workers work 150 to 200 hours overtime per month, in the weld-shop 115 to 130 hours, in the power press-shop 100 to 125 hours – the payment is single rate and in the paint-shop the contractors embezzle 50 hours each month. ESI and PF contributions are cut from workers wages, but none of the workers hired through contractor get ESI and only few get PF fund when quitting the job. The company declares some Sundays as festival / bank holidays and thereby reduces the statutory paid holidays by 10 to 12 days per year. the wages of the helpers hired through contractor is 4,300 to 4,800 Rs.
Omax runs ten factories in India. The company claims to have the largest sprocket manufacturing capacity (11 Million pa) in South East Asia and the largest welding facility in India with 800 machines (100 Km welding capacity per day). Omax supplies parts to Hero MotoCorp Ltd., Maruti Udyog Ltd., Honda Motorcycle & Scooters India Pvt. Ltd., Honda Siel Cars India Ltd., TVS Motors Ltd. Suzuki Motorcycle Ltd., New Holland Tractors (India) Pvt. Ltd., Yamaha Motors India Pvt. Ltd., Delphi Automotives Denso India Ltd., Indian Railways, Tata Motors Limited, Ashok Leyland Limited, IKEA, Magneti Marelli, Wabco.
In 2004 the company started exporting auto-parts to the US and Europe, amongst others to bigger automobile suppliers like Delphi or Cummins. Since 2009 Omax also supplies IKEA.
Krishna Group Worker
(Plot 47, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 200 workers employed, they work on 10.5 hours and 13.5 hours shifts, manufacturing parts for Mahindra, Honda, Maruti Suzuki cars and Svaraj mini-buses – mainly roof inner-linings. Workers operate with all kind of chemicals, they develop skin problems. Only 40 to 50 out of 150 workers hired through contractor get ESI or PF.
Krishna Group manufactures seating systems, rear mirrors, door Trims, roofliners & moulded carpets. The weld shop for the seat-frames is equipped with CNC machines, the paint-shop for the seat-frame is fully automatic and conveyorised. Assembly is performed on conveyorised lines using SNIC ‘s technology.
Jay Switch Worker
(Plot 407, Udyog Vihar Phase 3, Gurgaon)
In the factory 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts manufacture steering locks and keys for Mahindra, Tata Sumo, Toyota Inova and Maruti Suzuki. The overtime is paid at single rate. A first installment of 15 days of overtime payment for December was paid on 15th of February 2012, workers demanded that the rest should be paid by 25th of February – in response the company called the police and one worker was arrested. This worker was sacked and the company refused to pay him the outstanding overtime payment from December to February. The director said that he had to pay the police and that he now won’t pay any money to the worker.
Kiran Udyog Worker
(Plot 23, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
The factory employs 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts. The factory manufactures die-casting products for Honda, Hero motorcycles and Maruti Suzuki cars. During the weekly shift change the Saturday night-shift has to work 20 hours on stretch and the Sunday day shift 16 hours. Over-time is paid single rate.
Kiran Udyog supplies Maruti Udyog Ltd, Sona Koyo Steering System ltd, Suzuki Motorcycle India (P) Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd, Regal Beloit- U.S.A, Daimler Chrysler – Germany, Koyo Steering Systems – France, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter (I) Pvt Ltd, General Motors India, Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai. They have six plants in Gurgaon and Delhi area. Main products are cylinder blocks, motor frames.
Bundy Company Worker, Manesar, NH8
A fuel-pipe manufacturer for Maruti Suzuki. Bundy has one worker permanently working ‘between’ Bundy and Maruti Suzuki: quality check, coordination. Bundy itself employs about 550 workers out of which 300 through contractor. The workers are paid on piece rate, there is no basic wage. Workers have to operate bending machines, burring machines etc. and are paid between 10 and 30 paise per piece. daily target is around 3,000 pieces. One truck leaves Bundy for Maruti per day.
JBM Worker, Maruti Suzuki Manesar Premises
There are about 350 permanent and 700 workers hired through contractor, divided up amongst three departments: powerpress-department, axle-shop and paintshop). We manufacture around 30 to 40 smaller press-parts for Maruti and around 1,000 axles per day on two 12-hours shifts. This is a production of axles for 500 cars, meaning that it is not sufficient to cover the full production in Manesar.
JBM is a joint-venture of Maruti Suzuki. JBM has plants in Manesar, Noida and Faridabad, components are also exported to truck manufacturers in Europe. JBM Auto Systems, a sister company, was founded to supply sheet metal components to Ford India and supplies for export to South Africa and Mexico and China. Next door to the JBM Manesar plant Bellsonica-workers operate 2,500 ton presses, imported from Japan. A temporary worker at Bellsonica told us that he went home to his village for a month during the Maruti dispute, he did not have the money to stay in Manesar.
Energy Ltd. Worker, Maruti Suzuki Manesar Premises
Since one and a half years Energy Ltd. manufactures plastic-fuel tanks on Maruti premises. There are 64 workers in the production department, working on three shifts and 25 logistics workers. Around 90 per cent of the workers are hired through contractor. Before that Maruti got steel-tanks from a different supplier.
Asti Electronics Private Ltd.
(IMT Manesar, Sector 8, Plot 402)
Around 600 workers are employed in the factory, out of which 400 are female. Only 100 to 150 out of 600 workers are hired by the company directly, the remaining through three different contractors. Permanent workers basically do the same work, although they tend to do more supervisory jobs, machine setting, quality control. The company manufactures cable harnesses for Maruti Suzuki, Minda and Hero Motorcycles. Harnesses means that the company cuts cables for electrical appliances of the vehicle, joints them with the necessary plugs and connectors and tapes the cables into a bundle which can easily be installed and connected at Maruti Suzuki’s assembly line, mainly at Maruti Manesar plant. There are at least two more companies in IMT Manesar which do this kind of work, Motherson Sumi and JNS.
The production at Asti is divided into different departments (NSK, PCB). One is the machine shop, where cable are cut at length and fitted with plugs, terminals and connectors. The raw material comes from other Asian countries, either Japan or China. There are five automatic and eight manual machines in the machine-shop, all of them of ‘Japanese’ make. With the automatic machines you basically have to enter the right dimensions for the cables, the length of the cable, length of stripped insulation etc. This does not take much longer than 10 minutes. Then you have to supply the machine with the right type of cable. The machine will run for about 20 minutes in order to cut 1,000 cables and strip them. you have to check the quality and tape the cables in bundles of 100. The permanent workers usually show workers how to set the machine, they check the quality. At the manual machine workers mainly fit terminals and plugs onto the cables. The machine-shop runs on three shifts, only in the A-shift there are female workers employed. The A-shift is 9 hours, the B-shift 8 hours and the C-shift (night) is 6 hours. Target for the C-shift is 10,000 pieces at the automatic machines, for the A-shift 18,000. Workers say that targets have increased continuously. In the machine-shop there are around 20 workers and one supervisor. The supervisor reminds workers on a daily basis: “Check the quality, there have been complaints from Maruti”.
Most of the female workers work on the assembly line, which is separated from the machine shop by racks for material. The assembly line runs only on A-shift. Women workers are of all ages, mostly between 18 and 40 years old. The young female workers live with their parents, the older women with their family. Work at the assembly line required speed, the line runs automatically, women workers have to pull cables into a type of frame, other workers then put plugs on their ends, other workers tape the cables into different branches. The assembly line has about 6 to 8 different stations in sequence, then there is a final quality check and dispatch. there is a line leader which is in a hierarchical position between workers and supervisor. There is no storage space, the manufactured goods leave the factory more or less immediately.
In the machine shop workers can talk to each other, work at the assembly line is more rapid, talking is more difficult. If younger male and female workers talk too much to each other, the male worker might be transfered to other work-station. In the canteen male and female workers can sit together, but they often set apart. Workers work A-shift on Sundays, which is called ‘overtime’. Workers also often work B- and C- double-shifts on Sundays, meaning 14 hours on stretch. They are paid 500 Rs for 14 hours. If people take too much holiday, for example a week or two on stretch, they have to ‘re-join’, meaning their seniority is lost. If you take four days holiday in a week you also lose the Sunday pay (normally a day of which is ‘paid’).
Wages are very low at Asti. Machine operators and assembly line workers only get the helper grade. In March 2012 workers hired through contractor got 4,750 Rs per month, plus 1,000 Rs attendance bonus. Workers with ITI received around 7,000 Rs. Women workers on A-shift receive the same amount as workers on B- and C-shift, although they work one hour longer. In March/April 2012 an annual wage increase was given. Those workers who worked at Asti since one to three months got something between 100 and 200 Rs increase, those with three to eigth months 200 to 300 Rs, those over eight months 600 to 800 Rs, only a handful of permanents with long seniority got 1,500 Rs. Workers were rather angry about the miniscule hike.
The ASTI Corporation and Group Companies are located in Japan, China, Vietnam and India. The plant at IMT Manesar was started in October 2005 and at the same time supplies to Suzuki Motorcycle India started. Asti started supplies to Subros Ltd. in May 2006 and since June 2007 to Maruti Suzuki.
Family members of Maruti workers protesting after mass-dismissals…
Sanden Vikas Worker
(Plot 65, Sector A, Faridabad)
There are 60 permanents employed by the company and 950 workers are hired through four different contractors. Sanden Vikas is a major manufacturer of car AC systems in India, together with companies like Delphi or Subros. The factory in Faridabad supplies AC systems mainly to Maruti Suzuki (Nissan, Honda, Mahindra, Tata, Hind Motors)
Parts for compressors come from Japan. The pipes come from Korea. The rubber hose pipes come from
Other parts come from other companies of the corporate group:
Compressors are assembled at assembly lines, the pipes for the AC’s are dispatched separately. There is no storage, trucks leave continuously. The AC-components are delivered directly to the assembly lines at Maruti Suzuki, there is no storage neither at Sanden, nor at Maruti. There are four Sanden Vikas workers permanently employed at Maruti, Manesar, they also live in Manesar. Two for quality check, two for unloading trucks and dispatching AC’s to lines. About six trucks leave Sanden per day, the guys at manesar plant work 18 hours shifts. Although they work permanently in Maruti they have to pay 30 Rs for a meal at the Maruti canteen. These workers know that there has been a strike at Sanden in 2010 and that there is still trouble. They know that the dispatch problem of parts, the incomplete dispatch is due to wage trouble and over-work at the Faridabad plant. At Sanden in Faridabad there was no major problem during the Maruti Suzuki struggle, management expanded production for other car companies. The component parts for AC’s can be used for different car models.
Management claims that they the factory runs only 17 hours a day on A- and B- shift, but actually it runs 24 hours – only on Sunday production stops at 7 pm. The work-load is high, every day more than 4,000 AC’s are dispatched. Where their own time study has fixed 500 piece targets, managers ask to produce 1,000 piece
- they employ unskilled workers at CNC bending machines. After accidents workers are sacked, workers hired through contractor have no ESI card.
Since March 2012 there have been problems of completing the dispatch to Maruti, not enough or faulty AC’s arrived at Maruti. The problems emerged at a time when a new model was introduced. Maruti made Sanden pay penalties, if dispatches were not complete. In order to find out what the problem was Sanden ordered higher management people to stay during night-shifts and analyse the work process.
The situation is that permanent workers only work on A-shift and since 4 permanents have been kicked out in 2009, permanent workers refuse working overtime. So workers hired through contractor employed on B-shift work from 2:30 pm till next morning 6:30 am – this is 16-hours on stretch. While on A-shift they work 8.5 hours. The solution of management for problems of dispatch: B-shift workers must be tired after 15 hours of work, so they changed shift patterns and introduced two 12-hours shifts instead. This also means that when shift changes on Saturday, workers have to work a 24 hours-shift, as ‘compensation’ workers get 50 Rs extra for food and two ‘breakfasts’.
On the way to Aliyar in IMT Manesar…
Living conditions in villages like Aliyar and other villages around IMT Manesar are not worse than those in other places in Delhi region, which is bad enough. Main thing is the isolation, being far away from Gurgaon. There is the huge and sterile industrial zone with hardly any public spaces and there are the small rooms in the villages, nothing more. There is no time and no space for ‘leisure’. A bit of television, if workers have one, and more recently a bit of fiddling with the chinese touch-screen mobile. “What do you do on a Sunday, if you have a day off?” “I go to listen to religious functions in Manesar. Most workers wash clothes and hang out, rest, have a drink, play cards, may be go to the gym. There is nothing to do.” Locals complain about an increase of prostitution in Manesar, but workers say that prices for sex work are mostly out of reach, 50 Rs for a fuck, 200 Rs for an hour.
There are 500 local inhabitants on the vote list in Aliyar, meaning 500 adult original residents, poorer peasant families. Peasants had to sell their land for the industrial development, this started in 2001. At the time Haryana government paid 3.5 lakh Rs per acre compensation. Some years later Haryana state gave permission to private developers to buy land for ‘housing projects’. The private developers paid between 2 and 11 crore per acre. Families who were forced to sell for ‘industrial development’ filed a legal case and demanded higher compensation, a compromise was found and they now get now get 36 lakh. The land deals has created major income differences between the peasant families. Some invest in more land further down the NH8 towards Rajasthan. Others invest the money into ‘education of their sons’. Others buy a three wheeler and get engaged in transport between Manesar and Gurgaon. At least in Aliyar local ex-peasants don’t get engaged in labour contracting, they mainly rent out rooms for workers. They complain that their sons won’t get permanent jobs in the local factories.
These 500 original ‘peasant inhabitants’ built rooms and rent them out to about 10,000 plus workers. Due to the closeness of Aliyar to Maruti Suzuki, due to the rigid ‘punctuality regime’, land-lords in Aliyar can demand higher rents than in other workers housing areas in Gurgaon or Faridabad. While a room rent is 1,600 Rs in Kapashera, in Aliyar you will pay 2,500 Rs to 3,000 Rs. The state built a ‘workers housing colony’ as a show-piece in the early 2000s, but 80 per cent of the 100 or so flats are empty due to high rent of 6,000 Rs per room. Also prices for vegetables and other food items is much higher in Aliyar. Some workers organise collective trips to markets in Gurgaon, but that takes extra-time. Attached to the land-lordism of the locals is also a certain social and patriarchal control. “We wanted to use the roof of our house as a leisure space, to hang out in the evening. The local owner of the neighbouring house said that he does not want to see us on the roof. We had to accept this, otherwise there would have been trouble”. On one floor of an average workers’ house you will find between 40 and 100 workers of different categories (trainees, temps, apprentices), although permanent workers tend to stay in slightly better accommodation apart. Workers from different departments and companies live together they exchange experiences.
During the Maruti Suzuki dispute the media presented the ‘locals’ as supporters of the company, their village council leaders met up and issued a declaration, stating that ‘Maruti did so much for the region and this labour unrest is sparked by outsiders’. Actually there is a lot of discontent amongst the locals, despite their land-lord position. Most of them see that their children have little chance to participate in the ‘boom’, they see the impact of social decomposition, such as drugs and petty crime amongst the local youth. On 22nd of May 2012, for example, local villagers blocked roads within the industrial zone of Manesar in roder to protest against water and electricity shortage. The protest was mainly organised by the BJP, a fair share of the villagers took part. They blocked the main roads towards the Maruti Suzuki plant, but did not block the entrances to the huge car-park, which meant that trucks with parts could still enter the factory and production was not effected. A symbolic protest, also symbolising their helpless and dependent position.
(based on conversations with workers and local inhabitants, May 2012)
Workers’ at Maruti supplier…
Below you can find some more relevant passages from “The Maruti Story”, by Maruti chairman R.C Bhargava,published by Collins Business in 2010. The book is obviously annoying, having been written by a top-manager, with the usual arrogance and, which is probably more painful, ignorance of the representatives of capital. But even more painful is the fact that it was a representative of capital and not a revolutionary workers’ collective who wrote a book which, however biased and characterised by blind-spots, analyses the development of a major factory, the problems of getting workers to work, of imposing control on the shop-floor through the production system itself, of organising a fragile supply-chain and actively counter-acting workers’ unrest.
Here we see a parallel to the workers’ historiography in Italy. Initially it were mainly bourgeois sociologist and intelligent factions of capital who got engaged in analysing industrial history and contemporary developments. Only with the re-emergence of workers’ struggles and a dissident communist faction in the early 1960s, workers took the analysis of their material world into their own hands and turned it into a weapon. See Sergio Bologna: ‘The Theory and History of the Mass Worker in Italy’
On 350 pages, R.C Bhargava deals with the structure of the early automobile industry in India (Hindustan Motors), with the early attempt of setting up Maruti by Sanjay Gandhi and the close connection between the developmental dictatorship of the State of Emergency and his vision of a people’s car. One has to plough through long passages about the composition of the early management, about the difficult balance-act between being attached to the state and its burocracy and looking for foreign investors. He describes the discussions and negotiations with various international automobile companies and how they chose Suzuki as a partner. For future GurgaonWorkersNews we might type up some historical nuggets, but here we want to concentrate on passages which are relevant for our understanding of the situation today and see them as an incentive to dig deeper from a workers’ perspective as part of workers’ armed struggle.
a) Maruti and Supply-Chain
b) Maruti and Unions
c) Maruti and Expansion of Gurgaon and Manesar
a) Maruti and Supply-Chain
Here we first of all are able to see how capital creates its own fetish. In order to avoid a huge concentration of workers in a single ‘automobile factory’, which would easily need a 100,000 workers, Maruti wants to create the semblance of formally separate units of suppliers around a central ‘Maruti assembly plant’. The reasons they give for this decision are seemingly ‘economic’: aversion of risk, share of investment, competition. Obviously Maruti depends on the smooth cooperation within a production process, so they basically set-up the suppliers with their own engineers, impose clear hierarchy of orders, supply them with necessary capital. It is clear that on the level of ‘use value production’ Maruti and the suppliers are one and that the formal and spacial distinctions are in the end political measures against the working class.
“Chapter 7: Preparing the Vendors
The first 192 cars to roll out of the factory in December 1983 were almost entirely Japanese cars, with only the tyres and the batteries being Indian, supplies coming from Chennai-based MRF and Kolkata-based Chloride India (later renamed Exide Industries). The indigenization percentage was a mere 2.76666 per cent and it stayed at less than 10 per cent till March 1984. [...] Maruti had committed to achieving 95 per cent indigenization in five years. [...]
At that time , the Indian automobile manufacturers produced close to 50 per cent of the components of a vehicle in-house. SMC, and Japanese manufacturers in general, followed a different policy. In-house production of components was limited to only those that were critical for performance and appearance, like the engine, gearbox and outer body panels. All other components were outsourced to vendors. This reduced investment costs, and thus risk, for the vehicle manufacturer. It also reduced cost of manufacturing components, as vendors could supply to more than one manufacturer, attain higher volumes and derive benefits of scale.[...] Thus the dependence on vendors was to be to the extent of about 75 per cent of the value of all components, excluding steel, paints and similar items.
Interested parties had to submit full information about themselves, including what facilities they had, their experience in manufacturing and management set-up. [...] A group of engineers then visited the factories of the applicants to verify the information given and also to judge their capabilities. [...] Another difficult decision in respect of each part was to decide when it should be deleted from the CKD kit [kit with imported parts coming from Japan for assembling at Maruti]. The contents of a CKD kit had to be decided and orders placed with SMC five months before the month in which the imported parts would be used on Maruti production lines. Maruti had to anticipate which parts, and in what quantities a vendor would be able to produce six months in advance, in order to decide to delete those parts from the import list. Given the somewhat disorganized state of many vendors, this was not an easy task and often created situations of crisis, as many vendors failed to meet their commitments. [...]
Maruti acted virtually as a midwife to a large number of vendors, handholding them at every stage. Maruti was often involved in helping them find the right collaborator, aiding with joint venture agreements and getting approvals and licences, arranging financial assistance and negotiating with financial institutions for providing working capital, persuading state governments to allot land, giving short-term advances to them to pay customs duties and importing tooling, and sending Maruti engineers to help them with their production system. [...] As a result, close to forty joint ventures and technical agreements between Indian and Japanese component manufacturers were signed in a short period of time, and this greatly facilitated the process of localization.
Mathur and the late Dr. R.D. Deshpande, who was the first head of engineering, were in charge of developing Maruti vendors. Mathur describes it graphically: “Ensuring that the production line was not disrupted was like feeding a shark which eats around the clock. We were buying 1,200 or 1,300 components. Even if we had a crisis on one of the components every three years, it was still a crisis every day for us”. The crisis could take the form of a quality problem, disruption of production due to shortage of raw materials or imported sub-components, labour unrest or disruption in the transportation system [...].
Many vendors would change their manufacturing process in some area, thinking it would not matter. Maruti had to make them realize that the key to quality lay in consistently, without any deviations, following the approved procedures for manufacture [...]. If any change was to be made anywhere, it had to be first approved by Maruti.
As a result of all these problems, more parts had to be imported and the indigenization programme had to be revised downward. The target of 31.5 per cent indigenization up to March 1985 was brought down to 23 per cent. [...] Maruti then decided to get even more involved with its vendors, forming joint-ventures to manufacture components that were critical to the quality of the vehicles, or were to bulky to transport, or required high technology and large investments, or where the economies of scale dictated a single source. [...] Having a stake in the companies enabled Maruti to be involved in all aspects of the establishment of the production facilities and the process of manufacture. [...] Initially five joint-ventures were formed. These were to manufacture seats (Bharat Seats), glass (Asahi India Glass), sheet metal parts (Mark Auto), plastic moulding (Machino Plastics) and steering components (Sona Steering) and accounted for 24 per cent of the value of the car.
Three of the joint-ventures – Bharat Seats, Machino Plastics and Mark Auto – were located within the Maruti factory complex, while Asahi Glass and Sona Steering took land nearby. [...] Later, to bring in an element of competition and as a fallback arrangement, three more joint ventures were set up – Sona Car Seats (renamed Krishna Maruti) for seats in 1993, and Jay Bharat Maruti and Caparo Maruti for sheet metal components in 1988 and 1994 respectively. [...] The management control was with Maruti’s partner, as the company did not want to get involved in the day-to-day management of so many companies. If Maruti had assumed control over the joint ventures, there would soon have been demands from the employees that they should have the same terms and conditions as Maruti employees. [...] All this would have diverted attention from the main task of building Maruti and the objective of having vendors would have got defeated. [...] to give comofort to the partner, it was provided that for the first seven years or so, pricing would be on a cost plus basis, with an assured return on equity. Maruti had the right to go into details of all costs of manufacture and procurement of materials.
Kumar had to point out to many vendors (other than the joint venture partners)who wanted to persist with the traditional way of using Indian-made tools that they were ignoring the fact that if the components were rejected, they would lose all Maruti business, and suffer a total loss of their investment. Further, since the Maruti pricing policy took into account the tooling cost, buying tooling from Japan would not adversely impact on their profitability. [...] The procurement of raw materials and bought-outs had to be from sources who would follow the laid-down processes and systems, [...] and no change in the source of procurement should be made without getting Maruti’s approval first.[...] Maruti engineers working in the purchase and vendor development department would spent at least half a day on the shop floor of suppliers.”
By that time Maruti had established a certain competition amongst different suppliers. They imposed a rating system about just-in-time and quality and suppliers were supposed to compete in order to get the next order once a new Maruti model was introduced.
“Logistics posed another headache. [...] The rear axles too came by truck from Chennai. This was one of the few cases where Maruti had a single supplier. Trucks would break down or be stranded by floods during the monsoon. [...] Truck drivers were not trained to keep Maruti, or even their own management, informed of what was happening. Though they were supposed to call from every major twon on the route, few did this. [...] During the 1984 anti-Sikh riots [...], several Sikh drivers disappeared and there was no way of knowing whether they were hiding to save themselves or had been killed. On such occasions the rear axleshad to be transported by train [...] to ensure they reached the factory in forty-eight hours and production lines could be kept running”.
We added the quote below, which does not directly concern the supply-chain, but the so-called ‘after-service’, the Maruti repair and service work-shops. We can see how the big industry shapes and re-structures the so-called service and informal sector, such as car repairing – through direct intervention, technological impostion and ‘training’ of the work-force.
“As with showrooms, Maruti also provided guidance on how to establish workshops – number of bays, equipment, paint-shop layout, storage and handling of spare parts, among other things. Maruti personnel had to approve the workshop site and the layout (the drawings for which bwere prepared with SMC’s help). [...] Some of the equipment – computerised engine diagnostic equipment, wheel alignment systems, and brake tester, to name a few – was a first for dealers in India. [...] Workshop practices also needed a major change. Traditionally each mechanic was a specialist who would do work in his area only. [...] In addition, each mechanic had one or two helpers, to do the less skilled work like washing and cleaning parts, fetching tools or oil and teightening nuts and bolts. Most of the employees were underutilised and never worked anywhere near eight hours in a shift. The specialist mechanics often sat idlewhen parts were washed and cleaned. [...] SMC, quite rightly, did not want these practices to continue.Thei basic principle was that one mechanic should do all the work required for sservicing a car [...]. Further he should have to do the entire servicing of a car himself, with no helpers. [...] Implementing this was not easy. The older and more experienced mechanics were most unlikely to agree to the change. [...] It was decided that , by and large, it would be better to train fresh pass-outs from ITIs [...].Thuis a training centre for mechanics was established in the service centre at the Maruti factory, [...] regional training centres were established.The young workers from the ITIs were without hang-ups and were quite happy to work in accordance with the new system.”
b) Maruti and Unions
‘The Maruti Story’ contains longer sections about the run-up of the 2000/2001 strike and the subsequent VRS scheme, but most of the details are already provided in GurgaonWorkersNews no.8. Following just some initial quotes concerning the management thought concerning workers’ representation.
“It was realized that continuous training of workers was necessary if their attitude towards work, the company and its management was to be changed. [...] Krishnamurthy decided that this could best de done through a union which had a positive approach. [...] As a first step, Krishnamurthy promoted a trade union at Maruti before political parties and outsiders could establish one. K.K. Datta, who was a union leader at BHEL [where Krishnamurthy had been a leading manager] was given employment in maruti, and became general secretary of the Maruti Udyog Employees Union (MUEU), which was affiliated with the Indian National trade Union Congress (INTUC). Workers were encouraged to become member of this union [...]. But first the credibility of the union had to be established, and this was done by consulting the union and involving it in framing policies and taking decisions in matters affecting the workers. Thus, the policy regarding uniforms, and its colour and design, was settled in consultation with the union. . [...] After each union meeting each [union] executive was required to interact with his constituency and share the information with the workers. The management believed that this would be the most effective way of reaching all the workers, and this could not be done successfully by the management trying to interact directly with them.”
“The scheme was notified in November 1989. Productivity levels and sales started to rise rapidly. The bonus pool grew and in a few years the workers were getting a bonus which was approximately one and a half times their basic salary. One benefit of the scheme was that workers never opposed automation or other methods to improve productivity. [...] Getting worker cooperation on contentious issues, therefore, became easier, as the management found out in the mid-1990s. The company had a large number of casual/temporary labourers on its rolls and Abraham, who had again become the general secretary of the union, insisted that their service be regularized. Since these people were doing work which was not related to the main activity of the company, like cleaning, sweeping and unpacking crates, and outsourcing was the accepted way to get such tasks done, it would not have been in Maruti’s interest to regularize them. The management talked to other union leaders, and the managers also talked directly to employees on the shop-floor, and pointed out that accepting this demand would lead to a larger number of employees, lesser labour savings and a drop in the bonus pool. The smaller pool would have to be shared between larger numbers. Hence each regular worker would see a big drop in his take-home pay. With the majority of the workers unwilling to let this happen, the union quietly dropped this demand.”
The quite below is actually not from “The Maruti Story”, but from the Phd by Bose – see Appendix. We thought it would be interesting to document the attempt to set up a contract workers union at Maruti Gurgaon plant in the late 1980s.
“Maruti gets license from the Labour Commissioner’s office to use contract labour. We are not given any appointement letter. Initially, Maruti officers used to issue identity cards with their signature on it. But from June 2000 onwards Maruti officers have not been signing on the identity cards, which are changed every six months. Earlier, contractors and Maruti officers used to sit together to pay us wages but now contractors pay on their own within the company. The labour contractors are registered ones and come from local areas, and are well connected to Maruti management. There are now 72 big contractors and many small contractors. They have two yearly agreement with management. Competition among them forces them to quote lower bulk payment so that we do not get even official minimum wages. No equal wages for equal work we do. We do not get any allowance. We have no hospital facility. The entire Maruti Gypsy production line work is subcontracted out. Contract workers are doing the subassembly and final assembly within Maruti premises. We do not get any help from contractors in terms of advance or loan. We are forced to work long hours. We work on Sunday and we do not get any leave. If the worker absents without telling the contractor, they get penalized in terms of no work for three or four days. We face high incidence of injuries and accidents due to too much work pressures and lack of rest. No payment is made. Contractors are told to take us away even as the others are told to clean the blood on the running machines. The permanents look down upon us. Most of us were earlier apprentice workers in this factory. We are doubly f…ed…both management and union exploit us.
In 1989 we struggled with a 9-day strike for our union recognition, and in 1990 we were on a 37-day strike. We are registered as Maruti Contract Workers Union. Our registration number is 1150. We have received no support from Maruti union even as they seek our support which we give in terms of tool down, etc. Both Maruti management and Maruti union have cooperated with the labour contractors to dismiss 20 to 25 activists of our union. We lodge court cases through permanent workers union and the Joint Labour Commissioner wants proof of employment from Maruti or permanent workers but they do not extend any help. Who will save us in this country? Even God is sold out. We have not become criminals. We have not become rapists. Why is the society not grateful to us? Are we not the backbone of this country’s economy? “Note that the President of the Clutch Auto Employees Union has been blessed by the management with press shop subcontract work, and how can he fight for the workers?
c) Maruti and Expansion of Gurgaon and Manesar
We see a parallel here. During the expansion phase of the Gurgaon plant management forced workers to work ‘over-capacity’, and management knew that it depended on workers’ collaboration during this phase. The same thing happened in Manesar in 2011, shortly before the B-plant becoming operational. In order to save investment and to stretch ‘living and dead labour’ as far as possible, the A-plant operated on over-capacity (off-line car assembly etc.) for a long period. Only this time workers were not willing to cooperate.
“The work on expanding capacity and establishing a second plant at the same site, started about the end of 1992 and was completed in 1994. This plant, which was to produce the Zen, had a rated capacity of 100,000 units, like the first plant. In November 1993, the government issued an ad hoc exemption order allowing Maruti to import plant and machinery for the Zen project at nil custom duty on taking an obligation to export 140,000 cars over seven years.The funds were secured through a loan raised in Japan, as well as some internal resources. With the plant, production rapidly increased to 278,000 in 1995-96, and the need for another plant was obvious. One of the reasons for Maruti being able to keep prices of cars low – and make profits – was the ability to run both these plants at about 140 per cent of the rated capacity. This was achieved by a combination of balancing facilities, innovative practices and full cooperation from the workers.”
Here we read about the conception of the Manesar plant: a fresh start without the ‘old labour’ of Gurgaon, a higher degree of automation, a comparable set-up to the already existing plant in Japan. Suzuki wanted Manesar to compete with Gurgaon. It now remains a question for us how to turn this around, from a workers’ perspective. How can the unrest of a young generation at Manesar plant break up the heavy silence in the ‘old core’ Gurgaon?
“There was a history to the establishment of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. The Gurgaon site had been fully developed with the establishment of the three manufacturing plants. [...] A new site was needed for future expansion and Manesar was selected. Khattar was successful in negotiating with the Haryana government to purchase 600 acres of land there, on very reasonable terms. [...] SMC wanted this plant to be very similar to the plant in Kosai, Japan, so that there could be a high level of automation, and the best SMC practice could be established here from the start. Suzuki did not want this plant to become an extension of the Gurgaon plant, which had been built over twenty years and had much more manual operations. He wanted the plants at Gurgaon and Manesar to compete with each other in areas like productivity and quality, with each being a benchmark for the other. At the same time, it was always the intention that in areas like human resource management, supply chain and sales and marketing the two plants should work as one.”
House of an ex-peasant, now landlord in Rampura village near Manesar…
The export of Suzuki passenger cars from Gurgaon to Europe increased over the years both absolutely and relatively. The best-seller Swift is at the same time manufactured in a Suzuki factory in Hungary, which was hailed after the end of the Eastern Block, hailed as the new investment paradise for global car manufacturers, together with the Czech Republic. Both the Suzuki Manesar and the Esztergom plant supply the European market, the different wage levels, levels of general ‘development’ and geographical location will be the objective factors for Suzuki to integrate both plants into their global structure. For workers it will be a challenge to establish a basic form of exchange of experience. A comrade from Hungary summarised following general overview on the Suzuki plant in Esztergom and the workers’ struggle of 2005:
Suzuki Factory in Hungary and International Market
Suzuki accounts for 2.2 per cent of all exports from Hungary in 2008. The factory in Esztergom was built and started production in 1992. Back then it was the only Japanese investment in Hungary. The government and all political forces were promoting the slogan of attracting foreign capital in the country, as there has been a 30 per cent employment loss (with special regard on industry) after the fall of state socialism. Initially most parts for the Suzuki Alto came from the Maruti Suzuki plant in India. In 1993, leaders of Suzuki Corporation and Hungary agreed on settling the production of most car parts (except the engine, gears and wheelwork) in Hungary and/or other countries in the region – but in 1994, when the 25,000th car was made in Hungary, the proportion of european-produced parts was only 60 per cent. From 1994 on, car parts were also made for export to Japan, and whole cars for the Chinese, Dutch and Italian markets. In 1996, the 100,000th car was made, and at the domestic market of new made cars Suzuki had a 20 per cent share in Hungary. In 1999 100,000 cars were sold on the Hungarian market, while total annual production was over 250,000. The integration with other manufacturers continues: the WagonR model consists mainly of parts manufactured by Opel/GM in Poland. The SX4 is, like in India, manufactured in close cooperation with FIAT.
In 2011, Magyar Suzuki Zrt. 171,700 vehicles were made in the factory (+1% compared to 2010), out of which 168,555 were sold abroad (!), out of which 61,123 were Swift, 61,864 were SX4, main export target country is Italy. In 2011 around 3400 people worked directly at Suzuki, total workforce is around 4,200. Exports go not only to Europe but also Japan, Russie, Ukraine, some Middle Eastern and North African countries. There was a significant growth in profits at MS Zrt. (+26.6 million euro). Analysts say it could be because of strengthening the production of own supplies (growth in the value of locally owned supplies: 25 million euro in 2010 to 33.5 million in 2011).
In May 2011 – for a short time (few weeks) only one shift was at work because of “supply problems”, from July on two shifts are working again. Probably because of this, May showed a -0.8% in total industrial output of Hungary compared to April. In November and December 2012, only one shift will work in Esztergom. Management hopes they can restore the 2-shifts setup from January 2013.
By the end of 2005, tensions arise at Suzuki Esztergom, because of forced overtime, cancelled holidays and weekends (2111 people were given only 7 days instead of 8 days a month; 403 workers didn’t get their 2004 vacations; further 19 were given money instead of their annual leave), additional daily working time “to replace” lunchbreaks, missing toilets in the new facilities. In August, an anonymous letter was sent to the management, describing all these conditions. In December about 150 activists of the “Liga Szakszervezetek” (Unions of “The League”, a lesser trade union confederation) demonstrate at the entrance, also involving workers of the Pét Nitrochemical Works, pedagogues, uniformed officials of armed state bodies. Nationalist separation between slovakian and hungarian workers seems to bleach, although racist resentments towards the “yellow” (japanese management) still present. However, at the handover of the petition and at the distribution of the union flyers the union accepted the restriction given by the management to be no more than 10 persons in action at the gate.
In early 2006 workers of Suzuki Esztergom form a union (Independent Union of Automobile Manufacturers in Esztergom) outside of the fence, but just at the factory gate, in a bus that they rent for this purpose. Since the demonstration in December 2005 they gathered 68 members, 30% of which are slovakian citizens. Some new members join during this first public meeting (held for the election of officials). Police shows up, records the organizers’ data and tries to push them to remove their banner demanding the respect of labour law at Suzuki. In February, a month after forming the union, their leader gets dismissed. The “factory council” [a legally codified but in Hungary very rare form of representation] denies legitimacy of the new union (based on legal formalities) and connection between its leader’s union activity and sacking. The management adds: 70 members are 2% of the total 3200 workers… Based on these points, they don’t admit the union as negotiating partner. The fired union leader made a speech in a TV broadcast that “damaged the good image of the company”. He talks about how the management framed him: some closed bottles of alcohol were found in his locker (which was opened forcefully on the weekend before by an unknown person) – the allegation of having alcohol at the workplace was used for a reason to sack him. Eleven days after he got kicked out, a strike happened: 50 workers walked out spontaneously in protest against unpaid overtime.
In March 2007 the court finds that dismissing the union leader was illegal, although his demand for the wage of the past year is still in question.
In December 2008 management announced that 1200 out of 5523 workers must leave Suzuki from the 8th December on, due to the reduction of orders in the crisis, from 3 shifts only 2 remain. First the outsourced, then those on probation time, then those working there for less than 3 years are to be dismissed. Workers put on “technical leave” get only the basic wage (no “bonus”), this means 20-25’000 HUF less than usual. Those leaving “on their own” by the middle of December are offered to gain 2 more months’ salary instead of the legally prescribed severance pay/compensation of 1 months payment per 3 years spent at work. (About 800 people were tricked by Suzuki again: they left by themselves, only to learn that this compensation offer was meant only for those living out of 30 km radius around the factory. In order to replace these workers leaving in masses, many of those put on “technical leave” were called back to work.) Buses to transport workers to work are cancelled from the 5th January 2009.
8.1) Open Letter on Maruti by Mouvement Communiste to Comrades in Delhi
8.2) Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle
8.3) Proposal for Critical Debate on ‘Academic Research’
8.4) Phd by Bose on Automobile Industry in Delhi
8.5) Further readings
Workers on their way to shift in Gurgaon industrial area…
Open letter from afar to comrades in India
We went to India some weeks ago and we met many comrades of various tendencies in a friendly and open-minded way. We also met workers in some plants.
The situation of the working class in India, mainly in the automotive industry, shows that a new generation of workers is rising and expressing discontent, not only inside but also outside the factories.
Before the Maruti Suzuki strike (from June to October 2011), other strikes took place, successful or not, with both contract workers and sometimes casual workers, taking part.
We feel that the conditions – both objective and subjective – are ripe for something to happen. There is a hidden potential strength close to emergence. And militants must contribute to the birth of the first stage of workers self-organisation.
Obviously we are writing this letter from a long way away, so we don’t expect you to just follow our recipe – the intention is to open discussion. But if we were militants in India, this would be our proposal.
It is necessary to know more about factory organisation (along with Suzuki operations).
It is necessary to discuss to the greatest possible extent with workers from Suzuki to check that common political goals are both understood and shared.
So, a kind of workers’ inquiry must be launched.
This has to be made visible to other workers, not only to those working for local sub-contractors, but to the workers of the whole Delhi area.
In order to do this, we need “human resources” and basic organisation. This implies clearly advocating for workers autonomy. It does not mean political merger or hiding political differences. But those to which this letter is addressed share, from our point of view, a common will to dedicate their political energy towards working class self-organization, giving it the highest priority.
We are not against any attempt by workers to organise themselves to fight for their interests, even into rank and file unions, but we are very cautious about the evolution of such unions (here we are thinking about what happened at Honda, but not only that). This is a practical point produced by class struggle itself. So a basic point of agreement or disagreement.
There is already an existing medium: FMS (Faridabad Majdoor Samachar). It must become the common political paper. It must be extensively distributed among workers. It must become a tool for workers.
Class struggle never stops, but it often has lower phases and slightly higher ones. We think that now could be the beginning of a higher phase of struggle in the Delhi area, and maybe even other industrial centres across India.
This is an occasion not to be missed. It won’t come again quickly. Taking on the responsibility of this situation is the purpose of this open letter.
Mouvement Communiste/Kolektivn_ proti kapitálu
25th April 2012
About workers’ inquiry
This method was used in Italy, starting in the early 1960′s, by a specific political current, Operaismo.
It was needed to understand Capital’s organisation and Class composition.
A knowledge of the organisation of capital means understanding the production process, not only within factories but also geographically, understanding productive units and their links between factories. The goal is to identify weak points and bottlenecks but above all, capital’s logic and means.
A knowledge of class composition allows the analysis of differences in working class structure between jobs and skill levels, not from a static sociological perspective but from the potentialities and dynamics of struggle. Class composition analysis is intended to discover the underground forces that trigger workers’ struggles and workers’ organisations.
To bring out those key elements, Operaismo brightens up an old method, the workers’ inquiry, in reference to a short questionnaire written by Marx in April 1880.
Workers’ inquiry is both a means of knowledge and a tool for the use and profit of workers themselves.
Workers’ inquiry can be a success only if it gets rid of the static method of bourgeois sociology through common research within factories with workers or, best of all, directly by workers themselves.
Tea stall out of Aliyar…
Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle
Public note in IMT Manesar…
Proposal for an Open Debate on ‘Research on Automobile Workers in the Global South Today’
This proposal goes out to you four, but is not necessarily constricted to this circle. If you can think of comrades who work in a similar field and who might be interested in the exchange, let us know. I assume you have heard from or about each other, nevertheless a short introduction.
L. studies in London, she has done fieldwork at FIAT in Italy and various automobile companies in India.
A. studies in Delhi, engaged in research of automobile industry in India. He is a political activist who has been closely involved with the Maruti Suzuki workers’ strike.
F. studies in London, he researches conditions and struggles in automobile industry in China and Mexico, he has done fieldwork in both places.
T. is at university in Australia, he has written on class formation in India and did fieldwork on automobile industry in Gurgaon.
Let me shortly say something about the background of this proposal. On an individual level we had discussions about ‘research work’/'academic knowledge production’ in relation to industrial changes, the emergence of a new generation of automobile workers and their promising struggles in China 2010 and India 2011 and, last but not least’ the question of ‘political organisational activities’ amongst these workers.
I have to admit that I know very little about research work and the academic mode of production, but it seems clear to me that a more collective debate about ‘research and organisation’ is necessary and could be fruitful. I am not sure how to structure the debate or how to organise it – the questions below have to be seen as a preliminary structure open for comments and changes. What could be the aim of the debate? On one side an exchange of positions about the ‘actual developments’ in research, industry and struggles – on the other side a debate on the current relation and ‘potential/traps’ of ‘academic form of research’ and ‘political organisational activity’. I think this debate is relevant for a wider circle, though unfortunately it is so far often confined to individual and often rhetorical discussions.
Preliminary Structure / Questions
* What is your research focussing on and why? Where do you see the ‘political relevance’?
* What empirical sources do you rely on?
* How did the fieldwork look like? Who were you able to talk to and how did this relationship look like?
* What kind of political activity are you engaged in (even on minimalistic level) and how does your research work relate to this?
2) General Condition of the Automobile Sector
* Could you briefly (!) describe the general global trends you see in the automobile sector, the specific relation between the industry in north and south and the concrete relation between your focus of research (region, specific perspective) and these general tendencies?
* What is the current focus of mainstream research into automobile sector and automobile workers mobilisations? How would you describe the current material relation (resources, methods etc.) between the academic apparatus and the research into development of the automobile sector and work-force?
* How do you see the current relation between ‘academic research’ in the sector and the official ‘labour movement’ (trade unions, labour NGOs etc.)?
3) Workers’ Struggles
* Briefly, how do you interpret the recent automobile workers’ struggles in China 2010 and India 2011? Is there a ‘general trend’ in the global south? How do these struggles relate to the situation in the ‘older’ regions? Is there a material basis for generalisation both within the respective regions (India, China) and on a more global scale?
* What impact did recent movements of workers in the automobile sector have on both the ‘official labour movement’ and the academic sphere, in terms of research focus and methods and ‘internal contradictions’?
* Do you see any tendencies of ‘organisational political activity’ in relation to these mobilisations which have the potential to go beyond institutionalisation and immediate conflict?
4) Current Potentials and Limitations of Academic Research
* What could be a ‘fruitful’ relationship between ‘academic research’ and ‘political organisational activities’ within current class movements? Do you see any examples?
* How does your work concretely depend on the academic apparatus (finance, access to resources, debate etc.)?
* What does usually happen with the ‘product’ of your work? How do you and / or the academic apparatus make it public or uses it? Do you get anything out of it, in terms of debate, responses, which lead to ‘clarification’?
* From your own concrete experience: what kind of restrictions does the academic mode of production impose on the relationship between ‘researcher’ and workers or political activities – or between ‘researchers’? How do you deal with these restrictions?
* Why do you think comrades currently try to ‘do research’ through the academic despite these restrictions? Do you see any form of individual or collective alternatives, concrete examples of alternatives?
* How do you see the near future: do you have concrete ideas or projects which bring together ‘research work’ and ‘political activity’?
* Do you have any concrete comments, criticisms and / or suggestions concerning the practice of FaridabadMajdoorSamachar and / or GurgaonWorkersNews?
Maruti truck driver…
Phd thesis by Bose on Delhi automobile industry
Full thesis in PDF
Below a list of relevant further sources on automobile workers struggles and the Maruti Suzuki dispute.
Mainstream news video on 18th of July unrest in Manesar:
Collection on articles concerning Maruti Suzuki from Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in Hindi:
Longer journalistic article on ‘workers’ view’ on Maruti Manesar dispute:
Article by comrades of radicalnotes.com on relevance of Maruti struggle:
Material in GurgaonWorkersNews relating to the local automobile industry:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.3 on the automobile supply chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.3 on dispute at Amtek:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.5 on conditions of a truck driver in the supply-chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.6 on conditions at supplier Motherson and gender relations on the shop-floor:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.6 Conditions and struggle at supplier Delphi:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.8 reports from workers in the supply-chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.8 on wildcat-strike at supplier Delphi:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.8 on struggle at Maruti in 2000:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.11 on struggle at supplier Automax:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.13/14 on struggle at supplier Graziano:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.18 on struggle at supplier Boni:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.18 on struggle at supplier Mushashi:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.19 reports from supply-chain workers and worker at Motherson:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.21 on struggle at Rico and the condition of the automobile sector in India
GurgaonWorkersNews no.22 on struggle at supplier Rico
GurgaonWorkersNews no.23 on struggle/lock-out at supplier Denso:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.24 on lock-out at supplier Denso:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.26 conditions and struggle at supplier Sanden Vikas:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.30 on conditions of workers in the supply-chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.31 interview with CNC operator at supplier:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.32 on situation within the supply chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.33 on the supply-chain mix of welding robots and slum production:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.35 on the supply-chain of Maruti
GurgaonWorkersNews no.36 on the supply-chain of Maruti
GurgaonWorkersNews no.41 on the Maruti occupation in June 2011
GurgaonWorkersNews no.44 on Maruti struggles in 2011
GurgaonWorkersNews no.45 on Maruti struggle update
GurgaonWorkersNews no.48 on Maruti struggle update
GurgaonWorkersNews no.50 on lock-out at supplier Senior
Article by wildcat car worker on the ‘end of the automobile’:
Article by Marco Revelli on historic strike against layoffs at FIAT Italy:
Article on ‘political assembly’ of workers at Alfa Romeo:
Article on Lordstown struggle US: