GurgaonWorkersNews no.62 – March 2014
March 10, 2014
GurgaonWorkersNews no.62 – March 2014
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 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. It aims at an exchange of workers’ collectives to forge trajectories beyond state and capital. 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 2014 issue you can find:
Against the background of persistent inflation the ruling class in India has to actively curb the wage pressure from below. We document short examples of current struggles in the Gurgaon area and have translated one report about a riotous spill-over of workers’ discontent in Faridabad in January 2014.
These eight workers’ reports from different companies were published and circulated in the local area in early 2013: Orient Fan, Agro Engineering, Globe Capacitor, Ratna Offset, Harsoria Healthcare, Dhiman Engineering, Bright Brothers, Delhi Metro.
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. The 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. They have been written by comrades and groups we have a practical relationship with.
/// “For all and everyone – The Knock of Communism in the Electronic Age”
(Faridabad Majdoor Samachar)
This article looks at how the development of the capitalist mode of production changed the basis for workers’ organisation since the time of the I.International. It provides an overview of how restructuring changed the framework for workers’ struggles in Faridabad since the 1980s.
/// Out now! First issue of Delhi based ‘The University Worker”
First issue of a university workers’ paper which applies the organisational concept of workers’ inquiry on university grounds. Reports from lecturers, students, manual workers and detailed account of a ‘ad hoc teacher’.
/// Uprising in Ukraine
(Mouvement Communiste and Gabriel Levy)
Short statement of the limits of the uprising and elaboration of a working class position towards the old and new regime by MC. Longer background analysis by comrade from the ‘People and Nature’ blog.
/// Uprising in Bosnia
Letter from a comrade about the protest movements in Bosnia.
/// Counter-revolution in Egypt
Comprehensive analysis of the different stages of uprising and counter-revolution in Egypt with special focus on the role of the migrant workforce in the region.
/// Crisis in Greece
Comrades assess the ‘fascist threat’ against the background of collaboration between deep state, organised crime exploiting mainly migrant labour and the organised fascist forces.
/// Strike support
(Wildcat and Mouvement Communiste)
Two short articles concerning the question of ‘how to struggle and how to support struggle’ based on recent examples from Germany and France.
In late 2008 the ruling elite in India was still able to talk about ‘de-coupling’. claiming that the Indian economy was sufficiently ‘autark’ enough not to be too affected by the global crisis. This claim was refuted by the ‘currency war’ in late 2010, when currencies in most ‘emerging markets’ bubbled up in competition for short-term investment. Industrial growth in India has since then been stifled by high interest rates, from 2.9 per cent in 2012 to a historic low of under 1 per cent in 2013.
The credit market in India has expanded significantly during recent years. Between 2000 and 2010 the ratio between consumer credits dished out by private banks and GDP increased from 20 per cent to 50 per cent. Outstanding foreign loans grew from 40 billion USD (5.7 per cent of GDP) in 2005 to 300 billion USD (16.2 per cent of GDP) at the end of March 2013. Since January 2012 the value of the Rupee declined by 35 per cent, which makes it more expensive to pay back these loans and to pay for imported goods, mainly gas and oil. At the end of 2013 the Iranian government refused a request by the Indian government to pay the gas bill in Rupees, instead they demanded a 55 per cent payment in USD and Euro, which is a sign of the international doubt concerning the stability of the Rupee.
In early 2014 the stock-market in India reacted in perfect synchrony with the other ‘emerging markets’ Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Argentina and nose- dived after the announcement of the US government to curb their quantitative easing (economic stimulus program).
* Wage Pressure
Under these conditions the ruling class in India has to make sure that the wage pressure from below is further suppressed. End of 2013 the chief minister of Haryana announced a substantial increase of the local minimum wage from around 5,500 Rs to over 8,000 Rs, but the central government interfered. In Business Standard the new boss of the Reserve Bank of India announced:
“More than pressuring corporate profits, these rapid blue-collar wage increases threaten efforts to quell inflation by new Reserve Bank of India (RBI) chief, Raghuram Rajan, the former International Monetary Fund economist who took over as governor at the RBI in September. Rajan has made price stability a policy priority, calling it a prerequisite for reviving economic growth that has slipped to 5 per cent a year, the lowest in a decade.”
On the parliamentary level it became clear fairly quickly, that although the Aam Admi Party is able to incorporate the ‘social movement’ sector of the left into their general election theatre, e.g. through the standing of Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) as AAP candidate, once in power the AAP will, like any other party, make sure that proletarian living standards remain as low as they are: during their short ‘time in power’ in the NCR government the AAP threatened striking contract workers of the public transport corporation with mass redundancies and in media interviews an AAP spokesperson announced that ‘agricultural subsidies’ are the first thing to go after a possible AAP election success.
On a regional level the representatives of capital have made a deal to actively go against any struggle of workers’ which demands more than a 7,000 Rs wage increase over a three years period. The Maruti Suzuki and Hero managements must have given permission to management of their suppliers to enforce a ‘lock out policy’ in case workers’ exceed this threshold, even if the lock-out might put production in the assembly plants at risk. We find many such local examples of ‘lock-outs’ at major suppliers during the last six months: Munjal Kiriu, Autofit,  Asti Electronics  and most recently Bajaj Motors. 
While management knows how to orchestrate wage disputes as long as these stay within the framework of the (company) trade union and labour law, this is less the case once workers go beyond this limit. A recent example from Faridabad demonstrates the wide-spread simmering discontent, which only waits for ignition.
* Workers’ collectivity reaches out from one factory to the other
(translated from: Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.308, February 2014)
It has been three months since the chief minister announced that the monthly minimum wage in Haryana will be increased by around 2,500 Rs to 8,100 Rs on 1st of January 2014. In the early morning of the 23rd of January our company bus crossed the JCB Square when traffic on both directions started to build up. In the end the traffic jam was thirteen to fourteen miles long. A side-street was free of traffic, so the bus driver took that route. We reached the 49 mile stone near Prathala on the National Highway no.2 by 8:30 am and there we saw about 500 workers standing on the side of the road shouting slogans for “8,100 Rs” and against the government and the companies. The reason behind the long traffic jam was workers’ unrest in the industrial area of Prathala-Baghaula.
The strike of public workers on 21st, 22nd and 23rd of January had encouraged these workers, but on the 21st and 22nd of January the roads had remained unblocked. On the 22nd of January groups of workers had started walking from one factory to the other. A mix of garment, auto and pharmaceutical companies like Vishani Lux, Boya Medical, Haryana Wire, Mahindra, Varmani Overseas, SKH, Mahrani Paints and Auto Ignition were shut down. Workers had also entered the offices of the factory bosses and told them to leave. Permanent and temporary workers, middle-management and management all stood in front of the Auto Ignition factory when at about 10:30 am a police jeep arrived and the police men told the crowd to go back in and that they would see to it. After that 850 people went back inside. After the police jeep had left at about 11:15 am a group of 250 workers turned up again in the factory and told everyone to come out again. A local trade union leader also turned up. Management told the workers that a union rep had arrived and that they should listen to him. All people gathered on a grassy area on the factory premises. The leader said that everyone should remain peaceful and that he would talk to the management. After a meeting between management and leader the company announced the 23rd of January to be a day off. In the whole area factories remained shut down on the 23rd. On the 23rd no workers was arrested during the protests. There was talk of keeping the factories closed for four days. On the 24th from early morning onwards there was a huge police force present in the area. When the factory bus arrived at the factory on the 24th there were four jeeps and one police bus waiting. During the meal-breaks there were also a lot of police around. The Senior Superintendent of the Police (SSP) from Palwal arrived at the factories in order to reassure management that things are under control. The factories were running.
The Faridabad Industries Association complained to the state government. They said that unruly elements had entered the factories and caused trouble and mayhem. If the police could, they would turn up, but facing the rebel crowd they would silently withdraw. Armed with sticks these people had entered and said that the factory was not suppose to run until Monday. This group of workers had not previously contacted the trade unions or organisations. None of the trade unions had ordered that the factories should be shut down. Under these circumstances it is difficult to keep production running. According to announcements of the joint secretary of the Industries Association the police had filed a case against 10 unknown youth and arrested 18 workers.
At Indo Autotech, Plot 332 in Faridabad Sector 24, management changes with each shift. Management announced that the new shifts would be from 8 am till 8 pm. On 31st of January workers wanted to leave at the usual time of 5 pm, but management shut the gates and called the police. The police arrived in jeeps and in a bus. At every exit police were stationed. At this point workers said that they don’t care whether management let them go or not, that in any case they would not work. For three hours workers strolled around in the factory, but the machines did not run.
From a Gurgaon Workers Solidarity Centre report:
On the NH-8 stretch from Gurgaon to Manesar, the largest concentration of two-wheeler production in the world, the workers of Bajaj Motors are on a sit-down protest at the factory gate since the morning of 24th February. On Monday 24th Feb when A-shift workers came to work, they found a list of suspension orders against 15 workers, while others were asked to sign a humiliating ‘Good Conduct Bond’ to go inside. On Sunday, in preparation, 150-200 DT (Diploma Trainee or another name for contract) workers had been called by the company on overtime, and were being forced to work in conditions of near-bondage, abused and even threatened to be physically assaulted, and arrangements made with a tent on the rooftop so they could stay overnight within the factory premises itself. On the morning of Tuesday 25th February, one worker from among the DT workers inside, fractured his leg while attempting to jump from over the wall of the factory premises running away from this forced labour. Production is practically at a halt with less than 10% taking place by the 150-odd workers as all the other around 1500 workers have been on a sit-down protest at the gate ever since. Workers here send parts for 15,000 bikes everyday, producing 22 engine parts like shafts and planks to Hero Motorcorp (Gurgaon, Haridwar, Dharuhera), Suzuki Motorcycles, Mahindra two-wheelers, New Holland Tractors, and so on. During the struggle at present, workers seek to turn this production chain into a chain of resistance appealing to the workers in 3 other Bajaj Motors plants (of its 11 total plants) in nearby Manesar, Binola and Bawal to come in support of a larger struggle. The plant in Gurgaon has around 1500 workers of which 283 are permanent with wages around Rs.10-12000 while the rest are contract workers of various categories who are given the Haryana minimum wage for unskilled workers of Rs.5342. Whereas the work required is of a highly skilled nature, the bulk of the work is foisted on contract workers whose skewed ratio compared to permanent workers is even admitted by the management. The contract workers also find themselves terminated from their jobs after every 6-7 months; there’s another category of around 300 contract workers called DT (diploma trainee) who are never made permanent, working for 1-2 years.
These eight workers’ reports from different companies have been published and circulated in the local area in early 2013: Orient Fan, Agro Engineering, Globe Capacitor, Ratna Offset, Harsoria Healthcare, Dhiman Engineering, Bright Brothers, Delhi Metro.
Orient Fan Worker
(Plot 11, Sector 6, Faridabad)
In the CFL department there are 25 permanent workers and 400 workers hired through contractors on two 12-hour shifts. Overtime is paid at single rate. The workplace is hot. The glass arrives from Thailand. There are two assembly lines, the speed is high. On one line you would need 42 workers, but they run the line with 33 or 35 workers. Instead of the official capacity of 24,000 parts in a 12 hours shift, they produce 30,000. There is no time to sit down for tea, you have to drink standing up, while working. During the lunch break the lines keep on running, you have to take turns for eating. It is difficult to get drinking water. The engineer screams a lot, the supervisor grabs people and shakes them. The workers hired through contractors aren’t paid the annual bonus.
Agro Engineering Works Worker
(Plot 22, Sector 7, IMT Manesar – a second plant is situated in Faridabad)
Workers work from 8 am till 2 or 3 am. Sometimes workers sleep inside the factory. Overtime is paid single rate. The supervisors stand on our heads, they follow us to the toilets, they swear at us. On 11th of July one worker lost his hand in a power-press accident. The parts we produce go directly to Maruti Suzuki.
Globe Capacitor Worker
(30/8 Industrial Area, Faridabad)
Around 700 workers work on two 12-hour shifts in the three-floor factory. The shift times change weekly, we work 10 hours on Sunday. Overtime is paid single rate. The 250 permanent workers are paid 5,212 Rs to 6,800 Rs, they are paid the basic wage into their accounts and overtime is paid in cash, it does not appear in any records. The 450 casual workers and workers hired through contractors don’t get ESI or PF and are paid less than the minimum wage. For 30 working days they are paid 7,200 Rs. In April 2012 permanent and casual workers took collective steps and the company had to give concessions. In order to weaken the workers they started to hire workers through contractors. The status of the female workers has changed from casual to hired through contractor and their number has been reduced from 40 to around 20. The male casual workers have been kicked out under this or that pretext, their numbers came down from 250 to 300 to now around 50. The number of workers hired through contractors has increased from zero to 350. The company does not offer a single cup of tea during 12 hours shifts. There are only six toilets, two of them for women, and they are on the third floor. During day-shift workers have to queue up…
Ratna Offset Worker
The company runs factories in Okhla Phase 1, Plot C-99 and Plot C101, and 52 DDA Sheds and Phase 2, Plot F-29. In the printing press on C 101 around 50 workers work on two 12-hour shifts. When the shifts change at the weekends workers have to work from Saturday 9 pm till Sunday 5 pm. The helpers are paid 5,000 Rs, no ESI, no PF. Wages are always paid delayed. When wages were not paid on 18th of February five young workers said that we should stop working. Some older workers then said: We have wives and children, let’s work today and see what happens tomorrow – if they won’t pay, we all stop work. Wages were not paid on the 19th either. The night-shift workers then stopped work. When the day-shift also did not start work on the 20th, the manager fled at around 11 am. The night-shift continued the work stoppage. The son of the chairman/director arrived the next day and asked: why do you stop working. We said that the February wages had not been paid. He replied: you stop work over such a small issue? The workers answered that for them this is rather a big issue. The director’s son then threatened: Go, sit outside then, we will lock the factory. The workers all went outside and sat down together. After a short while the director said: Go and get your money then. Once workers received their payment work started again.
Harsoria Healthcare Worker
(110 Udyog Vihar, Phase IV, Gurgaon)
All casual workers have been dismissed and together with the 180 permanent workers – who are now termed ‘staff’ – there are 250 workers hired through 10 to 12 different contractors. Those workers who had their wages increased to 6,200 Rs in March were paid 5,700 Rs in May and 4,846 Rs in August. The July DA inflation compensation of 120 Rs was not paid. There are two twelve hour shifts, for overtime they pay 22 Rs an hour. When the production target was increased they stopped overtime. There is much higher work pressure. Workers injure their hands with needles or when working at machines. There is no first-aid stuff in the factory. Management swears at workers. Money for ESI and PF is cut from the wages, but workers don’t receive either. When you leave the job you don’t get your PF money and no money for the last six working days. Wages are delayed.
Dhiman Engineering Corporation Worker
(Plot 107, HSIDC, Sector 59, Faridabad)
The factory runs on two 12-hour shifts. The shift times change weekly, then workers have to work 24 hours from Sunday 8 pm till Monday 8 pm. During 12 or 24 hours shifts the company does not give even one cup of tea. If you want to get drinking water or go to the toilet, they also trouble you. The director swears a lot. We manufacture plastic parts for Eicher Tractors, Whirlpool, LG and BPL, using injection moulds. The company’s other factory is nearby in Sector 22 and the situation there is the same. Amongst the helpers the female workers are paid 3,800 to 4,000 Rs and the male workers 4,000 to 4,200 Rs, no ESI or PF. The operators are paid between 4,800 and 7,000 Rs. If you take two days off you are kicked out and the wages of the last 15 to 30 working days are not paid – they say: ‘do whatever you like, we won’t pay you’. I was sleeping after the night-shift on 28th of December 2012 when they informed me about an accident in which my wife’s sister was injured. I left immediately to go to Benares to see her in the hospital and informed the company by phone. My wife’s sister died, I returned after her death ceremonies on 15th of January. When I went to the company they told me to return the next day. The next day they told me that I would not get my job back and that I can collect my final pay on 25th of January. On the 25th of January the managers in the HR department only swore at me and said that they won’t pay, so I went to the room of the managing director. He said I would be paid on the 28th. When I heard nothing on the 28th, I called him at around 1:30 pm. He also swore at me and fearing being beaten up by company managers I filed a complaint at the local police station. The police said they would come on the 29th, but they didn’t. The HR people came a day later and said that I would be paid on the 31st. On 1st of February they said that they are busy…
Bright Brothers Worker
(Plot 16, Sector 24, Faridabad)
There are 60 to 70 permanent workers and 300 workers hired through three different contractors producing plastic parts for Whirlpool fridges (Whirlpool sold their plastic division to the Bright group in 2001 and since then uses them as a supplier). Around 200 workers work on two 12-hour shifts. Demanding higher wages the workers hired through contractors refused to enter the factory on 11th of October 2012 before the morning shift. Till 9 am no worker went inside. The company called a dozen goons, but they just stood around. With the promise to hike the pay the manager took the workers inside. Showing their revolvers six, seven goons walked around in the factory. By ten o’clock they had kicked a dozen workers out of the factory. For three days the goons stayed inside the factory, management said that they were policemen.
Delhi Metro Worker
Between Delhi-Gurgaon-NOIDA there are 149 stations. The contractor Ikkis employs 4,900 workers who work at these stations. The security guards are hired through G4 and Bedi and Bedi. They work continuously without a weekly day off. There are 3,200 cleaning workers. They are paid 5,000 Rs a month – the Delhi minimum wage for unskilled workers is 7,254 Rs. After a complaint nothing has been done about it, instead on 26th of November 2012 the Delhi government assistant labour commissioner ordered that the labour department officials should first undertake a one month inquiry.