GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 34 (January 2011)
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 January 2011 issue you can find:
1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective
*** Another Voice Against the Day: A Young Worker’s Story -
We met a 20 years old worker who lives and works in Manesar, near Gurgaon. 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. The ‘falling back’ becomes untenable, so does the ‘leap ahead’ into the urban whirlpool. 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.
*** A Glimpse Across the Border: Automobile Workers’ Report from Tata Motors Supplier in Uttarakhand -
We translated and summarised an article about the conditions in the factory of a Tata Motors supplier, based in the state of Uttarakhand. The article was published in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary journal Nagrik, issue 23, 1 – 15 December 2010. Tata Motors claims to represent the ‘new people’s car’-industry, with cheap cars like the Nano. ‘People’s Cars’ are built with workers’ blood. The state of Uttarakhand attracts investment by massive tax benefits. A fair share of factories has been re-located from other states towards this northern state. SIDCUL, the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttaranchal [Uttarakhand] has established seven industrial estates which, according to the SIDCUL website provide a “Peaceful and Secure Industrial Environment”. Read about the war behind the peace yourself…
2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
*** Wildcat Strike at Honda HMSI in Gurgaon, Manesar -
On 17th of December 2010 a security personnel at Honda factory misbehaved with a temporary worker. In response temporary workers – not represented by the union – went on a wildcat strike, which brought production to a halt. The temporary workers raised demands concerning their precarious work-contract. The established union asked them to get back to work and promised that things will be taken care of. The strike continued for 24 hours, the security personnel had to apologise in front of the workers. Since the police attack on Honda HMSI workers and the registration of the Honda union in 2005 there have been several incidents of wildcat action. Most of these actions originate in the discontent of the casual and temporary workforce. Their situation has not improved since the establishment of the union, the material divisions between permanent and temporary workforce in terms of wages and conditions have widened since 2005. When they go on wildcat action the union leadership speaks of ‘instigation by pro-management forces’. Read more…
*** Sad End of the Viva Global Dispute: Dead End of Institutional Trade Union Struggle? -
Short note on the outcome of the Viva Global Dispute in Gurgaon. Despite union membership of the majority of permanent workers, despite international solidarity activities and media campaigns the struggle ended with workers thrown out and the factory shut and re-located.
3) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News
*** 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:
*** GurgaonWorkersNewsTranslations -
Friends have bothered to translate bits and pieces from GurgaonWorkersNews into Chinese, Polish, German, Greek, French and Portuguese. Check out and spread the word:
*** Glossary -
Updated version of the Glossary: things that you always wanted to know, but could never be bothered to google. Now even in alphabetical order.
1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective
We met a 20 years old worker who lives and works in Manesar, near Gurgaon. 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. Seen on its collective and antagonistic background their story smashes all antiquated, but re-animated concepts of the ‘peasant-workers alliance’ – a concept, which essentially upholds the ‘mediating and allying role’ of the ‘left-wing of bourgeoisie’. Any attempts of professional and institutional trade unionism will fail their meandering workforce shifting between textile, automobile, printing or whatever production. 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. So far the temporary falling-back into the village might have prevented a mass confrontation with the real-existing conditions in the urban world: a settled existence as an urban wage worker is utopian and nightmarish at the same time. The ‘falling back’ 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.
Twenty years old worker
(FMS New Series No. 268)
I get up at five o’clock in the morning, in the middle of sleep…
Since I was 12 or 13 years old, I always got up at five in morning to milk the cows. We had two cows. Then I went three and a half kilometres on my bicycle to deliver the milk to a place outside of our village. Back at home, I would eat and then go and graze the cattle. After having washed and returned the cows, I went to school at about ten o’clock. My parents fought a lot with each other. Since I was in seventh class, my father stopped sending money to us. We lived in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. My father worked in Pehowa, Haryana, painting and plastering houses. For one month, I worked as a helper for the manager of a brick kiln. But selling milk was our profession. When my father did not send any money during all of 2004, I left school. Everyone said, “How long will you survive by grassing cattle, go and learn some work…”
In 2005, I arrived in Gurgaon. I stayed with the son of a relative. I was 15 years old then. For ten days, I had to sit idle. I learned how to make rotis and started to make food for those who went to work at four in the morning. I found my first job in N.K. Rubber factory in Nakhrola. The personnel manager interviewed me. The contractor said that I was still young, but that it would work out. The workers -who had come from Orissa to find a job – filled out my job card, stating that I was 18 years old.
I had to get up at half past four in the morning. I prepared food. Then I went one kilometer on foot. I began work in the factory at eight o’clock. They ran two 12hour shifts. We manufactured soles for shoes. It was assembly line work. You had to stand upright for 12 hours, only half an hour meal break. I hardly managed to keep up. The supervisor got angry. My feet would swell up from all the standing.
During nightshift, you get very tired. I snuck away to get some sleep. The supervisor screamed and the guard went to find and wake me up. Although I had already worked six hours at that point, they cut 12 hours from my wages. I had difficulties sleeping during the day. During the nightshift week, I used to get so very tired by Wednesdays… Now on nightshift week, I often take Wednesday off.
There are six people now sharing the room. From my first wages, I used 1,000 rupees to pay the food bill. With 250 rupees, I bought a thin mat and blanket. With 300 rupees, a gas cooker and some cooking utensils. Then I went to get a different room in Nakhrola. With another one of the guys, I paid 700 rupees rent. The guy left and I spent two months on my own.
The winter began. You leave at half past seven in the morning and return at eight o’clock at night. For fifteen days, you do not see the sun. A thin mat, a blanket, a sheet – I had no proper bed, I slept on the floor. I also had no sweater, so I slept with my jacket on… I could not get any sleep at night. When the morning came…I can still remember how cold it was during winter in 2005. In the factory, it smelled really bad, but it was warm…There, sleep came very easily.
I had been working at N.K. Rubber for four months when the message of the death of my grandmother arrived. I went back to the village. Cutting wheat, thrashing wheat, storing the straw. Cutting arhar, digging out garlic, cutting coriander. Preparing the paddy field, preparing the rice plants and planting them. Go and fetch the cows for grazing, grazing them. At home, there was a lot of difficulty because of the heavy burden of all the work. But if you don’t do it, what will you eat? Suffering at home continued. There was a lot of fighting between my uncle and my father. Because my mother had been staying in the village, we got hold of three bighas of land during the re-distribution.
My earliest memories are from Pehowa in Haryana. They sent my older sisters to a government school and me to a private school. After a year, my sisters returned to the village to stay with my mother. I stayed back with my father. After having prepared food in the morning, my father went to work and I went to school. One day on the playing field, a kid threw a stone and it hit my head. I bled a lot, but there wasn’t anyone to put a bandage on, so I kept my head in some cloth. When my father came from work at eight o’clock, he bandaged my head. I was very sad. I was alone. I missed my mother and my older sisters. My father went back to the village. I had my exam coming up. He had left me in Pehowa, so the neighbors gave me food. I developed a fever – now I think it was because of the stress. I was good at math. My father wanted me to keep on studying in Pehowa. I would go back to the village during holidays. It was a private school so, the holidays were very short. After the marriage of my two older sisters, my mother was left only with my younger sister. I went back to the village and my mother would not let me go back…
When I arrived at Gurgaon the second time, I started again working at N.K. Rubber – this time in the packing department, where I stayed for four months. I also went to Perfecti factory, but nothing came out of it. In order to learn how to run CNC machines, I started at Moog Automotive for a low wage. The supervisor was a cousin of mine. I stopped after twelve days. There was too much quarreling because the cousin kept on screaming at me. I went back to the village. In 2006, I spent the whole winter in the village. Then I went back to Gurgaon. It took 15 days to find a job. I spent a lot of time running around IMT Manesar. I had job interviews at many places.
They hired me at Vishal Retail factory (Plot 16-17, Sector 5). They hired me as a press man – it was the first time that I worked at a steam press. I became a record keeper and then a small supervisor. I learned how to sew. Wages were delayed. The first day after the supposed pay-day, workers stopped working for a while. The next day workers stopped working at eleven o’clock. The general manager said that wages would arrive at three o’clock. Workers started working. The wages did not arrive. Workers stopped again. At eight o’clock at night, people were finally paid. I worked there for a year. Then the factory closed. The contractor disappeared. One year of contributions to the PF lost…
I was ill for 15 days. I had chicken pox. I did not eat, I could not walk, neither sleep. Because he was afraid of infection, one of the roommates left. I was upset about that. I used to cook for him. The other roommate took 15 days off. He cooked food, prepared the medicine, and washed the clothes.
After Vishal retail had closed down, I started at Orient Craft (Plot 15, Sector 5) as a tailor. You had to work from half past nine in the morning till one o’clock at night every day. On Sundays, they made you work from half past nine in the morning till four o’clock the next morning. They paid double for overtime. They sacked me because I took a Sunday off. They said that data was lost on the computer. I had to go to the office again and again to get my outstanding wages. After twelve days working at Orient Craft, I worked seven days at Gulati Export (Sector 4).
Then I started at STI Zenho (161, Sector 40). The company manufactures break pipes for Maruti, Suzuki, and Honda cars. I learned how to operate a bending machine. Most of the supervisors there were women. The behavior of our supervisor was not good. You had to ask in order to go to the toilet. Even after having finished the target, you had to keep the machines running, making extra-pieces. You were not supposed to make pieces which would be ‘rejected’. You were supposed to work eight hours daily overtime. For two or three days, I was concerned with the fact that a woman was my supervisor, then I got used to it. You are forced to work, so you have to listen. After seven months, I took holiday and returned to the village. My sister was ill. At the time of return, I also got news about the work accident of my supervisor cousin. He was kept in the Delhi Jay Prakash Trauma center, got a blood infusion and had to stay for fifteen days. He then had to be looked after by relatives for another ten to fifteen days. After all this, I started again at STI Zenho. After five months, they gave me an enforced ‘break’.
I started at AG Industries (Plot 8, Sector 3). About 100 permanent workers work on three shifts and another 500 workers hired through contractors work on two 12 hour shifts. They manufacture fiber side-covers for Hero Honda motorcycles. The permanent workers wanted to establish a union. So, in January-February 2010, the company kicked out eighteen of them. On March 20th, all workers gathered and stopped working. The police came in two bus loads, they entered the factory, started beating us with lathis and kicked the workers out. One had his hand broken, several others had bleeding heads. At six in the morning, some workers went back inside and started working. The managers also worked. Workers were brought in Hero Honda buses from Gurgaon, from Dharuhera and also from Ghaziabad. New people were hired at the gate. On March 26th, the unions had a demonstration in Gurgaon, with ten thousand people, with speeches. Then again, nothing. After signing the ‘good conduct conditions’, the permanent workers went back inside on the 2nd and 3rd of April, leaving the eighteen other workers outside. After four months of working there, I had an argument with the supervisor. I left the job and went back to the village.
When I told them that I would go back to Gurgaon, my mother and sister cried. I stayed for three more days. When I left, I didn’t tell them. I borrowed money for the travel from a friend. I looked for a job for eight days. I started at Kumar printers (24 Sector 5). Two 12 hour shifts. At every machine, at every corner cameras. There are 50 permanents and 225 workers hired through two different contractors. They do industrial printing. During the Commonwealth Games trouble, 50 to 60 workers left because they were afraid of being harassed by the police. Due to the lack of workers, the remaining workers had to work from eight in the morning till one at night. They also brought 30 workers from Bhiwadi in a bus every day. I haven’t fixed a date yet, but I will go back to the village…
We translated and summarised an article about the conditions in the factory of a Tata Motors supplier based in the state of Uttarakhand. The article was published in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary journal Nagrik, issue 23, 1 – 15 December 2010. Tata Motors claims to represent the ‘new people’s car’-industry, with cheap cars like the Nano. ‘People’s Cars’ are built with workers’ blood. The state of Uttarakhand attracts investment by massive tax benefits. A fair share of factories has been re-located from other states towards this northern state. SIDCUL, the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttaranchal [Uttarakhand] has established seven industrial estates which, according to the SIDCUL website provide a “Peaceful and Secure Industrial Environment”. Read about the war behind the peace yourself…
The mutilating factory – Rojitasha Company
Rojitasha is a supplier for Tata Motors. The factory is situated in Sidkul, Sector 11, an industrial area in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand. Metal chassis for Tata’s mini truck ‘Chota Hathi” are produced here. The factory used to produce in Poona and has been re-located to Pantnagar, an industrial area of the Sidkul. The factory employs 500 workers out of which 50 are permanent, the rest hired through contractor. The company established the factory as part of the Engineering Industry agreement, but nevertheless openly makes use of the contract system. Apart form this work-force there are about 150 staff employed at Rojitasha. Formal owners are S.D. Gange and R.D. Gange. Tushar Kumble is the plant manager and Pradeep Barik is the production manager. The company manufactures metal bodies for 750 mini trucks a day, using sheet metal and form-giving machinery.
Open violation of health and safety standards and measures
The workers in the area call the Rojitasha factory the ‘scrubby factory’. In the inner yard of the factory scrub and bushes grow, the imported sheet metal for the chassis is also kept in the undergrowth, next to all kinds of rubbish and dirt. In the factory the sheet metal is cut, bent and welded. The noise pollution is extreme. A lot of metal dust and gas from the welding is in the air. Despite the accidents and the dangers neither masks, nor helmets, nor safety glasses, nor ear plugs are handed out to the workers. The factory is therefore also known as the ‘mutilating factory’. The workers are afraid of permanent damage to eyes, lungs, … to their body.
The company runs on two 12-hours shifts, overtime is paid at single rate. The workers receive 247.50 Rs per 12-hours shift. The legal minimum wage for an 8-hours shift is 165 Rs, and it is a crime to force people work longer than these 8 hours. If required the workers are also made to stay 24 hours or 36 hours on stretch. The long working-hours tire the workers out, more accidents happen, more hands get cut, most accidents happen in the 11th and 12th hour of the shift. Everyday workers are hurt, three to four workers become permanently disabled each month. The management and contractors give private treatment to these workers, they try to emotionally blackmail the workers or promise them compensation and permanent employment in the company – in order to prevent the workers from taking legal steps against the company. When things have cooled down these workers are kicked out of the company. Because the workers hired through contractors are not on record they can hardly prove that they have been employed at Rojitasha.
We tell the story of the worker Vikas from Visalpur, who started working at Rojitasha on 27th of September 2010. The worker’s parents are ill, they are not able to do hard work. Vikas’s wife only sometimes finds work on other people’s fields in the villages. He is the oldest of six siblings, so when he was 20 years he left the village to look for a job in factories like Rojitasha. On 16th of November at 3 am in the Rojitasha factory the worker’s hand gets into the metal cutter. Five fingers of his left hand are severed. The contractor first sends him to the private Shubham Surgical Centre in Rudrapur, then to a private nursing home. The worker also goes to a hospital, but his fingers are lost. The contractor puts pressure on Vikas, so that the story cools down and Vikas will meet the same sad fate like the other workers. Rojitasha did not contribute neither to PF nor ESI, neither did the contractor. If Vikas had been registered with the ESI, as according to law, he would now get a pension. Vikas was not aware that the care and compensation after a work accident was not a merciful act of management towards the worker, but a right of the worker which as been fought for.
Apart from that there are only six toilets for 500 workers, out of which two toilets are not usable. According to law one toilet has to be provided for 20 workers. Workers say that they have never seen so dirty toilets before. There is only one tap with drinking water for 500 workers. The food in the canteen is very expensive, about 35 Rs per meal. Wages are paid late, instead of the 7th of the month they are paid between the 15th and the 22nd.
Every second month workers go on sudden strike because of delayed wages. Only if wages are paid or the management assures that wages will be paid soon, the workers would start working again. In October 2010 workers stopped work for four to five hours and only started again once wages were paid. In November, when the question of bonus payment came up, all workers stopped work and gathered at the gate. The supervisors, contractors and managers threatened and scared the workers, the workers then went inside to work. The manager threatened that if he would be made to pay for ESI, PF, company bus etc., he would close and shift the factory. During the night of the 23rd of November the management illegally removed a welding machine, shifted and kicked out 21 workers hired through contractor.
2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
On 17th of December 2010 a security personnel at Honda factory misbehaved with a temporary worker. In response temporary workers – not represented by the union – went on a wildcat strike, which brought production to a halt. The temporary workers raised demands concerning their precarious work-contract. The established union asked them to get back to work and promised that things will be taken care of. The strike continued for 24 hours, the security personnel had to apologise in front of the workers. Since the police attack on Honda HMSI workers and the registration of the Honda union in 2005 there have been several incidents of wildcat action. Most of these actions originate in the discontent of the casual and temporary workforce. Their situation has not improved since the establishment of the union, the material divisions between permanent and temporary workforce in terms of wages and conditions have widened since 2005. When they go on wildcat action the union leadership speaks of ‘instigation by pro-management forces’.
Honda Struggle 2005:
Wildcat Strike 2007:
Working Conditions 2010:
Working Conditions 2010:
According to some friends who visited the factory during the strike:
“On 17th of December 2010 at around 1 pm a temporary worker, who had been employed at the plant for a while was asked by his supervisor to perform duties outside the factory. He reported to the supervisor that he has not been issued a company ID, which is required when entering the premises individually. He was nevertheless sent outside. When the security personnel found out he swore at the worker and made him perform exercise as a form of punishment. The worker was upset and complained to his work-mates. They stopped working. The work stoppage spread to the other part of the plant. Finally the whole production came to a halt. The workers went to the union office, the representatives told them to wait for the union president who would come back at 5 pm. When he arrived he listened and told workers to go back to work. He promised them that the security guard would be suspended. The workers replied that they also demanded that the temporary workers were not given a break of employment after one year – the company resorts to these breaks in oder to avoid to have to give them permanent employment. The president asked workers to return to work. The permanent workers tried to resume work, but the temporary workers prevented them from doing so. During the night union representatives said that management spread the word that they would engage in a lock-out if work would not restart next day. This increased the division between permanent and temporary workers. Of the arriving early shift only the permanent workers were allowed to enter the factory. The security guard were made to apologize in front of the workers, but the other issues (break of employment) were ‘taken care of’, as said by the union representatives. To outsiders the union president said that apart from the issue of misbehaviour by security personnel there was no ‘other issue’. The company organised extra buses to get the workers back home. The next day, on the 19th of December the factory was closed for an early weekend. The temporary workers left with a general feeling of anger.”
We met a canteen worker some days after the strike. He said:
“After the incident with the security guard small groups wandered around the premises. When the second shift arrived at 2 pm, all workers gathered and encircled the management building to shout slogans. At that point the permanent workers were still with the casual and temp workers. Only after the security guard apologized and the temp workers still maintained their demand concerning the enforced break of employment, the permanent workers left the action. There were no leaders among the temporary workers – but the fact that there will be union elections at the end of January and the fact that there is an opposition within the union will have played a role. The numbers of workers on the premises came down. At the end about 250 workers stayed in the canteen over night. The management did not try to intervene, but there were about 150 police on the factory premises. Some managers say that the action has caused a loss of 7 crore Rs.”
According to the media:
“The workers at Honda Motorcycles & Scooters India (HMSI) plant in IMT Manesar, called off their strike following the suspension of one of the security personnel. The end came about only after Haryana labour department officials and leaders of the HMSI Workers Union intervened. The HMSI management suspended the services of the guard. They also advanced the Sunday weekly off to Saturday, to soothe tempers. According to the workers, the security guard insulted one of the casual workers by asking him to hold his ears as punishment for trying to enter the factory without his identity card, which he forgot to bring. In a written statement, the HMSI termed the affair a ‘small incident of indiscipline between security personnel and casual workers’. Senior HMSI official Harbhajan Singh said the workers had been instigated by a group of trade union members. Workers sources, said there was still uncertainty and the production shutdown has resulted in a loss of about 5000 units since yesterday. The workers claimed that about 2,500 casual labourers went on a flash strike. Singh said the guard was suspended from work pending investigations and labour leaders had addressed workers on Saturday to bring the situation under control. With two groups of trade unions operating, there was a chance for ‘trivial issues’ being blown out of proportion, Singh said. The Manesar factory produces 1.6 million two-wheelers per annum with a daily production of 5,500 units. The company is building another R500-crore plant at Tapukara in Rajasthan with a capacity of 600,000 per annum. Last year HMSI suffered a loss of over Rs. 300 crore after workers went on a go-slow strike that had resulted in production dipping by over 50 per cent for nearly three months. The strike, which the company says was a minor incident, happened a day after Honda announced it will sell off its 26 per cent stake in world’s largest two-wheeler company, Hero Honda Motors Ltd. It symbolised the Japanese firm’s problems in managing industrial relations in India.”
We have documented reports about the dispute at the garments export factory Viva Global before – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.32
The struggle has been lost in an objective sense: the workers engaged in the trade union lead dispute are now unemployed and the factory has been closed. The buyer ‘Marks&Spencer’, which has been in the focus of the media campaign and petitions, denies that it has received goods from Viva Global during the months before the dispute. The struggle has been lost despite the fact that it has been ‘promoted’ by international media campaigns and activities.
The local revolutionary left target the ‘easily identifiable weak spots’ when criticising the organisation behind the strike: the union is part of a NGO-set-up, which, through mediation, is funded by the US-based Ford-foundation. The resources have been used to recruit ‘organisers’ among students and workers and to ‘drive for union registration’. We think that the criticism should go a step further and raise the question of how ‘victorious’ struggles are imaginable in a globally squeezed and structurally weak industry like the garment sector. It will not be enough to replace the ‘NGO’-union with a ‘revolutionary’-union and the ‘paid organisers’ with ‘professional cadres’. From the IWW strikes in the US at the threshold of the 19th to the 20th century to the garment workers riots in Bangladesh today: the strikes in the textile industry have always involved a level of mass violence if they did not manage to spread beyond their ‘structurally weak foundation’ – it is relatively easy to shut and re-open a garment factory.
We have no practical alternative on offer, but to learn from the ‘many defeats’ of individual struggles for union recognition in the garment sector of Delhi’s industrial areas and the few example of very short, but temporary successful ‘direct action’ of workers, mainly during the time when new orders came in or when shipping dates had to be met. You will find many examples in previous issues. It requires deep understanding of daily factory reality and global industrial structures in order to find the form of struggle appropriate to the specific material conditions. Only based on the insight of the ‘immediate production process’, forms of organisation can be determined which allow the workers the highest degree of control over their struggle. Many ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘well meaning people’ lack this knowledge. ‘The registered union’ is their external way to relate to workers’ reality, a way which reserves a role for them as middle-class people: spokesperson, legal advisors, negotiators, agitators. If they refuse to reflect their social position and consequently present ‘the trade union’ as the ‘organic workers’ organisation’ and ‘all-time solution’, they create traps for the workers and unnecessary limitations to future movements. The following report is by a worker employed at Viva Global. In the case that it is not accurate, please get in touch.
Viva Global Worker
(413 Udyog Vihar Phase 3)
About 30 of us were hired through contractor in March 2010, we were working on piece rate. On 25th of August 2010 we were stopped at the gate and asked to request the outstanding final wages from the contractor. The wages for August – around 125,000 Rs – we have still not received, it is now the 26th of October. The company says that it won’t pay wages, because we went on strike, which has caused the break-up with the buyer [Marks&Spencer]. They say that, but it was the company management itself which had kicked us out. The dispute had involved 100 permanent workers who had been hired by the company directly. From 23rd August onwards 100 permanent workers staged a protest sit-in in front of the company, while 40 permanent workers were working inside. Now that there is a case running with the labour department, the protest has been called off. Those 40 workers who had remained inside were given their final wages on 1st of October. Out of the 100 workers who had been involved with the union 35 workers took an extra of 10,000 Rs as a final payment. 30 women workers and 35 male workers are still with the union. The production department has been closed. Some office employees are still working.
3) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News
Updated version of the Glossary: things that you always wanted to know, but could never be bothered to google. Now even in alphabetical order.
Lakh (see Crore)
Wages and Prices
Workers hired through contractors
The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) is the oldest trade union federation in India and one of the five largest. It was founded in 1919 and until 1945, when unions became organised along party lines, it was the central trade union organisation in India. Since then it has been affiliated with the Communist Party of India.
Business Process Outsourcing: for example of call centre work, market research, sales.
Centre of Indian Trade Unions, a national central trade union federation in India. Politically attached to CPI(M), Communist Party of India (Marxist). Founded in 1970, membership of 2.8 million.
Workers hired by the company for a limited period of time.
Workers hired for a specific performance, paid for the performance.
1 Crore = 10,000,000
1 Lakh = 100,000
DA (Dearness Allowance):
An inflation compensation. Each three to six months the state government checks the general price development and accordingly pays an allowance on top of wages.
Deputy Commissioner, Head of the District Administration.
ESI (Employee’s State Insurance):
Introduced in 1948, meant to secure employee in case of illness, long-term sickness, industrial accidents and to provide medical facilities (ESI Hospitals) to insured people. Officially the law is applicable to factories employing 10 or more people. Employers have to contribute 4.75 percent of the wage paid to the worker, the employee 1.75 percent of their wage. Officially casual workers or workers hired through contractors who work in the factory (even if it is for construction, maintenance or cleaning work on the premises) are entitled to ESI, as well. Self-employment is often used to undermine ESI payment.
1 US-Dollar = 43 Rs (July 2008)
1 Euro = 68 Rs (July 2008)
Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation
Industrial training, e.g. as electrician or mechanic. Two years of (technical school), one year of apprentice-ship in a company. During the two years at school the young workers receive no money, but they have to pay school fees. A lot of the bigger companies ask for ITI qualification.
Lay off in the Indian context means that workers have to mark attendance, but they actually do not work and receive only half of the wage.
Official minimum wage in Haryana in June 2007 is 3,510 Rs per month for an unskilled worker, based on an 8-hour day and 4 days off per month. But hardly any workers get this wage.
A locally elected village administrative body in charge of village-level issues.
PF (Employee’s Provident Fund):
Introduced in 1952, meant to provide a pension to workers. Officially applicable to all companies employing more than 20 people. Official retirement age is 58 years. Given that most of the casual workers belong to the regular workforce of a factory, they are entitled to the Provident Fund, as well. So are workers employed by contractors. If workers receive neither PF nor ESI they also do not show up in the official documents, meaning that officially they do not exist.
Officially the so called ‘governmental fair price shops’ are shops were ‘officially poor’ people can buy basic items (wheat, rice, kerosene etc.) for fixed and allegedly lower prices. In order to be able to buy in the shops you need a ration card. The ration card is also necessary as a proof of residency, but in order to obtain the ration card you have to proof your residency. Catch 22. Local politics use the ration depots and cards as a power tool that reaches far into the working class communities. Depot holders’ jobs are normally in the hands of local political leaders. In return they receive this privileged position, which often enable them to make money on the side.
Superintendent of Police, Head of the District Police.
In India staff includes managers, supervisors, security personnel and white-collar workers.
In general trainees work as normal production workers, they might have a six-month up to two-year contract. Depending on the company they are promised permanent employment after passing the trainee period. Their wages are often only slightly higher than those of workers hired through contractors.
VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme):
Often a rather involuntary scheme to get rid of permanent workers. Particularly the VRS at Maruti in Gurgaon made this clear, when 35 year olds were sent in early retirement.
Wages and Prices:
When we hear that a cleaner in a call centre in Gurgaon, an industrial worker in Faridabad or a rikshaw-driver in Delhi earns 2,000 Rs for a 70 hour week, which is about the average normal worker’s wage, we have to bear in mind that they often came from West Bengal, Bihar or other remote place in order to get this job. In order to put 2,000 Rs into a daily context here are some prices of goods and services – based on Summer 2006 prices. Inflation levels have been high since then. Fort more recent prices see:
- Monthly rent for a plastic-tarpaulin hut shared by two people in Gurgaon: 800 Rs
- Monthly rent for a small room in Gurgaon (without kitchen), toilet and bathroom shared by five families: 1,300 Rs
- Monthly rent for a small room in a new building in central Gurgaon, single toilet and bathroom: 4,500 Rs to 8,000 Rs
- Half a kilo red lentils on the local market: 25 Rs
- Kilo rice on local market: 14 Rs
- 1 Kilo Onions and 1 Kilo carrots on local market: 25 to 30 Rs
- McChicken: 40 Rs
- Bottle (0,7l) of beer at Haryana Wine and Beer shop: 50 to 70 Rs
- Cigarettes (10), cheapest local brand: 25 Rs
- Starbucks Coffee (Latte Medium) in Shopping Mall: 59 Rs
- Faulty shirt on Faridabad local market: 40 Rs
- Single gas cooker plus new 2 litre gas cylinder: 720 Rs
- Re-fill gas (2 litres – once every month and a half): 100Rs
- Second-hand bicycle: 600 to 1,000 Rs
- Two simple steel pots: 250 Rs
Transport and Communication:
- Bus ticket to nearest bigger bus stop in South Delhi: 14 Rs
- Daily Newspaper: 3 Rs
- One hour internet in a cafe: 20 Rs
- Cinema (new) ticket Saturday night: 160 Rs
- Single entry for swimming pool: 100 Rs
- One litre Diesel: 30 Rs
- Driving license in Haryana: 2,000 to 2,500 Rs
- Start package pre-paid mobile phone (without the phone) 300 Rs
- Phone call to other mobile phones: 1 Rs
- One month mobile phone flat rate: 1,500 Rs
- Minimum dowry poor workers have to pay for the marriage of their daughter: about 30,000 Rs (80,000 Rs more likely)
- Money given to poor labourers for their kidney: about 40,000 Rs
- Compaq Laptop: 50,000 Rs
- Flight Delhi to London: 28,000 Rs
- Cheapest Hero Honda motorbike (150 cc): around 40,000 Rs
- Ford Fiesta: 587,000 Rs
- Four hours on Gurgaon golf course: 800 Rs (info from golf course worker earning 2,400 Rs monthly)
- Two-Bedroom Apartment in Gurgaon: 10,000,000 to 50,000,000 Rs
Workers hired through contractors
Similar to temporary workers, meaning that they work (often for long periods) in one company but are officially employed by a contractor from whom they also receive their wages. Are supposed to be made permanent after 240 days of continuous employment in the company, according to the law. A lot of companies only have a licence for employing workers in auxiliary departments, such as canteen or cleaning.