GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 45 (December 2011)
Gurgaon in the industrial belt of Delhi 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, China 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 December 2011 issue you can find:
1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective
A working class tenant describes how landlords in Tekhand try to squeeze extra money by using the tenants’ dependency on water and electricity – and how collective steps of tenants can undermine this.
Eleven short workers’ reports on conditions in Gurgaon’s factories, amongst others at Adigear (Puma, Adidas), House of Pearl (JC Penny), Modelama (GAP, Old Navy).
2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
Between June and October 2011 thousands of workers took part in factory occupations, wildcat strikes and protest camps at Maruti Suzuki and other automobile factories in Manesar, near Gurgaon. We document further material on this important strike and call for an open debate about the lessons of this dispute. We translated two long articles published in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar providing important new details and summarised some material about the general context of the struggle.
In April 2011 a dispute erupted at the factory of the health equipment manufacturer Harsoria. After initial collective steps on the shop-floor and a 72 hours factory occupation, workers followed the legal order and union advice to leave the factory. They were attacked by the police and had difficulties not to get entangled in conflicts of factory union representatives, regional union leaders and company management.
3) According to Plan -
General information on the development of the region or on certain company policies
*** The “Spiritual”-Industrial Complex: Involvement of Brahmakumaris and Radha Soami Panth in Industrial Management in Gurgaon -
Religious sects like Brahmakumaris and Radha Soami Panth not only engage in commodity production by selling products for ‘spiritual tourism’, they get directly involved in management of industrial relations and education of manual workforce. After lockouts at Denso in 2010 and Maruti Suzuki in 2011, the multi-national management engaged Brahmakumaris to deal with the agitated ‘human capital’, while the Radha Soami Panth supplies semi-skilled young workers to companies like Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) in Manesar. A workers’ report describes the ‘spiritual-industrial’ connection.
4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News
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.
We translated an article published in the Hindi magazine ‘Militant Worker’, Sangharshrat Mehantkash no.3, dealing with the history of working class struggle in Dharuhera, near Gurgaon. The first industrial area was set up in 1977, the first official movement kicked off at East India textile company in 1984. The article describes the Radhu Yadav’s Unemployed Army in 1985 and the first strikes at Omax Auto in 1986. Both in regards to the debate on the struggle at Maruti Suzuki and the importance of a workers’ historiography, we suggest reading Sergio Bologna’s article on the emergence of industrial history and workers’ research around the automobile industry in Italy. We converted the article into a text-file and published it here:
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 Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute around 9,000 copies of Faridabad Majdoor 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 Majdoor Talmel:
1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective
A proletarian tenant in Tekhand, near Okhla Industrial Area
(Distributed in Hindi in FMS 275/276 May/June 2011)
In order to get drinking water in Tekhand (a ‘village’ near Okhla industrial area) you have to run a motor pump. On two floor there are about 22 rooms occupied by tenants. Since six months the landlord runs the motor pump only every second day for each floor. This could mean that you won’t have water to wash your clothes on Sunday. You are also not allowed to keep too many canisters or other kind of water containers. In this way the landlord can save one or two units for his electricity bill, may be 10 Rs here and there. It does not matter that this causes a lot of problems for the tenants. When the motor pump got stolen the landlord asked for 150 Rs extra from each room. If you refused to pay, he would have kicked you out, he says that there are a lot of tenants queuing up for rooms.
When a tenant wants to give up his or her room in Tekhand, some landlords, under this or that pretext, demand the payment of 2,000 Rs, 3,000 Rs extra. When a tenant wanted to leave his room on 10th of April 2011, the landlord said that for one and a half months of electricity and cleaning charges he should first pay 2,050 Rs. The whole thing was a complete con and the landlord went so far as to use open threats and finally he called the cops. After the word about this conflict spread amongst the tenants of the 70 rooms of the landlord and the neighbouring rooms and people started discussing, the thuggish behaviour of the landlord stopped. The tenant cleared his room in front of the landlord’s eyes… without paying him the 2,050 Rs.
NIIT Technologies Worker
(Plot 223, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
This IT company employs around six to seven thousand workers. We 33 housekeeping workers on plot 223 are not even paid the minimum wage. In March we were paid 3,850 Rs for 31 days of work, 8 hours a day. Now, since 13th of April we are supposed to work on two 12-hours shifts and they say that for 31 days of 12-hours shifts we will be paid 5,800 Rs. None of us gets ESI or PF.
(Plot 105, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
We work from 9:30 am till 8 pm, often 2 am or even 6 am the next day. There are 4,000 workers employed, manufacturing for GAP, Old Navy, AMC, DKNY etc.. The 600 to 700 female workers in the finishing department are paid 3,600 Rs to 4,000 Rs, they often have to work till 10:30 pm at night. The male workers are paid 4,200 Rs to 4,300 Rs. In the production department there are 3,000 tailors (200 female), out of which 1,000 are on piece rates and the rest on monthly wages of 4,400 Rs to 4,500 Rs. The 250 workers in the sampling department are paid 4,893 Rs. We work 100 to 150 hours overtime per month. Only the permanent workers are paid double rate, but only the first two hours of daily overtime. Even after five years of employment some workers to get the PF form. A lot of swearing from the bosses, bad drinking water, dirty toilets.
(Plot 195 and 205, Udyog Vihar Phase I and Plot 292, Phase II)
Wages were delayed. The casual workers of the company started to go on strike on 20th of April, the company then paid the March wages on 22nd of April. The casual workers work on two 12-hours shifts, they get 18 Rs per hour overtime. The payment for February overtime was delayed, on 10th of April workers at Medikit stopped work in order to move the company to pay, on 12th of April they did.
SLV Security Worker
(Office of the company is near Ghora Farm, Sector 23)
The company employs 27,000 to 28,000 guards, they all work on two 12-hours shifts. There is no weekly day off. They pay 6,000 Rs for 12 hours, 31 days – cash in hand. If they see you dozing off they cut 300 Rs from your wages.
Grand Printers Worker
(134, Udyog Vihar Phase IV)
We work from 9 am till 8 pm on one day, from 9 am till 2 am the other. This is an industrial print-shop for cigarette packs, medical packaging and so on. They pay double rate for overtime… but the helpers are paid only 2,200 to 2,800 Rs per month and the operators 4,000 to 5,000 Rs. Only 50 out of 300 workers get ESI and PF.
Neelam International Worker
(556, Udyog Vihar Phase V)
The female workers (also the 12 to 15 year old girls) have work till late at night, sometimes till 6 am the other day. Overtime is paid single rate. The female workers who work by hand get 4,200 Rs the tailors get 5,500 Rs. None of the 500 workers get ESI or PF. Male and female workers have to share the same toilets. The factory has three floors, but only on the ground floor there are two toilets. There is always a queue. If you leave the job you have to fight hard in order to get your outstanding wages.
Jyoti Apparels Worker
(158, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
In the finishing department around 50 to 60 women workers work from 9:30 am till 9 pm, and 150 male workers work till 1 am. The monthly overtime of 150 to 200 hours is paid single rate. The tailors are sometimes paid piece rate, sometimes daily wages, sometimes monthly. None of the 450 to 500 workers get ESI or PF, may be the 50 staff get it. The general manager swears at workers. There is no canteen. The drinking water is crap. The toilets dirty. The situation in the factory next door is the same.
House of Pearl Worker
(446, Udyog Vihar Phase 5)
Around 3,000 workers produce stuff for JC Penny and Impulse. Daily shifts are from 9 am to 9 pm, often till 1 am. Only half of the workers get ESI and PF. The ‘incharges’ swear at workers a lot. Even during meal breaks you won’t find drinking water in this factory.
Kumar Printers Worker
(Plot 24, Sector 5, IMT)
In order to earn some money a worker worked 16 hours a day for 10 days in a row. He went to work even when his appetite went. He fell ill… On the 11th day he had to quit the job. The company paid him single rate for his overtime.
(Plot 153, Sector 4, IMT)
The wages are delayed. The February wages were paid on 15th of April 2011, the March wages have not been paid (30th of April). Workers stopped working on 24th and 25th of April because December 2010 overtime had not been paid yet. The company kicked out three workers who stood in front and talked [talked to the management, talked openly]. The overtime money was then paid on 27th of April. On 25th of March 250 workers who had worked for the company since one and a half to two years were shifted to the plant on plot 12 in sector 5. Their PF numbers were changed.
(Plot 150, Sector 4, IMT)
In April the factory was swarming with representatives of the ‘buyers’. PUMA wants 25,000 pieces every week. JAMBUREE wants jeans for Australia. RSS orders uniforms. ADIDAS sent their representatives. The workers had stopped work for two days in March, because wages were delayed. The company reassured that wages will now be paid punctually on the 7th of each month. The problem in April was that because there were so many representatives running about the company did not want to be the last month wages in order to avoid the representatives seeing the large [and formally illegal] amount of overtime we work. They turned the 150 to 180 hours of overtime from March into 30 hours, documented on the pay slip. The bosses said: “Take your wages now, we will pay the remaining overtime later”. The workers said: “No way, pay both now”. They then paid both, March wages and overtime, around 17th to 21st of April. There is a huge work load due to the increased demand. Most of the 300 guys in the finishing department work from Saturday 9:30 am till Sunday 1:00 in the afternoon, that’s a 27.5 hours shift. On 27th of April the company dismissed the ‘incharge’ of the finishing department because he refused to work that long.
2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area
Between June and October 2011 around 3,500 workers at Maruti Suzuki car plant openly confront the factory regime and its institutional allies in Manesar, in the south of Delhi. Their struggle leaped over to other automobile factories in the industrial corridor, which brought the world’s third largest automobile assembly plant in nearby Gurgaon to a halt. In the most significant workers’ struggle in India in the last two decades the young workers managed to undermine the companies’ attempts to divide them along the lines of temporary and permanent contracts. We wrote two longer texts summarising material about this important experience and tried to formulate preliminary conclusions for a necessary open debate.
In the following we want to give a short up-date on what has happened since the official end of the dispute in October 2011. As part of the ‘updates’ we also try to relate the dispute at Maruti Suzuki to the current ‘second-crisis-blow’, the global automobile industry has to confront since 2008. The growth in car sales in China and India is slowing down rapidly, while wage levels drop sharply in the US and it becomes clearer that they will try to close assembly plants in Europe in the near future. The re-structuring in the global car industry will still be the determining axis for the ‘capitalist re-covery’, the industry will still determine the centres and peripheries of global supply-chains and wage hierarchies for the wider social production. It will also depend on the workers’ struggles in this sector whether the working class can liberate society from the straight jacket of austerity, sales figures and assembly chains.
More importantly than the brief update: we publish a rough translation of two articles written and distributed in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in October and November 2011. The articles provide important details based on conversations with Maruti Suzuki workers during the dispute, in particular about the relationship between central trade unions, factory union and Maruti Suzuki workers. The articles not only ‘document’, they formulate practical suggestions of how to increase the workers’ collective power during the dispute. Friends put these suggestions to debate during conversations with workers at the occupation and protest camps and in form of a workers’ manifesto – poster. These suggestions should form part of the debate about lessons – from a perspective of workers’ self-emancipation.
Last, but not least you can read six reports by automobile workers living in dormitory villages, employed in the Maruti Suzuki supply-chain. Two reports are from mainstream newspapers, but we found them interesting nevertheless. The other reports were given to and distributed by Faridabad Majdoor Samachar.
There is an official and an unofficial aftermath of the Maruti Suzuki dispute. The official outcome seems devastating to many who have followed the struggle, while we are only able to see fragments of the unofficial results, which seem to reflect more of the collective power developed during the dispute. Unofficial results which we still have to discover together with other workers.
The official aftermaths
The official result can be summarised in the picture of golden hand-shakes. Shortly after it became known that all of the 30 suspended trade union leaders of the unrecognised MSEU have resigned from their jobs for an individual payment between 4 million rupees (USD 81,000) and 1.6 million rupees (USD 32,500), Mr RC Bhargava, chairman Maruti Suzuki was awarded with the ‘The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star’ by The Emperor of Japan for “his contribution to the strengthening of economic and bilateral relations between India and Japan”.
For all those who focussed on the ‘new leadership’ of the workers, their ‘betrayal’, their ‘sell-out’ must have been a blow. Sachdeva, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress: “These 30 workers were the most active in the formation of a union. Their loss means a new leadership needs to be developed. But, it will take workers time to put their faith in the new leaders”. It will also have been a blow to many workers, who have lost a large amount of money due to wage loss and penalty wage reductions and who see that ‘their leaders’ got out of it with a fair sum of money.
Obviously this is not a new phaenomena. After the Rico strike in October 2009 around 125 ‘leaders’ took a one-off payment and left the factory: http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-932/#fn1
Instead of lamenting about betrayal we should ask about the structural problems emerging from formal representation and organisational forms, which produce an institutionalised or personalised leadership. Unlike bourgeois forms of struggle the struggle of an industrial working class in itself does not need individual heroes, which tend to become either traitors or martyrs.
In the meantime a ‘new leadership’ has emerged to form a trade union. The character of both leadership and trade union is obscure. Friends wrote that it seems to be based much more on ‘regionalistic’ divisions within the work-force. A lawyer who represented the MSEU so far said: “I feel the new union leaders are hand-in-glove with the management. I asked them to include a provision in their union application that in the case of dispute, a settlement will only be reached with the management once it has been ratified by a two-third majority. But the union leaders refused to include any such democratic provision.” An application was filed early November, but the Haryana administration denied having received any application. The company also announced that people who underwent any disciplinary proceedings (suspensions etc.) during the time from June to October 2011 will not be able to become elected to the ‘company board’ – the ‘management’s alternative’ to union recognition.
Maruti management Mr S. Y. Siddiqui, Managing Executive Officer, told a business paper in early November “that the Department of Labour, Haryana and some management-level employees are explaining the process of setting up the union to the workers and it was likely to be completed in four months. The company has also created an email id through which any employee can communicate directly with the top management any time he/ she wants.” “My impression of the boys when I started interacting with them was that they are just kids. They have zero experience of industry and zero maturity.” This is one definite outcome, management is cautious with these young workers, they try by all means necessary to ‘understand them’ and to created new channels of ‘conflict management’. The unofficial outcomes, see below, are definitely due to this cold fear on the top.
In the meantime we should not forget that the dispute has not been resolved at Suzuki Powertrain India (SPIL). During November output levels were said to have dropped to 60 per cent – result of a go-slow protest. Focus of this protest has narrowed down to the demand of re-instatement of three trade union representatives who had been sacked during the June – October struggle. Protest meetings took place on 9th of November 2011. Subey Singh, the president of the Suzuki Powertrain Workers Union on 12th of November: “The management has been pressuring me to accept a payout many times higher than that offered to Maruti’s labour leaders. I have been offered money. They have been asking me what is it that I want (to resign). However, I have refused to accept any payout. I will not become a traitor to the labour workforce that has elected me their leader.”
The unofficial aftermath
There are two sides to the unofficial aftermath, one side relates to the wider changes the strike enforced on management and industry, the other side on how workers re-organise themselves after this experience. In the following we are only able to hint at some of the changes, which the struggle imposed; changes which did not make it into official agreements. Immediately after the dispute ended Maruti management called workers for a company meeting. “The factory manager said that it has been mentioned that a share of the profit will be distributed to the workers. The wages of the trainees and the workers hired through contractors will be increased. The wage agreement for the permanent workers runs till April 2012, so their wages will currently not be increased. You will get 16 days of paid holiday per year. There will be more company buses and their route will be extended. You can form a work committee. A worker: “For how long will this committee last?” (FMS). The wages of the apprentices were increased from 4,700 Rs to 6,200 Rs in October 2011. Apart from higher wages workers say that the middle-management and supervisors are much more respectful towards them. Also the work load seems to have eased a bit. Mr Roy, production manager in Manesar said in an interview in the The Hindu that the plant was configured to work as a ’50 second line,’ to produce a maximum of about 1,152 cars a day over two shifts of 8 hours each. This summer the company hoped to produce about 1,200 cars a day, or a 48 second line. “Prior to the troubles we were making about 1070 cars a day,” said Mr. Roy, “At present we are making about 800 cars a day.” (6th of November 2011)
The unofficial outcomes are not confined to Maruti Suzuki itself. On 24th of November motorcycle manufacturer Hero announced wage increases ‘across the board’ – menaing for their permanent employees. “For white-collar employees, the pay has been raised as much as 30 per cent, while workers at the Dharuhera plant have got a monthly increase of Rs 6,500 each. The pay increase for blue-collar workers will be spread over three years depending on their staying with Hero. “No company wants to go through what Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, the country’s biggest car maker, had to endure in the past few months. Hero’s wage increase will help ensure that there’s no disaffection among workers.” If we assume a monthly wage for permanent workers of around 30,000 Rs per month, than we talk about an annual wage increase of about 7 per cent – at a current annual inflation rate of around 10 per cent (which is only partly compensated for by Dearness Allowance). More importantly than the rather ‘relative’ wage increase is the fact that the wage difference between permanent and temporary workers is very likely to have increased, too. Hero has a specific history of division between permanent and temporary workers, backed by the permanent workers union, in particular at the Dharuhera plant.
Factory Occupation at Hero in Gurgaon, 2007
Lock-out of Temporary Workers at Hero in nearby Dharuhera, 2008
The Second Blow of Crisis for the Global Automobile Industry
The strike had a significant, though temporary impact on Maruti Suzuki’s profits and sales. On 20th of October 2011 Maruti management announced that the half-year profits (Q2) were down by 60 per cent and that the market share shrunk to 39.5 percent, from around 48 per cent. These figures must be terribly worrying for management and share-holders, but even more worrying for the gentlemen are the global long-term trends.
In India and China the impact of the crisis 2008 did not affect sales figures too much, partly because of the cheap money policy of the governments. Shrinking profit margins were still counteracted by increasing sales. Based on the growth figures all car manufacturers opened extra capacities, e.g. Maruti started to buy land for a third plant in Gujarat, claiming to set-up capacities for another 2 million vehicles per year. Shrinking profit margins cannot be explained by increasing wages of workers, wages of workers fell relatively, even in the ‘well-paid’ car industry. Maruti’s labour cost was 1.91 per cent of its net sales in the financial year 2011 compared to 3.21 per cent in financial year 2002. During this period, sales have increased by five times to Rs 37,500 crore [one crore = 10 million] from Rs 7,500 crore while labour cost moved up from Rs 227 crore to just Rs 694 crore.
The workers’ wages are already squeezed to the limit, and although they cannot account for decline of profitability, the workers’ pockets and bodies are the only source to be squeezed more. In particular after sales figures in India and China have started to follow the global downward trend. In the last year a combination of general economic slow-down, increasing interest rates to tackle inflation, rising petrol prices have put pressure on sales. In October car sales in India suffered their sharpest decline in over a decade, a fall of 24 per cent compared to the previous year. The fourth consecutive month of decline for the car industry. The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) started lobbying for measures such as scrapping all vehicles manufactured before 2000 – to copy the eco-packaged subsidy model of the German government. In October Siam slashed its sales growth forecast for the current financial year to 2-4 per cent, the second cut in estimates from an initial forecast of 16 to 18 per cent. In China, the other ‘last resort of automobile capitalism’ the car market grew about 48 per cent in 2009, 34 per cent in 2010 and 4 per cent in 2011. The state subsidies ran out. While we still speak about ‘growths’ in Asia, we speak about absolute decline in Europe. In 2012 the European car market is supposed to shrink by over 5 per cent, this are about 600,000 cars, meaning the annual production of two assembly plants.
The immediate reaction by capital is to further reduce labour costs, either by reducing wages, lay offs or plant closures. Lay offs and the threat of closures is largely used to coerce workers to accept lower wages. In the USA, while Maruti workers in Manesar striked for better conditions, the UAW trade union accepted 50 per cent wage cuts for newly hired workers, a major generational division in the plants. In Italy FIAT announced in October 2011 that all collective contracts for the 70,000 FIAT workers will be terminated in 2012 and wage cuts will be cut in result. In October FIAT closed the plant Termini Imerese, a smaller factory manufacturing for Lancia. The factory is supposed to continue running under management of Chinese companies (Chery, Gonow). At the same time Maruti Suzuki announced a new joint-venture with FIAT in Italy concerning common engine manufacturing, and Maruti supplier Talbros engaged in a closer collaboration with FIAT’s supplier Magneti Marelli – see workers reports below.
Capital will only be able to drop labour costs on a global level if it ‘globalises’ wage levels in relates different wage levels directly. The car export from Asia to the global North increases, but export of car parts increased more significantly than ‘ready-made’-cars export – meaning that an actual global cooperation between automobile workers is taking shape. In the future two aspects will be decisive for working class struggle: will workers be able to turn the ‘global integration of markets and production’ into a global strike-front; and will we be able to use the togetherness and creativity brought to the fore during struggles to imagine and experiment with a different concept of mobility – beyond the car. Following text can serve for debate – against the automobile nightmare, from the perspective of an automobile worker:
In the meantime disputes continue. On 19th of November workers at Hyundai Motor India protested against increased work load on the shop floor. Representatives of the HMIEU said that the car manufacturer has hiked the work load without consulting with the union. In the assembly shop, for instance, the work done by 30 workers is expected to be done by 25. Workers at the factory in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, have boycotted the canteen facilities in protest.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.280 – October 2011
Maruti Suzuki Manesar – Disciplinary Regime from Head to Toe
* A worker sitting outside the Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory during the time of protest, on 29th of August 2011: “We have to think about life beyond the routine of shifts and job, We have to think properly about it once we find the time.”
* A young workers hired through contractor at the Maruti Suzuki Gurgaon plant: “In the bumper shop the supervisors swear at you openly. The permanent workers, as well, do not respect us. It is us who are forced to do most of the work. The work load at the bumper assembly is extreme, and you won’t find any permanent workers there. There are five stations and 15-16 workers hired through contractors work on each shift. I want that in this world everyone can live, everyone can live happily.”
* A worker who got dismissed from Maruti Suzuki in 2000: “These boys are no losers. These guys from the Manesar factory have both energy and passion to fight.”
The collectivity amongst permanent and temporary workers has grown after June 2011. The sudden occupation of the factory in June was a glorious beginning. On 27th and 28th of July the collectivity of temporary and permanent workers forced the company and state to retreat: the standing together of both categories of workers forced the police, who came to arrest workers from the plant, to leave empty handed. The youthful energy softened the rigidness and became a container for laughter and happiness…
From the companies’ side the united voices of the well-dressed walking corpses say: “Indiscipline will not be tolerated!” The noisy answer of young workers, expressing the force of life: “Authoritarianism will not be endured.”
The tune and collectivity of the young workers which shook Maruti Suzuki Manesar is part of the young energy which sends ripples across the globe. The youth in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen buried state leaders who had been unmovable for decades. In Greece, France, Spain and England the undisciplined youth started to blockade the system of wage labour. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa artisans, peasants and rural poor revolt against social death and murder. In one of the main financial centres on Wall Street in New York in America, every day thousands of people assemble in order to oppose the global money system.
This is why Maruti Suzuki and the state had to launch a direct attack on the workers on 29th of August [lock-out, good conduct bill]. Secret plans forged behind closed doors, concealed preparations… be it army officials, company officials or their special advisors, all these people have become trapped in their formula that two and two equals four. The fact that two and two always equals four on paper has increased the force of the bosses, but in society, in practice, two and two can sometimes be fifty, sometimes zero, sometimes even minus twenty. According to the habitual drill of the governments’ armies and their allies two and two is always four… …but in practice ,instead of delivering any solution through their many attacks around the world, the armies joint in the NATO only increase the crisis. Amongst the leaders of this world this is no one who can make sense of their situation. The planned and prepared attack of Maruti Suzuki and the state on the workers did not have the desired result…
Walls Replace the Tarps
The factory area stretches out on 600 acres. In order block the view and to demonstrate their strength the company put up tarpaulin behind the fence barb-wire fence surrounding the factory area. After the weakness of the company manifested itself during the struggle, management started in October to build a high wall around the plant. The first coal and steam based factories 200 years ago were forced to take the shape of fortresses, because at night they were attacked by scores of artisans (black-smiths, weavers etc.). Now the process of turning factories into fortresses started again. This time the bosses nightmare has come true: the workers are both inside and outside of the factory. They can see nothing but enemies, both inside and outside the fortresses walls, The security guards they hire through contractors have to work 12-hours a day, 30 days a month – more potential enemies…
In Germany people’s protest forces the government to shut down nuclear power stations. The party and government in China, armed with science, fears the youthful force of turmoil amongst peasants and workers. In Bangladesh, when workers revolt, they burn dozens of factories down.
Pieces of Paper
Maruti Suzuki, the state and the middlemen had hard work to forge the ‘agreement’ in June [ending the occupation]. But the workers treated the agreement as mere pieces of paper. The bosses, who break their own laws and rules on large scale day by day, could not stop lamenting about the ‘murder of law and order’. On 30th of September, after a long tormenting process, the bosses again signed an agreement [to end the 'lock-out]. And on 7th of October, by occupying the factory, workers again called a piece of paper by its name: a mere piece of paper. Those leaders and officers whose daily job it is to break the sacredness of words and promises now call for the defence of the ‘sacredness of the agreement’.
Sweet Force of the Youth
They run from one crisis to the next in a desperate race to manage one after the other. The key solution of the experts is: to squeezed the common people even more. The experts then cannot understand why in result the crisis depends and gives birth to new crisis, instead of solving them. In the meantime the permanent workers and trainees occupied the factory on 7th of October in protest against the companies refusal to let the workers hired through contractors back inside the factory. This time the force of the youth was not limited to Maruti Suzuki, on the 7th of October 11 factories in Manesar were occupied.
This is the time to develop a collectivity amongst permanent and temporary workers, unemployed, the rural and urban poor. This is the time to replace ‘mine-yours’ with ‘ours’. This is the time to occupy factories and to bury them. It is time to build a new society, which replaces the today of money and competition, the present of markets and opponents with a togetherness of people and the acceptance that the human species forms a part of nature.
Points for the conversation with workers who sit outside the Maruti Suzuki factory gate since 29th of August 2011
1. We cannot turn back time. Therefore it is important to focus on the now and the near future, when deciding about next steps.
2. Maruti Suzuki company and the state have launched a prepared attack on the workers in the early morning of the 29th of August. It is obvious that we have to resist this attack, therefore we should make those steps our common focus which increase our strength.
3. It is agreed fact that the permanent Maruti Suzuki workers have decided not to sign the ‘good conduct conditions’. Therefore, if this conflict remains limited to Maruti Suzuki then another painful outcome is awaiting us. In the recent past sporadic support rallies and demonstrations and short-lived strikes in single factories did not manage to change things.
4.In order to widen the collectivity against the attack of the company and government we have to take the whole of IMT Manesar as our initial place of activity.
5. As long as we treat it only as an issue of the Maruti Suzuki workers it will be naive to expect more than compassion from others. This is why we should see the main problems and worries of the workers in IMT Manesar as of common importance.
6. High work-loads, at each step humiliations, very low wages, fear due to not knowing when they will kick you out again, being forced to work 12 to 16 hours a day… this is the reality which the worker faces in anger and helplessness. This is why in a first step we can join up in collectivity to turn the question of how to put an end of the contract system and how to enforce a wage of at least 100 Rs per hour into a common issue.
7. At this time it would be easy for the Maruti workers to go in small groups of 10-20-50 and to talk to other workers employed in factories in IMT Manesar. In this way it seems viable that the 2,500 Maruti workers can join up with 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 or 100,000 other workers and undermine the attack by company and state.
8. Parallel to spreading the word in IMT Manesar it won’t be too difficult to undertake collective steps together with workers in nearby Gurgaon. On this background it should not take too much time until workers in the Delhi area (Gurgaon, Delhi, Faridabad, NOIDA, Gaziabad, Bahadurgarh, Sonipat) are able to undertake practical steps.
9. The setting up of a workers struggle committee could happen be based on a brief and swift agenda.
10. Nowadays it seems very easy to create a coordination/collectivity with students.
11. It does not seem to be in too distant future to raise the question of (or to put into question) the wage system as such… within the worldwide churning and emerging coordinations lies the possibility to find significant support and inspirations.
The impact of the Maruti Suzuki workers’ movement can be seen amongst the Munjal Showa workers on the 12th of September. Workers in this factory in sector III stopped work at 3 pm in order to protest against the employment of temporary workers for permanent work. The workers at neighbouring Satyam Auto company immediately started coming and going to and from Munjal Showa. The workers at Munjal Showa Gurgaon and Haridwar plant also stopped working. On 13th of September at 8 pm management immediately made 155 workers permanent and after having given reassurances , management had to catch their agitated breath.
On 14th of September at 4 pm workers of two shifts at at Suzuki Casting, Suzuki Powertrain and Suzuki Motorcycles stopped work, started demonstrations inside the plants, shouted slogans. The production stopped and the gathered workers inside the factories demanded that the Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers should be taken back and the good conduct bond should be withdrawn.
On the 15th of September the production in these three factories was still halted and very animated workers still inside the plants. In front of the Maruti Suzuki factory young workers, laughing and making jokes. They marched to the occupied Powertrain factory, shouted slogans in support, gave speeches, sung songs, distributed flyers. Beautiful words, interesting discussions. The drivers of the sale and dispatch department stopped working in the C-shift. On 15th of September the A and B-shift of he 350 drivers hired through contractor gathered in front of the SND gate of Maruti Suzuki, even in the heavy rain, taking cover under trees and bushes.
“Hoo!-Hoo!-Hoo!” – this growing noise from the workers means that the media guys gave arrived. Once the news made the round that people form the media have arrived the workers sitting in front of the Maruti factory started to shout rounds of “Hoo!” noises. During the course of the struggle childhood illusions have evaporated. “When I was in the 11th class I still believed in what The Times of India was saying… The fact that this newspaper printed the whole speeches made by the Maruti Suzuki chairman has opened our eyes.”
On 16th of September production was made to be resumed at Suzuki Casting, Engine and Motorcycles. The company was willing to enter negotiations, but put the condition to it that work should first resume at the three factories. The middlemen were compliant. The union rally was cancelled. Obviously, having witnessed the general atmosphere even the traditional steps (like rallies) have scared the state, company and middlemen several times.
In the night of the 18th of December negotiations between labour department, company and workers took place. There was no scope for an agreement. Ending unsuccessful, the police arrested three workers right from the venue of negotiations. The hope of the bosses was that in reaction the workers would cause trouble, which would have given more chances for in the state and companies’ plan to succeed.
Despite this instigation the Maruti Suzuki workers did not run riot. The kept calm. Steps were undertaken to bail out the arrested workmates. They were released on the 19th instead of the 20th of September.
The company made it an exercise to use the mobile phone, which was given to workers for 10 million manufactured Suzuki cars, as a management tool against the workers. While the three workers were in jail, the company phoned up the trainees. “Why don’t you go inside? We had put up a notice saying that you the trainees don’t return to work by 19th of September you can see yourselves as fired. You have been fired, but nevertheless, now you still can come back to work.”
Maruti sent 4 to 6 letters to the home of each employee. They sent text-messages to their phones. On 20th of September: “Dear employee”, on 21st of September: “Dear friend of the Maruti family”, then “Dear fellow workmen”. They sent a help-line number, a link where workers could watch a video about the ‘true situation’. They sent quotations from Vivekanand and Napoleon. The company send managers to the villages and homes of workers (in order to speak to their families). When workers sitting in front of the factory heard from their families about it they said: “Don’t ask him questions. Keep cool and give the gentlemen food and drink and say farewell to him with respect.”
The company said (during the lock-out / protest-camp): Today we have produced 670 cars. A manager then said: On the day we manage to manufacture 1,000 cars you will all be fired.
The company assembled some village chiefs of the villages Aliyar, Dhana, Baas, Mangrola against the workers: “Go inside the factory, otherwise leave this area.” In the night some of the villagers drove around in cars, drunk. Some increased the room rents of workers. They threaten the workers at night, speak with soft voices the next day and greet the Maruti Suzuki workers in villages a bit further away from the scene.
The company plan gut stuck, the workers obstructed it. The company changed its tactics. The middlemen were again been activated. In the meantime the workers had realised that sitting in front of the gate and merely hearing talks about support and help wouldn’t move things forward. So on 23rd of September the factory union leader of the Gurgaon plant arrived with three bus loads full of workers. Union leaders of the three other Suzuki Group factories also arrived. Speeches and discussions. Around 250 permanent workers of the Maruti Manesar factory gave their signature to an agreement saying that the Gurgaon factory leader should take part in negotiations on their behalf.
After it seemed that a frontal attack on the workers would turn out unsuccessful, state, company and middlemen started to act from a new angle. A long process of ‘explaining-advising’ took place. A lot of phoney reassurances were dished out as usual, but some genuine reassurances were given by young workers from other factories in IMT Manesar. On the 30th of September, late at night, an agreement was signed.
Conditions of the Agreement
1. Both sides accept that the termination of those 15 workers who were dismissed by management between 29th of August 2011 and 15th of September will be revoked and turned into a suspension. But they will undergo an independent investigation according to the legal procedures and future steps will be decided based on the outcome. Whatever is the outcome, both sides will accept it.
2. Both sides also accept that those 18 trainees who had been dismissed between 29th of August to 30th of August will be reinstated from 1st of October onwards.
3. The 29 workers who had been suspended between 1st of July and 17th of September 2011 will remain suspended. A charge sheet will be issued against them and an independent investigation will take place. Both sides will accept the outcome of the investigation.
4. Both sides accept that from 29th of August the ‘no work, no pay’-rule applies and that as penalty one day wage extra will be cut from wages per one day of no work.
5. Both sides agree that workers will take a day off tomorrow, 1st of October, and resume work on 3rd of October after having signed the good conduct bond as wished by management. The day off on 1st of October will be compensated for in the near future by working during a bank holiday (day off).
6. Both sides accept that workers will keep discipline, will not obstruct production neither collectively nor individually. The management promises not to act against workers scornfully.
7. Both sides agree that in case of future disputes both sides will try to solve it by conversation amongst each other.
8. Both sides will not abuse the fundamental rights of the other and based on this agreement they will not hold scornful feelings for the other, but act in full loyalty.
9. After the agreement both sides accept that all disputes between the parties have been solved.
On the 3rd of October permanent workers and trainees went inside the factory. Around 1,200 workers hired through contractors where not let inside the plant. On 4th and 5th of October these workers were still refused entry. The anger grew. People who were on the side of the company irritated (bullied) and agitated these workers. The company had given a clear order to the contractors not to let these workers return to work at the Maruti factory.The company saw the growing collectivity amongst permanent and temporary workers as their main source of trouble. Out of anger around 100 temporary workers left, but the rest kept on putting pressure on the permanent workers. The temporary workers put pressure on the 44 suspended workers to take things forward.
After Dusshera (festival), at 10 am in the morning of the 7th of October the workers hired through contractor arrived at the factory gate. Thugs turned up to threaten them. A suspended worker, who was also a member of the factory committee, interrupted the bouncer and gave him something to chew on by saying that the workers hired through contractors had also signed the agreement – the bouncer then dragged his tail and left. The workers of other IMT factories who had reassured the workers offered support. Workers gathered at the factory and at 1 pm it was decided that at 4 pm, when both B and C shift are inside the factory, workers would stop working and occupy the factory.
On 7th of October at 4 pm the permanent workers occupied the factory, demanding to take back the workers hired through contractors. At Suzuki Engine, Suzuki casting, Suzuki Motorcycle, Satyam Auto, Bajaj Motor, Endurance, Hi-Lax, Lumax DK and other factories workers stopped work, started demonstrations inside the plant, occupied it and demanded the taking back of the temp workers at Maruti. The state sent more than 200 police men into the Maruti plant. They stayed established themselves there.
On the 8th of October the occupations at the four Suzuki factories (not the Gurgaon plant) were kept up. The company had closed the canteen, therefore the workers themselves organised the food. Under pressure the workers at the other factories had restarted work. The other four factories maintained the protest for the 44 suspended and the workers hired through contractor.
On this background remember the poster which was put up at the Maruti Suzuki gate on 30th of September…
About how to increase the power of and with the Maruti Suzuki Manesar Workers
*Company and state have executed a pre-planned and prepared attack on the workers on 29th of August.
* The workers’ collectivity has resisted this attack successfully for one month now. Their mutual help and care provides strength for the workers.
* The collectivity amongst permanent workers, trainees, apprentices, workers hired through contractors has put a halt to Maruti Suzuki management and the state’s attack. It has pushed the attackers back.
* How can workers increase their strength? This has become an important question.
* For the Maruti Suzuki workers and the workers in IMT manesar to join up seems like an easy and simple first step.
* In order to come closer and to extend support and mutual care it seems necessary to raise common questions.
* The very low wages and the fact that temporary workers are employed for permanent work and similar issues seem to provide a common ground. If we look at the price increases wages in IMT should be at least 800 Rs for an 8-hours day. On this bases and the goal to put a stop on the contract system the Maruti Suzuki workers can link up with workers in hundreds of factories in Manesar.
* There is time. And there is young energy. Going out in groups of 5 to 10 the Maruti Suzuki workers can quickly reach other workers in Sector 8,7,6,5,4,3 and talk to them about the 800 Rs for 8 hours question, the question of putting an end to contract system.
* Turn the Maruti Suzuki issue into an IMT Manesar issue – this can push back the attack.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.281 – November 2011
Maruti Suzuki Diary
* On the 7th of October at 4 pm eleven workers in IMT Manesar occupied eleven factories. The issue has spread beyond Maruti Suzuki, following its essential character, which is not confined to one company. The speed with which is spread puts in front of us the potential and reality of the turmoil in thousands of factories.
* Under the pressure of the state, companies and middlemen on 8th of October the occupations were reduced to the four plants of the Suzuki group. The Maruti factory in Gurgaon was not occupied, but the middlemen were unsuccessful to make workers go back to work at Suzuki Powertrain, castings and Motorcycle. These workers had made the experience of how middlemen call for and call off strikes on 14th to 16th of September.
* At Maruti Suzuki Manesar the issues of taking back the 44 suspended permanent and allowing the 1,200 to 1,400 workers hired through contractors to re-enter production became one. At Suzuki Powertrain and Motorcycles permanents and workers hired through contractor joint together and turned the issue into a common issue of the four plants.
* The central government was entangled and preoccupied with the regional elections in Hisar and therefore not able to intervene. The general atmosphere during the period of the four factory occupations between the 7th and the 13th of October was one of commonality and easiness. The company did not have any clue how to solve the issue. The bosses did not know what these workers wanted.
* Conversation amongst workers in one factory: “Previously one would leave the factory during strike, now we stay inside. To leave the factory means to hand it over to the company and gives them more scope to act. To stay inside means to keep the control over the factory.” But… but to be kept outside the factory or to stay outside of the factory gives us the immediate chance to create links with workers of other factories and to join up. Yes, to only sit in front of the gate and blow hot air means to have become trapped.
* The problem which the Maruti Suzuki workers face is the problem of all of us and in October the solution was amongst the workers in IMT Manesar coming together and building a big damn by helping and supporting each other. The position that the power of the workers in the four factories alone was sufficient was dwindling. .
* The propaganda churned out by radio-TV-newspapers did not have any effects: Maruti will close down the plant and go to Gujarat, two hundred thousand jobs will be lost here, the strike causes huge losses for the tax revenue of the Haryana and central government, we have to accept factories as means of provision, they are a way out after the collapse of the workshops, the wages of the Maruti workers are high and they just think about themselves… all this talk was pushed into the background by the questions of ‘how to survive’ and ‘how to live a good life’ which emerged during the struggle.
* The Maruti Suzuki workers listened to everyone, but acted according to what they thought right – this is why they did not end up in the fist of the middlemen. The unions set up a committee to support the strike, composed by seven members. Amongst them the leaders who came to give speeches during the general assembly on 13th of October in front of Maruti Suzuki. The elections in Hisar were on the 13th of October and the Haryana-Punjab high court had ordered to leave the factory on the 13th of October… the union leaders said that if the government uses force, we will take action all over IMT manesar, all over Haryana, all over India.
* On the night of the 13th the police took the communal kitchen from the Powertrain gate. In Aliyar village a new kitchen to supply workers with food was set up. Huge numbers of police gathered at Manesar police station. In front of the office of the district administration a long queue of empty Haryana Roadways buses formed. On the 14th the Gurgaon DC went inside the factory and conveyed the high court order to the workers, told them to leave the factory and to enter into negotiations.
* The union committee phone the union leaders and told them to call for strike and to support the Maruti Suzuki workers. The leaders said that they will call for a meeting at noon that day. Work was not interrupted in any factory and none of the small and big leaders turned up at the Maruti factory. The police stopped the food supply to the workers inside. The factory committee said that it was ready to leave the factory by 7:30 pm. At 8 pm a leader arrived at the factory and told the committee to tell the workers to leave the plant. The leader spoke to the workers inside by using a mic. There was resistance. In the end the workers left the factory.
* On the 15th of October a huge police force gathered inside and outside the Suzuki Powertrain factory – according to a correspondent of a Punjab newspaper about 4,000 cops. The 2,000 workers refused to leave the factory. A demonstration of 2,000 workers arrived from the Maruti Suzuki plant and sat down in front of the Powertrain factory. The tension rose. Some middlemen turned up. The powertrain workers left the plant. A joint demonstration went back to the Maruti Suzuki gate.
* On the 17th of October a rally-demonstration-handing over of a memorandum took place in Gurgaon, called for by the unions. Two hours of speeches, but no action plan was announced. Tripartite negotiations started at the Huda guest house. Maruti published again figures after figures about how many cars they were able to produce. Some workers went back inside the factory to resume work.
* On 19th of October three Powertrain workers who took part in the tripartite negotiations were separated from the negotiations, seated in a separate room and their mobile phones were taken away. On the 19th of October Maruti Suzuki signed the agreement. The Powertrain agreement was signed on the 21st of October – workers who took part in the negotiations were not allowed to leave the site of negotiations during all that time. They did not allow anyone to support them (with advice), when they went smoking or to the toilet, policemen were always with them. It is said that it was an oder by the government that until there is an agreement no worker should be allowed to leave. Accoring to clause 6 of the Suzuki production was supposed to be resumed by B-shift on the 20th of October… but production was not resumed by early evening on the 21st of October…
1. Both sides agree that out of the 44 employees who were suspended according to the agreement on 30th of September 2011, 22 employees will be subjected to thorough investigation. The investigation should take place within the next ten days. Whatever the investigation will come up with will be accepted by the employees. If the investigations turns out to be in disadvantage to any employee, the employees agree to abstain from any protests, such as tool-down strike, sit-in strike, protest rallies and so on. The remaining 25 employees will undergo an initial investigation and according to decision, will return to their work on 20th of October 2011. Those employees who had been suspended earlier (case 807222) will undergo a thorough investigation. If the decision turns out as disadvantageous for the employees, no employee will resort to any protest, such as tool-down strike, sit-in strike and so on. The remaining 9 employees will undergo an initial investigation and according to outcome will return on the 20th of October 2011.
3. Both sides agree that from the 7th of October onwards the rule ‘no work no pay’ applies and that as penalty one day’s wage per day of strike will be reduced from the salary.
6. Both sides agree that production resumes immediately with the B-shift on 20th of October 2011.
10. From 30th of September onwards the company bus services for employees will be re-installed.
11. Both sides agree that the management of the company will request the contractors to accept the conditions which had been given for the contract workers on 29th of August 2011.
* On the evening of the 21st of October the Maruti Suzuki workers were happy, they were shouting slogans. They believed that the 30 suspended will return within the next 10 days. But the union president was nervous, words were spread. People who haven’t read the agreement, said what they had heard about it. When the union general secretary did not appear on the platform, the workers put up pressure and let him be called to speak. In the speeches of the leaders there was no force, the speakers to not shout any slogans or encouraged workers to do so.
* On the 22nd of October the A-shift went inside the factory, but neither in the morning nor the evening any of the committee members turned up. Why did they not turn up? People from the media turned up.
* On the 22nd of October the factory manager called for a meeting. Small groups of more silent workers were called from each department. The factory manager put on a very serious face. He said: “Why are you guys down? Come on, be happy.” A worker: “Even when we are angry, we are still happy.” The factory manager said that it has been mentioned that a share of the profit will be distributed to the workers. The wages of the trainees and the workers hired through contractors will be increased. The wage agreement for the permanent workers runs till April 2012, so their wages will currently not be increased. You will get 16 days of paid holiday per year. There will be more company buses and their route will be extended. You can form a work committee. A worker: “For how long will this committee last?”
* On the 23rd of October it has reached the ears of all workers that something was wrong. The union president and general secretary had secretly resigned from their job. The union president had disappeared after announcing the agreement. When called the general secretary only spoke hot air. The factory union committee has been made defunct. News make the round that 5, 10, 15 of the suspended have resigned from their jobs.
* In the factory none of the workers speak about the agreement – those who made the agreement have nothing to do with us anymore. There are preoccupations, but there is no fear. The fear had been expelled. People ask themselves what could be done now? Now that neither the management nor the workers rule in the factory. On Sunday, 24th of October workers talked about the fact that the current payslip shows that 10 Rs has been deducted as contributions for the old union. The company became anxious and stopped handing out the payslips. They said that they will issue new ones, that the 10 Rs will not be deducted, that the new ones will be out by 30th of October.
* The situation that has emerged has forced Maruti Suzuki to take back the 1,200 temporary workers. Given that the issue has become reduced to the Suzuki factories the workers there depend more and more on support and cooperation of other workers.
* The bosses are not able to understand social processes. This is why they make individuals or small groups responsible for a situation and use all force to deal with them. This is why state and company feel relieved after Maruti Suzuki has dealt with the 30 leaders at their plant and the 3 leaders at Powertrain. Whereas, during the last five months these workers have been brought into a position where they were able to play an important role to keep the workers under control. It is the twist of these times that the government and company in their agitated state have thrown away their well suited tools by making these workers resign from their jobs.
Today, from a new angle, and at a new level, life has surfaced again.
Following six reports concerning workers in the local automobile industry. The first two are from mainstream newspapers, the following four were told to Faridabad Majdoor Samachar.
Living Conditions in Caterpuri
“Roughly 70 per cent of the residents of Carterpuri-named after the former US president Jimmy Carter, who came calling in 1978-work in Maruti Suzuki and other factories. “We hardly go to the malls. It makes us feel low, it’s frustrating,” says 24-year-old Dharminder Singh, a contract worker at Maruti and a resident of Carterpuri. “When you earn Rs. 6,700 a month, you cannot eat out, visit malls and, of course, feel on a par with others.” There’s a story behind the name. It used to be called Daulatpur Nasirabad before the 39th president of the US came calling in 1978. Jimmy Carter was looking for the area in which his mother Lillian had worked as a nursing volunteer in the 1960s. A name change seemed propitious.”We thought the renaming of the village will change our fortunes but Gurgaon became a city and we stayed where we were,” says Attar Singh, a resident of Carterpuri, now in his late 60s. Carterpuri is a low-lying area that gets flooded with sewage from the private colonies around it. Flies and an overpowering stench of open drains hangs in the air. Ironically, while part of Maruti’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives involve welfare programmes in and around areas close to its plants, Carterpuri has never figured in them. “We have adopted four-five villages in Manesar where we try to improve the living conditions,” says a company spokesperson. “Our workers may be living there as the village (Carterpuri) is in the vicinity of our plant but living conditions in that village never came to our notice.” “The company considers the local community an important stakeholder.”
We find this ‘local community’ concern of Maruti particularly ironic given that one of the forces used by management against the strikers was ‘the local community’ – bought by Maruti money – in form of landlords, panchayats and thugs.
Working Conditions at Maruti
“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)
Omax Auto Worker
(Plot 6, Sector III, IMT Manesar)
There are two 10.5 hours shifts, 200 permanent worker and 1,200 to 1,300 workers hired through six different contractors. They manufacture motorcycle parts for Honda, hero Honda, Suzuki and Minda. Per month workers work 60 to 84 hours of overtime, the payment is less than single rate, around 16 to 20 Rs per hour. Of the 800 newly hired workers each month 10 to 15 hours overtime get embezzled. The helpers are paid 4,214 Rs. From these wages contributions for ESI and PF are cut, but only some workers receive the PF money when leaving the job. The highest pressure is on the welding workers, the air pollution is unbearable.
QH Talbros Worker
(Plot 51, Sector III, IMT Manesar)
In the factory 100 permanent workers, 50 casuals and 300 workers hired through contractors produce steering rods for Maruti Suzuki, Tata, Escorts, Sona Steering and for export. The permanent workers work on 8 hours shifts, the rest of the work-force on two 12-hours shifts. The permanents get double rate for overtime, the rest single rate. After paying initially 1,500 Rs each and then 100 Rs monthly, the permanent workers joined a union about a year ago. Many other workers initially also gave 200 Rs for the union. At the beginning of May management suspended one worker accusing him of stirring up trouble. After coming back from leave the company refused to take back four workers hired through contractor – they were accused of having taken part in hoisting the union flag. The company has hired 60 to 70 trainees for two years, after their training they were supposed to be made permanent – but so far out of 18 trainees who passed the training 4 were dismissed. In order to put up resistance against all this, the INTUC union gave a strike notive to management for the 5th of May. Since the 20th of May all workers sit outside of the factory in protest. On the 23rd of May nothing came out of the negotiations between management and union at the labour department.
Talbros Automotive Components and Magneti Marelli signed agreements on November 16th 2011, for formation of a 50:50 joint venture to manufacture suspension systems and modules. The JV will start its operations in Faridabad, Haryana, and will manufacture various components including control arms, knuckles, and front axlesand rear axles for automobile applications. Mr Eugenio Razelli CEO of Magneti Marelli stated that “The JV agreement with Talbros allows us to further extend our presence and footprint in India, adding a business area the suspension systems in which we have consolidated know-how and long-time industrial experience. We applied once again our strategy of partnering with Indian leading companies, that up to now has brought good result in our process of localization in the country and that enables us to add value to local clients and major transnational carmakers in the country.”
Clutch Auto Worker
(12/4 Mathura Road, Faridabad)
For their April wages management paid the permanent workers 1,800 Rs less than usual. As an act of resistance the permanent workers refused to take the wages on 12th of May. The company claims that according to the 2006 agreement between trade union and management the company can cut wages if productivity targets are not met. This is a trap… There is talk about the company opening a new factory in Rewari and so the management wants the workers to leave the job ‘on their own accord’.
Premium Moulding and Pressing Worker
(185 Udyog Vihar, Phase I, Gurgaon)
In this factory 100 permanent workers and 200 temporary workers are employed on two 12-hours shifts. They manufacture steering wheels, horns, dumpers, radiator fans for Maruti Suzuki, Tata, Tata Nano, Mahindra, Ford, Punjab Tractor. The workers hired through contractors are paid only 3,500 Rs and only 6 Rs per hour of overtime. The wages are paid delayed. The drinking water in the plant is bad.
We already published a short note and call for solidarity in a previous newsletter.
The following is a more detailed report published and distributed in Hindi in Faridabad majdoor Samachar.
Harsoria Healthcare Workers’ Strike
(Plot 110, Udyog Vihar Phase IV, Gurgaon)
There are about 650 to 700 workers in our factory, we work on two 12-hours shifts, we manufacture IV’s and medical cannula. Due to extreme work loads the hands are always pricked by the needles we manufacture, we are told to tape our hands and continue working, the machines are not supposed to stand still. In the factories there are cameras everywhere. Wages are paid late. We receive a lot of swearing from the managers.
In order to find some relieve we joint a union in September – October 2010. The permanent workers paid 2,000 Rs each contribution, the casual workers and those hired through contractor paid 1,000 Rs each. In this way the union gathered more than 450,000 Rs.
The company turned the casual workers into workers hired through contractor, which made their situation worse. Because he objected this, the company suspended the union president on 11th of December 2010. In resistance the production output suffered, people worked slow. The company sacked individual workers, bit by bit, and put two guys with rifles at the gate. But they stopped to swear at us and the wages were not delayed anymore.
In March 2011 the company and the union had to settled their three year agreement. In consequence the workers found a little relieve… but they had hardly time to catch their breath when the company provoked the workers on 8th of April. A guy from the middle-management [staff] told workers that the union president in the factory had sold out. The union president hit the guy. Trouble. The company suspended the president and another worker.
In response the workers on night-shift stopped working on the very same day. When the management refused entry to the morning shift, the workers on night-shift stayed inside the factory. There is no canteen in the plant, so the 300 to 350 workers inside got their food passed over the fence by their co-workers. Inside and outside the factory the workers kept the noise up for 72 hours. The legal order arrived: “Get out of the plant!”. After the union told them the workers left the factory after 72 hours.
The company suspended first 5 more workers, then another 7 and finally another 4 workers. The workers staged a protest sit-in in a nearby park. Some dates for meetings with the labour department circulated. The management said that everyone apart from 7 suspended can go inside and work. On the 25th of April negotiations started between company and union in the office of the labour deputy. Around 150 workers waited for the settlement in front of the office. At 6 pm two lorries arrived – accompanied by the police – and started loading finished goods from the factory. The workers who were sitting in the nearby park came running and arrived at the gate. The police started an attack with their batons. The workers sat down on the road. The union leader arrived. He told the workers to clear the street and sit down in the park again. “The union will have a meeting and take action”.
On the 26th of April 300 workers arrived and waited for a decision from 10 am onwards. At 2 pm around 40 union leaders arrived. They gave speeches. They said that once a decision is made it has to be followed. On the 27th of April, company and union came to an agreement. At 2:30 pm a top union leader announced the result: Apart from the 7 suspended, all the other workers should go inside and work. The 250 workers who were present became very angry. The top union leader was driven away while he was still trying to continue with his speech. Another big union guy made another attempt, but was also sworn at by the workers and finally chased away. The factory union leaders and the workers organised a separate meeting. We got trapped – it became absolutely clear that we had been trapped. Leaving the 7 suspended outside the rest of the workers entered the plant on 28th of April.
3) According to Plan -
General information on the development of the region or on certain company policies
To cooperate with hundreds of other workers (and supervisors, middle-managers) under the conditions of a modern autombile regime requires as much emotional, affective, intellectual labour as manual skills. During times of discontent this effort of affective labour, often invisible in daily life, turns into collective anger. All of a sudden management has to rediscover the ‘human dimension’ of the assembly line workers. They engage in human resource studies, participatory grievance workshops in order to win back the ‘mind,hearts (and muscles) of their workers. The following quote from a Maruti advisor after the strikes and occupations is a good example of how the representatives of capital address the contradictions their system brings forth:
“For lasting cooperation, Maruti needs to train its line managers not just in grievance redressal, but in caring for and communicating with each worker from their heart so as to develop among them a sense of ownership. That would help strengthen a workplace culture that restores the workers’ pride and dignity. This task cannot be just episodic and left to the HR department alone. The company needs to build a psychological connect with each employee, and internalise a great deal of passion in its employee care programme so as to move away from any symbolism or neglect. It must have a comprehensive communication and human relations agenda touching most aspects of the workers’ lives and their families so as to bring the alienated workers back into the mainstream and on a path of commonality of objectives as a way of life. However, nothing can replace the mantra of ‘communicate, communicate and communicate’.”
All of a sudden the ‘human appendixes of the machinery’, the ‘global assembly line coolies’ have a mind and heart to care about – and obviously a soul. After the lockout at Denso in 2010, management invited the permanent workers to a week at the Brahmakumaris resort near Manesar.
Similarly Maruti Suzuki engaged Brahmakumaris ‘scientological’ advisors to take care of industrial relations after the recent lockout in summer 2011. But as you can read below, the involvement of religious sects in industrial management is not only confined to ‘post-dispute healing’, but comprises ‘pre-work education’ of manual workers.
Honda Motorcycle and Scooter (HMSI) Worker
(Plot 1/2, Sector III, IMT Manesar)
Since four years one of the managers maintains relations with the Dayalbagh Educational Institute (DEI), which is part of the Radha Soami Panth, a religious sect. The institute collaborates, amongst others, with the University of Maryland, College Park, in the USA. The manager hires (through contractors) young skilled workers from the 76 branches of the institute, who are then employed in the HMSI factory. In many districts, next to the centres of the Radha Soami Satsang there are DEI run educational institutes, which train wiring operatives and motor mechanics for four-wheelers. After the one year course they are supplied Honda, Mahindra, Tata etc.. According to the rule of ‘use and throw’, Honda uses these workers for three or four years and then kicks them out.
(Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – June 2011)
4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News
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.
Leaflet by InsurgentNotes on the Occupy Movement in the USA:
New Magazine from the US focusing on the Proletarian Tendencies within the Occupy Movement:
Article from Wildcat on Rural Class Relations in Indonesia:
Article from Wildcat on Migrant Agricultural Workers Strike in Southern Italy:
Sangharshrat Mehantkash no.3, 2011
The Workers Movement in the Industrial Area of Dharuhera – by Bhoop Singh
In 1977 Dharuhera was declared an industrial area by the government of Haryana. At that time Banarsi Das Gupta was prime minister. For the industrial area the government alloted thousands of acres. At that time there were already some production units situated in Dharuhera, for example Sehgal Paper, which claimed to produce ‘carbonless paper’ in India. Other units were of Suri Paper, Haryana Detergent, Multitech, Dharuhera Chemicals and East India Synthetics. At around 1981 a huge plant with the name Pashupati Spinning and Weaving. To that date the Haryana State Industrial Development Corporation (HSIDC) did not exist yet, so these industrial areas were developed by Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA).
With the time some of the famous industries like Sehgal Papers closed – these companies had been given cheap land by the government, which they still owned. But the name of Seghal Papers turned Dharuhera into a landmark on the map of India. In the 1980s the mentioned companies ran well – during that time the factory bosses linked up with local thugs, this is why during this period no worker in no company was able to raise their voice for their demands. Up to 1984 there was no movement in this industrial region.
Dharuhera’s first workers’ movement
The first movement was kicked off by the East India workers in June 1984. The workers were fully organised but given the lack of a proper leadership and future perspective the company bosses were a able to suppress them with the help of local leaders, one of them a member of the national cabinet, and state machinery. At the time Choudary Bhajanlal was chief minister of Haryana. His government was completely immersed in corruption. In the whole of the nation the corruption of Bhajanlal was the word of the day. Up to June 1986, as long as Bhajanlal was in government, the exploitation of workers was the most blatant. In Haryana the condition of the Congress government had become merciless. The government ministers didn’t even let the village meetings being taken place. When a minister who had a different post in the Haryana cabinet entered the village meeting of the village Bharouda (Rohtak), he was chased away together with his staff. In consequence, the state ministers ordered to ban the village meetings and stopped visiting the villages [of the state Haryana]. As a result Indira Gandhi central government revoked Bhajanlal from his position and chief minister and made him a minister in the central government and installed Bansilal as chief of state.
Radhu Yadav’s Unemployed Army
In 1985 Radhu Yadav organised the Unemployed Army [Berojgar Sena]. This organisation called for a huge rally during the same year, calling people in the area reaching from Rewari to Dharuhera. When they heard this all the industrialists and their middle-men became alarmed. They started preaching that Radhu would loot and burn the entire region. It was the plan to stop the demonstration at the Sahbi river. The leading figures behind this conspiracy were members of a Dharuhera based ziledar [superintendent] family. Not by chance these people were agents of the Pashupati Mill. As little by chance as the fact that it was well known that the exploitation was worst in the Pashupati Mill – this company paid the most meagre wages in Haryana. The owner Jain was in cahoots with the local council leaders. The Unemployed Army arrived at the planned day in Dharuhera and held an enormous mass meeting – in this way the demonstration was successful and the local conspiracy did not manage to obstruct. On that day the nephew of Lilu Kutbi – who was part of the industrialists middlemen – received a beating. He had tried to obstruct the rally in Dharuhera.
Hero Honda Group establishes industrial units
In 1985 Hero Honda opened its motorcycle plant in Dharuhera. The partts supplying auxiliaries also opened factories, such as Omax Auto, Rico Auto or KJ Auto. For one or two years exploitation was going on in these plants. No workers raised his voice. In October 1986 the workers at Omax Auto started a mobilisation. For their interested they set up a union, the “Omax Auto Workers Union”, whose presidents were comrade Surat Singh and Sachiv Raj Singh. The workers presented their demands to management and in order to enforce them they went on strike. After a few days of strike and after the SDM in Revari had given his signature the strike was ended. This was an organised movement and in this way workers’ unions started here. After a few days the Omax Auto workers again struck over a certain issue. The entire workforce set up a tent in front of the company gate and stopped production. This continued for some days when during night the police arrived, they loaded the workers into buses and threw them into Mehandrgarh jail, I can remember very well when we went to SDM court in Rewari in order to bail them out the police started beating the hand-cuffed workers. Some of them got injured. I opposed this together with some lawyers. All this reminded me of the atrocities and abuse of the English which they inflicted upon Lala Lajpat Rai. This type of abuse was contemptible in a free India. But the workers here are still not fully organised, this is why they can still be abused. After a few days of back-and-forth the good son of Choudhray Bansilal intervened, he made the company take the Omax workers back on duty and a union under the name of “Dharihera Kamgar Union” was registered. The leadership was with CITU. By this time the workers in Dharuhera were awakened. The workers at KJ Auto also set up a union. (To be continued)