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Gurgaon Workers News – Newsletter 15 / December 2008

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 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 uprooted by the agrarian 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, Asia’s biggest Special Economic Zone is in the making. 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:

http://www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com
gurgaon_workers_news@yahoo.co.uk

In the December issue you can find:

1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective

*** Factory Workers’ Reports from Gurgaon
The workers’ reports have been published and re-distributed in the November issue of Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar. There have been mass lay-offs at textile export factories of Modelama. The reports are from workers exploited by:
Anish Inc. Export
Borji Supertech
Gaurav International
Haryana Industries
Indigo Export
Modelama
Racha Global
Sargam
Shagun Apparels
Vishal Megamart

2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area

*** Building Workers’ Riot in Delhi
After a fatal accident on the Commonwealth Games construction site more than thousand building workers destroyed company offices, cars and trucks. The aggravating global crisis imposes a new social framework for incidents like this: the daily deaths and legal murders become explosive. The cops shooting a fifteen year old became the trigger of social unrest in Greece; the fatal accident of a building worker sparked the simmering turmoil in Delhi. The construction site is a prestigious show-piece of the capital city, a costly parasitic display of anti-social wealth in times of proletarian misery, desire and wrath…

3) According to Plan -
General information on the development of the region or on certain company policies

*** Crisis in Gurgaon
The two driving industries and symbols of Gurgaon’s urban development have come under crisis attack: DLF real estate giant asks for financial help from Haryana government and Maruti Suzuki scales down production output. A short summary of recent signs of the giant’s clay feet crumbling.

4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News

*** 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

*** Factory Workers’ Reports from Gurgaon
The workers’ reports have been published and re-distributed in the November 2008 issue of Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar. There have been mass lay-offs at textile export factories of Modelama.

Anish Inc. Export Worker
(Plot 19-20, Udyog Vihar Phase IV, Phone: 91-124-5010374/5010375 )
Work starts at 9 am and finishes at 8 to 9 pm. The skilled workers work on piece rate. They are paid each fifteen days, but usually they are paid 300 to 500 Rs less than they ought to be. If you complain, they will abuse you verbally. The helpers’ wage is 3,510 Rs, the January DA (inflation compensation) of 76 Rs is not paid. Out of 50 workers only 10 get ESI and PF.

Borji Supertech Worker
(Plot 272, Udyog Vihar Phase II)
The helpers get between 2,500 and 3,000 Rs. Wages are paid late; the September wage was paid on 20th of October.

Gaurav International Worker
(Plot 208, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
The helpers get 3,586 Rs per month, out of which 500 Rs are taken as bribe. The company has to pay some officials money for interest payments – they are forced to do so. Every month they have to pay 600,000 to 700,000 Rs for interests. In the other Gaurav factory on ploy 236 they always say “You cannot take holiday”. I started working there on 11th of October 2007. Because I fell sick on 20th of February 2008 I had to spend ten days in Safdarjang Hospital in Delhi. I took the medical documentation to the factory on the 1st of March 2008, but they didn’t let me return to the job. When I asked for the outstanding wage they called the guard and physically pushed me out. Even after several requests they would not pay the February wage. I talked to other work-mates and after listening to them I handed in my notice on 10th of October 2008. The company still hasn’t paid my outstanding wage and today’s date is the 21st of October. They have cut PF money from my wage, but now they don’t fill out the necessary fund form. The Gaurv International manager says that this is government rule and therefore we won’t get the fund money.

http://www.nafabs.com/

Haryana Industries Worker
(Plot 318, Udyog Vihar Phase II)
About 2,500 workers operate 300 power presses, working on 12-hour day and night shifts, producing parts for Maruti Suzuki. Every day twenty trucks leave the factory with parts for the nearby Maruti plant. The workers get 90 Rs for an eight-hour shift, the over-time is paid at single rate. Fingers are cut every day and in a month two or three work-mates cut their hands. The company doesn’t fill out the accident report, it won’t pay for treatment, so workers are forced to pay for it privately. The 150 permanent workers in the factory are all supervisors, the rest of the workers are kicked out after six month of employment. The helpers are forced to operate the power presses, if the manufactured parts have flaws they are verbally abused, physically hit, kicked out of the job. There are four main entrances, three to the power press department, one to the packing area. When the labour officer [state administration] comes for inspection he wouldn’t enter the workshops, he would just sit in the office and then leave again… this time 500 workers had been kicked out of the factory (previous to his visit). For Divali the bonus paid to the workers was only 100 Rs per each month of employment. During night-shifts the management locks the latrine and bathroom. There is no day off; we work 30 days per month.

Indigo Export Worker
(Plot 574, Udyog Vihar Phase V)
We start working at 9 am and they make us stay till 1 am, without giving extra money for food. If you fall ill while being at work they won’t let you go, if you leave before 6 pm they will scrap the whole day’s wage. If you arrive five minutes late at the factory they will send you back home. The wage is paid late – the permanents got their September wage on 18th of October while the workers hired through contractor haven’t been paid yet (by the 21st of October). If you ask for your wage they swear at you. We manufacture kids’ clothes. The stuff is send to Dubai. The production target is extremely high, if you don’t meet it, you are out. People are given ‘breaks'; they are temporarily kicked out in order to avoid having to give them permanent contracts. Out of the 250 workers in the factory only two to four old workers have ESI and PF.

Modelama Worker
(Plot 201, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
Out of the 500 workers employed at the factory 425 were kicked out from the job shortly before Divali. In the Modelama factory next door the workers had worked 110 hours over-time in September. With reference to an order from above their wages were cut by eight hours pay. Out of the 450 workers, yesterday 70 were laid off. They were not paid the obligatory bonus, instead they were verbally abused.

Racha Global Worker
(Plot 232, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
In the factory we face difficulties when it comes to drinking water and we are not allowed to take bottled water inside. During lunch breaks the female workers are not allowed to leave the factory. It is usual practice that the company suspends permanent workers without giving any written notice or paying the obligatory allowance. They won’t give you holiday and if you take a day off then they won’t let you return immediately, they send you back for another day. Before completing six or seven months of employment they make you sign your leaving letter (otherwise they would have to give you a permanent contract). And those workers who work for Racha for more than two years are called one by one to the bosses office, where the general manager, a lawyer and a police man would wait for them. They force you to sign the leaving letter – if the worker refuses they threaten with framing him or her up with some thing or the other. During such an encounter a woman worker was hit by the general manager.

Sargam Worker
(Plot 152, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
There is a lot of verbal abuse going on inside the factory, against women workers, as well. Sometimes you arrive at the factory and they say “There is no work, go back home”, they wouldn’t tell you beforehand. They cut money for PF, but they won’t fill in the PF form when you leave the job. They charge 50 Rs for taking a photograph for the ESI card, but they don’t hand out the card. About 200 to 300 Rs get embezzled from your monthly wage.
From the company web-site:
Clients are:
KESKO OY, FINLAND
INDISKA MAGASINET AB, SWEDEN
BADER, GERMANY
H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB, Sweden
NECKERMAN, GERMANY
CELLBES POSTORDER AB, SWEDEN
JEON JI, FRANCE,
L-FASHION GROUP OY, FINLAND
3 SUISSE, FRANCE

http://www.sargamexports.com/

Shagun Apparels Worker
(Plot 369, Udyog Vihar Phase IV)
The factory got into financial trouble. The permanent workers were only given 4,000 to 5,000 Rs and then made to sign their leaving letter. Seven of us didn’t sign and opened a case at the labour department about the issue.

Vishal Megamart Worker
The company has many big outlet stores. In the factory on Plot 244 in Udyog Vihar Phase I about 2,200 to 2,500 workers sew clothes. They force you to work over-time, but they pay it at single rate and never the full wage you are entitled to. The helpers get 3,510, no January DA, 500 Rs is cut for ESI and PF and 250 Rs is cut on top of that. They take a photo of you, but they won’t give you an ESI card. If you leave the job it is difficult to get the PF money. It is also hard to get your outstanding wages.

2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area

*** Building Workers’ Riot in Delhi
After a fatal accident on the Commonwealth Games construction site more than thousand building workers destroyed company offices, cars and trucks. The aggravating global crisis imposes a new social framework for incidents like this: the daily deaths and legal murders become explosive. The cops shooting a fifteen year old became the trigger of social unrest in Greece; the fatal accident of a building worker sparked the simmering turmoil in Delhi. The construction site is a prestigious show-piece of the capital city, a costly parasitic display of anti-social wealth in times of proletarian misery, desire and wrath…

Violence at Games village after death of worker
(15th of December, The Hindu)
A 28-year-old worker died at the Commonwealth Games Village site near Akshardham Temple on Sunday morning when a portion of the crane being used to lift materials to the eighth floor of an under-construction building in the complex fell on him.
The accident led to tension at the site as thousands of workers demonstrated against the project developer, EMAAR-MGF, and the contractors, Ahluwalia Contracts. Three of their offices were ransacked and more than half-a-dozen vehicles, including SUVs, an ambulance and a dumper truck, were damaged by the mob. The violence, which took place in phases, lasted over four hours.
A case of negligence against the contractors has been lodged with the Pandav Nagar police station. Meanwhile, a company of Delhi reserve police was deployed inside the village to control the situation.
The workers claimed that another labourer, Manish (24), was also injured in the incident. There were claims, too, that B P Singh, legal advisor for the contractors was attacked by the workers.
Police said that matters went out of hand around 9.30am. “Thousands of workers at the site suddenly went on the rampage after finding that senior officials had fled the scene. With no news on Shailendra’s condition, they barged into the adjoining three offices, broke windows, ransacked the rooms and destroyed computers. Later, they marched to the main security room and tried to set it on fire. They also attacked cars at the site,” said a senior police officer.
However, the workers were in no mood to relent. “There have been regular accidents at this site. But the management has never taken our warnings seriously. We demand immediate compensation and a proper identity-card that mentions our designations,” said Changoori Singh, a worker at the site.

3) According to Plan -
General information on the development of the region or on certain company policies

*** Maruti Suzuki and DLF: Pillars of Gurgaon’s Urbanisation shaken by Crisis
Maruti Suzuki and the real estate major DLF are the two symbols of Gurgaon’s urbanisation. The opening of the Maruti Suzuki plant in the early 1980s accelerated the industrialisation of the semi-rural fringe around Delhi, Gurgaon village turned into an industrial city. A decade later DLF – India’s biggest real estate developer – turned Gurgaon into a bubble of private and cooperate property, a desert of gated concrete. When the global crisis kicked in these two pillars of urban and industrial development start to tremble…

Beginning of December 2008 Maruti announces that the November sales dipped by 27 per cent compared to the same month last year, while net profit slumped by 37 per cent in the second quarter this fiscal. As a consequence Maruti Suzuki has announced a five per cent production cut. The factory has an annual manufacturing capacity of 700,000 cars, meaning a cut in production by 35,000 cars. While the news report that Tata and Hyundai are sacking hundreds of temp workers, Maruti hasn’t announced any lay-offs yet. Most likely the lay-offs will happen in the vast net of unofficial employment which Maruti relies on: the thousands of workers hired through contractors in the main plant and in the surrounding supplying industries…

End of November 2008 DLF, the role-model of private business town development, had to ask the state of Haryana to refund licence fees worth Rs 2,350,000,000 Rs. At the same time economic analysts declared that the real estate prices in second-tier cities like Gurgaon will have to fall by at least 30 per cent in order to rekindle the frozen sales. DLF has bought large amounts of land in the Gurgaon area, which are now turning sour, e.g. the land for an IT SEZ in Noida which DLF is now eager to sell. DLF is the rule, not an exception. End of November Unitech, the country’s second largest listed real estate company, put all six of its hotel projects under construction at Gurgaon and Kolksata up for sale, forced by financial difficulties to pay back loans.

There are first signs of workers’ response to the impact of the current crisis, like the riot of building workers after a fatal work ‘accident’ in Delhi, the road and railway blockades of Dunlop workers in West Bengal, protesting against the closure of the factory, the strikes and lock-outs at multi-national car part manufacturer Bosch in Jaipur…

4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News

*** 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.

AITUC
BPO
CITU
Casual Workers
Contract Workers
Crore
DA
DC
ESI
Exchange Rate
HSIIDC
ITI
Jhuggi
Lakh (see Crore)
Lay off
Minimum Wage
Panchayat
PF
Ration Card
SP
Staff
Trainees
VRS
Wages and Prices
Workers hired through contractors

AITUC
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.

BPO
Business Process Outsourcing: for example of call centre work, market research, sales.

CITU
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.

Casual Workers
Workers hired by the company for a limited period of time.

Contract Workers
Workers hired for a specific performance, paid for the performance.

Crore
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.

DC
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.

Exchange Rate:
1 US-Dollar = 50 Rs (November 2008)
1 Euro = 61 Rs (November 2008)

HSIIDC
Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation

ITI
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.

Jhuggi
Slum Hut

Lakh
see Crore

Lay off
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.

Minimum 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.

Panchayat
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.

Ration Card
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.

SP
Superintendent of Police, Head of the District Police.

Staff
In India staff includes managers, supervisors, security personnel and white-collar workers.

Trainees
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 (summer 2007):

Housing:
– 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

Food:
– 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

Utensils:
– 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

Luxuries:
– 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. Companies usually find ways to get around these legal restrictions, e.g., workers services are terminated on the 239th day to avoid workers reaching eligibility criteria to become permanent. In many industries contract workers account for 60 to 80 per cent of the work force, their wage is 1/4 to 1/6 of the permanents’ wage.

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