Towards a Workers’ Organisation (Part One) – GurgaonWorkersNews May 2012
In this and the following issue of GurgaonWorkersNews we debate the question of ‘workers’ organisations’: how do workers’ bodies formed in the daily struggle relate to ‘political’ coordinations of workers, in continuity with the struggle against the existing social relations?
This debate has to be firmly based on an analysis of a) the actual current workers’ experiences of struggle and the problematic and promising tendencies within; b) the relation between particular struggle and general conditions of the capitalist cycle; c) the changing composition of work-force and the relation of workers to the immediate and social production process – as material basis for self-organisation.
This first part consists of general political theses concerning the question of workers’ organisations and, in relation to this, we present six longer reports on recent struggles in Delhi-Faridabad-Gurgaon industrial areas. The second part will focus on current developments at Maruti Suzuki and its supply chain in relation to the re-composition of workers’ collectivity after the struggle in 2011. On this background we will raise general questions on the relation between workers’ organisations and workers’ inquiry. Please contribute to the debate.
*** Bullet-Points for Debate on Workers’ Organisation –
The steps towards a workers’ organisation are based on political assumptions – one of them being that the classical distinction in ‘trade union struggle’ and ‘party struggle’, in ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle, has become a stumbling block.
*** An Unnecessary Repetition – Struggle at Harsoria Healthcare, Gurgaon –
On 24th of April 2012 workers at Harsoria Healthcare, a manufacturer of cannula and catheters for the medical sector, engaged in a sit-down strike before once more ending up in dead-ends of symbolic and legalistic protest.
*** Lock-Out at Automobile Supplier Senior Flexonics, Manesar –
Workers at multinational Senior Flexonics in Manesar registered a trade union and put forward a demand notice. Subsequently they were locked out from early January till late February 2012.
*** Riots at Orient Craft and Larsen&Tubro Construction Site, Gurgaon –
On 19th of March workers at garment exporter Orient Craft rioted after a work-mate had been attacked by a contractor. On 23rd of March construction workers attacked company property in response to the death of a colleague after a work-accident.
*** Workers’ Sirens at Lakhani Vardan Samuh, Faridabad –
From December 2011 till April 2012 Lakhani workers in Faridabad were engaged in various forms of struggle about delay of wage payments: from direct action on factory grounds to wildcat strikes, to street blockades and demonstrations to governmental institutions.
*** Unrest at Theme Export Garment Factory, Okhla –
Successful direct collective step by garment workers in Okhla on 16th of April about delayed wages, which attracted workers in surrounding factories and workers’ settlements.
*** Revealing Potentials – Struggle at Globe Capacitor, Faridabad –
During April 2012 workers undertook various collectively planned steps to enforce higher wages, which forced management to give concessions. the struggle was influenced workers in the supplying company and by workers in a neighbouring factory.
*** Delhi Calling: Get Involved in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel –
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute around 10,000 copies of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi and try to organise local workers’ meetings.
We first present general considerations concerning the question of workers’ organisations. We then turn to the reports on current struggles in Delhi’s industrial area and formulate preliminary conclusions regarding the question of organisation. We finally outline concrete steps towards a workers’ organisation under present conditions.
1) On Workers’ Organisations – General Thoughts
2) On Current Struggles
3) On Concrete Tasks and Steps
1) On Workers’ Organisations – General Thoughts
The proposal for a workers’ organisation is based on political assumptions – one of them being that the classical distinction in ‘trade union struggle’ and ‘party struggle’, in ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle, which is still prevalent amongst us, has become a stumbling block. This ‘party/union’-perspective allows ‘tactical’ participation in ‘institutional’ trade union work despite the obvious problematic results for the development of collective workers’ power. The clear shortcomings of ‘institutional’ trade union work can be justified as a problem of the ‘first stage of workers’ struggles’, which will be solved by the party politics waiting in the second stage.
The ‘union/party’-perspective also allows us to abstain from deeper analysis in material conditions and internal tendencies of workers’ struggles which would be necessary in order to explain current limitations. Instead, limitations are ‘explained’ by declaring the struggles as ‘economist’ and lacking ‘political consciousness and leadership’. These are tautological explanations which are meant to give final credit to one’s own ‘external role and position towards workers’ struggle. They are of as little use for the development of workers’ collective power as the general appeals towards workers’ unity. Workers’ unity is not the question of ‘umbrella organisations’, but arises only out of the struggle within the contradictive nature of capitalist production process, which at the same time combines and segments workers. Workers’ have to find forms of organisations which materially undermines the segmentation imposed by the production process – they cannot just step out and ‘generalise externally’.
The following theses won’t say anything new, they are meant to summarise a general position as a background for the debate on current struggles and future tasks – mainly with comrades and friends in Marxist-Leninist organisations, active in the regional industrial areas.
b) Class Composition and Class Movement
The form of social production determines the form of social struggle and the vision of a ‘social alternative’. Although this is generally accepted, most political proposals of ‘how to organise’ and most ‘communist programs’ remain rather unhistoric or attached to the last century. Capitalist social production changes rapidly, the regional centres, dominating industrial sectores and ‘workers figures’ are transformed with each cycle. Within this process ‘the working class’ changes, we have to talk about specific ‘class compositions during specific cycles. The ‘technical class composition’, as the historically dominating form of the social production process, contains the process and potential of ‘political class composition’ – the form of class movement. 
By ‘technical composition’ we mean the actual historical form of how workers cooperate within a process of division of labour mediated by machinery and shaped by different levels of development; how the immediate production process relates to the wider social process of (re-)production and forms and levels of consumption; how formal individual skills relate to wider social skills of workers necessary to perform labour; how different categories and sections of workers are brought together and are segmented; how the class conflict is mediated institutionally and culturally.
By ‘political composition’ we mean the process of how ‘working class’ and ‘workers unity’ actually forms out of material conditions and experiences of struggles: the concrete form of organisation of struggle workers develop based on the collective nature of the capitalist production process, overcoming it’s segmenting nature; the concrete demands and wider social critique which springs up from concrete conditions and ‘aspirations of productivity’ – a historically specific relation between living and dead labour; the form of how particular struggles relate to each other and turn into a generalised movement due to the social dimension of production and general conditions within a capitalist cycle; how this generalisation tends to happen through struggles within central industries which can express an advanced stage of conflict between capital and workers; based on this relation between central sectors and wider society, specific forms of ‘economical and political’ organisations (councils, assemblies) of the class movement are formed and can express a specific ‘social alternative’, a historically specific communism.
c) Class Composition and Periodisation
Although historical periodisation contains a certain danger of becoming schematic we can state that, e.g. the cycle of transformation from agricultural labour and small peasantry to urban and industrial work corresponded to formation of ‘communist parties’ as bridge organisations , the early stage of skilled industrial manufacturing work gave birth to ‘councilist’ and ‘revolutionary syndicalist’ workers’ organisations, and the period of large-scale ‘Fordist’ industries, which were more integrated into general society brought forth organisational forms of ‘mass workers’, such as general assemblies and wider political coordinations with a quite different ‘communist vision’ from earlier perspectives of ‘self-management’. 
In this sense the ‘revolutionary potentials’ of struggles and movements are inscribed within the actual social production process. Communist activities have to relate to the ‘gaps’ between these given material social potentials and the concrete ongoing struggles – last, but not least by referring to the experiences in other regions or of the near past. The challenge obviously lies in the fact that the ‘technical composition’ is in constant change and that a dynamic relation exists between technical and political composition. The overwhelming rapidness and spacial vastness of these changes partly explains the leftist retreat into ‘fixed organisational models’, from ‘parties’ to ‘syndicalism’. What we then have to propose to the living working class today is dead weight of past times.
d) Class Composition and Capitalist Development
The forms of collective power which workers develop based on their combination within the production process is constantly undermined by capital’s attempt to ‘de-compose’: outsourcing, dismantling, introduction of new technologies and production methods requiring new skills, re-location to other regions of the globe, introduction of new categories of workers with different backgrounds etc.. The dynamic character of capitalism and ‘development’ in general is less explained out of ‘market-forces’ or ‘abstract greed for super-profits’, but by this dynamic relation-ship between struggle and changes in production as response. Capitalism contains class conflict through developmental leaps. This entails that the ‘de-composition’ (the segmentation of the working class in the production process) is done in a way which re-composes them on a higher level of social productivity. Capitalism is not merely ‘isolating’ workers in response to their ‘united efforts’ – it is isolating them through specific form of socialisation.
e) Economical – Political Contradiction of Productive Cooperation
Capital is forced to accumulate, less due to ‘internal competition’, but in order to be able to respond to workers’ struggle with an raise of workers’ consumption levels while at the same time increase in their exploitation. In order to ‘de-compose’ workers strong-holds and to re-combine social labour on a higher level, the general costs for machinery increase. The increased use of machinery and its increased share in total production costs is an expression of how capital intends to contain class struggle. Here we find the ‘economical’ and ‘political’ contradiction combined in the production process, in front of workers’ eyes and contained in their experiences: from an ‘economical’ point of view a smooth and close cooperation between workers is necessary in order to increase social productivity. Under given social class relations the ‘productive closeness’ of the social producer contains a ‘political danger’. Despite the fact that it hampers social productivity, which any worker is well aware of, capital has to segment the production process ‘politically’, be it through immediate division of labour, division between intellectual and manual labour, between sectors, between regions, different spheres of production and reproduction, between developed and underdeveloped regions, private and state sector and between nations. This is the sphere of communist theory, understanding and revealing the ‘political systemic forms’ based on workers’ direct experiences.
The ‘political segmentation’ of the social production process is not merely a question of control and domination of the working class. It is also a political requirement for capital in order to obtain its major social legitimation and ‘fetish’: to be seen as pre-condition of social production. Capital brings together individual workers within an industrial production process which cannot be put into motion unless labour is combined. Combination happens ‘under capital’, the resulting social productivity seems the productivity of capital. The fact that millions of new connections of global production are established ‘through capital’ is the major social backbone of exploitation and class system. What seems like cunning tactics of divide-and-rule creates thousands of little hick-ups in the production process, thousands of problems and mis-coordinations. That things run smoothly despite all the imposed barriers largely depends on workers (improvisation, creativity, overcoming problems) – who individually might perceive these problems as problems of ‘mis-management’. Here again workers’ organisations have to reveal the systemic nature.
This ‘capital fetish’ (capital as precondition of production) can only be undermined through revealing the social and political dimension of production process – by interrupting it in struggle. In order to obtain even the most minimal ‘victories’ and economic gains workers are increasingly forced to push beyond their immediate company level. If the daily grind of global supply chains start to stumble, because workers in one link interrupt the flow of production, this gives us a moment to create direct relationships. Communist activities have to refer to the ‘practical existence’ of the ‘collective worker’ – the totality of social cooperation necessary in order to produce, the antagonistic living force within capitalist relation of production. The ‘collective worker’ is necessary reference point in order to gain in power in any struggle for immediate demands and material basis for general radical social transformation on a world-scale. In this sense the ‘collective worker’ is a more historical, material and dynamic concept to analyse the process between particular struggles and political potential of change than the notion of ‘class in and for itself’, which leaves a gap in the transformation, generally filled with vague terms of consciousness.
f) Generalisation and Capitalist Cycle: Boom and Crisis
There has been little historical debate about the relation between class struggle, change of production system and wider capitalist cycle in terms of ‘boom and crisis’.  Debates have evolved separately about product or technological cycles, about cycles of ‘expansion’ and financialisation. The question of whether workers face boom or crisis, partly expressed through the conditions on the labour market, obviously impacts on the question of how they can struggle, of how their struggles can generalise and pose the question of a social alternative. Systemic questions mainly arise at times when the working class still contains the structural power and aspirations of a period of ‘expansion’, which also opened space for widespread critique of the ‘alienating and despotic form of expansion’, but faces a crisis which eradicates the hope for ‘a better future’, despite the still blatant potentials of social productivity. The period between 1968 and 1977 is an example, we most likely face a similar situation on a more global scale today.
With the current global crisis it becomes more and more difficult for capital to portray itself as a pre-condition and coordinator of production: capitalist social productive cooperation has to pass through the fragile channels of companies, markets, money. Under condition of crisis the cooperation rips, small links in the chain go bust, millions thrown into unemployment, millions are made to work till total exhaustion. ‘Managers’ supposed to be responsible to ‘coordinate’ the cooperation of billions, but they are increasingly trapped within their ‘small links in the chain’, be it sectorial or regional. Their only answer to the crisis – bail out followed by austerity – aggravates the conditions.
The managers of capital try to enforce austerity against the overt potential for abundance. They can only succeed as long as they are able to separate the social experience of over-productive labour from the poverty of un-/underemployment. Obviously this separation does not take a pure form of ’employed working-class’ on one side, ‘impoverished proletariat’ on the other. This separation appears in its various shades of development and underdevelopment, of high-tech and labour intensity, of regional deprivation and boom centres, of respectable workmen and lumpen, of hire and fire. This separation will appear in all imaginable ethnic colours. With the disappearance of the old buffer-classes, with the social death of peasantry and artisans in the global South, the demise of the self-employed educated middle-classes and petty bourgeoisie, capital has to face up to it’s living self. While being in it’s essence the violent coordinator of social labour – ‘globalisation’, international supply-chains etc. – in this crisis more than ever capital has to hide and segment the global character of social cooperation from the emerging global working class. In the attempt to segment and re-combinate capital becomes a burden to social cooperation. It gets in its own way. Therefore the challenge for working-class communists is to point-out the ‘political separation’ of development (social productivity) and underdevelopment (poverty), the potential of abundance in the face of stark misery. In order to do this we will have to re-consider old concepts used to describe the relation between centre and periphery, e.g. the concept of ‘imperialism’, ‘Third World’ etc., which seem to blunt in order to analyse the emerging global class composition.
g) Union Question
On the background of the process of ‘class de-composition and re-composition’ we can easily see that the problem with trade union struggle is not merely its ‘burocratic undemocratic forms’ or limited ‘economic demands’. The formal and legal framework of trade union organisation does not allow workers to organise on the same level and scope as capital is trying to both combine and disorganise them. While modern companies combine workers beyond categories, company, sector and national boundaries, trade unions can neither reflect this scope nor the rapidness of changes. In addition they have to stick to legally prescribed forms of struggle which by definition will keep workers subjugated to the playing field of state and capital. Amongst communist there will not be much disagreement about these facts.
The disagreement rather concerns the question of the relation between ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle, between ‘trade union struggle’ and ‘party or political organisation’.  Without going into detail we can state that the position which perceives the ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle of the working class as two separate stages – and therefore the ‘party’ as a kind of political complement to the trade unions – has its origins in a historically specific stage of development of capitalist class relations: an early one. The traditional Leninist conception is based on social conditions where industrial production and working class was still marginal, where the state was not majorly involved in industrial relations, where there existed still a major gap between ‘factory and wider social reproduction (schools, science), where the ‘immediate production process could be seen as a mainly ‘economic sphere’ with little connection to the rest of society and ‘politics’.
Since Lenin, with the development of a ‘planning state’ (state industries, direct intervention in industrial planning and relations etc.) as the extension of planning from factory into society, with the extension of ‘scientific’ industrial form of production into all spheres of social life and with the working class becoming a social majority, the question of what is ‘economical’ about the social production process and what is ‘political’ has obviously changed. With these changes also the institutional role of trade unions has transformed drastically. From a ‘school’ of workers in a seemingly gradual process towards ‘political consciousness’, they have been reduced to institutions which – confronted with the vast extension of the social production process – are legally and formally confined to a very narrow social sphere. Their main influence is based on the necessity of capital to control the wage-productivity development. Under these conditions, to maintain Lenin’s classical notion of a rather schematic distinction in economic and political struggle will have negative results.
h) From Workers’ Struggle to Social Transformation
The classical two-stage model of ‘trade union’ and ‘political party’ formation makes it impossible to discover the ‘revolutionary contradictions’ within the social productive cooperation. It is a disjointing, rather then elevating on a higher level of consciousness: limited to the trade union framework workers will not be able to generalise their struggles along the lines of their already existing productive relationships and the ‘political generalisation’ through the party is in most cases happening detached from social production in the ‘political sphere’ (campagnes, mobilisations etc.).
The generalisation within social production itself is the main precondition to materially undermine segmentations and the ‘capital fetish’ (capital as the organiser of society). It is ‘economic struggle’ through which workers have to discover the political nature of capitalist production – the class content of science, technology, institutions. This mass process of discovery cannot be by-passed, the ‘generalisation’ cannot be short-cut through the various channels bourgeois politics have to over: from trade unionism to parliamentarism, from identity politics to regionalism or nationalism.
The class movement will have to develop its organisation along the lines of global productive connections and materially change these connections: in its intensive stage class struggle will simultaneously have to create the (pre-)conditions for ‘the production of communism’. Workers’ struggles will not only ‘attack capital and the state’ by withdrawing social labour – strikes will interrupt social reproduction to an existential degree and thereby force the class movement to re-organise production and circulation while fighting. In this stage of class struggle we will be able to discover not only how social labour is globally integrated, but also that most social labour in capitalism is superfluous – no one will complain about the lack of market research calls or supply of Tata Nanos. A huge mass of human energy and creativity will be set free. At the same time the class movement will face the question of how to re-organise production in a form which not only guarantees effective subsistence, but also extends the ‘self-organisation of struggle’ into a self-organisation of social production: abolishment of hierarchical division of labour and uneven development. The revolution is not only an act of ‘smashing/taking power’, but of revolutionising social relationships, of getting rid of the contradiction between individual and social by materially transforming how we (re-)produce our social existence. In this sense is only logical that the ‘trade union/party’-perspective also disjoints ‘revolution’ from ‘production of communism’ and sees communism rather as a ‘policy’ which can be introduced.
The Leninist conception of ‘trade union’ and ‘party’-struggle was based on a less developed industrial/agricultural society. The practical expression of this notion revealed itself when the new (Bolchevique) state dismantled the Sowjets, the workers’ economical-political organisations, during the first years after the Russian Revolution.  The ‘New Economic Policies’ (Fordist industrialisation plus ‘market’ incentives) at the time required to impose ‘a strict centralised regime on factory and society’. We can argue about the ‘historic necessity’ of this policy, e.g. the historic necessity to appease the emerging middle-peasantry or maintain a standing army, fact is that in order to impose this regime the new state forced workers to give up their economical-political power in form of the sowjets. The new state strategically re-introduced a separation: workers were supposed to turn to ‘trade unions’ for their ‘economical needs’ and to ‘the party’ for political direction. In this way workers’ productive collective power was undermined and the driving force of revolution extinct. This was the degeneration.
i) Tasks and Continuity of Workers’ Organisations
On this background we maintain that their is a continuity between ‘economical-political’ organisations today – from the the most minute level of shop-floors and industrial areas – and these future ‘economical-political’ organisations of communist revolution.  In a modern capitalist society there can’t be a conceptual-organisational gap between the embryonic and developed forms. Workers’ organisations have to find practical collective answers within daily workers’ struggles in a way which always keeps open the possibility of expansion and generalisation – towards the ‘collective worker’. The coordinated collective steps have to be able to ‘give some relief’ to workers here and now by helping to gain concrete ‘victories’, while at the same time referring organisationally and conceptually to the necessity of social revolution. They have to use the minute scope of ‘anticipation’ (question of which forms of struggles or demands could help catalysing and generalising struggles in concrete time and space) based on the knowledge about current struggles and their position within wider social production. They have to use the current global scope of struggles to build international links which survive the ebb and flow of particular struggles and can come to a truely global perspective and organised practice. Workers’ organisations in that sense are not the ‘organisations through which the working class struggles’, they are rather organisations which support the tendencies towards self-organisation and emancipation in the struggles and movements as they happen.
In the following we will try to refer the questions raised above to the current regional struggles and then formulate some ‘concrete proposals’ concerning steps towards a workers’ organisation.
 For the historical debate about these concepts see:
 Loren Goldner argues this thesis in his text concerning the general relation between capitalist development and agrarian revolution:
 Two essential texts on the question of changing class compositions and changing forms of ‘communist movement’:
 One of the few attempts has been undertaken in ‘Forces of Labor’, by Beverly Silver.
 Essential text by Mouvement Communiste on the ‘union question’:
 On the relation between ‘Bolshevik’ state and workers’ sowjets:
The experience of workers’ coordinations in Italy in the 1960s – 1970s illustrate the ‘economic-political’ character and the cohesion between direct struggle and revolutionary organisation:
2) On Current Struggles
Concerning the overall ‘class composition’ and ‘conditions for generalisation of struggle’ in Gurgaon area we have published two papers for debate. In the first paper  we outlined briefly the main industrial sectors (automobile, garments, IT-related services) and their different degrees of integration into social and global production and ‘market/production’-rhythms. In the second paper  in April 2011 we described the general conditions in terms of labour market and inflation, hinting at the possibility of a wider wave of ‘egalitarian wage struggles’ with the potential for generalisation. Since then the struggle at Maruti Suzuki in June – October 2011 has provided us with a vast amount of experiences, which we tried to analyse in various newsletters – the second part of this paper ‘on organisation’ will consist of a ‘balance-sheet’ eight months after the end of the dispute. Regarding the recent struggles at Harsoria, Flexonics, Orient Craft, Theme Export, Lakhani and Globe Capacitor we can only formulate preliminary thoughts:
* First of all we can state a common background of these struggles. The struggles took place in factories with 500 plus workers. Despite the fact that these belong to different sector we think that there exists a certain relation between ‘quantitative concentration’ of workers and their potential to take collective steps under given conditions – or at least collective steps which make themselves known beyond the factory wall. As always the question remains how workers in the ‘centre’ can relate to workers in the ‘periphery’, e.g. in small industries.
* The struggles in the more productively more integrated manufacturing companies – Harsoria, Flexonics and Globe Capacitor – displayed a higher degree of ‘organisation’ in terms of necessary coordination in order to undertake collective steps. Here we can see a difference between two dominating sectors in the area, the automobile and garment sector. It was not by chance that the Maruti struggle (two collective wildcat occupations) took place in the automobile sector and the more ‘impulsive struggles’ tend to shake the garment sector.
* The fact that Harsoria workers opted to stay inside the factory (sit-down strike) is a result of experiences of past defeats. Workers in the area know that they are in a less favourable position towards company and (police) state once they are outside. In this sense the Maruti struggle has entered something like a ‘collective subconsciousness’ of the working class in the area. The fact that the Harsoria workers stayed inside but remained awkwardly attached to the legalistic positions can mainly be explained by the domination of the struggle by permanent workers and their trade union. Similar to Senior Flexonics the dead-ends of trade union form of struggle show themselves very clearly, the tragic element in case of Harsoria is that workers opted to enter the same dead-end twice within a year.
* The struggle at Globe Capacitors reveals some dormant potentials. Workers undertook planned collective steps with direct impacts. They tried to avoid traps of presenting ‘leaders’, who could be bought or crushed. They also avoided the legalistic swamp. The example also demonstrates that the company reacted swiftly after having had to give concessions – management hired new 100 workers through contractor and ‘gave some relieve’ to permanent workers. The short struggles and Superelectro Films and Abhirashi Impex gave an impulse to workers at Globe Capacitor. This was possible due to the mutual dependency with the production system and general similarities in condition in the industrial area. Globe Capacitor workers will have to go a step beyond merely ‘receiving impulses’ from other workers, but form conscious and direct relationships with them – in order to undermine management’s counter-attack on the company ground.
* The Globe Capacitor example also contains the double character of global supply-chains. The company manufactures capacitors for export and for multinationals like L&G or Samsung. Senior Flexonics itself is a multinational company with factories around the globe. In the Gurgaon area, in most cases the global dimension of production has been used against workers, rather than workers having appropriated it for their own collective efforts. In the case of Denso automobile supplier in 2010, management prepared for a lock-out by ordering extra amounts of parts from Denso Thailand plant. When the dispute at automobile supplier in Gurgaon interrupted assembly-lines at general Motors and Ford in the US due to lack of parts the regional representative of the UAW (United Automobile Workers Union – USA) only expressed the hope that ‘the problem at the supplier’ will be solved soon. Neither workers in the US, who were battling with a UAW agreed wage cut ‘for jobs’, nor the Rico workers were able to make conscious use of their productive links.
* It is not by chance that the recent riots at Orient Craft and Larsen&Tubro took place in the textile and construction sector. Garment export workers are subjected to a quick succession of ups and downs of orders from clients, while orders come in they work 12 to 24 hours a day, while orders are down they often have to wait or look for work. The quick wildcat strikes at the time of new orders to enforce higher piece rates have their equivalent in the seemingly spontaneous outbursts after repression. Looking back into history we can see that workers struggles in the garment industry have always been rather violent and to a certain extend erratic. In this sense, regarding the short-term nature of a specific product cycle, the situation of construction workers is not much different.
* The riots at Orient Craft and Larsen&Tubro construction site express a general discontent amongst workers – they also express the general knowledge of workers that the usual ‘grievances channels’, such as trade union protest, legal procedures at labour courts or petitioning of political leaders have become increasingly irrelevant for the majority of workers. The riot is therefore not an ‘unreflected’ reaction of workers. Compared to long-term legalistic efforts within the garment sector, focussing on the illusion of stable agreements and ‘fair trade and jobs’, these outbursts actually have a higher likelihood for workers to force management to ‘give concessions’ – though these concessions will never appear as a ‘formal success’ of negotiations and therefore remain invisible for large sections of the well-meaning left.
* The rather idealistic criticism of many leftist, that workers should focus on ‘true organisation and unity’, instead of engaging in ‘anarchic’ violence is at best helpless. While it is true that riots can at best give an impulse to wider unrest and only open a very limited space to create deeper organisational links, our task is not to condemn them on the basis of our picture book ‘of how workers are supposed to fight’. Rather we have to ask the question of how to imagine an ‘organic’ link between different ‘forms of struggle’ (determined by their position in social production), partly given through the material connection across sectors, mainly due to the mobile character of the modern work-force.
* One of the ‘generalisation of conditions’ between garment and automobile sector in the area is the ongoing transformation from ‘skilled artisan/taylor work’ (full peace production) to chain systems and increased mechanisation (CNC-embroidery), which ‘industrialises’ the sector and introduces a work-force which is less skilled on an individual level, but more integrated on a collective level. The intensifying competition for jobs and the drop in wages in the sector is the current negative outcome. The further introduction of the chain-system takes place at a point where most of the garment export companies are in a severe credit squeeze, which puts further pressure on wages.
* In terms of conditions on the labour market and problems with wage payments we can see a slight gap opening between garment and automobile sector. Many (skilled) garment workers report that it becomes more difficult to find jobs within the sector. Struggles about delayed payment of wages such as those at Theme Export and Lakhani are more pressing in the garment sector than in automobile companies of similar size. Mainly workers in the bigger manufacturing companies are currently able to put forward more offensive demands for less work and more money.
What kind of conclusions can we draw from these struggles regarding potential and necessity of a workers’ organisation? First of all we have to see that the reports themselves, their sketchy and random character, expresses one of the main challenges for future organisational efforts: we have to state honestly that we know too little about what is happening and how. We get to know about ‘official struggles’ or ‘spectacular events’ – in most cases once workers’ are victimised and defeated – but little about workers collective steps in the factories and territory. Our reports and analysis focus more on the role of various political forces (often on the role of our own organisation), than on the material basis of struggles, their internal potentials and limitations.
The lack of insight and analysis is not only a problem of our own limited capacity and lack of ‘contacts’, it is a political problem within the working class itself. Workers’, too, underestimate the importance of their experiences in general and the need for deeper analysis and sharing of these experiences in concrete. Obviously workers will ask and rightly so: how does the exchange of experience change anything, how does it relate to concrete betterment of our situation? This is a question which has to be answered – by turning experience into conclusions for practical coordinated efforts. What could that mean in concrete relating to these recent struggles?
* An organised presence within the struggles at Harsoria and Flexonics armed with a) the experience of struggles which ended in similar situations (individual ‘good conduct’- declarations, lock-out, isolation in front of plant, legalistic traps) and b) practical suggestions how to avoid the dead-ends (expansion of the dispute within area, e.g. through circulating workers’ groups, and along supply-lines) could have shifted things.
* In the case of Harsoria analysis of the wider conditions in companies in the same sector (medical equipment) might open space for generalisation: at the five factories of Eastern Medikit in Gurgaon casuals are under permanent pressure and wages had not been paid for some time. Direct visits and steps independently from the HMS presence in both companies could have increased the pressure on both managements. Harsoria mainly exports to the EU – the current economical crisis will impact in one way or the other on the company and would have to be taken in consideration in the debate with workers.
* In the case of Senior Flexonics direct exchange could have been established to Flexonics workers in the US, UK, France, Germany and Czech Republic. The relationships to workers’ organisations in these countries are weak, but a concrete effort could fortify them. Senior Flexonics is one of the worlds biggest manufacturer for certain diesel engine parts. A more detailed analysis of company strategies and market developments could reveal quite general tendencies and contradictions of the global industrial system – which could re-enter in the proletarian debate.
* In the case of Globe Capacitor a workers’ organisation would suggest to make conscious use of the existing links to workers in other factories, both in the area (Abhirashi Impex) and the supply-chain (Superelectro Films), to make special efforts to relate to the 100 newly hired workers and to re-examine the relationship with the permanents. Additional efforts should be made to find out about current conditions at Orient Fan, L&G etc.
* The cases of Lakhani, Theme Export and to a certain extend the unrest at Orient Craft ask the question of how direct actions around the question of non-payment of wages can be coordinated on a wider industrial area level. Pre-condition is a collective knowledge about where exactly conflicts are brewing at the same time. Common activities of workers of different companies within dense industrial areas will make an impact – management of other companies will put pressure on the ‘non-paying’ management to solve the problem. Additional pressure can be exerted directly on international buyers.
* The riots at Orient Craft ask for a reconsideration of the ‘internal organisation’ of riots. The common view of ‘chaotic violence’ is in most cases superficial and wrong, dealing with social situations like they were natural disasters. Which scope for ‘organised direction’ does exist during situations like at Orient Craft? What can we do and what should we avoid during these situations?
* The fact that all these struggles took place close to each other in terms of space and time raises the question of ‘regular assemblies’ of workers involved in concrete struggles, disregarding specific issues or sectors. The current material conditions of workers (6 to 7 days work per week, 12 hours shifts) will require a special creativity regarding organisation of these assemblies (rotating, mobile). The assembly could also be space to debate current struggle experiences in other regions.
* In the May issue of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar we published the struggle reports in Hindi, introduced by general considerations concerning ‘how to struggle’. the paper will be circulated in Delhi-Faridabad-Gurgaon-Manesar industrial areas. Given our current limited personal capacities we are not able to make the next step towards ‘practical consequences’.
 Paper on class composition in Gurgaon:
 Paper on potential for general wage struggle in the area:
3) On Concrete Tasks and Steps
Facing the seemingly gaping abyss between the ‘general role of a communist organisation’ and the ‘mundaneness’ of concrete tasks thrown up by day to day struggles we often confirm the seeming disjuncture in our activity. We either reduce our activities to ‘general debate’ (crisis, communist tradition etc.) or get bogged down in ‘activity’ – losing sight of a wider picture or leaving it to ‘the party leadership’ to re-establish a superficial link between practice and theory in hindsight.
In the following we summarise what ‘workers’ organisation’ could mean in concrete and formulate steps towards it, based on our current stage of practice. The ‘elements’ of a workers’ organisation are put in a seemingly schematic order. We don’t see them as ‘chronological’ or ‘progressive, meaning that we should attempt to see them as a ‘totality’ – the actual limitation of our capacities will nevertheless force us to concentrate on certain aspects.
I) What do we see as the basis of a workers’ organisation
II) Where are we now in this process
III) How could we get further
I) What do we see as the basis of a workers’ organisation
a) Develop Common Understanding
We think that a broad common position towards the following questions is necessary in order to collaborate on a continuous bases:
* ‘what is the main characteristic of the current system’?
* ‘what would be a social alternative’?
* ‘what is the material link between the existing and the alternative’?
* ‘who is the transforming subject’?
* ‘how do we relate to it’?
The answers are never established once and for all – things change. This means to debate things beyond the immediate experience of workers. For that we need ‘new forms’ of internal organisation and debate which do not reproduce the hierarchical devision between ‘educated/uneducated’, between people who have time and resources to read global news and historical texts and those who don’t. In this sense part of the ‘common understanding’ has to relate on the ‘form of how to organise’, e.g. the attempt to abolish formal and informal hierarchies, to remain independent from (non-) state institutions and other social layers who have an interest in the status quo.
b) Relate to Workers’ Experiences
We have already stated that we ourselves know too little about daily conflicts and changes in factories and territory. Workers themselves give little importance to their (individual) experiences – both in terms of daily practice and acts of resistance. It is part of the political debate to challenge this – in order to discover the social nature of individual experiences. The modern industrial system combines labour by individualising it. We have to focus on the question of the social dimension of what appears as isolated labour: which other labour is necessary so that I can perform my work-task, from the direct supply of material I use, to canteen workers, to housework. On a second level we have to ask what similarities and differences in terms of ‘form of work’ and conditions there are within this social cooperation and why. On a third level we have to discuss how state and capital changes this social cooperation and conditions within and how workers could make use of it. This will already go beyond the individual experience. We don’t think that an organisation forms gradually by ‘convincing’ or ‘recruiting’ individual workers. Class struggle develops in leap and bounds and the concept of ‘advanced workers’, who could be ‘organised and conserved’ individually, will turn into an illusion once separated from the actual collective dispute they are/were part of.
c) Debate General Context
Apart from constant conversations and discussions about the situation in companies and wider proletarian life there is a need for relating these experiences to general and historical tendencies. This requires collective debates and empirical research – again a question of time and resources. In the last decades the relation between theoretical and practical efforts have transformed into a social separation between ‘academic research’ and ‘political activities’. A workers’ organisation should try to challenge this separation by putting forward concrete proposals of ‘workers’ inquiry’ as a re-composition of theory and practice.
d) Develop Means of Exchange
Proletarian experiences and reflection on experiences have to circulate. If possible the ‘means of circulation’ itself should become a ‘means of exchange of experiences’ and create the potential for direct relationships. The form itself is political, we have to re-think the means of exchange: leaflets, ‘reports’, newspapers, internet, public meetings, assemblies. The question has to be addressed of who can participate in the production of the means and how.
e) Engage in Concrete Struggles
The actual struggles are the basis and reference-point of any workers’ organisation. We have to fight the tendency of ‘political organisations’ instrumentalising struggles for their ‘own interests’ (which is allegedly in the wider interest of the working class). Not mainly because we think that workers’ could be led astray, but these organisations tend to glorify struggles and turn them into ‘victories’ in order to make them useful for propaganda (with the best intentions). The struggle is the only chance of collective experience and learning. Therefore a deep analysis and sharp criticism is in the actual interest of the wider working class, even if it means to have to pronounce ‘defeats’. We need a political debate of how to analyse struggles – in the appendix  you can find a rather naive and preliminary questionaire ‘on struggles’ which could serve as a basis for debate.
The question whether we are able to make practical contributions to struggles depends a) on our insight into the actual situation, the internal organisation of both company and struggle and b) on the question whether we have established close enough relationships within the workers in order to put proposals into practice. Let’s be honest, in many cases neither the first nor the second precondition is given. In some cases this leads us to rather desperate acts, e.g. relating to the workers mainly through their official leaders, hoping that through ‘practical, more radical advice’ – often limited within the terrain of labour law and formal representation politics – the struggle can be ‘influenced’. The results are obvious, but have to be debated.
So what to do instead, accepting our own limitations? Basically we have to check ourselves: do we make our suggestions based on concrete enough knowledge about either the dispute of concern or similar disputes in the recent past? Do the practical suggestions increase a) the tendencies of self-organisation within the struggle; b) the material power/pressure of the struggle towards company and state; c) widens the possibility of generalisation beyond the current sphere? For concrete debate of these questions see the struggle reports in this newsletter and the ‘preliminary conclusions’.
f) Advance Analysis of Strategical Tendencies
As already stated, class struggle does not develop evenly or gradually, instead it mirrors the uneven nature of capitalist production process and cycles. A strategical analysis is therefore of major importance, not in order to find ‘the possible centres’ of future workers’ struggles and power – which would be an easy task – but to anticipate how these centres will relate to the periphery (or other centres) and along which lines struggles will be able to generalise. These lines of generalisation are not necessarily confined to the connections through the social production process, they can be created by certain economical and political developments which impact on wider sections of the class. Here again, debate is necessary about the relation between ‘productive’ and ‘conditional’ links between sections of workers. Our political activities should focus on these potentially generalising sectors and tendencies. In Gurgaon this could mean to focus some activity on the relation between call centre workers and manual industrial workers, between urban experience of workers and conditions in their villages, between Maruti Suzuki and other centres and the wider productive terrain as will be proposed in concrete in the second part. the rapidness of changes in capitalism leave only little scope for ‘preparation’ or ‘anticipation’ – but based on a deeper understanding of production system and proletarian conditions we might be able to push for certain ‘catalysing’ steps during concrete struggles.
g) Relate to / Create Factory Collectives
Prime objective of any workers’ organisation should be the development of collectives (or the establishing of relations to existing collectives) within workplaces, which are able to act. At the current stage of class struggle the question of the relation between ‘shop-floor’ activities and wider ‘political’ coordination seems to be a question of either – or. Without wider struggles workers’ collectives within factories don’t ‘find’ other group of workers outside. For the same reason ‘political groups’ remain small and can chose either to act on the ‘general terrain’ (going from struggle to struggle, publishing general newspapers) or concentrate on building work-place based activities. One reaction to this dilemma is that once we come across active groups of workers, due to lack of time and energy (and may be reflection) we propose quick solutions, such as setting up of company unions – instead of engaging in a common process of analysis as a precondition for more fruitful collective steps. At this point we can only refer to the historic experience of ‘factory activity’ in Faridabad during the 1980s and 1990s as reference for deeper debate.
h) Coordinate Beyond Factory Level
A workers’ organisation cannot be formed on sectorial or professional basis, but the concrete forms of how workers can coordinate their efforts beyond the company boundary differ. Currently within our circles there exists a rather schematic debate whether an ‘area wide union’ would solve the problem of ‘work-placed based isolation’. At this point we can only encourage to base the debate more on the concrete material constitution of the relation between single and wider production sphere:
… in a huge factory like Maruti Suzuki a rotating system of line or department delegation will make sense, which has to relate to a coordination with workers’ in the immediate supply-chain
… living and working conditions in IMT Manesar might be cohesive enough to propose an area wide assembly
… the small-scale nature of certain (home) industries or industrial areas might enforce an area wide delegation system
… the internal productive integration within the garment sector might be too weak in order to base a coordinated steps on direct links, the ‘generalisation’ might happen around the question of ‘wage payments/order overtime’ and take the form of circulating assemblies
… in some areas workers live close to their workplace, there conditions in the living sphere can more easily be raised by factory coordinations, in other areas ‘neighbourhood organisations’ might be necessary
… during certain times struggles will happen in quick succession in a dense space, general ‘struggle assemblies’ might be feasible
Answering these questions would require a very honest re-capitulation of experiences under different conditions, e.g. in the small-scale industry in Ludhiana, the recent anti-eviction movement in slum areas in Kolkota, our own attempts to set up ‘workers’ meeting places’ (see below) etc.. The further challenge will be not to conceptualise these ‘different forms’ as ‘parallel forms’, but as a ‘proletarian continuum’ with a tendency towards generalisation. This will be a constant ‘contradictive balance’: self-organisation of workers is based on their specific productive basis, generalisation which abstracts from this basis without transforming it will lead to undermining workers’ collective power, e.g. many ‘general strikes’ have this feature. In the end it is not the ‘growing organisation’ which generalises, but the emergence of new class movements – again the question of the relation between both. To spell this out a bit more:
As far as possible a workers’ organisation has to make use of regional and global productive interdependence of the labour process. A workers’ organisation would be able to turn this structure into a weapon in the interest of all workers in the chain, disregarding their specific categories. An organisation would make strategical use of the strongest position of workers in the chain (or to find the weakest link), e.g. central suppliers, transport chains etc. and at the same time takes into account the conditions and difficulties of workers in the weakest position. It would use pressure in the strong points to undermine the divisions and differences imposed by management, not due to charity, but need for collective power. A workers’ organisation would be able to coordinate actions disrupting the long chain of production with minimal effort and harm for us and maximal impact on company management. As preparational work we would have to dig out recent historical examples of how workers’ organised such kind of steps, e.g. during the so-called chess-board strikes at FIAT, Italy, during the 1960s and 1970s.
Although workers in automobile (or wider manufacturing sector) and garment are in most cases neither connected through direct productive links nor through ‘immediate demands’ (wage payment), a workers’ organisation will have to explore all possibilities of ‘connections’ apart from rather unsubstantial ‘external unity as proletarians’. Here we have to debate the mobility of a certain section of workers between both sectors, the spacial proximity in dense industrial areas, the increasing similarity in labour process with introduction of chain system, certain general similarities in conditions (12-hours shifts, repressive regime), wider conditions in the reproductive sphere etc.. A workers’ organisation would try to ‘generalise’ from the advanced points, this could mean, e.g. to spread the experience of changing gender relations in ‘mixed industries’ and the different social status of female workers within the more isolated sphere of female labour in the home industry.
i) Understand Relation between Factory and Society
The last decades have transformed those social categories which used to be mobilised as separate elements under the leadership of a ‘political alliance’: ‘worker’, ‘peasant’, ‘student’, ‘women’. Today we can broadly assume a common proletarian existence under very different circumstances – which require not an ‘alliance’, but a sophisticated process of common organisation. Today the probably more challenging separation is the separation between ’employed’ and ‘unemployed’ proletarians, not as fixed categories, but forms of temporary existence – despite the flux and interfaces of migration and informal sector which connects both. A concrete analysis about emerging divisions and re-connections between rural-urban, employed-unemployed proletarians should be in the focus.
j) Organise on a Regional and Global Level
Together with the ‘workers and peasants’-alliance the old form of ‘international solidarity’ between ‘regional/national movements’ has expired. What remains is a rather folkloristic-formal ‘solidarity’ between sister parties. Meanwhile the global character of the system in terms of production chains, export markets, labour migration forces workers’ struggles to relate to the international terrain. As you can read from the struggle reports in this issue, any of the struggles asked the question how to relate to its international dimension, either on the level of ‘international buyers’ or supply-chains. We should make an extra-effort to take this international dimension into account – future international coordinations (or Internationals) between workers’ organisations will mainly be based on the experiences and debates during the collaboration around concrete workers’ struggles. The workers’ struggles themselves will have to re-compose the ‘communist movement’ on a global level. We should nevertheless try to anticipate the necessity and open the debate here and now, e.g. by making the effort of translating or writing regular ‘regional reports’ for the international debate.
II) Where are we now in this process
We briefly summarise the current effort of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar (Faridabad Workers’ News) and GurgaonWorkersNews as an embryonic form of workers’ organisation.
Since the mid-1980s Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – a workers’ newspaper in Hindi – is published once a month and distributed in industrial areas. Currently we distribute 10,000 copies in Faridabad, Okhla, Gurgaon, Manesar and send it to around a hundred people in different parts of India. The paper consists of four pages, most of the content are short workers’ reports concerning the situation in their factories. There are longer struggle reports, workers’ auto-biographies, reports from other regions, thoughts on the systemic nature on common proletarian problems such as (mental) health.
Since 2007 we publish GurgaonWorkersNews as an electronic newsletter in English, mainly consisting of translations from Faridabad Majdoor Samachar plus more general empirical research. The newsletter is sent out to around 4,000 individuals, mainly in the Subcontinent, Europe and the US. We see it as one potential contact-point between workers’ initiatives in Delhi and the ‘international space’.
Under the current conditions of about a dozen people actively involved in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar and GurgaonWorkersNews we just about manage to publish the paper and newsletter and distribute it. There is little scope for other, e.g. specific ‘workplace’ activities. Here we can see a certain contradiction, given that the main backbone of FMS came together as a ‘factory collective’ of permanent workers in the 1980s and 1990s. Today ‘single workplace’ activities have been undermined to a certain degree by the fact that 80 per cent of the work-force is temporary. To build long-term presence in one factory is an organisational challenge. The temporary status and long working hours also means that today only few workers have the time for ‘extra’-political activities, such as publishing a newspaper or organising meetings.
We can see further seeming contradictions. In the 1980s the group underwent a certain period of self-criticism regarding their political premises (‘Leninist’-framework) and relation to workers (‘preach-teach’). The language of the Hindi paper changed from ‘political jargon’ to more common language within the working class. Instead of ‘recruiting cadres’ the emphasise was put on ‘workers self-organisation’. Today we seem to have the problem to explain to younger activists/workers that our efforts aim towards an ‘organisation’ which requires active participation. Without the language and methods of ‘the old mode’ (party) we seem to have difficulties to ‘get people involved’.
What is the motivation and ‘result’ so far?
a) Develop Common Understanding
Most discussions develop ‘informally’ around the front-page articles of the newspaper or in the ‘Workers Library’ in Faridabad. There used to be organised ‘study circles’, but partly due to the format (emphasis on written word, ‘teaching’), partly due to the lack of time of workers these have been stopped. One of the last collectively produced ‘theoretical works’ were reflections of critique of political economy. http://libcom.org/library/refelctions-critique-political-economy
b) Relate to Workers’ Experiences and c) Debate General Context
The newspaper mainly consists of workers’ experiences and emphasises their importance. The front page article hints at the systemic and historical character of seemingly individual problems. In this sense the main content of the newspaper is the relation between workers individual experience, collective steps/struggles and the wider class society. The newspaper portrays a specific class position and position of ‘workers’ autonomy’, which has entered the wider area – the results don’t show up in membership.
d) Develop Means of Exchange
The newspaper cannot be seen as a purely ‘means of information’. It is mainly the maintenance of a potential: it is possible with more or less simple means to create an exchange and possible coordination between workers in a relatively vast industrial area. This does not need major resources or ‘political leaders’. Workers make use of this fact individually and collectively, e.g. by supplying reports for publication. Only rarely workers ask to get in touch with other workers in a specific company through the newspaper – but it remains a possibility open for everyone one’s it is needed.
e) Engage in Concrete Struggles
Over the years and through the regular distribution in various places a vast knowledge of ‘struggles in the area’ is present within the small circle of FMS and expressed in the newspapers. Whenever possible this experience and conclusions are presented to concrete struggles, although given the capacity this happens on a sporadic level. In many articles FMS raises the question ‘what to do, what not to do’ regarding struggles (avoid legal traps, company isolation – inform workers in the area etc.), but it remains a ‘position’. In few cases we manage to create direct contacts between workers engaged in struggles in different areas. In few cases we could make use of international contacts in order to support struggles practically. Focus is therefore also determined by our own strength: critical assessment of struggle experiences and their circulation.
f) Advance Analysis of Strategical Tendencies
Discussions about these tendencies are informal and sporadic. We distributed leaflets to call centre workers knowing that a potential fusion between this section of the working class with ‘traditional’ industrial workers would mean a qualitative shift. We try to emphasise the importance of supply-chain structures in the area and mention these in the workers’ reports.
g) Relate to / Create Factory Collectives
As mentioned there is no scope for systematic ‘work-place activities’ and it has become more difficult due to increased mobility. We try to discuss the potential of workers’ mobility and ‘non-attachment’ to specific jobs and sectors with workers, but this has not expressed itself yet in concrete organisational terms, rather in a general atmosphere of unrest. Sometimes groups of workers come and want to discuss concrete steps in their factories, which we try to debate as concretely as possible dependent on our own understanding.
h) Coordinate Beyond Factory Level
Through years of distribution and presence in the area there is a vast network of contacts, but they rarely ‘collectivise’, result in direct face-to-face meetings of larger groups of workers. In 2010 we undertook an effort to open workers’ meeting places in different locations in Delhi industrial belt. We can say that opening places and announcing them as possible meeting places in the newspaper itself is not enough in order to establish ‘workers’ meetings’. this is partly due to workers’ long working days, but mainly due to an uncertainty regarding ‘what to do’. The relationship between meeting place and individual and collective existence at work was not clear. We lacked time and capacity to organise a closer relationship between these two spheres.
i) Understand Relation between Factory and Society
Focus of the group is the industrial area of Delhi, whenever possible the ‘rural origin’ of workers form part of conversations and show up in articles in the newspaper, so does the situation of students and other workers outside the industry, the living situation (slums) etc. – but on a sporadic level.
j) Organise on a Regional and Global Level
In 1992 FMS comrades undertook an effort to encourage an India wide ‘workers’ newspaper’, which failed due to ‘political differences’ of the various groups. Since then there has been ‘written’ exchange between groups in different regions and countries, which only rarely has direct practical consequences. In some cases the degree of ‘international exchange’ is astonishing, e.g. the translation and publication of letters from inmates in US prisons in FMS. Similar the exchange via GurgaonWorkersNews, which generally happens on individual basis not between ‘active collectives’.
III) How could we get further
Struggles like the one at Maruti Suzuki and the practical experience of ‘political organisations’ within it ask for an open and honest debate within the ‘milieu’ about the current relationship between organisation and workers’ struggle. Groups within the ‘milieu’ can use the chance of re-composing itself around these experiences or they can chose to stick to their particular flags and programs and continue waving them.
For end of May 2012 comrades of Radicalnotes(.com) in Delhi invite to a debate about this question. The first meeting will deal with the attempts of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar during the early 1980s with the classical ‘union/party’-perspective and the development of both industry, class struggle and group politics since then. In the following meetings we will debate the experiences and involvement of different groups during the Maruti Suzuki strike. We hope for a fruitful outcome and will supply material and proposal for a common inquiry in the next GurgaonWorkersNews.
In the mid-term future it would be needed to hold a subcontinental meeting based on precise reports from different industrial and rural areas, relating to common political questions about specific and general tendencies in class struggle. If you are interested in developing ideas concerning such a meeting, please get in touch.
Apart from that we hope for further practical participation in and productive criticism of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar and GurgaonWorkersNews. Please feel free to comment on the general and concrete thoughts in this newsletter and tell us about your collective efforts in your area.
Questions – Struggles
Interviews and reports can then be circulated and used for further discussions. It is undeniably difficult to write a questionnaire that fits all situations. This one puts emphasis on the struggle in work places but if you want to use it at the university or in the neighbourhood, just change it a bit. Here it is:
The person who is asked / takes part in the conversation
1. What’s your job in the work place? What is your relation to the workers’ in struggle?
2. Do you have a position in the workers representation body (works council…) or the union? If yes, which?
3. What was the starting point of the struggle? (management measures)
4. What happened just before this? (atmosphere amongst the workers, changes to the organisation of work)
5. What other struggles happened earlier, which could have had an influence? (in the same company, in others in the region, after state measures)
6. What are the official demands?
7. Who has made them or put them forward?
8. Where exactly does the struggle take place? (company, department)
9. How important is the place of struggle for the company (group), the region? In what kind of ‘economical situation’ was the company? (re-structuring, boom/crisis etc.)
10. What kind of ‘productive connections’ are there to other areas? (suppliers)
11. Who is working in the company? (where are they from, which countries, young/old etc.)
12. What kinds of work contracts exist? (part time, temp work)
13. How do peoples nationalities, work contracts etc. influence the struggle?
14. Who took the initiative in the struggle? (workers, which kind of workerts, the union)
15. How is the conflict spreading? through which means? (within the company and beyond)
16. What kind of influence do single workers or groups amongst workers have on the struggle? (debates, assemblies)
17. What are the proposals for the forms of struggle? (strikes, blockades)
18. Who puts the suggestions forward?
19. Who gets their own way here and how?
20. Which kinds of attempts are made in order to include other people beyond the department or company? (rallies, demos)
21. Are the means of production being used/appropriated during the strike? (excavator, computer)
22. What role do the relations among the workers, based on the work organisation, play? (cooperation, including with other departments)
23. What kinds of attempts exist to undermine or disturb the struggle? By whom? (scabbing, police repression)
24. What role do organisations from outside play? (unions, parties, supporters)
25. What do these organisations do exactly? (money, leaflets, assemblies)
26. What do the workers say about these organisations?
27. What kinds of organising have the workers tried out? (committees)
28. What kinds of problems did they have with that?
29. What are the concrete effects of the struggle? (production stops, disturbance of the work in other areas)
30. What do the workers have to say about the effects? (on other workers, clients, patients)
31. What does the media say about the struggle? How does ‘the public’ react? (newspapers, television)
The course of the struggle
32. How can the struggle develop further? (actions, extending the struggleÖ)
33. What is the mood of the workers?
34. What kind of conflicts are there between the workers? (different positions, divisions based on origin or gender)
35. How do people deal with that? (discussions, arguments)
36. How have the conflicts between each other changed during the course of the struggle?
37. What’s the reaction of the bosses towards the struggle? (redundancies, lockouts, pressure)
38. What do the workers say about that?
39. What kinds of attempts of mediation and negotiation are there? How are these organised? (strike committee, works council, union)
40. Is the end of the struggle already in sight? Why?
41. What will or has happen(ed) afterwards? (return to work, more bosses’ measures, new struggles)
42. What do the workers have to say about the experiences they are having? (strength, weaknesses)
43. What can be done better or differently next time?
44. What connections do the workers see between their struggle and the general situation of society?
45. What connections do the workers see between struggles in other sectors?
46. Where should reports on the struggle be distributed so people can learn from it?
110-111, Phase IV, Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon,
On 24th of April 2012 workers at Harsoria Healthcare, a manufacturer of cannula and catheters for the medical sector, engaged in a sit-down strike. We first give a general over-view concerning production and back-ground of the dispute.
The Sector and the Factory
Harsoria mainly produces for export to the European Union via Singapore and South Korea. The annual value of EU imports of syringes, needles and catheters is around 7 billion Euro. Between 2002 and 2007 imports in terms of value increased by 10 per cent annually on average, faster than the production within the EU. Around 20 per cent of the imports come from the US, 9 per cent from Mexico, only a smaller share comes from Asia. The import from Singapore – the channel through which Harsoria markets its products – constituted 0.5 per cent of EU imports. The EU imports from ‘developing countries’ grew faster at a rate of 40 per cent increase per year.
The production at Harsoria in Gurgaon started in 2005. Workers say that the raw material and components come from China. They assemble the product, it is then shipped to Singapore and South Korea. From there the company Neotec exports the medical equipment to Europe, in particular to Denmark, France, Italy. The products are marketed, amongst others, under the name Healflon TM. During the time when the disputed broke out production was running on full steam and the Gurgaon plant is still the only manufacturing unit of Harsoria in India – the attacks of the company therefore are not aiming at downsizing work-force, but at bringing them under tighter control.
The average product, such as cannula with catheter, contains around ten components. Pre-assembling work happens both by hand and with machines. The components are then assembled at a moving conveyor line, around 25 people work at one line. The individual target is around 1050 pieces per hour. If workers don’t meet this target, they are verbally abused and they run danger to not receive payment for that day, according to ‘no work no pay’-rule of the company. Workers say that at least one day’s wage per month is cut that way. Workers are often shifted from one work-station to the other.
The background of the dispute
Workers at Harsoria joined a union in 2010, in March 2011 union and management engaged in a three year agreement. In April 2011 the company provoked workers, which lead to a sit-down strike. After union leaders asked workers to come out they were victimised by police and administration, see GurgaonWorkersNews no.45.
On 27th of April union and management came to an agreement concerning the dispute, which left nine of the sacked workers outside. many of the formerly ‘company casual workers’, were forced to be re-hired through contractors.
In April 2011 there had been 203 ‘company casuals’, meaning that workers are hired by the company directly, but as casual workers with lower wages and less ‘job security’. After April 2011 the company forced these casuals to sign contracts with a contractor, re-moving them from the company pay-roll. When the current dispute started there were only around 60 casuals left, of whom only 15 were working inside the factory, the rest were fighting cases for re-instatement after having been sacked or suspended.
On 16th of December 2011 the company accused workers to engage in a slow-down and suspended 9 permanent workers on 19th of December 2011. The company claimed that between June 2011 and January 2012 production levels had dropped by 31 per cent. The company reacted by cutting workers’ wages by around 35 per cent during the period from November 2011 to January 2012.
On 1st of January 2012 around 40 casual workers were dismissed by management. At the same time management forced permanents to become ‘staff’, which has a different legal status from being ‘workman’. Around 22 permanent workers accepted the shift, most of them in the tool room. In early 2012 union elections took place and three sacked permanent workers were elected as union leaders. The company refused to accept them. Other permanent workers were lected, the company also refused to recognise them.
The current dispute
On 22nd of April 2012 several workers received letters of termination. On 24th of April workers in A- and B-shift decided to stop work, sit-down in the factory and stay there, while the C-shift established a protest camp in front of the plant. At that time 252 permanent, 15 casuals and 400 to 500 workers hired through six contractors were employed at Harsoria. At the point the workers hired through contractor had not been paid their March wages yet. The demands of the workers included payment of Deepawali bonus and regularisation of the services of casual and contract workers. The workers were also protesting against the frequent change in their departments, delay in payment of salary, increased work intensity and non-payment of loyalty bonus of about Rs. 1500 per month on completion of 4 years with the company.
During the sit-down strike workers did not stop management from coming and going, meaning that 100 management people were inside the factory most of the time. Workers did not block the gates or tried to stop them otherwise – like Maruti Suzuki workers did during the occupation by controling the gates through forming ‘workers’ chains’. Workers hired through contractors who sat inside with their permanent colleagues started to leave the factory one by one. HMS union representatives declared that ‘sit-down strikes can legally only last 72 hours’. Management did not show up for the negotiations at the Labour Commissioner on 27th of April. Instead, at 11:30 pm the same day around 50 – 100 bouncers arrived in cars, armed with hockey bats. Management arrived with them and negotiations started with the factory union leaders. At the time around 200 workers were outside the factory, amongst them the HMS factory union leaders, and 400 workers were inside. The bouncers went inside the factory and threatened the workers. The police arrived one hour after having been called by the workers, but they just watched the scene. The bouncers left the factory shortly after arrival of the police – management sent them out through a back gate. Workers inside called the union leaders outside and asked for advice. They said that workers should not resist and answer to the provocation of the management, but come out peacefully. This is what the workers did, and according to workers there was no debate about the leaders decision. At the same day a court order had been issued that workers are not allowed to stay within 50 metres distance of the factory. On the 27th of April around 37 FIRs had been filed against workers for breaking this court order.
The HMS leaders decided to vacate the protest camp in front of the factory and leave the industrial area, instead stage a sit-down protest at the DLC, a rather isolated spot in the administrative district of old Gurgaon. At the same time management re-started production with 100 management people and 30 to 40 workers newly hired through contractor. On 28th of April a demonstration was organised in Gurgaon, around 600 Harsoria workers and 200 other HMS members took part, amongst others workers from LUMAX company. Another negotiation date on 30th of April lead to no result. On 2nd and 3rd of May, after some confrontation near the factory, FIR were filed by the police against 21 Harsoria workers. By 6th of May the number of suspended workers had increased to around 100 and 18 workers had been sacked. On 6th of May the police threatened workers in front of the DLC office. Workers’ leaders propose to go on hungerstrike.
The Harsoria factory is close to the rear-gate of the Maruti Gurgaon plant, there are many factories in the vicinity, also a huge Airtel call centre employing over 1,000 call centre workers. According to their own estimation Harsoria workers did not try to establish contacts with workers in neighbouring factories or tell them about their conflict. They were generally open to the idea of making placards in order to inform and debate with workers who arrive in thousands in Udyog Vihar for the morning shift – but no step was undertaken. One of the neighbouring factories is Anu Auto, an automobile supplier manufacturing parts for Maruti. Mainly young unmarried female workers are employed, they arrive in company buses, which makes communication more difficult. Harsoria workers told that when they started shouting slogans in front of the factory Anu Auto management got nervous and asked Harsoria management to make the workers stop shouting. According to one Harsoria worker, when one of the Anu Auto workers asked management why these workers were outside with a tent and shouting the manager responded that is was something related to the death of a family member of one of the Harsoria workers.
Another linkage both on the basis of sector and current tension could have been established with the many Eastern Medikit workers in the same industrial area. These workers also manufacture medical equipment and face wage delays and dismissals. One may think that the fact that both at Harsoria and Eastern Medikit a HMS union is active should have facilitated the linking up of workers, but it seems that the opposite is the case. At this point we can refer to the union position towards the wildcat strikes of casual workers at Medikit in 2007.
The short report below published in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in April 2012 nevertheless demonstrated the missed chance.
Eastern Medikit Worker
The company has started to delay wage payments also to the permanent workers of its factories in Gurgaon. The casual workers protest in one form or the other every month in order to get paid. In the factory on Plot 292, Phase II the casual workers laid down tools at 2 pm on 21st of December – by 6 to 7 pm the emergency lights went on and they got their November wages. In order to keep workers under control management in the plant on Plot 196, Phase I called the police inside the factory. Until 24th of December, the November wages were not been paid. Eastern Medikit keeps so-called D-category workers in each factory, they work 12 hours a day, day in day out, but receive no PF. In April 2012 workers reported that the company had sacked many of the casual workers in factories on Plot 195-6 and 205-6 in Udyog Vihar Phase I and Plot 292, Phase II, only 200 to 250 casual workers are left. These workers have not been paid their March wages (27th of April). The permanent workers were paid between 21st and 25th of April. Since 15th of April also the permanent workers have to work on two 12-hours shifts.
Workers at multinational Senior Flexonics in Manesar registered a trade union and put forward a demand notice. Subsequently they were locked out from early January till late February 2012. In the factory workers manufacture parts for silencers used in vehicles of JCB, Tata, and Ashok Leyland. They also produce hose pipes for vehicles for export.
Senior Flexonics (India) Ltd. belongs to the multinational Flexonics group, ‘originally’ based in the UK, a parts manufacturer for aerospace, marine, defence, energy and automobile industry. According to company sources Flexonics is the “largest manufacturer of flexible automotive components in the world, with manufacturing and distribution facilities on six continents.”Automobile parts manufacturing plants are situated, amongst others in/with Bartlett (USA), Blois (France), Canada (Canada), Cape Town (South Africa), Crumlin (UK), Kassel (Germany), New Delhi (India), Olomouc (Czech Republic), Pathway (USA), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Senior Hargreaves (UK). Flexonics manufactures exhaust connectors, decouplers, exhaust gas recirculating tubes generally for exhaust applications in passenger cars, SUV’s and light trucks; and diesel common rails and fuel pipes, for passenger cars and the heavy duty diesel engine market. In 2004, Flexonics workers in the South Wales UK factory engaged in a series of one day strikes over shift patterns. After lengthy negotiation an enhanced sick pay scheme was agreed but the company refused to budge on the shift pattern. The day shift was longer than the morning and afternoon shifts – and workers wanted equal length shifts. In 2004, Flexonics US plant in Tennessee sacked 50 out of 80 workers and shifted the factory to Texas. Workers in Tennessee had been locked out earlier on.
Senior Flexonics Worker
(Plot 89, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)
In the factory workers manufacture parts for silencers used in vehicles of JCB, Tata, and Ashok Leyland. They also produce hose pipes for vehicles for export. The shift starts 6 am in the morning, if you arrive later than 5:55 am you are stopped at the gate. meal breaks are 25 minutes, though they say they are 30 minutes. There used to be three 8-hours shifts, since June 2011 there are two 12-hours shifts. They force you to work overtime – they give a call to the gate and tell them not to let you go. The general manager says things like: I hang you up by the feet, I remove your pants. A lot of hands get mutilated by the power-presses, the company does not fill in accident forms, they kick you out and you have to pay for treatment, 30 per cent of the workers don’t have an ESI card. In the factory there are 67 permanent workers, 40 casuals, and 200 workers hired through three different contractors. After working there for 10 years continuously, workers are still ‘temporary’. In February 2009 the factory shifted from Gurgaon Udyog Vihar to Manesar. During this transfer time management said that all temporary workers will be made permanent and that the company will operate buses. Neither happened. But they stopped paying work clothes cleaning allowances to the permanent workers, they stopped paying LTA and incentive bonus. The wages of the permanents are also low, after 15 years you earn only 6,340 Rs. The temporary and casual workers where never paid any bonuses. Yes, they pay double for overtime, but the contractor embezzles at least 400 to 500 Rs per month. Wages are paid delayed and irregularly. The permanent workers started a process to get a union recognised in the factory. The recognition was given on the 23rd of December 2011 – a demand letter had been given to the company already three month earlier. The labour department came to the company for negotiations several times, but stopped doing that in December. Apart from the demand for a wage increase for the permanent workers the list contained the demand that workers should be made permanent after a year of employment, buses should be provided, a canteen. On the 9th of January, after the weekly holiday, the workers found the gates of the company locked. When they asked management said that they should first sign the code of conduct and then they can enter. No worker signed, around 150 workers decided to stay outside. The same in the B-shift, so that 300 workers sat outside. Some went to the labour department. The company said that they will take back all workers except 27 of the permanents. We asked what they had done wrong, but got no answer. On 8th of February at night the company had started to hire new workers. Within 20 days their number increased to 100 to 125, they stayed inside the factory for 24 hours. Around 50 managers and engineers also worked in production. The factory ran on two 12 hours shifts. Middle management was driven from and back to their homes escorted by guards. The company sub-contracted work to Lakki Enterprises, Gurgaon and Ajay Engineering, Faridabad and to other companies. In the Manesar factory now only assembling work was done. During a meeting with the labour department on 11th of January management said that apart from 17 permanent workers they will take everyone back on. On 13th of January they said, everyone but 12 workers, on 16th of January everyone but 4 permanents. On 18th of January they said that these four workers were dismissed, a day later they said that they were only suspended. They repeated that till the 23rd of January. The workers demonstrated in front of the labour commissioners office on 17th of January. The company send letters to workers’ homes saying that they either come to work or they will receive a dismissal letter – this troubled the family at home. The labour official said that big fish will always eat the little fish. The company did not appear to the 27th january date for negotiations. On 30th of January the labour commissioner again said that everyone apart from the four should go inside, but the company also said that they will not take on 40 of the temporary workers, that they will be shifted, On 3rd of February the company representatives did not appear, negotiations happened over the phone. On 8th of February the company said that they will only take back 50 of the temporary workers, they others will be shifted, given that the newly hired workers work more. The labour commissioner did not issue a new date and said that company and workers should sit together and come to an agreement themselves. After complaining on 16th of January the company paid the December wages on19th of January, but two permanent workers were not paid, the company said there was a problem with book-keeping. Unions called for a meeting on 8th of February, around 5 to 6,000 workers from ten different factories gathered in front of the gate. Promises of economic and other forms of support. On 15th of February the union committee will gather in Kamla Nehru Park and think about how to support the Senior Flexonics workers. – On 27th of February we were forced to come to an agreement. Four of the permanents remained suspended, and only 60 out of 109 temporary workers were taken back on. Our own demands were not taken into consideration.
In mid-March 2012 workers’ anger irrupted twice within a week in Gurgaon. On 19th of March workers at garment exporter Orient Craft rioted after a work-mate had been attacked by a contractor. On 23rd of March construction workers attacked company property in response to the death of a colleague after a work-accident.
* Orient Craft
Orient Craft runs 21 factories in India, supplying clients in Europe and the US, such as Tommy Hilfinger, Mark and Spencers, DKNY and GAP. There are five units in Sector 37, Gurgaon and several others in other parts of Gurgaon and nearby IMT Manesar. Around 80 to 90 per cent of Orient Craft workers are hired through contractors. They work 12 to 16 hours shifts, helpers are paid 4,200 Rs, most tailors are employed on piece rate. The contractors take 3 per cent commission from the workers’ piece-rate wages. the company cuts workers wages by using the excuse of bad quality: 20 to 30 per cent pieces are ‘reject’. In this sense Orient Craft is a very normal garment export company in Gurgaon.
On 19th of March a dispute took place between some workers and a contractor inside the factory. Workers had taken the previous day (Sunday) off, which angered the contractor. Workers also complained about delayed wages and embezzlement. the contractor attacked workers with a pair of scissors and injured two of them. When other workers saw the injured they started expressing their anger. There are different versions regarding the question whether 100 workers were subsequently kicked out from the factory by management people or whether they left the factory. After 100 workers were gathered in front of the plant other Orient Craft workers also came out. They were joined by workers from other factories in the vicinity, in total a group of about 2,000 workers came together and started pelting stones at the Orient Craft factory glass-front and also at those of other factories. When management called the police and they arrived, a AASP police car was burnt. Three hours riot of commotion followed, between 12 and 20 bikes were burnt, two trucks, one SUV, another police car and a fire engine on fire. Police arrived in greater numbers and attacked tried to disperse the crowd by lathi (clubs) attack.
In the meantime management had brought the wounded workers to the nearby private Sunrise Hospital. They threatened them and offered money in order to move them to change their official version of the attack through the contractor. In the end the official version claimed that workers were injured by falling onto sharp pieces of glass while trying to flee from the commotion. According to some sources police filed case against 1,000 unknown people and against 9 workers for attempted murder. The contractor was released shortly after is now on bail.
After the riot management tried to appease workers. During the first three days after the riot the factory remained shut, then all workers are allowed to come back to work. According to some sources half of the work-force did not return to work, partly out of fear of the 80 to 100 police who were stationed in front of the factory at least till the 26th of April, one week after the incident. Inside the plant the company tried to normalise the situation. Workers said that for some days the work load was less and supervisors’ behaviour much better. Meanwhile riots are brewing in thousand other factories and hearts…
From: Faridabad Majdoor Samachar, January to March 2012
Minimum Wages (January – February 2012)
Delhi: 6,656 Rs (unskilled) / 8,112 Rs (skilled)
Haryana: 4,847 Rs (unskilled) / 5,497 Rs (skilled)
Orient Craft Worker
(Plot 15, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
Around six months ago management told workers that they would be given a bicycle. The 3,000 workers hired through contractor were not promised anything. Around 200 permanent workers with over 1 year seniority were supposed to sign a form. They never received their bike. Normally we work from 9 am till 6 pm, on three or four days per week till midnight. They pay double rate overtime, but the management swears a lot at us.
Adigear International Worker
(Plot 189, Sector 4, IMT Manesar)
Around 700 workers manufacture garments for Adidas, Puma, Reebok and others – working from 9:30 am till 1 am every day. Management stops workers from leaving earlier. The general manager takes company cards away from workers who want to leave. After wages of the previous two months had not been paid workers stopped working on 15th of December. This lasted till 1 pm, then the company called goons from PSO Security. All worker left the factory and gathered outside. the company then paid wages in installments.
Astro Fashions Worker
(Plot 69, Sector 4, IMT Manesar)
There are around 150 workers, we work from 9 am till 8 pm and 20 times per months they make us work till 1 am. Wages are delayed every month. On 12th of January 2012 the workers in the finishing department asked for their December wages from the boss. The company management called thugs in cars as response. The workers were finally paid on 21st of January. Money for ESI and PF is cut from workers wages, but they don’t get the benefit.
Shahi Export House Worker
(Pot 1, Sector 28, Faridabad)
There are between 8,000 and 10,000 workers employed, half of them men, half women. In the sewing department there are 47 lines with more than 25 machines each. In the computer embroidery department they run two 12 hours shifts. In the cutting department they also cut the cloth for Shahi factories in NOIDA, Surajpur and Okhla. In the cutting department more than 2,000 workers are hired through contractor. They don’t get ESI or PF and once an inspector comes to the plant, they are kicked out before hand. The wages of the permanent workers are also low, even after 15 years of employment you get only the minimum wage. There is a lot of verbal abuse going on. There is always tension between workers and management – we have to see what we can do. In 2000 the women in the embroidery department were in the first line when we resisted management. During the strike in 2009 the workers in the sampling department were the first.
* Construction Site
Only four days after Orient craft riot, on 23rd of March 2012, as a response to a fatal work accident construction workers in Gurgaon, Sector 58 expressed their anger. From the main-stream media:
“Thousands of labourers went on a rampage on Friday when a worker died after falling from the sixth floor of a building under construction in Sector 58. Angry labourers working in the area torched a police Gypsy, damaged about a dozen more vehicles and demolished a section of the housing project. Labourers alleged that the contractor did not provide them with adequate safety equipment. “Hasan was breathing when he fell. The contractor and the management’s employees kept watching this instead of taking him to hospital,” said labourers Jeetu and Shamsher. As a worker confirmed that the injured labourer had died in hospital, around 4,000 labourers working at different sites in Sector 58 turned violent. They damaged Ireo’s site office and set it on fire. Some others demolished a portion of the housing project while many blocked the road and vandalized several vehicles, including a BMW.
The cops were rescued almost an hour later when a heavy contingent of police force reached the site and resorted to lathi-charge to disburse the crowd. Seven policemen and many labourers were injured. The 28-floor highrise is part of private builder IREO’s Grand Arch residential project. “The construction of the Grand Arch project is being undertaken by L&T Ltd,” the spokesperson said.”
Comrades who have been to the site reported that during the following three days police arrested up to 300 workers from nearby slums, 57 workers were charged with attempted murder – other sources speak of 23 arrests and 200 cases filed. they also said that workers in Beharmpur Sector 58 were aware of the events at Orient Craft some days before. Around ,500 of the construction workers are hired through contractor, one of them Alufit Private Limited. They work seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day. The deceased worker had worked without a day off since December 2011.
After the two riots the media has obviously full of reports, looking for reasons, trying to find responsibles, trying to understand this alien force, invisible during most of the time, frequently turning into scary uncontrolled masses…
(sources: Sangharshrat Mehnatkash no.7; Fact Finding by comrades of ‘Majdoor’ and Inqalabi Majdoor Kendra, Mazdoor Bigul, April 2012)
From December 2011 till April 2012 Lakhani workers in Faridabad were engaged in various forms of struggle about delay of wage payments: from direct action on factory grounds to wildcat strikes, to street blockades and demonstrations to governmental institutions.
Lakhani Vardan Samuh Worker
(Plot 265, Sector 24, Faridabad)
The start of the shift at 8 am and at the end of the shift at 4:30 pm is marked by the sound of a hooter siren. The hooter also indicates the meal breaks at 12 and 12:30 pm. One day the hooter went of at 2:30 pm. What happened? the supervisors and managers told workers to gather at the HR department, everyone assembled. Around 1,500 to 2,000 male and female workers chatter amongst each other. A big commotion and noise. the general manager tries to give a speech, there are difficulties with the microphone. Even if one tried to listen attentively one had difficulties to understand what was said and why. It was a speech about fire safety and how to escape from fire. Then he talked about how to put out a fire. The fire officer showed a gas cylinder and asked: “Do you know what kind of gas is in this cylinder?”. None of the workers said a word. “This is CO2 gas,” the officer answered his question. “If the fire is related to electrical faults, if it is burning petrol or thinner, then you can use this gas to put out the fire”. “If cloth or rubber has caught fire, you can douse it with this gas. How does the cylinder work?””Whenever you hear the hooter outside of the normal times, this means fire alarm and you have to leave the factory immediately, come outside and gather here.” The meeting went on for one hour. The next day suddenly the hooter went off at 10 am. It looked like a fire alarm, so workers stopped working and all came outside. Men and women workers gather at the HR department. People looked around, but there was no smoke to be seen. Then workers started to shout: “Give us our wages! Give us our wages!”.
When the hooter went of supervisors, managers and the genertal manager also left the factory. The general called the security guards over the phone. They arrived. the HR manager told the workers: “There is no fire he. Go back to your work now.” The officer who normally pays out the wages tried to scare the workers and shouted: “There is no fire. Move, go now!” The male and female workers just answered: “Pay out the wages!’. The general manager arrived on the scene: “the money will arrive. you will get your wage this evening. Now back tob work, the hooter is faulty, there is no fire.” The wages were not paid that evening. The next day workers stopped work at noon and production kept being halted till 4:30 pm. The wages were not paid. On the third day workers stopped working at 10 am and production did not resume till end of shift. On the fourth day the managers distributed the wages to the workers. At Lakhani Vardan Samuh factory workers don’t receive the complete wages and they receive them with ten days delay.
This hooter incident happened in December 2011. Since then the trouble continued. When February wages were not paid by 22nd of March 2012 the workers in the clothing department of the factory on Plot 265 in Sector 24 went on a slow down on 22nd and 23rd of March and stopped production again on 24th. After the weekly day off the wildcat strike continued on 26th and 27th. On the 28th the managers distributed wages in the factory. the factory manufactures, amongst others PUMA shoes. At the Lakhani Rubber Udyog factory on Plot 131 in Sector 24, 300 workers in the mixing department stopped work after they did not receive their Holi wages, but an advance instead. In this department workers where paid on 7th of March 2012, whereas payments are still outstanding in the other departments.
Again on 21st of April in the Lakhani factory on Plot 265 in Sector 24, when March wages were not paid, workers started to work slower. On 23rd of April workers entered the factory, but did not start work. None of the company officers said a word. Workers started to eat their lunch whenever and wherever they liked. A worker told the general manager: “The landlord asks for the rent. The ration shop-keeper asks for his money. So, pay our wages.” A female worker said: “My mother had an accident. Pay our wages.” The general manager responded: “There is no money. you will be paid within the next days.” Wages were not paid and production lay idle from 24th to 26th of April 2012. Workers started to fool around and on 27th of April a big group of workers went from one department to the other. They kicked around stools, played with the machines, used oil barrels as drums and walked towards the HR department. In order to stop workers the security guards let down the shutter. This game lasted from 8 am till about mid-day. At 3 pm the company put up a notice: “There is holiday from 28th of April till 6th of May. Return to work on 7th of May.” Workers left the factory at 4:30 pm. The night-shift workers found the notice and told the security guard to remove it. Who will pay our wages? The officer of the HR department said that all workers should arrive at 8 am as usual. The next day on 28th of April workers arrived and were not stopped at the gate. Those workers who did not come were called by phone and asked to come. Around 800 to 1,000 male and female workers were inside the factory. No one worked, there was quite some commotion. they went to the HR department, but there was no one, it was locked. Workers caused some disorder in the canteen. Workers from Lakhani factory, Plot 144 arrived at Plot 265 factory at 10 am. A lot of workers were together. Workers left the factory and blocked the street in front of it. Some police arrived. the street remained blocked for two hours, the the workers of 144 left in a demonstration to the labour minister of Haryana. After a negotiation meeting was promised by the labour minister, on 30th of April Lakhani workers found their factory on Plot 265 and 144 locked. Workers blocked the National Highway in response, but police was able to remove them fairly quickly. On 1st of May more demonstrations in town centre, while negotiations remained without result. Labour administration announced that Lakhani will pay the wages by 9th of May, but that till 8th of May the factory will remain closed. More demonstrations in front of administrations on 2nd and 3rd of May, during which demonstrators were attacked by company goons. As far as we know little steps were undertaken to relate to workers in other ‘running’ Lakhani factories or to other factory workers directly.
Theme Export Worker
(Z-21, PH-2, Okhla Industrial Area, Delhi – 110020)
Worker employed at theme Export do not receive the minimum wage – helpers are paid 5,200 Rs, checkers are paid 6,500 Rs and tailors are paid 250 Rs day wages. None of the 300 workers get ESI or PF. The working hours are from 9:30 am till 1 am, sometimes workers have to work ‘full-nights’ till next day 6 am. Over-time is paid at single rate. The wages are paid with delay – when March wages were not paid by 16th of April workers asked the ‘production incharge’ about it. The incharge said that he will speak to the general manager about it and left. He returned and promised that wages will be paid by 4 pm that day. “If you start handing out the wages by 4 pm, how do you want to finish this task by 5:30 pm”, workers asked. On pay-day workers usually work only till 5:30 pm. Workers told the incharge to speak to the general manager again and he fled the production department. Workers in response started to leave the factory. When the security guards tried to stop them they were pushed aside. The factory on the neighbouring plot also belongs to Theme Export and the Head Office of the company is situated there. When the workers arrived there the security guards locked the gates from inside. People pushed against the gate, some workers jumped over the wall and opened the gate from the inside. The general manager tried to appease the situation and told workers that wages will arrive within the next days. When he saw that the situation was getting out of hand the manager called the police. two police men arrived and tried to get workers out, but during the attempt one of them fell to the ground. From the neighbouring police station two police cars with 20 police arrived. In the meanwhile workers from other factories and inhabitants of the nearby Sanjay Colony had joined the crowd. The street was blocked. People started to pick up stones from road works. the police got afraid and kept outside of the factory. The police chief then said that he will make sure that wages will be paid by 5:30 pm. The managers then went to the bank and started handing out wages by 5 pm, by 8 pm everyone was paid.
Globe Capacitor Ltd. Worker
H.O & WORKS: GLOBE CAPACITORS LTD.
Address : 30/8, Industrial Area, N.I.T,
Faridabad ñ 121001 (INDIA)
Ph. : +91-129-4275500
Fax : +91-129-4275555
Globe Capacitors production capacity has grown from 1 million pieces in 1987 to 28 million pieces per annum in 2011. The plant and machinery are imported from Korea, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, China. The factory manufactures capacitors from 1 MMD to 150 MMD for L&G, Samsung, GI Motor and Orient Pankha and for export (PSA, MEWE, Alco).
(Plot 30/8, Industrial Area, Faridabad)
The workers have to work 10.5 hours, but only 8 hours show on records and only 8 hours are paid. Out of 500 workers employed here around 50 female workers and 250 male workers don’t get ESI and PF and are not paid the statutory bank holidays. these 300 workers are paid 175 Rs for 8 hours, so their monthly wage for 26 days amounts to only 3,640 Rs. those workers who receive ESI and PF get between 4,644 and 5,650 Rs. the shift times are from 8 am till 8:30 pm and from 8 pm till 8 am. Of 12.5 hours the company calls 2 hours overtime, they pay single rate. On Sunday workers have to work till 6:30 pm. In a month the workers have to work 10 to 12 ‘full nights’, meaning workers have to work from 8 am till next morning 7:30 am, they then have half an hour break and work again from 8 am till 8 pm. The workers talk to each other while working at the line. They talk during the meal breaks. They decide to take a collective step in order to get higher wages, 8 hours working day, double payment for overtime. there are no (union) leaders. From 20th of March workers refuse to work full-nights. After receiving their February wages on 7th of March, workers from then on clock off at 6:30 pm. No worker stays till 8:30 pm – at 7:30 the middle management is forced to load the trucks themselves. All workers take a day off on Sundays. If the company decides to refuse the workers demand the workers will start to clock off at 4:30 pm.
On 8th of April, a Sunday, workers had refused to come to work. On the 9th of April they went inside the factory, went to their respective assembly lines, sat down and did not start work. The company chairman arrived, walked around the plant, but did not address the workers. Supervisors announced that a meeting will take place at 1 pm. At 1 pm, on the third floor in the wiring department all company officers and day shift workers assembled and the chairman talked for one hour: “We have taken loans of 60 crore Rs from the banks. Even our family house is on mortgage. We have to pay taxes. We take the risk of going to foreign countries to find clients and get orders. Give us time to think about the issue, give us time till 23rd of April.” Workers did not reply and went into lunch break. they then went back to the assembly lines, ‘resumed work’, but actually hardly worked at all. Workers left the factory early at 4:30 pm, they passed two gates, but the main gate was locked. The managing director, son of the company chairman arrived and said: “We asked to give time. We will also decide how many hours you will work. No please go back to work.” Workers went back to their work-stations, but hardly worked at all. At 6:30 pm they left the factory. On 10th of April production resumed. Three days later the managing director called workers again and said: “First increase production levels by 25 per cent, then we can think about your wages.” Workers said that there will be no production increase and that they will leave at 4:30 pm as long as their demands are not met: permanent contracts for all casual workers who worked in the factory for more than two years; ESI and PF for all; holiday pay; payment of minimum wages. Next day the same thing happened. Workers said that even now when they work less the work load is too high. “We won’t increase production in fixed percentage.” On 16th of April the company agreed to increase the wages of permanent workers by 1,900 to 2,200 Rs. The wages of the workers was increased from 3,640 Rs to the minimum wage of 4,8560 Rs. Though none of the 350 (company) casual workers have been given ESI and PF and no casual worker has been made permanent. the permanent workers now seem contented with their wage increase. From 23rd of April the managing director started standing at the main gate to see who leaves, also the cameras inside the factory have been made operative again. the company also has hired 100 additional workers through contractor. On the basis of small excuses around 10 to 12 casual workers were fired in April 2012. the shift times are again from 8 am till 8:30 pm and Sundays from 8 am till 6:30 pm.
Before the Globe Capacitor Workers undertook their collective steps production of the factory had been interrupted due to lack of films needed to manufacture capacitors. The film-manufacturing company Superelectro Films in Faridabad, Sector IV, plot 3A – in several kilometres distance from the Globe Capacitor plant – could not deliver the films due to wildcat strike of their workers. These workers were dissatisfied with the fact that, like at Globe Capacitor, the company management paid and documented only 8 hours of work though actually workers worked 10.5 hours. Shortly after the films arrived again, on 2nd of April 2012, 250 female workers at Abhirashi Impex factory right in front of Globe Capacitor plant refused to enter the factory, while 200 of their male work-mates went inside. The same problem: the company paid only 8 hours, while workers worked more than 10 hours. The managing director arrived shortly after and reassured the women workers that they will be paid 5,000 Rs for a 8-hours shift.