The struggle continues…
Towards a Workers’ Organisation (Part Two) / Material on Struggle at Maruti Suzuki – GurgaonWorkersNews no.51
3.1) State of Workers’ Collectivity one Year after the Occupations (June 2012)
3.2) State and Limitations of the Trade Union at Maruti Suzuki
3.3) Preliminary Thoughts on the Unrest of the 18th of July 2012
3.4) Theses for the Future Armament of Workers’ Struggle at Maruti and Beyond
8.1) Open Letter on Maruti by Mouvement Communiste to Comrades in Delhi
8.2) Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle and Leaflet on Struggle at Citroen PSA in France
8.3) Proposal for Critical Debate on ‘Academic Research’
8.4) Phd by Bose on Automobile Industry in Delhi
8.5) Links to Future Readings
Mobile Tea Stall in Manesar – A Workers’ Meeting Place…
The current repression against Maruti workers is severe – since the unrest on 18th of July 2012 over 150 workers have been arrested, more than 500 permanent workers have been fired, more than 1,500 temporary workers might have lost their – or rather ‘this’ – job and over a thousand state and private cops have been stationed in and around the Maruti factory in order to secure industrial ‘peace’. Repression tends to focus our view and acts on itself – it forces us to react, instead of acting ourselves. These are difficult times for engaging in critical analysis of the struggles of our own class. To criticise our own activities while the enemy attacks seems rather paradox or untimely – but we think it is necessary.
In this newsletter we want to continue the debate about ‘workers’ organisation’, based on what we see as both pre-condition and process of organisation: workers’ self-inquiry into the production process, how it constitutes the working class and how it can be transformed into the basis of self-organised attack on the existing social relations. We present some general and historical thoughts about the relationship between inquiry and workers’ organisation, but our focus is concrete material on the conditions at Maruti after the waves of struggle in 2011 – and a proposal to engage in a process of workers’ inquiry in Manesar.
Between April and June 2012 we asked workers at Maruti and automobile suppliers the following questions: how does your collectivity look like now, a few months after the strike? which changes took places since then, which either weakened or strengthened your collectivity? what did management do in order to undermine your collectivity? what did workers do or can do in order to strengthen and extend the collectivity? which role does the new union play in this process of de- and re-composing workers’ organisational basis?
We summarised a preliminary balance-sheet based on these conversations, which forms the core-part of this newsletter. In addition there is further material: workers’ reports from various departments at Maruti and its suppliers; an interview with a comrade of a Marxist-Leninist group reflecting on his experiences during the 2011 struggles; a summary of ‘The Maruti Story’, written by the Maruti chairman, about the history of the Maruti Gurgaon plant, from the enemy’s perspective. A comrade summarise material on the Suzuki Hungary plant, which supplies the global markets with the same models which are produced in Manesar – and in 2005 workers showed their discontent about the working conditions. To illustrate the newsletter we took some photographs in Manesar and surrounding villages.
Friends of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar distribute the workers’ newspaper every month, both in front of the Maruti Manesar and Maruti Gurgaon plant – we hope you will help out with distribution and/or contribute to the debate. We hope this newsletter provides some instigating material.
Auto Slaves (Graveyard Shift – Stamping Plant)
With automatic movements timed to great
Machines, these metal-workers seem to reel
In some weird dance. Like marionettes they wheel
With some insane music at a maddening rate.
Automatons… What if they learn to hate
Machines whose hungry maws demand a meal
Of metal-piece upon piece of sweat-stained steel?
They work. Monotony and madness wait…
For these are human beings racked with pain,
Grotesquely hued by blue-green mercury lights…
Monotony within this noisy hell
Will breed maggots of madness in the brain
Stop the tongue so it never tell
Of torturing toil through these unending nights
(from: Industrial Worker, IWW Newspaper, 1930)
Over 2,000 Trucks come and go daily from the Maruti Manesar plant…
The question of communism is the question of collective criticism of the existing state of being, the class power to change it and the social productivity to create an alternative. Answers can only be found in the material process which re-produces at the same time (but contradictively) both society and class relations and the subjective experience of organisation of the working class within. In other words: between potentials and their realisation. The process of organisation of collective power and the process of analysis of these objective and subjective conditions are therefore one.
Most of the leftist balance-sheets of the 2011 Maruti struggle remain on the surface of things. Groups of radical left are caged within their usual categorisation of ‘political and economical’ struggle depending on their own influence on the struggle. Those who had a closer influence on ‘the leadership’ declare that the Maruti struggle was a ‘political advancement’, given that workers’ did not fight primarily for higher wages and other economical demands, but for the political (and ‘constitutional’) right to be organised in a trade union. The historical problem of workers’ struggle and the concrete weak-point of the Maruti dispute – the development of institutionalisation and formalisation of ‘leadership’ – is glorified as ‘political expression of advanced consciousness’, when they claim that after the ‘sell-out’ of the old leadership the new union leadership emerged without major transitional problems. Even less serious are the ways that other groups discard the struggle as ‘economical’ with lack of political leadership. In this way the potentials and limitations of the struggle won’t be understood.
“The extend to which the Maruti struggle should have recomposed the left, it did not. There are some structural limitations for that. The vision of organisation which is distant from workers’ life and struggles inhibits to take lessons from struggles. This cannot be subjectively dissolved, this depends on the development of working class struggle, on reflections on it and the review of Indian left movements. That depends on the fact how we deal with erstwhile successful strategies which now become more and more problematic. The critique of left groups is an internal criticism, a self-critical approach – of the left movement vis-a-vis the working class movement.” (Interview with comrade -see this newsletter)
The underlying motivations and driving forces of the struggle – which surface officially as a common slogan and demand for ‘union’ – are not easily to be categorised as ‘economical or political’, if at all, they have to defined seen as systemical.
a) it was a struggle against the factory system, both against its personal and impersonal disciplinary agents (supervisors and machinery) – under the specific situation of Maruti pushing work-loads to limits before being able to leap into expansion (B- and C-plant), driven by the post-2008 global squeeze and race into over-capacities
b) it was a struggle of workers who felt their collective power of being in the centre of both the current economical regime in India (industrial development, integration into the global market on basis of highly productive cheap labour) and the productive cooperation of hundred thousand workers in the automobile supply-chain
c) it was a struggle about the political question of workers’ consumption: current wage-levels do not allow workers in the most advanced industrial sectors to reproduce themselves and their families and/or to take part in the wider society around them; a claim towards higher wages under these conditions is also a political claim for ‘equality’ and in struggle turns into a measure of class power
d) the struggle was driven by the temporary status of workers, which forms a systemic part of the current regime: temporary not only in terms of employment, but also in terms of the urban-rural status of the workers; workers can not be disciplined anymore with the prospect of a ‘rural petty bourgeois / peasant future’ (small trader, peasant, artisan), but the current set-up does not allow them to ‘save money for a settled urban future’ either; the current state of being is symbolised in the division of the working day into ‘stress of the assembly-line’ and ‘boredom of the dormitory villages’, whose main offer of leisure are cheap multi-media mobile-phones of Chinese brand
e) the struggle created a new collectivity which broke with previous limitations and divisions; in the course of the struggle workers had to confront and break the law; the focus on the official demand of union recognition did not help to realise the potentials of generalisation of the struggle: the general discontent in the area;
Instead of crying about victimisation of workers and the denial of rights we have to analyse the systemic tension – the unability of the current system to offer anything else and the collective power of workers not to accept this. The struggle at Maruti asked systemic questions and through wildcat occupations engaged in practical criticism, but workers did not find a collective language towards other workers beyond Maruti. An organised workers’ inquiry into the current conditions within and beyond Maruti is necessary – see also the contribution and open letter of comrades of the collective Mouvement Communiste from France after a visit in Manesar (appendix).
The Historical Legacy of Workers’ Inquiry
For this effort we can refer to historical experiences within the communist movement, from Marx’s workers’ questionaire to the initiatives of the Italian Operaismo in the early and late 1960s. The comrades back then were confronted with a double crisis of the communist movement. By 1956 it was clear for most workers that the emancipative elements of the ‘old communist movement’ in form of the CPs were finally dead: disarmament of workers after 1945 through the Italian CPI, official party line ‘participation on parliamentary level and national development’, massacre of struggling workers in Berlin 1953 and Hungary 1956 through the ‘workers’ state’. At the same time the material base of the ‘old communist movement’ (peasants and skilled workers in the manufacturing industries) were undermined by social re-structuring. The workers in the north of Italy were confronted with the introduction of assembly line production and the ability of capital to employ peasant-workers from the poorer south. Both unions and political parties had given up the shop-floor as a space of social struggle and provided therefore no answers for the new composition of old skilled workers and seemingly ‘unorganised’ migrant industrial workers. In this situation dissidents of the CPI and PSI (Socialist Party) engaged in a collective effort of workers inquiry, in rounds of workers reporting about the new conditions, trying to formulate political strategies and to circulate it amongst other workers. Following are passages from a longer article on workers’ inquiry and the legacy of Operaismo, we then formulate some practical conclusions for their current relevance at Maruti and in Gurgaon/Manesar area.
“In the introduction to the Italian edition of the Diary of the Renault Worker, Daniel Mothé, Panzieri expanded on the antagonism in the production relation. »The book […] goes beyond the usual testimonies of the conditions of the worker, testimonies that mostly merely express sympathy with the situation of the factory worker (and no more that this). In Mothé’s diary the problems of the working class in a large modern factory, in all their complexities and specific reality, are shown step by step through the keen and thoughtful observations of the everyday life in one department. The book deals with the beginning of the rational organisation of work. There is a contradiction between on the one hand the attempt at a rational organisation of work that isolates the workers more and more; and on the other hand the conditions within which the work has to develop, that themselves lead to the constant breaking of the rules in order that the production can run and has a sense. The worker has to fight against the implementation of these ›rationalisations‹ that have to shut out any human qualified experience in order to be put into practice: even before the legitimate need to connect to the colleague next to him – a need within which appears the value of an unshakeable solidarity – and the experience of work itself which brings the worker to understand his own problems as collective ones. (Panzieri)
The industrial sociological analyses also discover conflicts everywhere. But usually the bourgeois sociologists examine these conflicts as problems that are there to be solved in order to guarantee the smooth functioning of the factory. And the ›critical‹ sociologists expose the conflicts to prove that the factory does not function perfectly. In contrast to this the comrades, schooled on Marx, took the contradiction of the work process as the starting point of the inquiry. Thereby they could understand how conflicts could also be functional for the valorisation and which functions of the hierarchy are there to prevent these conflicts turning into a united struggle.
“From a revolutionary standpoint, the act of gathering this kind of information could enable us to show how a worker fuses with his class and whether his relationship with his social group is different from a petit-bourgeois’ or bourgeois’ relationship with his or her own group. Does the proletarian connect his fate, on all levels of his existence, consciously or not, with the fate of his class? Classic expressions like class consciousness and class behaviour are often too abstract: Can we check them concretely? According to Marx, the proletarian, in contrast to the bourgeois, is not simply member of his class, he is an individual, a member of a community, and he is conscious of the fact that he can only liberate himself collectively. Can we concretely verify this Marxist assumption?” (Lefort)
›Biographical approach‹, ›intensive interviews‹… today everyone from Feminists to left Sociologists practices these inquiry methods. The difference of the ›workers’ inquiry‹ is that they started from a collective dimension: the self-constitution of the class, the detection of communism in the movement of the working class itself. »Porto Marghera [location of the petrochemical industry on the mainland across from Venice] was the laboratory in which we verified the situation with scientific methods. One could not begin to have a political discourse without what we called ›workers’ inquiry‹. We were determined to clarify once again what the workers standpoint was in concrete, because they were the social figures that were strategically relevant in the process towards the ›new‹. (Guido Bianchini)
There was a serious political confrontation within the group around the fundamental question of whether the instrument of sociology could be applied critically. This went from the tendency which reduced Marxism to a mere sociology, through the critical application of sociological instruments up to an attempt at a full abolition [Aufhebung] of the difference between inquirer and the objects of the inquiry, the workers, with the aim of ›workers’ self-inquiry‹. Both the last two positions called their practice ›Conricerca‹, word-for-word meaning; ›with-inquiry‹. Liliana Lanzardo explained in November 1994 in Turin, that today it is much clearer to see the difference between those who wanted to do an academic inquiry and those for whom it was about a political project; at the time there was no terminology at all. A few of their fellow fighters of the time are today recognised industrial sociologies in the worst sense.”
for full text: http://www.wildcat-www.de/en/wildcat/64_65/w64opera_en.htm
Negation of Academic Research
Today, more then ever, a criticism of ‘academic research’ is necessary. There are very apparent problems with academic research: material and formal dependence on state institutions, individualistic academic knowledge production, reproduction of divisions between intellectual professional and working class which leads to instrumentalisation – which applies similarly to other ‘movement professions’ such as trade union organising, labour-NGOs and labour journalism. The challenge will be to go beyond an individualistic criticism of ‘academic comrades’ – which nevertheless remains necessary – in order to ask the question of how the working class movement itself can develop collective intellectual processes and, last but not least, find the material resources for it, independent from the educational state institutions. Since trouble in Gurgaon started the area is flooded with labour NGOs and ‘researchers’. The International Metal Workers Federation (international organisation of the main institutionalised trade unions) offered larger sums of money to the new Maruti workers’ union – at a moment where the influence of the established trade unions was at a low and spaces were opened for independent generalisation of the conflict. There needs to be an open debate ‘within the movement’ about academic work, ‘revolutionary activities’ – the relation between ‘individual aspirations, recognition and wish for material security’ and collective work. Here the ‘academic comrades’ are asked, not to justify, but to explain themselves. For the time being we refer to an older text on the question of ‘union organisers’ and to a ‘letter of questions’ written for the debate with ‘academic comrades’ researching automobile workers in India – see appendix.
Towards a Workers’ Inquiry at Maruti and Beyond
The workers’ reports in this newsletter do not reflect the situations from which they emerged. Most of the Maruti workers we spoke to are workers who friends of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar and of Inqualabi Mazdoor Kendra met during the occupations in 2011 – and engaged with in discussions about their struggle. We usually meet after the distribution of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in Aliyar or other villages in Manesar. Particularly the temporary workers, trainees and apprentices live together, four share a room, forty or more workers share a common backyard, latrine, tap. What bourgeois media describe as ‘miserable living conditions’, we see as potential and actual base-camps of proletarian collectivity. Workers of different departments, of different supplying companies, of different sectors live together. Our conversations take place in groups of five or ten. Most workers have experiences of working in other companies in Manesar or Gurgaon, everyone has friends in other factories. The temporary paint-shop workers have actively taken part in the occupations, they see the need to extend the organisational forms and to strengthen direct contacts between workers. This is the material and organic base for an organisational process.
Since the Maruti struggle in 2011 the atmosphere in Manesar has changed and in some cases workers make active use of their connectedness beyond company walls. A small, but very important example was the direct solidarity action of temporary Maruti workers of various departments for an injured temp workers at Allied Nippon, a supplying company who some of them had shared a room with – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.44/45 – and the spontaneous intervention of Maruti workers during the lock-out at nearby Senior Felxtronics – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.50. In embryonic form workers create an organisational structure – the challenge of a process of workers’ inquiry would be to turn it into a workers’ coordination. We made the following suggestions to the workers we met: put the question ‘what happened to our collectivity since October 2011’ in front of all Maruti workers. What has changed, what did management do, what did we do, how does the union help or not? Answer the questions on the level of your own department or company and invite others to do the same. Find an adequate form to pose this question: leaflet, newspaper, informal meetings. Refer to the experience of the occupations and succesful actions like like at Allied Nippon to demonstrate that the coordination can and must go beyond Maruti and can and must have practical results.
We suggest to working class activists to shift the focus from the sphere of ‘formal representation’ (small union body, negotiations, legal back-and-forth, repression) to this daily form of organisation within the production process and within the wider industrial area. Longer conversations are necessary in order to understand the set-up of Maruti, the management strategies, the potentials and difficulties for workers to form collectives on the shop-floor and to coordinate beyond. We have to see Maruti and Manesar as ‘a workers’ organisation’ in itself, with material and ideological divisions, with regional and international ties, with connections to the rural sphere. This is the organisation we have to work within and to turn into a base of workers’ power – instead of seeing it as a recruitment ground for ‘membership’. Maruti dominates the class relation not only in a material sense, dictating paces of development right into the sphere of slum production, it also dominates the political landscape in its collaboration with Haryana and central state power. The results of workers struggle at Maruti will open or close space for the struggle in the wider industrial landscape, not only in the Delhi industrial belt, but in the whole of the subcontinent. As we have seen, the challenge will be to establish organisational link from this centre of unrest to its productive periphery.
In concrete this would mean to form an initial group of five to ten comrades who are willing to focus on the situation in Manesar for at least half a year to a year, until a structure is established which maintains itself. Rounds of documented conversations with workers from different departments and suppliers are a first step. These conversations have the aim to look for ways to increase collective power and to de-mystify capitalist organisation of work – where it hides its class character behind the seeming neutrality of technology, efficiency, quality, knowledge, science. In the centre of the conversations are the following questions:
* how did you experience the struggle in 2011 and 2012, which internal and informal form of organisation did you experience and how did this relate to the official form of organisation?
* which changes in daily production and life in Manesar do you see since 2011?
* how does the work-step you perform relate to others? on whose work do you depend on and who is dependent on your work-step in order to be able to work?
* in which other departments or companies or sectors do you know workers? how did you get to know them? what do you know about their conditions?
* what kind of experiences do you have of collective forms of resistance on the shop-floor, as little as they might be? what would be ways to extend this collectivity, what would be necessary?
* how could meetings of workers be organised, taking into account both the lack of time and space resources and the question of security
* in case of future conflicts either at Maruti or at other companies in Manesar, how can we support them and/or take part in them in terms of breaking out of isolation and out of the control of institutionalised unions? how can we prepare ourselves at our daily work-place and beyond?
The conversations should be organised and documented in a way which reveals the already existent contacts and knowledge to other workers – face-to-face if possible, through leaflets and newspapers if necessary. General political aim of the process should be:
* making future struggles independent of institutional mediation and making formal leadership unnecessary
* making use of the productive connectedness of production in order to hit the company most and in order to extend the struggle
* find ways of extending the struggle or spread the news about it through the already existing channels of communication that workers have (work-place, life in Manesar)
* develop an understanding of self-organisation (informal committees and coordinations) to plan steps ahead
* be aware of other disputes which go on in other companies and areas at the same time and try to relate to these workers directly
* generalise the issue of the struggle to a wider level: question of more money and less work, general question of existence as proletarians in Delhi area
* establish a political coordination of workers in Manesar which survive single conflicts
* find ways to get in touch with workers outside Delhi region, first of all with those who will play an important role in future disputes, e.g. FIAT workers manufacturing Maruti engines in Maharashtra
Following some preliminary material which can be used as the basis of this process of inquiry…
Trade union flag in front of Suzuki Powertrain – Symbol of institutionalisation…
After the occupation in October 2011 Maruti management had to deal with an emerged collective of 3,000 workers in the assembly plant and their extended collective of workers in Suzuki Powertrain and other suppliers. Modern capitalist factory production and this degree of workers’ collectivity don’t go together. Management therefore faces the question how to undermine the collectivity and re-establish control over the shop-floor and the wider productive system. The required control can neither be enforced by brute repression, nor by ‘divide-and-rule’-tactics alone, the material transformation of the production process, the physical change of the cooperation between workers of different departments and productive units is required. From management point of view, concessions given to workers have to contain future potentials of re-division and productivity increase. The productive cooperation – the working side-by-side – was the fundament of workers’ togetherness in 2011, so consequently it has to be changed.
Within the left the understanding of these types of shifts within the productive system are only rarely seen as political measures of re-establishing the rule of capital, focus is on the more obviously ‘political’ measures of management repression against workers. Workers in turn face similar questions. If the Maruti assembly plant and its closest suppliers has been the basis of our collective power so far, and if management is planning strategically to undermine this basis, what can our answer be? These are in noway abstract contemplations, but very concrete facts, moulded in metal: (also) in order to undermine the power of Suzuku Powertrain workers as sole suppliers of diesel engines for the Maruti Gurgaon plant, Suzuki management ordered engines from FIAT factory based in Maharashtra. Since October 2011 the Gurgaon plant is not only supplied by Suzuki Powertrain in Manesar, but also receives 350 engines from FIAT each day, confirming the tendency of capital to react to workers’ struggle by expanding the socialisation and re-division of labour. In their future struggles Maruti workers will have to face up to this fundamental change in their material cooperation, which now includes FIAT workers.
On the background of these questions we have to soberly analyse the role of the newly established unions at Powertrain and Maruti Suzuki. Being structured by the framework of labour law and formal representation, is the union able to counteract the material changes imposed by management? Can the union strengthen workers’ power and expand their collectivity? In the following we will try to draw some preliminary conclusions, based on conversations with workers of different departments and suppliers in April to June 2012. What did management do after October 2011 in order to re-compose the work-force and re-gain control.
Management kept around 100 police stationed 24 hours in the Maruti Suzuki assembly plant till December 2011. At Suzuki Castings and Powertrain the police had tents on the factory premises, with 50 to 60 police and 15 police respectively, till at least June 2012. After the riots of the 18th of July a 600-head strong special police battalion was stationed permanently in the industrial zone of Industrial Model Town Manesar. These are the most obvious expressions of the fact that management does not trust their own power in the factory and that for a re-composition this presence of state violence is necessary.
Shifting of workforce
Obviously the management’s attempt of a major shift of work-force was defeated by the workers when they re-occupied the factory in early October 2011 after 1,200 temporary workers were not taken back. This move of re-occupation was not so much due to the ‘political consciousness of unity’ of the union leadership, but due to the enormous (physical) pressure of the temporary workers on their permanent work-mates. After October 2011 management shifted those 800 workers who were hired as ‘scabs’ during the ‘lock-out’ to the new B-plant, which became operational in September 2011. This creates a plant-level division between workers of different histories. In addition management shifted individual workers from A-plant to B-plant, whenever it seemed appropriate and possible to isolate individual workers.
Between April and May 2012 management started a campaign against ‘faked’ ITI certificates in all departments. They accused workers who had been employed at Maruti since several years of having presented a faked professional qualification (around 25,000 Rs in UP) and kicked them out. In total only 70 workers became victims of this campaign, but they were employed in nearly all departments, so the campaign created a certain atmosphere throughout the plant. There were only few incidents of collective resistance by workers on line level, see for example workers’ report from the weld-shop. Other workers reported about an increase of dismissals of temporary workers due to minor mistakes and fabricated reasons from April 2012 onwards.
Arbitrary trainee tests
In order to filter the workforce and to give the decision ‘who gets on the company pay-roll and how many’ a seemingly objective touch, companies like Maruti make use of ‘trainee tests’. Workers hired through contractors, after several years of employment, have to pass a test in order to become trainees. Trainees have to go through three years of trainee-status in order to get the chance to become permanents. At Honda HMSI management used the trainee status to re-compose the workforce after the 2005 struggle, Maruti Suzuki in Manesar will very likely modify the trainee status after the unrest 2011/12. A trainee from the bumper department said in June 2012: “Some of us try to become trainees, we have to pass a test. Around 500 questions, mostly on health and safety and quality, also “where have you been during the strike period in 2011″. We have to undergo a medical test, too. In the bumper-shop 24 workers went for the test in early 2012, only 7 were taken on as trainees.”
Uneven work-load distribution
What is common in other big companies, such as neighbouring Honda HMSI, that permanent workers are given ‘better’ jobs (maintenance, quality, supervision) and temporary workers do the main productive work has not been the case yet at Maruti Suzuki Manesar. But things start to change. A permanent worker employed in the weld-shop said in June 2012: “There is a clear policy to divide permanents from temporary workers. Supervisors don’t put any pressure on permanents, you can do your job, you can walk around. Pressure is solely on temporary workers. These workers obviously complain, but they don’t complain in front of the supervisor, they express their anger towards the permanent workers – they in turn tell the temporary workers to shut up and work.”
Increasing wage gap
First reaction of management after the occupation in October 2011 was to give a considerable wage increase to temporary workers and apprentices, without formal agreement or negotiations – see workers’ report from the final assembly department. Since then wage developments were tied to formal negotiations. The wage gap between temporary and permanent workers has increased significantly after the wage agreement settled by the recently established trade union at Suzuki Powertrain. According to permanent workers close to the union leadership, the demand notice put forward at Maruti Suzuki assembly plant puts a strong emphasis on productivity bonus, which is only available for permanent workers. If Maruti wage dynamics follow the general trend, then the wage settlement will most likely result in productivity-related wage increase for permanents and relative wage stagnation for the temporary work-force.
Changes in the supply-chain
We already mentioned the most significant change introduced in October 2011 concerning the supply of 100,000 diesel engine annually from FIAT plant in Ranjangaon, Maharashtra. FIAT India has considerable over-capacities and Maruti Suzuki needs to undermine the position of Suzuki Powertrain workers – Management had to realise in 2011 that two days strike at Powertrain suffices to stop production at the ‘appeased’ Maruti Gurgaon plant. Apart from that the struggle in 2011 forced Maruti to re-think their supply-chain lay-out. While the spacial distance between the assembly plant and most of the suppliers prevented copy-cat effects during the strikes in 2011, workers at companies like Bellsonica, FMI, Krishna Maruti, SKH Metal , which operate on the Maruti premises, might be too close to the centre. Another major change in the near future will affect hundreds of truck drivers and loaders – some of them took part in the strikes in 2011. With the development of the industrial corridor connecting Delhi industrial area with port-towns in Gujarat and Maharashtra Maruti management intends to increase the finished car transport by rail from currently 5 to 35 per cent. Every day around 500 trucks leave Maruti Gurgaon plant with finished cars, the number will be only slightly smaller in Manesar.
Carrot of the C-Plant – Threat of Gujarat
Maruti management will try to use current investments and fusions in order to undermine workers’ position. In June 2012 Maruti announced the fusion with Suzuki Powertrain, which leaves scope for speculation about future conditions of workers in both companies. Similarly the speculation about the future of assembly work at Gurgaon plant. In March 2012 newspapers announced management decison to reduce the Gurgaon capacity from currently 700,000 cars to 400,000 cars and to increase diesel engine production – production start by mid-2013, around 150,000 units. The new engine-shop will need less workers than the shutting down of the assembly-departments will make redundant. Investments into the C-plant in Manesar and the R&D centre (and expanded Suzuki Motorcycles factory with 4,000 new workers) in ‘the new auto-export-hub’ Rohtak (also in Haryana) and the resulting ‘creation of 1,900 new Maruti jobs’ in the region will be used as a carrot and as a possibility to re-shuffle the workforce – while the construction of the Gujarat plant (estimated production-start 2015) will be instrumentalised as a means of black-mailing against the ‘workers in Haryana’.
These are just some superficial snapshots of current and imminent changes of the conditions at Maruti which will impact on workers’ collectivity and structural power. It is obvious that most of the changes reach beyond the formal boundaries of the trade union frame-work.
Union demonstration during lock-out at Senior Flexonics automobile supplier…
The question whether workers are able to use the trade union structure as a vehicle to counteract these significant material changes (or attacks) imposed by management depends on objective conditions (who can the union formally represent, what can the union legally do) and subjective factors (how engaged are workers within the union framework).
Most of our conversations with Maruti Manesar workers took place in March 2012 to June 2012, less than a year after an enormously intensive wave of struggle, after a struggle which meant considerable risk and (monetary) sacrifice, but which also created an atmosphere of collective excitement and enthusiasm. Official goal of the struggle was the recognition of an independent trade union. Less than a year after the struggle and after the union got registered in early 2012, the interest and engagement of workers in the trade union seemed close to zero, not only amongst the temporary workers, also amongst the permanents. This reminds us of the participation level in the parliamentary elections in Egypt, which hovered around 20 per cent, after a mass wave of struggle ‘against the dictatorship’, and officially for the right to vote a different government. The union was a symbol of struggle and unity, which brought the Maruti workers together, but also under certain illusions – e.g. many temporary workers were little aware of the fact that they will not be represented – which now come out into the open of ‘normal and formal industrial relations’.
Some of the permanent workers express the hope that a ‘recognition on paper’, either of the union itself or of agreements concerning pay and conditions, will secure the gains now that the immediate pressure of the struggle has decreased.
“We can struggle, we can gain something. But without union recognition the gains are lost, the company will turn back the wheel within three months and we are back at start. Once we have the union we will also take care of the temporary workers”. (Permanent Worker, assembly department, March 2012)
The actual form of organisation excludes the majority of workers. Apprentices, trainees and temporary workers don’t fulfill the official norms as ‘workmen’ and are therefore excluded from membership in the permanent employees union. At Maruti the composition looks like this: 850 permanents (potential union members), 1,000 trainees (no members of union), 300 apprentice (no members of union), over 1,200 workers hired through contractor (no members of union).
“The temporary workers in the paint-shop haven’t seen the demand notice. There are rumours that ‘wage demands for workers hired through contractors’ are included. We heard about 17,000 Rs for non-ITI and 22,000 Rs for ITI workers. Also the permanent workers in the paint-shop haven’t seen the demand notice. There hasn’t been a union general meeting for two months. During the struggle itself we should have put forward our own demands directly: at least 10,000 Rs per month, bus service for everyone and so on.”
(Temporary worker, paint-shop, April and May 2012)
One of the most important questions is obviously whether the form of delegation, which developed during the struggles in 2011 is still intact and alive. During the struggle decisions about the direction of the struggle were announced by line coordinators, one line-coordinator representing around 15 co-workers, in total there were around 150 coordinators. These workers worked together day by day and sat together during the occupations and during the lock-out – it was the basic unit of the struggle. It seemed in hindsight that the line-coordinators were not ‘representing the debate of their co-workers’, but were rather used as disseminators of the decision of the leadership.
“Since October 2011 the line coordinators have no function anymore, apart from being the extended hands of the union body. If any line coordinator talks or acts in a way which does not please the union body, they have ways to shut him up. The demand notice has not been discussed, it is not based on debate. In this sense the whole physical confrontation between union president and HR manager was a show – they suspended the president afterwards, the union guys walked through the plant saying that if the suspension is not withdrawn there will be violence and the HR managers will be beaten up, then the HR withdrew the suspension. We tried to organise Sunday meetings amongst active permanent workers to debate the situation, but these meetings stopped – they had no results.”
(Permanent worker, weld-shop, June 2012)
“The line coordinators in the paint-shop have been elected by everyone, but they had to be permanent workers. They take care of ‘problems’, if the AC does not work or similar things. If they can’t solve it with the supervisor, they go to the ‘union body’. Some line-coordinators are more like the right-hand of the supervisor. Normal workers can also go to the ‘union body members’ on an individual level, that’s no problem.”
(Temporary worker, paint-shop, May 2012)
The usual leftist response to these problems would be to demand more ‘internal democracy’. A permanent worker, union body member since the first hour of the struggle, criticises the attitude of the current union body, but also questions whether union elections would actually benefit workers’ unity.
“The ‘union body’ (eleven members) has not been elected. After the ‘sell-out’ of the 30 union leaders union members initially demanded ‘more control’, for example people said that before an agreement is signed by the union all members should see and sign it; they said to the ‘union body’ that ‘you first have to prove, before we can trust’. After registration of the union in early 2012 the question of elections came up. The constitution requires elections after registration of the union. The eleven member union body tried to avoid having elections, they also asked workers to sign agreements that they don’t wish to have elections at that point. But actually, if there were elections now, it would not have a positive result. It would rather create more divisions between workers due to struggle over posts and votes.”
(Permanent worker, press-shop, June 2012)
At Suzuki Powertrain, where workers refer to the union as the ‘union of the locals’ (workers from Haryana and Rajasthan), as opposed to the ‘outsiders’ (Bihar, UP etc.) it can be seen how quickly ‘the union’ can turn from a symbol of workers’ togetherness in struggle into a medium of ‘managing the status quo’ and therefore managing and re-producing divisions within the work-force. This description of the ‘local workers’ union’ might be superficially true, but does not explain the underlying reasons for why unions tend to represent a smaller or bigger minority of workers. Under the current economic pressure (profit-squeeze, market crisis etc.) and given the legal constrains unions are only able to survive if they offer some benefits to a minoritarian section of the working class, which they have to mobilise every now and then, and manage the division between them and other workers responsibly. Only then management will accept them as ‘representatives’. At Suzuki Powertrain, apart from the division into permanents and temporary workers, the division took regionalistic forms. Following a short summary of the development of the union at Suzuki Powertrain.
“After the joint occupation of Maruti Suzuki and Suzuki Powertrain in October 2011, negotiations took place between Powertrain management and recently established union (HMS) on 19th of October. Three representatives of Suzuki Powertrain were kept separate from the rest of the union leader-ship (HMS) during negotiations. These three leaders had pushed the joint-occupation with the Maruti Suzuki workers. The remaining Powertrain union leadership signed an agreement on 21st of October. The three Powertrain leaders remained suspended and were finally sacked on 17th of April.
On 10th of November 2011 permanent workers at Suzuki Powertrain debated during a general union assembly. Despite having been called several times, the union leadership did not come to the general assembly. The debate had mainly evolved around the issue of the three suspended [more militant] leaders. Workers called for a general union election, and said that no 3-years agreement will be signed with management before the three suspended are taken back. But then it became clear that the union leadership had already signed a three years agreement on the 9th of November. The inquiry against the three suspended was finished on 2nd of December.
In early 2012 around 500 Powertrain workers signed a letter complaining about the agreement settled by the union, one point of conflict was the link of wages to productivity increase. Workers decided last minute not to go forward with this protest in order to ‘keep the unity’. By then the union leadership, in order to deal with the ‘competition’ of the more ‘radical’ suspended leaders turned towards a certain kind of regionalism, presenting themselves as the representatives of the ‘locals’. The fact that Powertrain management announced in June 2012 that in future it will hire only ITI apprentices from ITI’s in Haryana is very likely not by chance.
In order to put pressure on management to take the suspended leaders back on workers refused company tea on 30th and 31st of January 2012 and company canteen food on 1st and 2nd of February 2012. After the food boycot management threatened workers with ‘accusation of undisciplin’ (a formal accusation which can lead to suspensions). On 1st of February 2012 20 to 25 workers were accused of having engaged in physical violence and against two workers a FIR case was filed by police. At the time, around 23rd of March 2012, there were similar protests (food-boycot) at Suzuki Motorcycles in Kherki Dhaula after three leaders had been suspended by management. These conflicts remained isolated from each other.
At Suzuki Motorcycles, the company had revised a new wage settlement for three years around July 2011, but in March 2012 management refused to implement some pending demands. On 21st of March 2012, when a union delegation went and discussed the issues with management, the HR Vice President Anil Munjal and the union General Secretary clashed in the canteen. Next day the three union leaders were suspended without charges. The company called in a large number of police personnel outside the premises.
At Powertrain, the union ordered another a food boycott on 10th and 13th of April, on 17th of April Powertrain management sacked the three leaders. On 17th of April 2012, after having heard that three permanent workers (union leaders) had been sacked, the B- and C-shift gathered at 00:30 am. At 1:30 am one of the union body members (HMS) arrived and said that the union will not be able to support any suspended or sacked (as result of this protest) workers. The B-shift workers went home and the C-shift workers started work. About half of the workers had supported the strike, the other half not. Many of us apprentices joint the strike, although we are not directly concerned, while a lot of the permanents remained passive.
On 21st of April the union leadership removed these three workers from their union posts and gave the posts to new people. On 27th of April HMS regional leadership under leadership of the union president of JCB called for meeting in support for sacked leaders, but the HMS union section from Powertrain did not attend. With Suzuki Powertrain now being ‘under control’ it will be very likely that Maruti Suzuki will try to use the fact that the two companies will fuse by end 2012 in order to ‘import the union agreements and structure’. On 12th of June Powertrain union body members return to work in production department after having mainly been in union office ‘off work’ during the last months. They probably felt the urge to ‘keep in touch’ with the workers as much as the union leadership at Maruti Suzuki felt the need to demonstrate its ‘militancy’, e.g. when the union president slapped a supervisor in mid-June 2012.”
(Based on conversations with Powertrain apprentices and dismissed Powertrain permanent worker, June 2012)
At Maruti Suzuki the MSWU union, though largely absent from the shop-floor, handed over their demand notice on 18th of April 2012. The media reported mainly on a propagandistic level that the union ‘demands a five-fold wage increase’, while most (temporary) workers were largely unaware about the actual content of the demand notice. A large share of the ‘wage hike’ would be linked to production level. “The PPRA (productivity and attendance bonus) forms 50 per cent of our wage. In the current demand notice there is a demand that the bonus should be attached to the amount of cars produced, e.g. if Manesar produces 900 cars per day, the bonus should be 4 Rs per car, if between 900 and 1,200 then 6 Rs, if over 1,200 then 8 Rs.” (Permanent worker, weld-shop, June 2012)
It remained unclear whether this bonus would apply only to the permanent workers wage. The union leadership made an attempt during negotiations to include temporary workers in the long-term agreement and offered to renounce one year of wage increase (for the period from April 2011 to 2012) if the temporary workers would be included. Management did not budge and the ‘preemptive renouncement’ probably also did not help to strengthen the unity between permanents and temporary workers. On 14th of June the union met with HR-head Siddiqui for negotiations about the payment of the annual spare parts bonus. The HR management said that the 53 days of strike in 2011 will be reduced from the bonus, so that permanent workers who took part in the strike get 27,900 Rs bonus, while the non-strikers get 44,000 Rs. The union agreed, which also did not help to build up more pressure for the wage negotiations.
The union was unable to enforce a wage settlement and unwilling or unable to mobilise workers for collective actions (how to mobilise after the main union structure had been paralysed for months? Would the temporary workers have gone on strike for an unclear demand notice? Would the union have been able to call for a legal strike during period of negotiations?) The pressure on the union leadership ‘to prove itself’ and to demonstrate that it is not ‘management-friendly’ increased. That might explain incidences like in mid-May, when a ‘physical’ confrontation between Maruti Suzuki union president and HR manager took place in the final assembly. Workers had complaint about lack of air, faulty cooling system, but there was no reaction from the side of management at all. Only when the union president came out of a meeting, supervisors and managers reacted, there was a back-and-forth and the union president hit a member of staff. Management suspended him, but after a tension grew amongst workers they revoked the measure.
If we return to our initial question whether the union frame work helped to strengthen and expand the workers’ collectivity which emerged out of the 2011 movement we will have to say that the union framework is not sufficient. It focussed the attention of workers onto the sphere of negotiations, suspensions, election politics, while management took material steps to transform the productive cooperation of workers in order to undermine their subversive cooperation. The legal framework of union representation is too narrow in order to organise ourselves on the same level as the company is trying to disorganise us. For the production system, management combines workers of various areas, sectors, companies, categories, from work in slum huts to robot-weldshops, from Delhi to Tokyo, while we are supposed to be organised as the small faction of ‘permanent workers in Manesar’. If we don’t reflect the totality of this productive structure and its constant changes in our coordination of workers (canteen, contracts, suppliers), we will end up in isolation and the paper of agreements and recognition will turn into dust for the majority of workers.
At Honda HMSI it took only two years before a major rupture within the work-force emerged: from the 2005 bloody united struggle for union recognition to the wildcat strike of temporary workers opposed by the union in 2007. Will this process repeat itself at Maruti Suzuki or will both permanent and temporary workers find a different organisational structure to re-compose themselves and re-establish their collectivity on a higher level? These were our questions before the 18th of July 2012…
A valuable weapon in workers’ hands…
On 18th of July a group of workers and management clashed in the Maruti Manesar factory, a manager got killed and around 100 others were injured by workers using automobile parts. Most Maruti workers fled Manesar after the incident, also as result of severe police raids. Maruti declared a lock-out which continued at least till mid-August.
We are not in the position to ‘provide any evidence’ about what actually happened. The general background of the incident is clear, the living and working conditions of workers in Delhi industrial area produce regular outbursts of ‘violence’. About the specific background and possible outcome of the violence at Maruti there is a controversy within our collective. This is also due to the fact that some of us are currently ‘out of town’ and followed the events from afar, while others are in Faridabad, Manesar and Gurgaon area, distributing Faridabad Majdoor Samachar newspaper amongst workers after the riot took place.
End of July, before the announcement of the mass dismissals, comrades in Faridabad said about the 18th of July incident that “Something new has happened, a shift took place. The management of the entire area is terrorised. Maruti has to announce that it will not use contract labour in the future. The head-manager of Shell had to admit that ‘it is perverse that a top-manager earns 820 times the wage of his worker’. While Maruti CEO has to talk publicly about ‘class-war’, the left keeps on talking about constitutional rights, proper legal inquiry and demand a ‘return to normalcy’. Workers are way ahead of them, they don’t care about their jobs anymore. Maruti will have to re-hire most of the workers, they cannot produce without them. There will obviously be some arrests and some people will be kicked out, but at large the workers have shifted the situation and atmosphere in the area. Management knows that a small trifle like suspensions of two workers can kick off anything now. During distribution, Maruti workers at Gurgaon plant told us that management is shit-scared indeed.”
From afar we raise further questions. In August 2011 a supervisor also attacked a worker inside the plant, but in reaction all workers of the department went on a wildcat strike together and forced the supervisor to apologise in front of them. Soon after police came inside the plant in order to arrest some people, but workers again went on strike and forced the police to return the workers. Since October 2011 the collectivity of workers has suffered. As we have seen, the union leadership was not able to maintain the collectivity and therefore was also not able to enforce themselves against management. In order to prove themselves despite their structurally weak position they resorted to ‘strong men attitude’. Instead of struggling as productive workers as part of a wide industrial network they created a position, mainly amongst permanent workers, that ‘we are 1,000 strong guys’. In mid-May 2012 the union president, who was seen as a ‘softy’, slapped a supervisor on the shop-floor, which has to be seen mainly as a show-act. The desperation of the union leadership of not being able to fulfill the large expectations of workers might have contributed to the ‘show-down’ on the 18th of July. We don’t know how collectively prepared and involved the mass of workers were, but we know that now they are dispersed. As Maruti workers they did not come out stronger out of the incident – although, and this can be true at the same time – the violence might have shifted the general atmosphere in the area in favour of the wider working class. Maruti workers have shown that management is not able to control them, but the difference to the wildcat occupations in 2011 is that a riot leaves less space for generalisation of workers’ autonomy. Maruti will continue to produce and will have no other option but to reproduce the same contradictions which led to the violence.
Two months after the incident the situation looks less bleak. Maruti had to take back a lot of the old workers, but promised better conditions. The 500 sacked workers continue their mobilisation with their family members and form some kind of ‘collective of the discontent’ in various towns in Haryana – the initial dispersion can turn into spreading the conflict. It will have to be seen whether a fruitful relationship can be formed between the situation in Manesar plant, between the ‘sacked workers agitations’ and the Gurgaon plant, where young workers force the union to take some kind of action in support of the Manesar workers – several hundred workers went to the union office to demand steps. Workers and working-class communists have to analyse how the collectivity can be expanded throughout the productive territory around Manesar and how they can hit management the hardest while at the same time keep their own harm at a minimum. The two suspensions at neighbouring Honda HMSI shortly after the 18th of July, which were issued after the Maruti riot, show that not all managers are scared enough yet. Below a very superficial chronology of the events of the 18th of July 2012.
16th of July
The union distributes a document amongst workers which had been handed to them by management, saying that management are not agreeing to union demands, which includes education allowance of 200 Rs for employee’s children.
17th of July
A-shift and B-shift workers boycott their pre-shift meetings with supervisors as protest against management’s non-compromising attitude during the ongoing negotiations about the demand notice.
18th of July
During A-shift a supervisor stopped some workers when they were returning from their tea break and told them to stop boycotting the pre-shift meeting. A dispute took place. The worker alleges that the supervisor engaged in casteist remarks, management alleges that the worker attacked the supervisor and decided to suspend him. B-shift workers continued production while A-shift workers decided to stay back in the plant at the end of their shift. Negotiations took place in the management office. Management alleges that the union leaders called workers in who were armed with auto-parts and who started beating management personnel, destroyed CCTV systems, destroyed parked cars and set control room and offices on fire. The media reports about a 1,200 men strong ‘mob’. One manager died in the fire, 100 others had injuries from being beaten. The union alleges that during the talks management called a group of 100 armed bouncers who started attacking the workers. Later during the night troops of police started raiding the area, but most Maruti workers had already fled from the places where they lived. Police arrested workers randomly, seeing that they were wearing a Maruti uniform. Two company buses with Honda HMSI workers were stopped and searched by the police and held over night.
19th of July
Further arrests, main target are union members. The media repeats management version of events.
21st of July
The company declared a lockout at the Manesar plant. Work at the Gurgaon plant continues. During distribution of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar at gurgaon plant workers say that “management is shit-scared”, similar voices from workers in other companies in Gurgaon and Faridabad. Powertrain reduces work from three to two shifts in engine department. Police conducted raids at various places in Haridwar, Ranchi, Rajasthan and Haryana, a total of 97 workers arrested. Haryana Government announced to permanently deploy a 600-strong police division of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) in Manesar industrial area, 10 acres of land required.
23rd of July
The First Information Report (FIR) issued by Maruti management reportedly names 55 workers and has added 600 others. Reports about local villagares aiding police to find workers and hand them over – comrades deny that this is a mass phenomena.
24th of July
Maruti HR-head Siddiqui announced: “We have received instructions from the parent, Suzuki Motor Corporation, to not compromise on issues of violence. We will derecognise the union at the Manesar plant. All those identified in connection with the incident will be dismissed immediately.Maruti announced to shift supervisors and senior workers from its Gurgaon facility to Manesar and to hire 1,000 new workers for re-start of production. The media circulated reports claiming Maoist infiltration of Maruti workers, a Naxal conspiracy.
25th of July
Union members from Maruti’s Gurgaon plant, Suzuki Powertrain, Suzuki Castings, Suzuki Motocycle, Lumax Auto Technologies, Satyam Auto Components, Endurance Technologies, Hi-Lex India Pvt Ltd, Rico and others attended the memorial meeting of police attack on Honda HMSI workers in 2005 despite imposition of Section 144 at the MSIL plant. The 144 order bars assembly of five or more persons within two km from the boundaries of IMT Manesar. Media reported about gathering of village leaders of 75 villages around Manesar in support of Maruti Suzuki. During the meeting in Dhana, Gurgaon Zila Parishad chairman Rao Abhay Singh said to the press: ” Our local boys could have never done this” and claimed that the ‘mob’ were ‘outsiders’.
26th of July
Maruti declared that they will go ahead with planned investments in Haryana, given that the “immediate arrest of 90-odd workers, shows sincere intentions of the government”. The investments include a Research and Development Centre at Rohtak and a new diesel engine-shop at Gurgaon.
27th of July
Maruti makes an announcement not to use contract labour from March 2013 onwards. they also announce the non-payment of monthly wages for 2,000 workers at Manesar; “No one working at the Manesar plant will be given salary. According to the rule, after the company’s lockout, workers are not paid till the time it (lockout) is revoked.” Siddiqui. Maruti has exhausted the inventory of Swift cars, around 15,000 parked in Manesar and Gurgaon.
30th of July
The price of Maruti shares has fallen by 8.5 percent since the 18th of July. Maruti announced that they expect to fire approximately 500 workers who were involved in the Manesar plant clashes.
31st of july
A tripartite meeting of Maruti officials, workers’ representatives and Government is supposed to “help in creating conditions to restart production at the locked-out plant in Manesar”. Reports claimed 114 arrests so far, a good number among them were apprentices. Accoprding to the press Maruti Suzuki “has sought the help of a vedic astrologer from Bangalore to help sort out the vaastu at the Haryana unit. As part of the vaastu-correction process, “all negative energy” that exists on the land needs to be removed by conducting an extensive puja. Only after two to three weeks from the rituals, the land will be rid of “all negative energy” , an astrologer said.”
3rd of August
Maruti announced to increase production of diesel cars in Gurgaon plant in order to counteract impact of lock-out, which causes a daily loss of Rs 90 crore. Meanwhile, representatives of the workers’ union at Suzuki Powertrain India said with production cut about 30 per cent, many contract workers had been asked to leave. “About 250 contract workers, whose initial tenure came to a end, were asked to leave. The company has decided not to recruit fresh workers at present.”
4th of August
A joint trade union forum met in in Gurgaon, debating the lock-out at Maruti.
7th of August
Tension at Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India’s Manesar facility following suspension of two workers after alleged manhandling of a manager (according to management). Police is stationed at the factory: “We are keeping a close watch,” SHO Manesar Om Prakash Bishnoi.
8th of August
So far 116 workers have been arrested and a list of 162 ‘wanted’ workers is circulated. Police visit homes of these workers and put pressure on their family, threaten them with arrest of family members if the worker is not handed over. Reports on police custody torture of arrested workers are published.
9th of August
Gurgaon police states that the ‘mob’ which ‘rioted’ at Maruti on 19th of July was only 100 people strong, not 1,200 as first claimed and not 650, as claimed later on. Criticism of MUKU Maruti union president, who asks, why the 70 police officers stationed at Maruti Manesar plant were not able to stop the ‘mob’. In the meantime talks on Honda HMSI dispute fail at city labour department in Gurgaon as main company management did not turn up. Unions declare that they will organise a protest during ‘workers’ rights day’ on 17th of August in case no solutions are found for Maruti lock-out and situation of Eastern Medikit workers, who are left without wages since several months.
10th of August
Gurgaon police hastened to add that 100 workers were involved in the incidences inside the office building. but “the violence later spread to the ground floor as well. There were around 2,000 workers armed with metal objects and police priority was to rescue the managerial staff. Even the reports of there being about 1,200 workers are an underestimation of the size of the crowd,” (DCP Daya)l. Their report also states that the ‘violence was not planned’. Further arrests, now a total of 142 workers. Extension of police remand of 17 union leaders.
11th of August
Management announced that the plant might open in the following week. the press wrote about “pressure from vendors to re-open”. A worker said on a mainstream television channel: “Our workers did not have faith in the union body. They were apprehensive about the union cheating them again…. [Yet they wanted that] the management should at least value and listen to the union body.” (NDTV)
16th of August
Maruti announced the dismissal of 546 permanent workers, including the 154 who had been arrested. According to media all workers hired through contractors will remain outside the factory, Maruti will look into re-hiring during mid-September. Maruti deposited 50,000 to 70,000 Rs in sacked workers bank accounts (not in those of the 150 arrested),saying these payments represent the workers’ wages for July plus three months’ salary and an additional 15 days of salary for each year of service.
17th of August
Around 7,000 union members employed at various companies hold a protest-rally in Gurgaon.
19th of August
Maruti announced to employ a security division of retired armymen headed by a top-ranking (retired lieutenant-general rank) ex-officer at the Manesar plant.
20th of August
CPI and CPI(M) announced to make Maruti and the dismissals an issue in parliament and to hold a protest rally in Delhi.
21st of August
The lock-out got lifted. Only few workers entered the Manesar plant, over 1,000 cops in Manesar industrial area. the media claimed that Maruti suffered 250 million USD loss since 18th of July.
22nd of August
Maruti announced to have produced 186 cars, in combined production of A- and B-plant. Other sources claim that only the B-plant started production in the press-shop and weld-shop, while assembly work is done in the Gurgaon plant. Maruti Chairman told during a shareholder general meeting that the conversion of contract workers into permanent workers would increase the labour costs only slightly, “as the starting salary of a permanent worker is only about 10 percent more than a contractor’s pay.” Managers who have been ‘traumatised’ are sent to Brahma Kumaris spiritual centre and to self-defense courses.
30th of August
Maruti announced to re-hire 1,000 out of 1,800 former contract workers, talks to turn them into permanent employees are supposed to take place in early September. Maruti claimed an output of 427 cars per shift, compared to 950 cars before the unrest. Current workforce at Manesar plant allegedly 2,000 workers, compared to 3,000 before. “We’re increasing output on a day-to-day basis, but would need at least 1,000 more people to be closer to full output. Right now, even the 400 supervisors are working on the line and they need to go back to their original roles,” a company official said. “After this, the 3,000 contract workers at the Gurgaon facility will also be given a chance to become permanent at Manesar.”
31st of August
Protest rally in Gurgaon, apart from members of main trade unions around 400 sacked Maruti workers took part.
3rd of September
Maruti announced that monthly sales in August were down by 40 per cent compared to previous year. The company also claimed to increase automation in Manesar: “In over a decade, the company has doubled the number of robots used in its plants to around 1,500. It will add another 50-100 new robots in the older plant at Manesar to increase automation to 99 per cent from the current 90 per cent. [in the press-shop department]”
2nd of September
400 Maruti workers and family members demonstrated in Rohtak, complaining about dismissals, repression and police torture.
4th of September
The main trade unions hold a convention in Delhi, proposed actions only include symbolic and legal protests, no strikes.
6th of September
Maruti announced to manufacture the model Dzire at Gurgaon plant in order to deal with backlog. The Dzire had only been produced in Manesar plant before the unrest.
8th of September
Maruti management acknowledged that they have difficulties finding ‘fresh skilled workers’. Suzuki chairmen announced simultaneously that they don’t intend to abolish the contract system in their plants, but that they will change the ratio and subject contract workers to a more severe check during the hiring process. “About half of the workers at the facility will now be completely fresh hires from vocational schools such as Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), with another 20 per cent coming from other companies. In all, Maruti expects to have 3,750 workers (earlier 3,300) at the plant, of which about 1,000 permanent workers have already joined. About 20 per cent of the workforce will abe temporary hires who will receive similar pay as permanent workers, but have a limited work contract of 8-9 months.”
11th of September
Haryana government approves hiring 11,000 new police constables, out of which a major share will be placed in Gurgaon.
Industrial desert IMT Manesar…
The following is a political summary of the workers’ reports…
*** Going beyond formal ‘international solidarity’ – starting from the material connections and divisions of a global working class war
The automobile industry is the most intertwined and integrated global industry and therefore the main organisational base of the emerging global working class. Struggles in the sector take place simultaneously in the global north and south. Some of the the struggles directly impact on each other, but at large the working class has to face up to the fact that the discontinuity of conjunctural cycles and uneven development still enforce a ‘political disjuncture in the direct communication of struggles’. The discontinuity can be described quantitatively: while in the US car production between 2000 and 2009 decreased by 50 per cent and in Japan by 25 per cent, it increased by 700 per cent in China – adding a manufacturing capacity of 2 million cars per year. This geographical shift expresses itself in the form workers’ struggles take: struggles for better conditions and against the factory despotism in the ‘automobile boom regions’ in the south (Honda in China 2010, Suzuki in India 2011), struggles to maintain certain standards achieved during struggles since the 1980s in countries of the ‘second wave’ of automobile expansion (South Korea, Brazil) and struggles against redundancies and severe attacks on conditions in the old centres in the US and Western Europe.
While the struggle is on at Maruti Suzuki we witness mass redundancies (8,000) at PSA-group in Europe and struggles around the closure of the factory in Aulnay (see leaflet by MC in appendix), Renault complains about slump in car sales during the first half of 2012 of nearly 15 per cent, in Italy the car sales decreased by 21.5 per cent during the same period. Since 2007 around 800,000 workers in the European automobile industry lost their job. In 2011, while Maruti was occupied, FIAT enforced a mass deterioration of conditions in collaboration with the main trade unions. General Motors closed its factory in Belgium, in the remaining 12 European factory the number of workers has been reduced by 8.000 workers to now 40.000, currently the General Motors factory in Bochum, Germany is under severe attack. Since 2008 General Motors sacked over 30.000 workers in US factories. On 24th of July 2012, three days after Maruti Suzuki declared lock-out in Manesar, General Motors declared a lock out at São José dos Campos plant in Brasil, undermining the protest of workers against 2,000 redundancies. At the same time production of General Motors in St.Petersburg, Russia is increased from 90.000 to 200.000 cars per year and production units in China are expanded. In July 2012 workers at General Motors in South Korea went on strike for higher wages (demand of a monthly increase of around 100 Euro, 6,500 Rs), together with workers at Hyundai and Kia. In March 2011. workers at General Motors in Halol, India, engaged in struggles with similar characteristics to the Maruti Suzuki dispute. In September 2011, simultaneously to the unrest at Maruti Suzuki, about 4,000 workers at the PT Suzuki Indomobil car and motorcycle assembly plant in West Java, Indonesia, went on strike, demanding year-end bonuses, meal allowances, health expenses and overtime payments. Struggles in the automobile sector in India are permanent and wide-spread, but in most cases we know only superficially about them:
“Among the prominent instances are: Mahindra (Nashik), May 2009 and March 2011; Sunbeam Auto (Gurgaon), May 2009; Bosch Chassis (Pune), July 2009; Honda Motorcycle (Manesar), August 2009; Rico Auto (Gurgaon), August 2009, including a one-day strike of the entire auto industry in Gurgaon; Pricol (Coimbatore), September 2009; Volvo (Hoskote, Karnataka), August 2010; MRF Tyres (Chennai), October 2010 and June 2011; General Motors (Halol, Gujarat), March 2011; Maruti Suzuki (Manesar), June-October 2011; Bosch (Bangalore), September 2011; Dunlop (Hooghly), October 2011; Caparo (Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu), December 2011; Dunlop (Ambattur, Tamil Nadu), February 2012; Hyundai (Chennai) April and December 2011, Ford (Chennai) March 2012.” (Rupe) We can add many more examples, e.g. the struggle at Rockman and Satyam Auto in Haridwar in 2011.
In parallel process to these seemingly dis-jointed struggles ‘North and South’, the actual global productive cooperation between these regions is intensified, e.g. the export of car parts manufactured in India, used in the assembly departments in the global north increases much faster than the export of complete cars. At the same time imports of parts manufactured in China to India increased rapidly. We can also see a deeper capital-integration of companies. Maruti Suzuki engaging in engine production with FIAT, which officially has a joint-venture with Tata, the main ‘competitor’ of Maruti Suzuki on the Indian market – the FIAT factory in India runs only on one-third of its capacity, which forced the companies into the collaboration. One of the share-holders of Suzuki are Volkswagen and General Motors, which also enter the Indian car market by expanding their factory base. FIAT subsidiary Magneti Marelli, which supplies Maruti Suzuki from two factories in Manesar recently engaged in a joint-venture with Motherson Sumi, while in early 2012 Continental bought 100 per cent of Rico Auto Ltd. The Rico factory in Gurgaon was engaged in a one month dispute in 2009, which interrupted supply of parts for General Motors and Ford factories in the US, while in those factories a dispute about the introduction of a two-tier wage system (half the entry wage for new workers) was going on.
This quick glance at some of the global developments of the last month demonstrate that obviously ‘formal international solidarity’ and exchange between workers in the sector is necessary, but workers collectives will have to focus on the actual material relations between workers in different regions, which first of all means to analyse how capital in the automobile sector makes use of the global wage cascade and uneven economic cycles in order to re-structure the industry and to undermine the direct solidarity of struggles. In the organisation of actual direct solidarity it will become more and more difficult to rely on the established union federations, what if for example the UAW (main automobile workers’ union in the US) having become a significant share-holder of General Motors since 2008 (17.5 per cent) and unions in Europe being mainly confined to ‘their national framework’, defending ‘national jobs’.
*** Demonstrating the cohesion between global crisis and development of wages and conditions in India – determined by relation of power between capital and workers
Most automobile suppliers and manufactuers faced first a credit squeeze after the 2008 financial crash and since then the devaluation of the Rupee increased costs for import of main raw materials and petrol. With petrol prices increasing (e.g. prices were raised by Rs.7.54 a litre, or 11.5 per cent, to Rs.73.18 in 25 May) and costs for credits expanding, car sales in India slowed down. The diesel price hike by 14 per cent announced by the government in September 2012 will increase the pressure on the industry. Car manufacturers are forced to squeeze the main resource they think they have the control over: the work force. The comrade from Rupe India analysed the relation between wages and productivity increase in the car industry in India, as one of the main determinants for the current unrest:
“Passenger car production has risen from 1.2 million vehicles in 2004-05 to 3 million in 2010-11. Real wages in the auto industry fell 18.9 per cent between 2000-01 and 2009-10. On the other hand, net value added per auto worker has been rising. Each worker added value of Rs 2.9 lakh in 2000-01; this figure rose by 2009-10 to Rs 7.9 lakh. In 2000-01 workers’ wages were 27.4 per cent of value added. By 2009-10, the ratio had fallen to 15.4 per cent. At Maruti workers’ real wages increase by just 5.5% when the consumer price index rose by 50% (2007-11).”
The fact that real wages of workers decline does not mean that company profits automatically increase. Profit margins per manufactured part or car are squeezed. A short glance at the official 2010 Annual Report of Maruti supplier Omax shows that net profits decreased from 2,366 lakh Rs to 2,143 lakh Rs between 2007 and 2011 while capital employed increased from 20,262 lakh Rs to 34,983 lakh Rs. Personnel costs, which includes wages and bonus for managers, was 11,000 lakh Rs in 2010, while general expenses stood at 108,000 lakh.
In the debates with workers we have to make clear that in their struggles over ‘more money, less work’ they do not mainly face ‘profit greedy (foreign) capitalists’, but a global system and wage [hierarchy]. The wage developments are determined by global developments and also reflect a relation of power between labour and capital. Under these conditions, to tie wages to productivity and to three years agreements – like most of the trade union agreements in Gurgaon area do – can only result in benefits for a small section of workers, and even for them only on a precarious level: “Since May 2012 the production of petrol cars in Gurgaon plant is down. For example there are four engine shops, each of them runs on two shifts. Normally we produce 450 engines per shift, since May 2012 only between 240 and 270. In the assembly department the assembly lines are also stopped for one or one and a half hours everyday, which did not happen before. Some casual workers have been kicked out, due to this overcapacity.”
(Permanent Worker, Engine-Shop, Gurgaon plant)
*** Generalising workers’ organisation on the basis of workers’ wider social existence – turning seeming atomisation into a collective weapon
Modern HR departments obviously have strategical recruitment patterns, e.g. they prefer to hire workers from distant areas in order to cut the ties between shop-floor and sphere of subsistence (patch of land, bigger joint-families) and thereby increase dependency of the worker on the company (wage) – which make long strikes near to impossible; Maruti initially refused to hire workers from other car manufacturers, because they try to avoid importing already made experiences of collective resistance. A deeper analysis of these strategies would be necessary in order to see the potential for turning the seeming weakness of workers into a strength. Historically, organisations which manage to turn the social existence and background of workers into a new form collective power had an enormously fruitful impact on workers’ struggles, such as the early Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which turned the seeming weakness of seasonal and migrant workers into a mobile, international organisation of direct workers’ action.
Apart from being together on the shop floor the most obvious possibility of turning the social existence into organisation is in the living sphere – see report on life in Aliyar in this newsletter. By cutting workers off from their original villages and families, capital brings them together in new groups, which have the potential of re-creating collective bonds on a more emancipated level. In GurgaonWorkersNews no.48 we reported about a spontaneous solidarity action of several dozen temporary Maruti workers for an injured colleague at Allied Nippon – a connection which were established through living in the same house in a Manesar village. Nevertheless, the fact remains that being away from family and other ties forced many temporary workers, particularly in the suppliers, to leave the area during the Maruti dispute – or they were forced to work: “During the first occupation the 150 housekeeping workers stayed inside with the other workers, but during the one month ‘lock-out’ (good conduct bond dispute in September 2011) around 140 out of 150 went inside and worked. These workers have very little resources to stay without wages and management promised to increase wages if we work.” (Maruti Canteen Worker). Here the relation between ‘locals’ and workers will be crucial in order to survive a longer dispute, and political initiatives will have to break the state and company attempt to buy the consent of the local ex-peasantry.
Maruti needed the strong ties with the ITI sector in order to hire fresh workers in preparation for the ‘lock-out’ in August 2011 – the campus being one of the main pools of skilled industrial reserve army. In May 2012 officially ‘adopted’ 12 ITI’s in Gujarat, promising substantial financial support, as part of their future recruitment strategies for the Gujarat plant. Most of the 1,000 ‘technicians’ hired by Maruti for the expansion of Manesar in 2012 will have come from ITIs. Here again, political initiatives ideally keep in touch with workers already before they get hired. Experiences in this regard – debating and agitating with ITI students – have been made by various comrades, but they have to be thrown in the wider debate.
In the regard of work-force composition the suppliers of electronic parts and electrical harnesses, such as Asti or Motherson Sumi are of particular importance for two reasons. First of all they have the highest level of femal employment in the industrial areas of Delhi, which will in the long run impact on the sexist gender relations within the working class – see report on Asti Electronics. Secondly, at least at Motherson Sumi Gurgaon plant we find a quite exceptional case of manual ‘student workers’. Given the shorter working-hours and the less ‘dirty and heavy’ character of work (electrical wiring) there are many workers at Motherson who study part-time. What is normal in other industrial countries, the mixing of factory and university in workers’ experiences, is quite exceptional in India. A workers organisation should explore whether this situation bears potentials for organic links between the two centres of social unrest.
*** Drawing a battle-map based on the productive cooperation of workers and turning the process of discovering the lines of cooperation into an organisational effort itself
We encourage to read the reports by Maruti workers in this newsletter not as accounts of miserable conditions requiring pity, but as material to draw up future collective strategies of attack. In GurgaonWorkersNews no.50 we wrote:
“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, but also during the Gurgaon plant strikes in 2000/2001”
There is nothing new or surprising about the fact that production at Maruti Suzuki depends on a very fragile, spaced-out chain of cooperation between different departments and companies, bridging different categories of workers, wage segments and levels of development. Here the passages of “The Maruti Story” about the setting up of the Gurgaon plant supply-chain – see summary in this newsletter – are quite revealing. The surprising fact is that the local working class so far has not been able to turn this structure against their dead enemy and its representatives.
“Sheet-metal is cut and pressed only ‘one day in advance’, meaning what is pressed today will be assembled tomorrow. The job of the guys in production planning is to make sure that all parts for the next day – around 60,000 different parts – are ready and in right order for the coming production day. A single part missing can cause trouble and production stoppages. If there is an emergency or the sheet-metal cutting machines at the Maruti press-shop cannot supply for ‘over-capacity work’, sheet-metal is cut for Maruti at other companies, such as Manesar Steel Processing” (Permanent Worker, Press-Shop)
“The outer-body press-parts like roof, doors, hood etc. mainly come from Maruti’s own press-shop. The inner-body parts come from about 20 different suppliers, such as JBM, Caparo, Krishna Maruti etc.. Of the bigger parts there is a stock of may be one hour.” (Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
“There is a 100 car storage between paint-shop and further assembly.”
(Temp Worker – Paint-Shop)
All parts used at the engine plant at Powertrain arrive more or less on a daily basis, in particular the bigger parts.The raw engine blocks arrive at Powertrain from three different suppliers, one of them is Amtek. Trucks come constantly from Amtek, you probably can fit 100 engines on a truck, daily production is around 1,100 engines, they all go to Maruti Gurgaon plant. There is no proper storage for engines, but in the dispatch area you can store around 200 engines. The engines are used at Maruti more or less immediately, there is no storage on their side either. If they find quality problems with engines they tell Powertrain during the same shift during which the problems occurred.
(Apprentice – Powertrain)
The supplying companies are kept in a relative distance, which might make direct contact between workers a logistical problem. Around 70 per cent of parts are manufactured in the wider Delhi industrial belt, some parts (e.g. like wheel-rims from Patiala, Punjab) come from further away. One potential facilitator in establishing connections between workers at Maruti and those in the supply-chain are workers of suppliers who permanently work in the Maruti Suzuki plant, mainly engaged in logistics and quality check. These workers know the situation at Maruti due to their daily presence on the shop-floor and they know the conditions in their ‘formal companies’, through work-mates, truck-drivers, regular visits. These workers, also due to their everything but privileged conditions, can play a hinge role.
“Suppliers keep workers permanently in the weld-shop, mainly for handling and quality work. Five suppliers jointly keep one worker for handling and one for quality, meaning that per shift there are about eight workers from suppliers on the shop-floor.” (Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
“Workers of supplying companies bring parts to the lines, for example the seats from Bharat Seats or Krishna Maruti company. The parts arrive in trucks from the supplying factory, which is in about 2 to 3 km. The workers from Krishna Maruti put the seats at the line and they have to put them in the right sequence of car models. There used to happen occasional problems with supply, but now they keep two trucks with seats extra near the line. The Krishna Maruti workers will get the same wage as we get.”
(Temp – Worker, Final Assembly)
“Some Denso and Lumax workers fit their own parts at the assembly line, but that is an exception.”
(Permanent Worker, Engine-Shop, Gurgaon plant)
“Compressors are assembled at assembly lines, the pipes for the AC’s are dispatched separately. Parts for compressors come from Japan. The pipes come from Korea. The rubber hose pipes come from Bridgestone. There is no storage, trucks leave continuously. The AC-components are delivered directly to the assembly lines at Maruti Suzuki, there is no storage neither at Sanden, nor at Maruti. There are four Sanden Vikas workers permanently employed at Maruti, Manesar, they also live in Manesar. Two for quality check, two for unloading trucks and dispatching AC’s to lines. About six trucks leave Sanden per day, the guys at Manesar plant work 18 hours shifts. Although they work permanently in Maruti they have to pay 30 Rs for a meal at the Maruti canteen. These workers know that there has been a strike at Sanden in 2010 and that there is still trouble. Since March 2012 there have been problems of completing the dispatch to Maruti, not enough or faulty AC’s arrived at Maruti. The problems emerged at a time when a new model was introduced. Maruti made Sanden pay penalties, if dispatches were not complete. In order to find out what the problem was Sanden ordered higher management people to stay during night-shifts and analyse the work process. The situation is that permanent workers only work on A-shift and since 4 permanents have been kicked out in 2009, permanent workers refuse working overtime. So workers hired through contractor employed on B-shift work from 2:30 pm till next morning 6:30 am – this is 16-hours on stretch. While on A-shift they work 8.5 hours. The solution of management for problems of dispatch: B-shift workers must be tired after 15 hours of work, so they changed shift patterns and introduced two 12-hours shifts instead. This also means that when shift changes on Saturday, workers have to work a 24 hours-shift, as ‘compensation’ workers get 50 Rs extra for food and two ‘breakfasts’.”
(Permanent Worker, Sanden Vikas, Faridabad)
Obviously the supply-chain does not stop at this first level of suppliers and it is well known that workers’ conditions deteriorate once we enter second- or third-tier suppliers.
“As an illustration of the three-tiered structure of subcontracting, we can mention that Maruti-Suzuki subcontracts to Munjal Showa which subcontracts to Mod Serap which in turn subcontracts to Modern High Tech Auto. Or, Maruti Suzuki subcontracts to Automax or Mark Exhaust which in turn subcontract to Hema Engineering which in turn subcontracts to Kiran Auto. As an example of first and second level of subcontracting combined, Jay Bharat Maruti, Plant 1 supplies directly to MarutiSuzuki, and indirectly via supplying to Delphi which is a first level subcontractor of Maruti.”
(Bose on Automobile Industry in Delhi – see appendix)
“There are 200 permanents and 400 workers hired through three different contractors. We work 12 hours shifts and manufacture parts for automobile suppliers like Napino, Denso, JNS, Pricol, Delphi. When shift changes on Sunday then workers in the plastic moulding department and in the copper press shop department have to work 20 hours on stretch, from 8 pm Saturday till 4 pm on Sunday. The newly hired helpers hired through contractor get 4,500 Rs.”
(Temporary Worker, Vinay Auto, Manesar)
“Bundy is a fuel-pipe manufacturer for Maruti Suzuki. Bundy has one worker permanently working ‘between’ Bundy and Maruti Suzuki doing quality check and coordination. Bundy itself employs about 550 workers out of which 300 through contractor. The workers are paid on piece rate, there is no basic wage. Workers have to operate bending machines, burring machines etc. and are paid between 10 and 30 paise per piece. daily target is around 3,000 pieces. One truck leaves Bundy for Maruti per day.”
(Bundy Company Worker, Manesar)
“The factory employs 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts. The company manufactures die-casting products for Honda, Hero motorcycles and Maruti Suzuki cars. During the weekly shift change the Saturday night-shift has to work 20 hours on stretch and the Sunday day shift 16 hours. Over-time is paid single rate.”
(Temporary Worker, Kiran Udyog, Manesar)
There are situations when workers can (and are forced) to discover their inter-dependence within the production process: once there is an interruption of part supply. This might be caused by workers’ struggles or other – from the perspective of capital – ‘natural disasters’, e.g. Honda Siel (India) sources several electronic and underbody parts from its Thailand plant, due to floods in Thailand in December 2011 parts supply was irregular. Politically workers were not able to make use of the fact that during the Maruti dispute and the current lock-out since 21st of July most suppliers were effected, many of them shutting down production completely. During this time conscious connections between workers could have been created. On the other way round there are daily conflicts in one of the 800, 900, … suppliers of Maruti, which have the potential to cause ripple-effects. A workers’ collective should make efforts to find out about these conflicts and encourage to develop their potential.
“In the factory 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts manufacture steering locks and keys for Mahindra, Tata Sumo, Toyota Inova and Maruti Suzuki. The overtime is paid at single rate. A first installment of 15 days of overtime payment for December was paid on 15th of February 2012, workers demanded that the rest should be paid by 25th of February – in response the company called the police and one worker was arrested. This worker was sacked and the company refused to pay him the outstanding overtime payment from December to February. The director said that he had to pay the police and that he now won’t pay any money to the worker.”
(Jay Switch Worker, Gurgaon)
In the 1990 the latest hype of ‘capitalist innovation’ which was supposed to overcome the industrial illnesses of the huge factory complexes of the 1970s was the so-called ‘Benetton’-model – a model of outsourcing of textile orders to smallest specialised textile units combined by big garment companies, which was set-up in the north of Italy. In the end it was clear that even with micro-electronics and flexible transport most of the industrial production requires close cooperation and concentration of capital. What was not possible in Western Europe in the 1990s seems a little more realistic in Delhi’s industrial areas in the 2000s. The combination of extremely low wages encouraging labour intensive production, of supply of over-used machinery from the industrial decadence in the global north, a hinterland of slum-production and flexible smallest-scale transport units (self-employed three-wheelers etc.) combined and coordinated by modern logistic management in the bigger plants seem to enable the local industry – at least in times of emergency – to enforce a very flexible exploitation of a network of small manufacturing units. For example during the lock-out at Senior Flexonics supplier – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.50 – management was not only able to hire temp workers within a few days and keep production running. They were also able to outsource within the first two weeks the more skilled work (CNC and power-press operations) to smaller units like Lakki Enterprises, Gurgaon and Ajay Engineering, Faridabad and limited the work in the ‘battled’ factory in Manesar to assembling operations. In this regard, current efforts of organising in the ‘workshop-territory’, such as the strike organised by almond workers in the north of Delhi, using a street-wise delegation system, will become important experiences once they are seen as part of a wider context of centres and productive periphery.
Last, but not least, this type of supply-chain requires a flexible transport organisation. There are at least 2,500 trucks, which enter the Maruti Gurgaon facility everyday with components, and at least 500 leave the factory premises with manufactured vehicles. In addition a similar amount of trucks for the Maruti Manesar plant. Even if we take into account that trucks might go back and forth six to eight times a day and that not all trucks have two drivers, we still speak of another department of several thousand workers.
The conditions of truck-drivers are well known. Two drivers drive three days non-stop from Manesar to ports in Bombay and back. Long-distance workers live in the trucks for weeks. Maruti relies on an army of workers who spend most of their time out of direct control of supervisors and other officials, and a generally volatile sector (strikes against petrol price hikes, road conditions etc.). Currently Maruti tries to deal with the emerging problems by ‘centralisation’ and rationalisation through shifting transport of finished cars onto tracks and by extending the electronic control to the time when workers are on the road. The shift onto tracks is a major infrastructural and therefore political operation – the plans to increase rail-transport from currently 5 to 35 per cent within the next two years seems ambitious. Up to now Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corp. Ltd (HSIIDC) hasn’t been able to acquire the land needed to lay dedicated tracks from Patli station in Manesar to the company’s plant 18km away. With a growing importance of export markets the assembly lines of Maruti will catapult over-produced cars from Delhi towards the sea ports in Gujarat and Maharashtra, thereby ploughing an industrial corridor through Rajasthan, connecting existing and emerging industrial centres on the way – see: https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-22/#fn62
The other focus is electronic armament to maintain control over the transport department. Maruti engaged in a contract with US-company Trimble in early 2012. From a company statement:
“Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) is deploying the Trimble trako Visual Cargo solution in outbound logistics trucks that transport new cars from the factory to Maruti Suzuki dealers across India. Trimble’s trako Visual Cargo is a software as a service solution that provides on-demand visibility — from loading to delivery location — of cargo vehicles using Trimble GPS devices. Trimble applies technology to make field and mobile workers in businesses and government significantly more productive. Solutions are focused on applications requiring position or location — including surveying, construction, agriculture, fleet and asset management, public safety and mapping. In addition to utilizing positioning technologies, such as GPS, lasers and optics, Wireless technologies are utilized to deliver the solution to the user and to ensure a tight coupling of the field and the back office.” Deeper conversations with truck drivers about the actual impact of these technological shackles onto their work have to form part of a militant research of the changing relation between living and dead labour.
*** Destroying the despotism of systemic and strategical uneven technological development
The struggles at the A-plant in 2011 hastened Maruti to take the B-plant into operation, since then management confronts workers not only with a divided workforce – the workers hired during the lockout were shifted to the B-plant – but also with uneven development on plant level. The degree of automation is higher in the B-plant. This creates a cascade of uneven development within Maruti, if we take into account the technological difference between the old plant in Gurgaon and Manesar A-plant. These differences in development are systemic, but used strategically, as Maruti chairman points out in “The Maruti Story”, his account of the development at Maruti.
“A new site was needed for future expansion and Manesar was selected. […] SMC wanted this plant to be very similar to the plant in Kosai, Japan, so that there could be a high level of automation, and the best SMC practice could be established here from the start. Suzuki did not want this plant to become an extension of the Gurgaon plant, which had been built over twenty years and had much more manual operations. He wanted the plants at Gurgaon and Manesar to compete with each other in areas like productivity and quality, with each being a benchmark for the other.”
Workers in the A-plant have to face that in 200 metres distance their job is performed by machinery – they have to face their potential replacement.
“By now the B-plant has started production. There most of the workers are newly hired. The work load is higher, compared to the A-plant. In the A-plant there are 76 workers in the axle department, in the B-plant only 51.”
(Temporary Worker, Final Assembly)
“Since 2006 the numbers of work-stations came down from 16 to 8, to 4 since June 2011 – this happened through increased automation and usage of robots. So far work had been re-distributed in a way that workers numbers did not come down as much as work was replaced (one robot replaces about ten workers). Workers initially operated three hand-welding tools, now one workers operates only one. The work-load has become less in the A-plant.”
(Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
It is also important to note that with increasing automation the ratio of temporary workers also increase. This is most prominent in the weld-shop:
“In A-plant around 25 per cent of the workers are permanent, 10 per cent are trainees, 10 per cent are apprentices and 55 per cent are hired through contractor. In the B-plant the ratio is 10 per cent permanent and 70 per cent temporary, while at the same time there the level of automation is much higher. In the A-plant there are still 250 to 300 workers doing spot-welding by hand, in B-plant there is full automation.” We find similar situations in the paint-shop.
The question of when to introduce machinery and to replace living labour is only seemingly an economic question of ‘productivity’. First of all, capitalist productivity is not mainly defined by the question whether running a machine (which still requires living labour for operation) instead of engaging in manual work saves ‘labour-time’ to such an extend that the time to construct and maintain a machine (and to deal with social and ecological consequences) is made up for. Being a society based on wage labour and commodity production, ‘capitalist productivity’ is rather determined by ‘saving labour costs per produced commodity’. Workers directly compete with machines, as long as wages are relatively low enough, workers are employed despite the ‘technological possibility’ to replace their labour. This is the reason why unlike in the global north, the automobile supply-chain in India still reaches into the home-based production of the slum-areas. We can also see that before making the investment into new machinery, capital tries to squeeze living labour as much as possible. The phase before the opening of a new plant at Maruti is characterised by increase in exploitation, again a quote from “The Maruti Story”:
“The work on expanding capacity and establishing a second plant at the same site, started about the end of 1992 and was completed in 1994. With the plant, production rapidly increased to 278,000 in 1995-96, and the need for another plant was obvious. One of the reasons for Maruti being able to keep prices of cars low – and make profits – was the ability to run both these plants at about 140 per cent of the rated capacity. This was achieved by a combination of balancing facilities, innovative practices and full cooperation from the workers.”
During the phase before the B-plant got operational, workers in Manesar had to work double-shifts, there was an ‘off-line’ car assembly section without conveyor belt system, the A-plant was running on similar ‘extra-capacity’ but his time “the full cooperation from the workers” snapped.
This ‘illogical’ use of human energy and creativity creates a constant tension within the production process. Workers not only have to face up to ‘be made into a cog of a machine’ they are also confronted with this ‘political-social’ absurdity. Therefore the other ‘political aspect’ of capitalist use of machinery relates to the question of whether machinery creates a higher degree of productivity by being both means of control/segmentation of workers and means of combination of labour. Without the element of controlling despotism of machinery no capitalist productivity. Within the plant workers can see the contradiction of capitalist use of machinery every day.
“One one side are 12 painting robots. On the other, are workers carrying 25 kilo headloads of used screens up two flights of stairs and returning with a 30 kilo load of clean screens. Each worker has to carry 70-80 screens up and down the stairs, working an extra hour without pay if the job is not done by the end of the shift.”
(Temp Worker – Paint-Shop)
Despite the Manesar plant being a modern plant according to global standards there are still operations which are done manually, which in other plants would be automatised – a potential trump-card in the sleeve of management. It will be part of our work to identify these operations and to be prepared for battle. In a certain way related to this lower degree of automation is another major difference to most passenger car assembly plants in the global north – the fact that the assembly plants in Gurgaon and Manesar don’t run 24 hours, which has become a standard in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s.
“In the A-plant, at the work-station where the chassis meets engine and gearbox, the engine is fitted manually to the chassis. Similarly, the front-shield is put in by hand, not by a robot. At the station where the doors are fitted you get 45 sec for a door. If you are quick you can make it in 30 sec and work ahead. There were occasional night-shifts in the assembly-department, but now night-shifts are only run in the press-, and weld-shop and in the bumper-shop at the machine stations.”
(Temp Worker – Final Assembly)
In these regards the relation between workers and machines express the political power relation between working class and capital, the political contradiction between social potentials and the misery of class society. Alquati claimed that collective ‘workers’ science’ would be able to read machinery like a geology of class struggle, the conflicts of the past and the productive knowledge of workers of the past now moulded into the apparatus – appearing as features of power of capital. A more in depth debate with workers about the changing character of this relation will have to take place. Some have taken place:
“Most workers in the subcontracting chain have 1:1 interface with machines. Where there are U-shaped production lines such as in Clutch Auto, Gabriel, Echlin, BTR Wadco, and Sona Koyo, workers do multi-machining in terms of 1:2 to even 1:10 interface with machines. Gabriel is famous for cellular manufacturing. Tier 2 units such as Sona Okegawa, Sona Somic and Vital Castings have U-shaped cells with multi-machining in terms of 1:4 interface with machines. In some units, workers talk about multi-machining even on straight production lines. Multi-machining causes a lot of stress to the workers.”
(Bose – see appendix)
*** Destroying the veil of capitalist hierarchy: monopoly over machinery and information, fetish of quality and qualification
Obviously a mere technological control of workers is not sufficient, the control has to be maintained through personal hierarchy, which is first of all a hierarchical division of labour. Similar to the attempt to disguise the systemically despotic character of machinery behind ‘technological neutrality’, also the hierarchy between workers and supervisory staff is justified by the fetish of ‘qualification’.
“The promotion system in some of the units is as follows: from senior operator to supervisor in Automax; operator to line supervisor to shift-in-charge at Caparo; semi-skilled to skilled to supervisor at Engineers Combine; associate to section head to supervisor to executive at Motherson Sumi; operator to line monitor to supervisor to junior engineer at QH Talbros; and assistant to operator to senior operator to foreman at Subros.”
(Bose – see appendix)
First of all, a certain position in the production process is less determined by individual seniority, knowledge, skills, but by the hierarchical requirements of the production process: not everyone can become a foreman, department manager or engineer, because by definition a position within a hierarchy is exclusive. Who gets promoted is therefore a process of selection. Capital combines hierarchical functions (control, putting pressure to work etc.) with productive functions: if workers have to ask the supervisor for certain information necessary to perform their tasks, they will be more likely to accept the orders he gives them; if a foreman can criticise the ‘quality’ on ‘objective grounds’, he is more likely to be able to enforce higher levels of quantity. The capitalist production process isolates collective knowledge into individual functions as its material and ideological basis for hierarchy, in particular knowledge about machinery. At the same time ‘general knowledge’ of workers is not formalised and therefore degraded:
“Permanent workers get one day training how to program the robots, the temporary workers don’t get this training.” (Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
“Within your area at the assembly-line, which usually includes 5 to 10 work-stations, they change you around on a daily level. Even if you know how to work at five different stations, you might still be paid helper rate.”
(Temp-Worker, Final Assembly)
The capitalist contradiction between quantity and quality, between exchange and use value creates constant frustration. The ‘quality’ of a product is used in order to black-mail workers into accepting company rules and hierarchy, at the same time the requirements of profit-production – output! – undermines any sensible consideration about quality and creative use of humans mental capabilities. This is already felt by workers in their ‘formal’ qualification process, which is mainly a formation process of a certain position within hierarchical division of labour:
“We are 245 apprentices in the factory, coming from different ITIs. We have been sent here to see our trade in practice, to observe it closely, to make experiences and to learn. But here things run according to the will of Suzuki company. According to the needs of the companies we employed in the car engine plant, transmission plant or the two-wheeler engine plant and we have to perform work different from our ITI trade. We work in A, B and C-shift, not in general shift how it is officially said. Instead of observing-learning-making experiences we work as normal production workers. There are no classes for apprentices, neither inside nor outside the plant. The work load is so high that the apprentices have no chance to see the whole plant, they have to stay at their station. ”
(Apprentice – Suzuki Powertrain)
Another hierarchical distinction is created by formal distinction between productive and reproductive labour. In a modern plant the work of housekeeping workers, cleaners, loaders, canteen workers and so on are essential for the workers in the production department to perform their tasks on a continuous basis. With the re-structuring process of the 1980s capital made an effort to segment these essential tasks of the production process as ‘service work’, which degrades the work performed even on a linguistic level. Attached to the segmentation and categorisation of ‘service work’ was an attack on workers’ conditions. At Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant the canteen workers work 12-hours-shifts plus unpaid over-time, they are not paid the minimum wage and are not included in the ‘official struggle – see workers’ report.
Gate at Maruti Suzuki Manesar…
4.1) Reports from Maruti Manesar Workers
4.1.1) Press-Shop Worker
4.1.2) Weld-Shop Workers
4.1.3) Paint-Shop Workers
4.1.4) Bumper-Shop Worker
4.1.5) Final Assembly Workers
4.1.6) Canteen and Housekeeping Workers
4.2) Reports from Suzuki Powertrain Workers (Engine and Gearbox)
4.3) Report from Maruti Gurgaon Worker (Engine-Shop)
4.4) Reports from Maruti Supply-Chain Workers
4.4.1) Asti Electronics Worker
4.4.2) Sanden Vikas Worker
4.5) Report on Life in Aliyar, a Workers’ Village in Manesar Industrial Zone
Aliyar auto-stand – New source of income for local ex-peasants…
There are 40 permanents working on one shift in the press-shop – which includes apprentices and trainees – plus 30 workers hired through contractor. The press-shop runs on three shifts. The harder work, such as taking pressed parts out of the machines, is done by workers hired through contractor and apprentices. In general the work in the press-shop is less hard, because most work-stations are machine-stations, meaning that you have a little breathing space while the machine works. In the weld-shop and assembly workers have a harder time.
When the union was formed workers in the press-shop were sure that they would be able to stop work and production, but they were not entirely sure whether workers in other departments – mainly the assembly department where a lot of workers hired through contractors were not informed about the union process – would support them. Six out of eleven current union body members are from the press-shop.
The production sequence changes every day, meaning that every day the ratio between different models changes and therefore supply of different parts is necessary. The supply of the right parts in the right sequence is the job of the PPC (Production Planning and Control) department.
In the press-shop the sheet-metal arrives in big coils. The companies which supply the sheet metal are:
Tata Steel Faridabad
TSPDL is equipped with processing plants at Jamshedpur, Faridabad, Pune, Tada, Pantnagar with a processing capacity of 2.5 Million tones per annum. TSPDL as Tier 1 supplier is using Roll Forming and Stretch Bending technology.
Maruti Suzuki keeps a strict ‘no single source’-policy. There is a storage for normal sheet-metal for nearly two month [?!], but certain types of steel, e.g. galvanised steel for export cars like the A-Star is not stored in such volume. The sheet metal is then cut to size. Different parts of the car require different sizes, and parts for different models also vary in size, meaning that there are about 200 different sizes of sheet metal. If there is an emergency or the sheet-metal cutting machines at the Maruti press-shop cannot supply for ‘over-capacity work’, sheet-metal is cut for Maruti at other companies, such as:
Manesar Steel Processing
Manesar Steel Procvessing is a joint-venture between Metal One Corporation of Japan and Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL). The company handles and cuts steel coil to carry out slitting, leveling, shearing, blanking, warehousing and supplying to fufil mainly Maruti’s vendor’s requirements. Main facilities: 1 large slitter line, 1 large leveler line, 1 mini leveler line, and 3 shearing lines. Processing capacity 13,000 tonnes per month.
Then there are six lines of power presses. The press-tools of these machines change automatically, according to different form of parts to be pressed. Sheet-metal is cut and pressed only ‘one day in advance’, meaning what is pressed today will be assembled tomorrow. The job of the guys in production planning is to make sure that all parts for the next day – around 60,000 different parts – are ready and in right order for the coming production day. A single part missing can cause trouble and production stoppages. Per shift there is only one guy doing this job – he is an ITI worker and gets 18,000 Rs (24,000 Rs including annual bonuses). They have to count parts, e.g. they have to see that a trolley with 1,000 parts is filled, and then enter the data into the computer system for the weld-shop, which is the next production department in line. Containers with parts are moved by fork-lifts to a storage / warehouse situated between press- and weld-shop.
Empty public housing complex in Aliyar – The rents are too high…
The outer-body press-parts like roof, doors, hood etc. mainly come from Maruti’s own press-shop. The inner-body parts come from about 20 different suppliers, such as JBM, Caparo, Krishna Maruti, Bellsonica etc.. Of the bigger parts there is a stock of may be one hour. In the A-plant you still have a lot of hand-welding work. First the three parts of the underbody are joint by hand-welding, then finally welded by robot at the main line. Similarly the main-body, first manual work, then finalisation by robot. there is also manual assembly happening in the weld-shop, e.g. the two door panels are fixed together by screw-gun operation. Suppliers keep workers permanently in the weld-shop, mainly for handling and quality work. Five suppliers jointly keep one worker for handling and one for quality, meaning that per shift there are about eight workers from suppliers on the shop-floor. Permanent workers get one day training how to program the robots, the temporary workers to get this training.
In A-plant around 25 per cent of the workers are permanent, 10 per cent are trainees, 10 per cent are apprentices and 55 per cent are hired through contractor. In the B-plant the ratio is 10 per cent permanent and 70 per cent temporary, while at the same time there the level of automation is much higher. While in the A-plant there are still 250 to 300 workers doing spot-welding by hand, there is full automation in B-plant. In the A-plant around 200 out of 300 workers are hired through contractor. Since 2006 the numbers of work-stations came down from 16 to 8, to 4 since June 2011 – this happened through increased automation and usage of robots. So far work had been re-distributed in a way that workers numbers did not come down as much as work was replaced (one robot replaces about ten workers). Workers initially operated three hand-welding tools, now one workers operates only one. The work-load has become less in the A-plant.
The PPRA (productivity and attendance bonus) forms 50 per cent of our wage. In the current demand notice there is a demand that the bonus should be attached to the amount of cars produced, e.g. if Manesar produces 900 cars per day, the bonus should be 4 Rs per car, if between 900 and 1,200 then 6 Rs, if over 1,200 then 8 Rs.
There is a clear policy to divide permanents from temporary workers. Supervisors don’t put any pressure on permanents, you can do your job, you can walk around. Pressure is solely on temporary workers. These workers obviously complain, but they don’t complain in front of the supervisor, they express their anger towards the permanent workers – they in turn tell the temporary workers to shut up and work.
At my line there are around 15 temporary workers out of which 6 did not have an original ITI. Last month the contractor said that they should return their gate-pass and that they will not be let to work again. I objected and enforced that the guys can continue working.
Entrance to Aliyar Gaon…
I work at the sealer-line, the cars arrive there from the weld-shop. There are about 38 work-stations at the sealer line, two workers at each station. I work with a hand-gun. Most of the workers at the line are temporary or casual workers, trainees. The permanent workers still do the same work here, it is not that they only do the easy work. There is a 100 car storage between paint-shop and further assembly.
One one side are 12 painting robots. On the other, are workers carrying 25 kilo headloads of used screens up two flights of stairs and returning with a 30 kilo load of clean screens. Each worker has to carry 70-80 screens up and down the stairs, working an extra hour without pay if the job is not done by the end of the shift. The lunch-break (30 minutes) and tea break (15 minutes) are not counted as part of the working time on the shift.
The Quality Maintenance Unit employs 95 workers hired through a labour contractor. Their job includes cleaning out the tanks that hold thinners and solvents. They are always on the C-shift – from 12.30 in the night to 8.30 the next morning. Workers on the C-shift work non-stop. There are no breaks for food or tea. The food allowance of Rs.44/- that they used to be given has now been slashed to half. By the end of the shift, they are exhausted, giddy and nauseous from the chemical fumes they inhale. Workers in the Quality Maintenance Unit put in 32 to 192 hours of overtime every month, for which they are paid only Rs.28/- per hour, well short of the legal minimum of 1.5 times the normal wage. For many of these workers, the shift can extend to 17.5 hours of non-stop work without breaks or food.
For A-plant workers there has never been a realistic promise that they will get a permanent job in B- or C-plant. Those workers who had been hired during lock-out still work through contractor in B-plant.
The immaculate cold face of capital – Factories bordering Aliyar…
The plastic moulding of bumpers takes place in the department itself, lights and other devices are attached to the bumpers, then ‘bumper-shop’ workers attach the bumper to the car at the assembly line. Out of 250 workers in the department only 20 are permanent, most are trainees and workers hired through contractor. Some of us try to become trainees, we have to pass a test. Around 500 questions, mostly on health and safety and quality, also “where have you been during the strike period”. We have to undergo a medical test, too. In the bumper-shop 24 workers went for the test in early 2012, only 7 were taken on as trainees.
Workers’ rooms in Aliyar – One shared by four, five…
On Situation after Settlement in October 2011
After the first wage increase for workers hired through contractors and apprentices the company pays those workers hired through contractor with ITI qualification 238.38 Rs per day, plus 75 Rs attendance allowance, 4 Rs allowance for cleaning working clothes, 19.62 Rs medical allowance, and 19.62 transport allowance, which sums up to 356.62 Rs per day. Compared to before the dispute this means an average wage increase from 6,500 Rs to about 8,500 Rs per month. The workers hired through contractor without ITI qualification receive 280.93 Rs per day. On bank holidays only the basic wage is paid, without the allowances. Now workers can take two holidays within three months – before the dispute it was only one holiday which also had to be approved by the supervisor – which hardly happened. The permanent workers can take 4 holidays within three months.
You still have to be at your workplace 15 minutes before official start of shift, otherwise you are marked as absent for half of the day.If you go to early into meal break or come back 5 minutes late, the same happens. Now, as before, in case you are ill you are supposed to take medicine and start working immediately – but at least now the worker can go himself and take medicine, before the supervisor came and gave it to you.
During the time when workers occupied the factory – or removed the occupation through the company – there was only the A-plant in operation. By now the B-plant has started production. There most of the workers are newly hired. The work load is higher, compared to the A-plant. In the A-plant there are 76 workers in the axle department, in the B-plant only 51. There are reliefers [replacement workers] in the A-, but not in the B-plant. In both A- and B-plant, out of the 127 workers in the MX department non is permanent, all hired through contractor. Where there should be 8 people employed, you will find 4 workers. The line is still holy, it’s not supposed to stop. Yes, before the dispute they called you ‘Eh, you’, now they call you ‘son’, but the threats continue. Difficulties have not decreased through the fact that there are now two canteens, because with the B-plant the number of workers has increased.
They do nothing for the workers hired through contractors. The new union leaders told us to hold back until 4th of February, until the union will be recognised. Now they say, wait till the 24th of February.
Temporary Worker, Final Assembly, Manesar B-Plant
Within your area at the assembly-line, which usually includes 5 to 10 work-stations, they change you around on a daily level. Even if you know how to work at five different stations, you might still be paid helper rate. You used to have problems with toilet breaks, this got better. If you have to go, the reliever takes over and does your work. The reliever tends to be a permanent worker. If both relievers are busy, the supervisor takes over. Supervisors went through special training at Maruti and they tend to have a diploma.Their behaviour changed a bit after October 2011, they tend to be friendlier.
Workers of supplying companies bring parts to the lines, for example the seats from Bharat Seats or Krishna Maruti company. The parts arrive in trucks from the supplying factory, which is in about 2 to 3 km. The workers from Krishna Maruti put the seats at the line and they have to put them in the right sequence of car models. There used to happen occasional problems with supply, but now they keep two trucks with seats extra near the line. The Krishna Maruti workers will get the same wage as we get.
In general there are not too many stoppages of the line. may be once or twice per day, if at all, and usually not longer than for a minute or two. Sometimes Japanese workers come to the plant in order to fix machinery. There is little to no contact with these workers, also due to language problems.
In the A-plant, at the work-station where the chassis meets engine and gearbox, the engine is fitted manually to the chassis. Similarly, the front-shield is put in by hand, not by a robot. At the station where the doors are fitted you get 45 sec for a door. If you are quick you can make it in 30 sec and work ahead. There were occasional night-shifts in the assembly-department, but now night-shifts are only run in the press-, and weld-shop and in the bumper-shop at the machine stations. The ‘off-line’ [without conveyor-belt system] production in the final assembly has been stopped in October 2011, after the occupation and after the B-plant came into operation.
From a Press Report:
“When I first began working for Maruti, assembly lines used to run right through my dreams,” said a worker with a laugh, “These days I suppose I’m so tired that I don’t get dreams anymore.”
In Manesar, Maruti produces about 180 variants of three basic models. When a car rolls in, the worker looks at a large matrix pasted on the vehicle that indicates if the car is a left or right hand drive, powered by petrol, diesel or compressed natural gas engines intended for the domestic, European or general export market. Depending on his work station the worker chooses from 32 different upholstered seats, 90 tyre and wheel assemblies, and innumerable kinds of wire-harnesses, air conditioning tubes, steering wheels, dashboard trims, gearboxes, switches, locks, and door trims, in an average time of 50 seconds per car. For parts like air conditioning tubes, the worker stands between a set of parts racks. As a particular car variant rolls in, a light above the corresponding parts rack blinks with increasing urgency as the worker runs to it, grabs a part and pulls a cord to acknowledge he has chosen the right part. He then steps onto the conveyor belt, fits the part and rushes back to match the next car to the next blinking parts rack before an alarm rings. If the line halts, signboards across the shop floor light up – flashing the number of the workstation where the line has stopped and the duration of the stoppage. Another board displays the total time ‘lost’ during the shift; a scrolling ticker lists the production targets at a given time of the day, the actual cars produced and the variance. “For every fault, the feedback is recorded and the worker has to sign against it… it goes into his record,” said a worker, speaking on condition of anonymity as every Maruti worker must sign ‘Standing Orders’ that, among 100 other conditions, bar them from slowing down work, singing, gossiping, spreading rumours and making derogatory statements against the company and management. The work record is examined during yearly appraisals. (Gone in 50 seconds, Aman Sethi, The Hindu)
Workers’ rooms in Aliyar…
There are now two canteens in the factory, in both of them workers work on two 12-hours shifts. the A-canteen is huge. there are `16 counters to take food, two canteen workers take care of one counter. then there are workers who cut the vegetables, others who cook the food, others who bring it to the counters, who clean the dishes, who clean the canteen, who make tea and who bring the tea to the departments. At 8:30 am workers get tea and snacks, at 10:30 am again tea, at 2:30 pm again tea and biscuits, at 3:30 pm tea and biscuits for the general shift and staff, at 6 pm tea and snacks. For the different shifts and categories of workers one meal-time break follows the other in a constant flow from 11 am till 3 pm. This is the work of the canteen workers of the 8 am to 8 pm shift. the same work is done by the night-shift. the A-Canteen supplies food for the assembly departments of both A- and B-plant, for the paint-shop workers of both plants, for Sand D (drivers and repair workers) and for the 2,500 construction workers of Larsen and Toubro who work on the construction of the third plant. In the A-canteen there are 350 workers for each shift, in the B-canteen more than 150 per shift. The shift of the canteen workers does not change – the night-shift workers work nights constantly. The contractor of the canteen changes frequently, but the canteen workers remain more or less the same. On 1st of March the contractor changed and the new one promised a wage increase. The old contractor paid the chef 19,000 Rs, the new contractor only pays 13,500 Rs. The workers who make samosa, roti and who operate the kneading machines used to be paid 5,000 Rs for 26 days of work of 12 hours each. the rest of the canteen workers used to be paid 4,000 Rs for the same amount of work of which 250 Rs is cut for ESI and PF. Now the new contractor announced that he will pay 4,400 Rs. For the 500 canteen workers per shift there are one general manager, five managers and 30 supervisors in both canteens. None of the canteen workers has an ESI card. Canteen workers don’t receive a pay-slip. When workers are forced to stay two to four hours longer after a 12-hours shift the managers say that they will be paid for this work, but actually they are not. the work load is high. If some workers take a day off you are supposed to take over their work and work at three different places the same time. Expecting trouble and abuses from the manager you run back-and-forth, supplying the production workers with tea. The factory is spread out on 600 acres – it’s quite an effort to supply all production workers with tea. At Suzuki Powertrain canteen the situation is the same, they just start and finish an hour later.
‘During the first occupation the 150 housekeeping workers stayed inside with the other workers, but during the one month ‘lock-out’ (good conduct bond dispute in September 2011) around 140 out of 150 went inside and worked. These workers have very little resources to stay without wages and management promised to increase wages if we work.
Shops in Aliyar…
(Plot 1, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)
Maruti Suzuki only started gearbox production in 2007, before that most gears were imported from Japan, because localisation was not seen as profitable as long as production volume was below 700,00 cars. Around 2010 Suzuki Powertrain in Manesar was actually able to produce gears cheaper than the imported gears (landed costs) and Maruti decided to fuse with Powertrain by end of 2012, also partly due the fact that at Powertrain the trouble with the workers now seems under control with the new trade union arrangement.
We are 245 apprentices in the factory, coming from different ITIs. We have been sent here to see our trade in practice, to observe it closely, to make experiences and to learn. This is why we are not given ESI and we are supposed to work only the general shift and go to a nearby ITI for theoretical lessons once a week. But here things run according to the will of Suzuki company. According to the needs of the companies we employed in the car engine plant, transmission plant or the two-wheeler engine plant and we have to perform work different from our ITI trade. We work in A, B and C-shift, not in general shift how it is officially said. Instead of observing-learning-making experiences we work as normal production workers. We are given the normal targets and have to meet them. Some supervisors swear at us a lot. During the 7 am shift you are supposed to be in the department at 6:45 and at the line at 6:58 am. At the work-stations you work standing upright all the time. To do the same job not only for 8 hours, but every day for 8 hours is oppressing. You only endure this because one can joke with the permanent workers, trainees and workers hired through contractor who work next to you. Since the agreement between union and management, which increased wages and production levels, the work load has increased a lot, also for us. Many of the permanent workers don’t find a single minute of time to catch their breath – the assembly line in the transmission plant is one of such places, we consider it as the worst place. There the canteen food is also bad and you have to cue up in six long lines, swallow your food and hurry back – because if you are a minute late you are in trouble. In the factories there are various injustices going on. The wage of the apprentices are cut by 16 Rs a day for food and tea, the wage of the workers hired through contractors is not cut. The permanent workers, trainees and apprentices get a night-shift bonus of 35 Rs in the B-shift and 50 Rs in the C-shift, but the workers hired through contractor does not get this bonus. The permanent workers on C-shift can leave at 7 am, while the apprentices have to work one and a half hours longer till 8:30 am. There are big differences between wages, and also when it comes to the company bus service. There are no classes for apprentices, neither inside nor outside the plant. The work load is so high that the apprentices have no chance to see the whole plant, they have to stay at their station. Eight hours overtime used to be paid 150 Rs, now they pay 240 Rs and you can also take time of in lieu – in order to visit home in your village you accumulate overtime. Now they don’t give you a permanent job after having finished your apprenticeship. Only few are re-hired as trainees or through contractor after finishing the apprenticeship. In the form of apprentices we are very cheap workers for the company.
Normally they give workers hired through contractors a break after six months of employment, which they don’t do at Maruti Suzuki. At Powertrain you might be able to re-apply after three months, but it will be difficult to get the job back. The contractors for Powertrain and Maruti Suzuki are different, at Powertrain there are three main contractors, at Maruti Suzuki there are four. They tend to stand at the Maruti Suzuki gate, they take your resume and ID. You are then invited to one day of safety training, you are not paid for this, then you go to Gate One in order to obtain your gate pass. This is how you get hired, normally you don’t need personal connections.
Before the strike we had to manufacture 500 engines at the short-block line, after the strike this came down to 419 currently. Another change since May 2012 is that Powertrain will only hire apprentices from ITI’s in Haryana, may be that’s a policy developed together with the new union.
Apprentice, Suzuki Powertrain, Engine-Shop (May 2012)
We, five apprentices and a temporary Powertrain worker, share a room in Aliyar. The apprenticeship finishes in August 2012 and we currently try to find jobs for time after apprenticeship. We don’t want to work through contractor, but then most workers hired through contractor are former ITI apprentices, some of them even have a diploma.
Casting plant (aluminum parts for engines)
All parts used at the engine plant at Powertrain arrive more or less on a daily basis, in particular the bigger parts.The raw engine blocks arrive at Powertrain from three different suppliers, one of them is
Amtek Auto Group, comprised of Amtek Auto, Amtek India and Ahmednagar Forgings, is one of the largest component manufacturers in India. It has 43 manufacturing facilities located in India (39) and Europe (4).
Trucks come constantly from Amtek, you probably can fit 100 engines on a truck, daily production is around 1,100 engines, they all go to Maruti Gurgaon plant. There is no proper storage for engines, but in the dispatch area you can store around 200 engines. The engines are used at Maruti more or less immediately, there is no storage on their side either. If they find quality problems with engines they tell Powertrain during the same shift during which the problems occurred.
On the long-block assembly -line there are about 200 work-stations, manned by one worker each. For the short-block you need about half the amount of work-stations. After the engine block arrived it is washed. A worker makes use of a crane, clamps the engine block, operates the washing machine, takes the engine out. That’s the job of one worker. Then different data entry has to happen, according to eight different engine models. That’s another work-station. Then you have to attach a bar-code and do the engine number punching. After that you fit the crank-shafts – they are also first checked, then washed, then fitted. The crank-shafts arrive from
Oriental Engine Pvt. Ltd.
The crank-shaft are fitted manually, this is physically the most demanding work, they weigh 15 to 20 kg.
The pistons come from
Supplier for Maruti, HMSI and Hero, amongst others. Manufacturing facilities at Bangalore, Manesar (New Delhi), Pune and Panthnagar.
Capacity of the Manesar plant 700,000 Air-Con Kits, total capacity of Subros including Chennai plant 1,5 million.
At the dressing-line there are around 12 stations, one worker per station. Here ‘attachments’ are fitted, such compressors or starter motors. these parts come from companies like
The heavy work, such as taking crank-shafts out of the trolley and testing it mechanically is mainly done by casual workers (hired through contractors). The relatively lighter work, such as data entry or final check, is mainly done by permanent workers.
Powertrain stopped producing the Euro V engine, but that did not reduce the total volume of production.
Since October 2011 there are more workers employed, meaning that you have a reliever, if you want to go to the toilet. At the dressing line they increased the number of workers, so the work-load is a little less. Since October 2011 the morning gymnastic to Japanese music has stopped.
In June 2011, when workers occupied the Manesar plant, the atmosphere heated up in Gurgaon. Mainly the young workers (hired through contractors, trainees, apprentices) were agitated and they were also in touch with Manesar workers. The older permanent workers expressed some passive sympathy for the action, the layer of older workers with supervisory functions were largely hostile. younger workers gathered at Maruti Gurgaon parking lot to discuss. They went in groups of 20 to 150 to the MUKU union office in order to press the union to take some form of action. When management sensed the discontent they called for MUKU union election in July, mainly to channel the anger into orderly directions. In 2009 there had been some action and gate meetings of casual workers to demand higher wages, but their leaders were sacked. Since then there had been little open conflict in Gurgaon plant. Workers started to collect money for the Manesar workers. They did this independently from MUKU and they did it secretly – collections were organised on assembly line and department level, a total of 86,000 Rs was collected. Only when in Manesar workers were supposed to vote whether they would accept MUKU Gurgaon union as a representative body in the negotiations for the settlement after the ‘good conduct undertaking’, MUKU sent three buses of Gurgaon workers in order to ‘show’ support and thereby to influence the vote. An independent gate meeting in Gurgaon was planned, but when the shooting happened at Suzuki Cycle-plant the meeting was cancelled. Since then MUKU has been approached by the 1,500 trainees at Gurgaon plant, but MUKU says they can’t do anything for them, not even make them members. Between 1999 and 2007 no worker has been hired on permanent basis in Gurgaon, in 2007 workers were hired as trainees. After three years of being trainee, some of them have been made permanent. These workers were the closest to the Maruti Manesar union.”
“Since May 2012 the production of petrol cars in Gurgaon plant is down. For example there are four engine shops, each of them runs on two shifts. Normally we produce 450 engines per shift, since May 2012 only between 240 and 270. In one shop around 150 workers are employed on two shifts, half of them through contractor.In the assembly department the assembly lines are also stopped for one or one and a half hours everyday, which did not happen before. Some casual workers have been kicked out, due to this overcapacity. Like in Manesar assembly department runs on only two shifts, 16 hours a day. There are rumours that all assembly work will be stopped at Gurgaon plant and that only diesel engines will be produced. they set up a new diesel plant on Gurgaon premises. So far these ‘future plans’ do not impact much on the atmosphere inside the plant. This is also due to the high share of contract workers in most departments, e.g. in the paint-shop on one shift there are eight permanents, four trainees, three apprentices and 59 workers hired through contractor. Some Denso and Lumax workers fit their own parts at the assembly line, but that is an exception.
Industrial desert IMT Manesar – In front of the Maruti Suzuki plant…
(Plot 4, Sector III, IMT Manesar)
There are 2,500 female [!?] and 500 male workers employed, manufacturing locks for Honda, Suzuki and Hero two-wheelers. The women work from 9 am till 8 pm – they get 75 Rs for the ‘two hours overtime’ as declared by the company. The male workers worl from 9 am till 10 pm, often they are forced to work till 6 am next morning. After three hours of rest they are supposed to start working again at 9 am. They are only paid 17 Rs per hour overtime and that only for 100 hours per months, when people actually have worked 150 to 200 hours. Wages are paid with delay. The company has recently added a floor to the factory building, which has resulted in the whole building becoming unstable. They propped it up with steel pillars, but the situation is unsafe. Eight trucks leave the plant and drive to Maruti per day, four to eight workers are permanently kept at Maruti for loading and quality check. The company has four factories in India, two in Manesar and Gurgaon, two near Chennai.
Vinay Auto Worker
(Plot 42, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 200 permanents and 400 workers hired through three different contractors. We work 12 hours shifts and manufacture parts for automobile suppliers like Napino, Denso, JNS, Pricol, Delphi. When shift changes on Sunday then workers in the plastic moulding department and in the copper press shop department have to work 20 hours on stretch, from 8 pm Saturday till 4 pm on Sunday. The newly hired helpers hired through contractor get 4,500 Rs.
Annu Auto Worker
(Plot 52, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 30 to 35 permanent workers in the factory and 300 workers hired through three different contractors. We manufacture plastic parts for Honda, Hero, Hyundai on 12 hours shifts. Also on Sundays 12 hours shifts. They pay only 18 Rs for an hour overtime. They embezzle 200 to 400 Rs each month. There is no place to take food in the factory. The park is just for show and taking pictures, we are not allowed to sit there. The toilets are dirty.
Shriram Engineers Worker
(Plot 54, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
Around 250 workers on two 12 hours shifts manufacture parts for Maruti Suzuki four-wheelers and Honda motorbikes. The workers hired through contractors are paid only single rate overtime.
Indo Autotech Worker
(Plot 338, Sector 24, Faridabad)
Here, around 1,000 workers manufacture parts for Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha motorcycles. In the power-press department workers are employed on two 12-hour shifts, this is where a lot of hands get cut. In the welding department around 50 out of 400 workers have ESI and PF – on the punch card there is neither name nor photo, just a number. Those 50 welders who work on Honda parts work on 12 hours shifts. The other 350 welders work 12, 14, 15 hours a day. The work load is high, you have to stand upright the whole time, they abuse you verbally and make you stay longer after 12 hours of work. Overtime is paid at single rate. There is no canteen or place to eat your food, you have to sit next to the machine and eat. Indo Autotech has other factories in Manesar, Bhiwari, Pune and another one in Faridabad, Sector 24, where they make parts for JCB.
The press-shop has presses from 10-400 tons, there are CNC machines for wire cutting and pipe bending and CAD/CAM facilities. Apart from Maruti and JCB, Indotech supplies Honda, yamaha, Recaro and FCC Rico.
DS Buhin Worker
(Plot 88, Sector 24, Faridabad)
Workers here work two 12 hours shift, manufacturing parts for Maruti Suzuki, Honda and Tata Nano. Only 35 workers are permanent, 350 workers are hired through five different contractors. There are 30 power-presses in the plant. Fingers get cut, there are a lot of accidents. In a year 150 hands get mutilated. The company does not fill in the accident form. They don’t take workers to an ESI hospital. They sack the injured worker after having brought him to a private clinic. The helpers hired through contractors get 3,600 to 3,800 Rs. Two to three day wages get embezzled each month. Managers swear at us.
DS also manufactures parts for General Motors and Maruti suppliers JBM and Caparo. The press-shop consists of 27 pneumatic and 12 mechanical presses. Most of the hinge components are manufactured by the progressive tools from Nagata Auto Parts Ltd. Japan. The Assembly Shop has 6 Pneumatic Special Purpose Machines for the assembly of hinges with a capacity of 20,000 hinges per day on two shift basis. DS manufactures parts for both Gurgaon and Manesar plant, such as radiator and seat brackets for the Swift.
(Plot 6, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 1,000 workers hired through five different contractors employed in the factory, plus 50 casual and 250 permanent workers. In the paint-shop workers work 150 to 200 hours overtime per month, in the weld-shop 115 to 130 hours, in the power press-shop 100 to 125 hours – the payment is single rate and in the paint-shop the contractors embezzle 50 hours each month. ESI and PF contributions are cut from workers wages, but none of the workers hired through contractor get ESI and only few get PF fund when quitting the job. The company declares some Sundays as festival / bank holidays and thereby reduces the statutory paid holidays by 10 to 12 days per year. the wages of the helpers hired through contractor is 4,300 to 4,800 Rs.
Omax runs ten factories in India. The company claims to have the largest sprocket manufacturing capacity (11 Million pa) in South East Asia and the largest welding facility in India with 800 machines (100 Km welding capacity per day). Omax supplies parts to Hero MotoCorp Ltd., Maruti Udyog Ltd., Honda Motorcycle & Scooters India Pvt. Ltd., Honda Siel Cars India Ltd., TVS Motors Ltd. Suzuki Motorcycle Ltd., New Holland Tractors (India) Pvt. Ltd., Yamaha Motors India Pvt. Ltd., Delphi Automotives Denso India Ltd., Indian Railways, Tata Motors Limited, Ashok Leyland Limited, IKEA, Magneti Marelli, Wabco.
In 2004 the company started exporting auto-parts to the US and Europe, amongst others to bigger automobile suppliers like Delphi or Cummins. Since 2009 Omax also supplies IKEA.
Krishna Group Worker
(Plot 47, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 200 workers employed, they work on 10.5 hours and 13.5 hours shifts, manufacturing parts for Mahindra, Honda, Maruti Suzuki cars and Svaraj mini-buses – mainly roof inner-linings. Workers operate with all kind of chemicals, they develop skin problems. Only 40 to 50 out of 150 workers hired through contractor get ESI or PF.
Krishna Group manufactures seating systems, rear mirrors, door Trims, roofliners & moulded carpets. The weld shop for the seat-frames is equipped with CNC machines, the paint-shop for the seat-frame is fully automatic and conveyorised. Assembly is performed on conveyorised lines using SNIC ‘s technology.
Jay Switch Worker
(Plot 407, Udyog Vihar Phase 3, Gurgaon)
In the factory 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts manufacture steering locks and keys for Mahindra, Tata Sumo, Toyota Inova and Maruti Suzuki. The overtime is paid at single rate. A first installment of 15 days of overtime payment for December was paid on 15th of February 2012, workers demanded that the rest should be paid by 25th of February – in response the company called the police and one worker was arrested. This worker was sacked and the company refused to pay him the outstanding overtime payment from December to February. The director said that he had to pay the police and that he now won’t pay any money to the worker.
Kiran Udyog Worker
(Plot 23, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
The factory employs 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts. The factory manufactures die-casting products for Honda, Hero motorcycles and Maruti Suzuki cars. During the weekly shift change the Saturday night-shift has to work 20 hours on stretch and the Sunday day shift 16 hours. Over-time is paid single rate.
Kiran Udyog supplies Maruti Udyog Ltd, Sona Koyo Steering System ltd, Suzuki Motorcycle India (P) Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd, Regal Beloit- U.S.A, Daimler Chrysler – Germany, Koyo Steering Systems – France, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter (I) Pvt Ltd, General Motors India, Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai. They have six plants in Gurgaon and Delhi area. Main products are cylinder blocks, motor frames.
Bundy Company Worker, Manesar, NH8
A fuel-pipe manufacturer for Maruti Suzuki. Bundy has one worker permanently working ‘between’ Bundy and Maruti Suzuki: quality check, coordination. Bundy itself employs about 550 workers out of which 300 through contractor. The workers are paid on piece rate, there is no basic wage. Workers have to operate bending machines, burring machines etc. and are paid between 10 and 30 paise per piece. daily target is around 3,000 pieces. One truck leaves Bundy for Maruti per day.
JBM Worker, Maruti Suzuki Manesar Premises
There are about 350 permanent and 700 workers hired through contractor, divided up amongst three departments: powerpress-department, axle-shop and paintshop). We manufacture around 30 to 40 smaller press-parts for Maruti and around 1,000 axles per day on two 12-hours shifts. This is a production of axles for 500 cars, meaning that it is not sufficient to cover the full production in Manesar.
JBM is a joint-venture of Maruti Suzuki. JBM has plants in Manesar, Noida and Faridabad, components are also exported to truck manufacturers in Europe. JBM Auto Systems, a sister company, was founded to supply sheet metal components to Ford India and supplies for export to South Africa and Mexico and China. Next door to the JBM Manesar plant Bellsonica-workers operate 2,500 ton presses, imported from Japan. A temporary worker at Bellsonica told us that he went home to his village for a month during the Maruti dispute, he did not have the money to stay in Manesar.
Energy Ltd. Worker, Maruti Suzuki Manesar Premises
Since one and a half years Energy Ltd. manufactures plastic-fuel tanks on Maruti premises. There are 64 workers in the production department, working on three shifts and 25 logistics workers. Around 90 per cent of the workers are hired through contractor. Before that Maruti got steel-tanks from a different supplier.
Asti Electronics Private Ltd.
(IMT Manesar, Sector 8, Plot 402)
Around 600 workers are employed in the factory, out of which 400 are female. Only 100 to 150 out of 600 workers are hired by the company directly, the remaining through three different contractors. Permanent workers basically do the same work, although they tend to do more supervisory jobs, machine setting, quality control. The company manufactures cable harnesses for Maruti Suzuki, Minda and Hero Motorcycles. Harnesses means that the company cuts cables for electrical appliances of the vehicle, joints them with the necessary plugs and connectors and tapes the cables into a bundle which can easily be installed and connected at Maruti Suzuki’s assembly line, mainly at Maruti Manesar plant. There are at least two more companies in IMT Manesar which do this kind of work, Motherson Sumi and JNS.
The production at Asti is divided into different departments (NSK, PCB). One is the machine shop, where cable are cut at length and fitted with plugs, terminals and connectors. The raw material comes from other Asian countries, either Japan or China. There are five automatic and eight manual machines in the machine-shop, all of them of ‘Japanese’ make. With the automatic machines you basically have to enter the right dimensions for the cables, the length of the cable, length of stripped insulation etc. This does not take much longer than 10 minutes. Then you have to supply the machine with the right type of cable. The machine will run for about 20 minutes in order to cut 1,000 cables and strip them. you have to check the quality and tape the cables in bundles of 100. The permanent workers usually show workers how to set the machine, they check the quality. At the manual machine workers mainly fit terminals and plugs onto the cables. The machine-shop runs on three shifts, only in the A-shift there are female workers employed. The A-shift is 9 hours, the B-shift 8 hours and the C-shift (night) is 6 hours. Target for the C-shift is 10,000 pieces at the automatic machines, for the A-shift 18,000. Workers say that targets have increased continuously. In the machine-shop there are around 20 workers and one supervisor. The supervisor reminds workers on a daily basis: “Check the quality, there have been complaints from Maruti”.
Most of the female workers work on the assembly line, which is separated from the machine shop by racks for material. The assembly line runs only on A-shift. Women workers are of all ages, mostly between 18 and 40 years old. The young female workers live with their parents, the older women with their family. Work at the assembly line required speed, the line runs automatically, women workers have to pull cables into a type of frame, other workers then put plugs on their ends, other workers tape the cables into different branches. The assembly line has about 6 to 8 different stations in sequence, then there is a final quality check and dispatch. there is a line leader which is in a hierarchical position between workers and supervisor. There is no storage space, the manufactured goods leave the factory more or less immediately.
In the machine shop workers can talk to each other, work at the assembly line is more rapid, talking is more difficult. If younger male and female workers talk too much to each other, the male worker might be transfered to other work-station. In the canteen male and female workers can sit together, but they often set apart. Workers work A-shift on Sundays, which is called ‘overtime’. Workers also often work B- and C- double-shifts on Sundays, meaning 14 hours on stretch. They are paid 500 Rs for 14 hours. If people take too much holiday, for example a week or two on stretch, they have to ‘re-join’, meaning their seniority is lost. If you take four days holiday in a week you also lose the Sunday pay (normally a day of which is ‘paid’).
Wages are very low at Asti. Machine operators and assembly line workers only get the helper grade. In March 2012 workers hired through contractor got 4,750 Rs per month, plus 1,000 Rs attendance bonus. Workers with ITI received around 7,000 Rs. Women workers on A-shift receive the same amount as workers on B- and C-shift, although they work one hour longer. In March/April 2012 an annual wage increase was given. Those workers who worked at Asti since one to three months got something between 100 and 200 Rs increase, those with three to eigth months 200 to 300 Rs, those over eight months 600 to 800 Rs, only a handful of permanents with long seniority got 1,500 Rs. Workers were rather angry about the miniscule hike.
The ASTI Corporation and Group Companies are located in Japan, China, Vietnam and India. The plant at IMT Manesar was started in October 2005 and at the same time supplies to Suzuki Motorcycle India started. Asti started supplies to Subros Ltd. in May 2006 and since June 2007 to Maruti Suzuki.
Family members of Maruti workers protesting after mass-dismissals…
Sanden Vikas Worker
(Plot 65, Sector A, Faridabad)
There are 60 permanents employed by the company and 950 workers are hired through four different contractors. Sanden Vikas is a major manufacturer of car AC systems in India, together with companies like Delphi or Subros. The factory in Faridabad supplies AC systems mainly to Maruti Suzuki (Nissan, Honda, Mahindra, Tata, Hind Motors)
Parts for compressors come from Japan. The pipes come from Korea. The rubber hose pipes come from
Other parts come from other companies of the corporate group:
Compressors are assembled at assembly lines, the pipes for the AC’s are dispatched separately. There is no storage, trucks leave continuously. The AC-components are delivered directly to the assembly lines at Maruti Suzuki, there is no storage neither at Sanden, nor at Maruti. There are four Sanden Vikas workers permanently employed at Maruti, Manesar, they also live in Manesar. Two for quality check, two for unloading trucks and dispatching AC’s to lines. About six trucks leave Sanden per day, the guys at manesar plant work 18 hours shifts. Although they work permanently in Maruti they have to pay 30 Rs for a meal at the Maruti canteen. These workers know that there has been a strike at Sanden in 2010 and that there is still trouble. They know that the dispatch problem of parts, the incomplete dispatch is due to wage trouble and over-work at the Faridabad plant. At Sanden in Faridabad there was no major problem during the Maruti Suzuki struggle, management expanded production for other car companies. The component parts for AC’s can be used for different car models.
Management claims that they the factory runs only 17 hours a day on A- and B- shift, but actually it runs 24 hours – only on Sunday production stops at 7 pm. The work-load is high, every day more than 4,000 AC’s are dispatched. Where their own time study has fixed 500 piece targets, managers ask to produce 1,000 piece
– they employ unskilled workers at CNC bending machines. After accidents workers are sacked, workers hired through contractor have no ESI card.
Since March 2012 there have been problems of completing the dispatch to Maruti, not enough or faulty AC’s arrived at Maruti. The problems emerged at a time when a new model was introduced. Maruti made Sanden pay penalties, if dispatches were not complete. In order to find out what the problem was Sanden ordered higher management people to stay during night-shifts and analyse the work process.
The situation is that permanent workers only work on A-shift and since 4 permanents have been kicked out in 2009, permanent workers refuse working overtime. So workers hired through contractor employed on B-shift work from 2:30 pm till next morning 6:30 am – this is 16-hours on stretch. While on A-shift they work 8.5 hours. The solution of management for problems of dispatch: B-shift workers must be tired after 15 hours of work, so they changed shift patterns and introduced two 12-hours shifts instead. This also means that when shift changes on Saturday, workers have to work a 24 hours-shift, as ‘compensation’ workers get 50 Rs extra for food and two ‘breakfasts’.
On the way to Aliyar in IMT Manesar…
Living conditions in villages like Aliyar and other villages around IMT Manesar are not worse than those in other places in Delhi region, which is bad enough. Main thing is the isolation, being far away from Gurgaon. There is the huge and sterile industrial zone with hardly any public spaces and there are the small rooms in the villages, nothing more. There is no time and no space for ‘leisure’. A bit of television, if workers have one, and more recently a bit of fiddling with the chinese touch-screen mobile. “What do you do on a Sunday, if you have a day off?” “I go to listen to religious functions in Manesar. Most workers wash clothes and hang out, rest, have a drink, play cards, may be go to the gym. There is nothing to do.” Locals complain about an increase of prostitution in Manesar, but workers say that prices for sex work are mostly out of reach, 50 Rs for a fuck, 200 Rs for an hour.
There are 500 local inhabitants on the vote list in Aliyar, meaning 500 adult original residents, poorer peasant families. Peasants had to sell their land for the industrial development, this started in 2001. At the time Haryana government paid 3.5 lakh Rs per acre compensation. Some years later Haryana state gave permission to private developers to buy land for ‘housing projects’. The private developers paid between 2 and 11 crore per acre. Families who were forced to sell for ‘industrial development’ filed a legal case and demanded higher compensation, a compromise was found and they now get now get 36 lakh. The land deals has created major income differences between the peasant families. Some invest in more land further down the NH8 towards Rajasthan. Others invest the money into ‘education of their sons’. Others buy a three wheeler and get engaged in transport between Manesar and Gurgaon. At least in Aliyar local ex-peasants don’t get engaged in labour contracting, they mainly rent out rooms for workers. They complain that their sons won’t get permanent jobs in the local factories.
These 500 original ‘peasant inhabitants’ built rooms and rent them out to about 10,000 plus workers. Due to the closeness of Aliyar to Maruti Suzuki, due to the rigid ‘punctuality regime’, land-lords in Aliyar can demand higher rents than in other workers housing areas in Gurgaon or Faridabad. While a room rent is 1,600 Rs in Kapashera, in Aliyar you will pay 2,500 Rs to 3,000 Rs. The state built a ‘workers housing colony’ as a show-piece in the early 2000s, but 80 per cent of the 100 or so flats are empty due to high rent of 6,000 Rs per room. Also prices for vegetables and other food items is much higher in Aliyar. Some workers organise collective trips to markets in Gurgaon, but that takes extra-time. Attached to the land-lordism of the locals is also a certain social and patriarchal control. “We wanted to use the roof of our house as a leisure space, to hang out in the evening. The local owner of the neighbouring house said that he does not want to see us on the roof. We had to accept this, otherwise there would have been trouble”. On one floor of an average workers’ house you will find between 40 and 100 workers of different categories (trainees, temps, apprentices), although permanent workers tend to stay in slightly better accommodation apart. Workers from different departments and companies live together they exchange experiences.
During the Maruti Suzuki dispute the media presented the ‘locals’ as supporters of the company, their village council leaders met up and issued a declaration, stating that ‘Maruti did so much for the region and this labour unrest is sparked by outsiders’. Actually there is a lot of discontent amongst the locals, despite their land-lord position. Most of them see that their children have little chance to participate in the ‘boom’, they see the impact of social decomposition, such as drugs and petty crime amongst the local youth. On 22nd of May 2012, for example, local villagers blocked roads within the industrial zone of Manesar in roder to protest against water and electricity shortage. The protest was mainly organised by the BJP, a fair share of the villagers took part. They blocked the main roads towards the Maruti Suzuki plant, but did not block the entrances to the huge car-park, which meant that trucks with parts could still enter the factory and production was not effected. A symbolic protest, also symbolising their helpless and dependent position.
(based on conversations with workers and local inhabitants, May 2012)
Workers’ at Maruti supplier…
Below you can find some more relevant passages from “The Maruti Story”, by Maruti chairman R.C Bhargava,published by Collins Business in 2010. The book is obviously annoying, having been written by a top-manager, with the usual arrogance and, which is probably more painful, ignorance of the representatives of capital. But even more painful is the fact that it was a representative of capital and not a revolutionary workers’ collective who wrote a book which, however biased and characterised by blind-spots, analyses the development of a major factory, the problems of getting workers to work, of imposing control on the shop-floor through the production system itself, of organising a fragile supply-chain and actively counter-acting workers’ unrest.
Here we see a parallel to the workers’ historiography in Italy. Initially it were mainly bourgeois sociologist and intelligent factions of capital who got engaged in analysing industrial history and contemporary developments. Only with the re-emergence of workers’ struggles and a dissident communist faction in the early 1960s, workers took the analysis of their material world into their own hands and turned it into a weapon. See Sergio Bologna: ‘The Theory and History of the Mass Worker in Italy’
On 350 pages, R.C Bhargava deals with the structure of the early automobile industry in India (Hindustan Motors), with the early attempt of setting up Maruti by Sanjay Gandhi and the close connection between the developmental dictatorship of the State of Emergency and his vision of a people’s car. One has to plough through long passages about the composition of the early management, about the difficult balance-act between being attached to the state and its burocracy and looking for foreign investors. He describes the discussions and negotiations with various international automobile companies and how they chose Suzuki as a partner. For future GurgaonWorkersNews we might type up some historical nuggets, but here we want to concentrate on passages which are relevant for our understanding of the situation today and see them as an incentive to dig deeper from a workers’ perspective as part of workers’ armed struggle.
a) Maruti and Supply-Chain
b) Maruti and Unions
c) Maruti and Expansion of Gurgaon and Manesar
a) Maruti and Supply-Chain
Here we first of all are able to see how capital creates its own fetish. In order to avoid a huge concentration of workers in a single ‘automobile factory’, which would easily need a 100,000 workers, Maruti wants to create the semblance of formally separate units of suppliers around a central ‘Maruti assembly plant’. The reasons they give for this decision are seemingly ‘economic’: aversion of risk, share of investment, competition. Obviously Maruti depends on the smooth cooperation within a production process, so they basically set-up the suppliers with their own engineers, impose clear hierarchy of orders, supply them with necessary capital. It is clear that on the level of ‘use value production’ Maruti and the suppliers are one and that the formal and spacial distinctions are in the end political measures against the working class.
“Chapter 7: Preparing the Vendors
The first 192 cars to roll out of the factory in December 1983 were almost entirely Japanese cars, with only the tyres and the batteries being Indian, supplies coming from Chennai-based MRF and Kolkata-based Chloride India (later renamed Exide Industries). The indigenization percentage was a mere 2.76666 per cent and it stayed at less than 10 per cent till March 1984. […] Maruti had committed to achieving 95 per cent indigenization in five years. […]
At that time , the Indian automobile manufacturers produced close to 50 per cent of the components of a vehicle in-house. SMC, and Japanese manufacturers in general, followed a different policy. In-house production of components was limited to only those that were critical for performance and appearance, like the engine, gearbox and outer body panels. All other components were outsourced to vendors. This reduced investment costs, and thus risk, for the vehicle manufacturer. It also reduced cost of manufacturing components, as vendors could supply to more than one manufacturer, attain higher volumes and derive benefits of scale.[…] Thus the dependence on vendors was to be to the extent of about 75 per cent of the value of all components, excluding steel, paints and similar items.
Interested parties had to submit full information about themselves, including what facilities they had, their experience in manufacturing and management set-up. […] A group of engineers then visited the factories of the applicants to verify the information given and also to judge their capabilities. […] Another difficult decision in respect of each part was to decide when it should be deleted from the CKD kit [kit with imported parts coming from Japan for assembling at Maruti]. The contents of a CKD kit had to be decided and orders placed with SMC five months before the month in which the imported parts would be used on Maruti production lines. Maruti had to anticipate which parts, and in what quantities a vendor would be able to produce six months in advance, in order to decide to delete those parts from the import list. Given the somewhat disorganized state of many vendors, this was not an easy task and often created situations of crisis, as many vendors failed to meet their commitments. […]
Maruti acted virtually as a midwife to a large number of vendors, handholding them at every stage. Maruti was often involved in helping them find the right collaborator, aiding with joint venture agreements and getting approvals and licences, arranging financial assistance and negotiating with financial institutions for providing working capital, persuading state governments to allot land, giving short-term advances to them to pay customs duties and importing tooling, and sending Maruti engineers to help them with their production system. […] As a result, close to forty joint ventures and technical agreements between Indian and Japanese component manufacturers were signed in a short period of time, and this greatly facilitated the process of localization.
Mathur and the late Dr. R.D. Deshpande, who was the first head of engineering, were in charge of developing Maruti vendors. Mathur describes it graphically: “Ensuring that the production line was not disrupted was like feeding a shark which eats around the clock. We were buying 1,200 or 1,300 components. Even if we had a crisis on one of the components every three years, it was still a crisis every day for us”. The crisis could take the form of a quality problem, disruption of production due to shortage of raw materials or imported sub-components, labour unrest or disruption in the transportation system […].
Many vendors would change their manufacturing process in some area, thinking it would not matter. Maruti had to make them realize that the key to quality lay in consistently, without any deviations, following the approved procedures for manufacture […]. If any change was to be made anywhere, it had to be first approved by Maruti.
As a result of all these problems, more parts had to be imported and the indigenization programme had to be revised downward. The target of 31.5 per cent indigenization up to March 1985 was brought down to 23 per cent. […] Maruti then decided to get even more involved with its vendors, forming joint-ventures to manufacture components that were critical to the quality of the vehicles, or were to bulky to transport, or required high technology and large investments, or where the economies of scale dictated a single source. […] Having a stake in the companies enabled Maruti to be involved in all aspects of the establishment of the production facilities and the process of manufacture. […] Initially five joint-ventures were formed. These were to manufacture seats (Bharat Seats), glass (Asahi India Glass), sheet metal parts (Mark Auto), plastic moulding (Machino Plastics) and steering components (Sona Steering) and accounted for 24 per cent of the value of the car.
Three of the joint-ventures – Bharat Seats, Machino Plastics and Mark Auto – were located within the Maruti factory complex, while Asahi Glass and Sona Steering took land nearby. […] Later, to bring in an element of competition and as a fallback arrangement, three more joint ventures were set up – Sona Car Seats (renamed Krishna Maruti) for seats in 1993, and Jay Bharat Maruti and Caparo Maruti for sheet metal components in 1988 and 1994 respectively. […] The management control was with Maruti’s partner, as the company did not want to get involved in the day-to-day management of so many companies. If Maruti had assumed control over the joint ventures, there would soon have been demands from the employees that they should have the same terms and conditions as Maruti employees. […] All this would have diverted attention from the main task of building Maruti and the objective of having vendors would have got defeated. […] to give comofort to the partner, it was provided that for the first seven years or so, pricing would be on a cost plus basis, with an assured return on equity. Maruti had the right to go into details of all costs of manufacture and procurement of materials.
Kumar had to point out to many vendors (other than the joint venture partners)who wanted to persist with the traditional way of using Indian-made tools that they were ignoring the fact that if the components were rejected, they would lose all Maruti business, and suffer a total loss of their investment. Further, since the Maruti pricing policy took into account the tooling cost, buying tooling from Japan would not adversely impact on their profitability. […] The procurement of raw materials and bought-outs had to be from sources who would follow the laid-down processes and systems, […] and no change in the source of procurement should be made without getting Maruti’s approval first.[…] Maruti engineers working in the purchase and vendor development department would spent at least half a day on the shop floor of suppliers.”
By that time Maruti had established a certain competition amongst different suppliers. They imposed a rating system about just-in-time and quality and suppliers were supposed to compete in order to get the next order once a new Maruti model was introduced.
“Logistics posed another headache. […] The rear axles too came by truck from Chennai. This was one of the few cases where Maruti had a single supplier. Trucks would break down or be stranded by floods during the monsoon. […] Truck drivers were not trained to keep Maruti, or even their own management, informed of what was happening. Though they were supposed to call from every major twon on the route, few did this. […] During the 1984 anti-Sikh riots […], several Sikh drivers disappeared and there was no way of knowing whether they were hiding to save themselves or had been killed. On such occasions the rear axleshad to be transported by train […] to ensure they reached the factory in forty-eight hours and production lines could be kept running”.
We added the quote below, which does not directly concern the supply-chain, but the so-called ‘after-service’, the Maruti repair and service work-shops. We can see how the big industry shapes and re-structures the so-called service and informal sector, such as car repairing – through direct intervention, technological impostion and ‘training’ of the work-force.
“As with showrooms, Maruti also provided guidance on how to establish workshops – number of bays, equipment, paint-shop layout, storage and handling of spare parts, among other things. Maruti personnel had to approve the workshop site and the layout (the drawings for which bwere prepared with SMC’s help). […] Some of the equipment – computerised engine diagnostic equipment, wheel alignment systems, and brake tester, to name a few – was a first for dealers in India. […] Workshop practices also needed a major change. Traditionally each mechanic was a specialist who would do work in his area only. […] In addition, each mechanic had one or two helpers, to do the less skilled work like washing and cleaning parts, fetching tools or oil and teightening nuts and bolts. Most of the employees were underutilised and never worked anywhere near eight hours in a shift. The specialist mechanics often sat idlewhen parts were washed and cleaned. […] SMC, quite rightly, did not want these practices to continue.Thei basic principle was that one mechanic should do all the work required for sservicing a car […]. Further he should have to do the entire servicing of a car himself, with no helpers. […] Implementing this was not easy. The older and more experienced mechanics were most unlikely to agree to the change. […] It was decided that , by and large, it would be better to train fresh pass-outs from ITIs […].Thuis a training centre for mechanics was established in the service centre at the Maruti factory, […] regional training centres were established.The young workers from the ITIs were without hang-ups and were quite happy to work in accordance with the new system.”
b) Maruti and Unions
‘The Maruti Story’ contains longer sections about the run-up of the 2000/2001 strike and the subsequent VRS scheme, but most of the details are already provided in GurgaonWorkersNews no.8. Following just some initial quotes concerning the management thought concerning workers’ representation.
“It was realized that continuous training of workers was necessary if their attitude towards work, the company and its management was to be changed. […] Krishnamurthy decided that this could best de done through a union which had a positive approach. […] As a first step, Krishnamurthy promoted a trade union at Maruti before political parties and outsiders could establish one. K.K. Datta, who was a union leader at BHEL [where Krishnamurthy had been a leading manager] was given employment in maruti, and became general secretary of the Maruti Udyog Employees Union (MUEU), which was affiliated with the Indian National trade Union Congress (INTUC). Workers were encouraged to become member of this union […]. But first the credibility of the union had to be established, and this was done by consulting the union and involving it in framing policies and taking decisions in matters affecting the workers. Thus, the policy regarding uniforms, and its colour and design, was settled in consultation with the union. . […] After each union meeting each [union] executive was required to interact with his constituency and share the information with the workers. The management believed that this would be the most effective way of reaching all the workers, and this could not be done successfully by the management trying to interact directly with them.”
“The scheme was notified in November 1989. Productivity levels and sales started to rise rapidly. The bonus pool grew and in a few years the workers were getting a bonus which was approximately one and a half times their basic salary. One benefit of the scheme was that workers never opposed automation or other methods to improve productivity. […] Getting worker cooperation on contentious issues, therefore, became easier, as the management found out in the mid-1990s. The company had a large number of casual/temporary labourers on its rolls and Abraham, who had again become the general secretary of the union, insisted that their service be regularized. Since these people were doing work which was not related to the main activity of the company, like cleaning, sweeping and unpacking crates, and outsourcing was the accepted way to get such tasks done, it would not have been in Maruti’s interest to regularize them. The management talked to other union leaders, and the managers also talked directly to employees on the shop-floor, and pointed out that accepting this demand would lead to a larger number of employees, lesser labour savings and a drop in the bonus pool. The smaller pool would have to be shared between larger numbers. Hence each regular worker would see a big drop in his take-home pay. With the majority of the workers unwilling to let this happen, the union quietly dropped this demand.”
The quite below is actually not from “The Maruti Story”, but from the Phd by Bose – see Appendix. We thought it would be interesting to document the attempt to set up a contract workers union at Maruti Gurgaon plant in the late 1980s.
“Maruti gets license from the Labour Commissioner’s office to use contract labour. We are not given any appointement letter. Initially, Maruti officers used to issue identity cards with their signature on it. But from June 2000 onwards Maruti officers have not been signing on the identity cards, which are changed every six months. Earlier, contractors and Maruti officers used to sit together to pay us wages but now contractors pay on their own within the company. The labour contractors are registered ones and come from local areas, and are well connected to Maruti management. There are now 72 big contractors and many small contractors. They have two yearly agreement with management. Competition among them forces them to quote lower bulk payment so that we do not get even official minimum wages. No equal wages for equal work we do. We do not get any allowance. We have no hospital facility. The entire Maruti Gypsy production line work is subcontracted out. Contract workers are doing the subassembly and final assembly within Maruti premises. We do not get any help from contractors in terms of advance or loan. We are forced to work long hours. We work on Sunday and we do not get any leave. If the worker absents without telling the contractor, they get penalized in terms of no work for three or four days. We face high incidence of injuries and accidents due to too much work pressures and lack of rest. No payment is made. Contractors are told to take us away even as the others are told to clean the blood on the running machines. The permanents look down upon us. Most of us were earlier apprentice workers in this factory. We are doubly f…ed…both management and union exploit us.
In 1989 we struggled with a 9-day strike for our union recognition, and in 1990 we were on a 37-day strike. We are registered as Maruti Contract Workers Union. Our registration number is 1150. We have received no support from Maruti union even as they seek our support which we give in terms of tool down, etc. Both Maruti management and Maruti union have cooperated with the labour contractors to dismiss 20 to 25 activists of our union. We lodge court cases through permanent workers union and the Joint Labour Commissioner wants proof of employment from Maruti or permanent workers but they do not extend any help. Who will save us in this country? Even God is sold out. We have not become criminals. We have not become rapists. Why is the society not grateful to us? Are we not the backbone of this country’s economy? “Note that the President of the Clutch Auto Employees Union has been blessed by the management with press shop subcontract work, and how can he fight for the workers?
c) Maruti and Expansion of Gurgaon and Manesar
We see a parallel here. During the expansion phase of the Gurgaon plant management forced workers to work ‘over-capacity’, and management knew that it depended on workers’ collaboration during this phase. The same thing happened in Manesar in 2011, shortly before the B-plant becoming operational. In order to save investment and to stretch ‘living and dead labour’ as far as possible, the A-plant operated on over-capacity (off-line car assembly etc.) for a long period. Only this time workers were not willing to cooperate.
“The work on expanding capacity and establishing a second plant at the same site, started about the end of 1992 and was completed in 1994. This plant, which was to produce the Zen, had a rated capacity of 100,000 units, like the first plant. In November 1993, the government issued an ad hoc exemption order allowing Maruti to import plant and machinery for the Zen project at nil custom duty on taking an obligation to export 140,000 cars over seven years.The funds were secured through a loan raised in Japan, as well as some internal resources. With the plant, production rapidly increased to 278,000 in 1995-96, and the need for another plant was obvious. One of the reasons for Maruti being able to keep prices of cars low – and make profits – was the ability to run both these plants at about 140 per cent of the rated capacity. This was achieved by a combination of balancing facilities, innovative practices and full cooperation from the workers.”
Here we read about the conception of the Manesar plant: a fresh start without the ‘old labour’ of Gurgaon, a higher degree of automation, a comparable set-up to the already existing plant in Japan. Suzuki wanted Manesar to compete with Gurgaon. It now remains a question for us how to turn this around, from a workers’ perspective. How can the unrest of a young generation at Manesar plant break up the heavy silence in the ‘old core’ Gurgaon?
“There was a history to the establishment of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. The Gurgaon site had been fully developed with the establishment of the three manufacturing plants. […] A new site was needed for future expansion and Manesar was selected. Khattar was successful in negotiating with the Haryana government to purchase 600 acres of land there, on very reasonable terms. […] SMC wanted this plant to be very similar to the plant in Kosai, Japan, so that there could be a high level of automation, and the best SMC practice could be established here from the start. Suzuki did not want this plant to become an extension of the Gurgaon plant, which had been built over twenty years and had much more manual operations. He wanted the plants at Gurgaon and Manesar to compete with each other in areas like productivity and quality, with each being a benchmark for the other. At the same time, it was always the intention that in areas like human resource management, supply chain and sales and marketing the two plants should work as one.”
House of an ex-peasant, now landlord in Rampura village near Manesar…
The export of Suzuki passenger cars from Gurgaon to Europe increased over the years both absolutely and relatively. The best-seller Swift is at the same time manufactured in a Suzuki factory in Hungary, which was hailed after the end of the Eastern Block, hailed as the new investment paradise for global car manufacturers, together with the Czech Republic. Both the Suzuki Manesar and the Esztergom plant supply the European market, the different wage levels, levels of general ‘development’ and geographical location will be the objective factors for Suzuki to integrate both plants into their global structure. For workers it will be a challenge to establish a basic form of exchange of experience. A comrade from Hungary summarised following general overview on the Suzuki plant in Esztergom and the workers’ struggle of 2005:
Suzuki Factory in Hungary and International Market
Suzuki accounts for 2.2 per cent of all exports from Hungary in 2008. The factory in Esztergom was built and started production in 1992. Back then it was the only Japanese investment in Hungary. The government and all political forces were promoting the slogan of attracting foreign capital in the country, as there has been a 30 per cent employment loss (with special regard on industry) after the fall of state socialism. Initially most parts for the Suzuki Alto came from the Maruti Suzuki plant in India. In 1993, leaders of Suzuki Corporation and Hungary agreed on settling the production of most car parts (except the engine, gears and wheelwork) in Hungary and/or other countries in the region – but in 1994, when the 25,000th car was made in Hungary, the proportion of european-produced parts was only 60 per cent. From 1994 on, car parts were also made for export to Japan, and whole cars for the Chinese, Dutch and Italian markets. In 1996, the 100,000th car was made, and at the domestic market of new made cars Suzuki had a 20 per cent share in Hungary. In 1999 100,000 cars were sold on the Hungarian market, while total annual production was over 250,000. The integration with other manufacturers continues: the WagonR model consists mainly of parts manufactured by Opel/GM in Poland. The SX4 is, like in India, manufactured in close cooperation with FIAT.
In 2011, Magyar Suzuki Zrt. 171,700 vehicles were made in the factory (+1% compared to 2010), out of which 168,555 were sold abroad (!), out of which 61,123 were Swift, 61,864 were SX4, main export target country is Italy. In 2011 around 3400 people worked directly at Suzuki, total workforce is around 4,200. Exports go not only to Europe but also Japan, Russie, Ukraine, some Middle Eastern and North African countries. There was a significant growth in profits at MS Zrt. (+26.6 million euro). Analysts say it could be because of strengthening the production of own supplies (growth in the value of locally owned supplies: 25 million euro in 2010 to 33.5 million in 2011).
In May 2011 – for a short time (few weeks) only one shift was at work because of “supply problems”, from July on two shifts are working again. Probably because of this, May showed a -0.8% in total industrial output of Hungary compared to April. In November and December 2012, only one shift will work in Esztergom. Management hopes they can restore the 2-shifts setup from January 2013.
By the end of 2005, tensions arise at Suzuki Esztergom, because of forced overtime, cancelled holidays and weekends (2111 people were given only 7 days instead of 8 days a month; 403 workers didn’t get their 2004 vacations; further 19 were given money instead of their annual leave), additional daily working time “to replace” lunchbreaks, missing toilets in the new facilities. In August, an anonymous letter was sent to the management, describing all these conditions. In December about 150 activists of the “Liga Szakszervezetek” (Unions of “The League”, a lesser trade union confederation) demonstrate at the entrance, also involving workers of the Pét Nitrochemical Works, pedagogues, uniformed officials of armed state bodies. Nationalist separation between slovakian and hungarian workers seems to bleach, although racist resentments towards the “yellow” (japanese management) still present. However, at the handover of the petition and at the distribution of the union flyers the union accepted the restriction given by the management to be no more than 10 persons in action at the gate.
In early 2006 workers of Suzuki Esztergom form a union (Independent Union of Automobile Manufacturers in Esztergom) outside of the fence, but just at the factory gate, in a bus that they rent for this purpose. Since the demonstration in December 2005 they gathered 68 members, 30% of which are slovakian citizens. Some new members join during this first public meeting (held for the election of officials). Police shows up, records the organizers’ data and tries to push them to remove their banner demanding the respect of labour law at Suzuki. In February, a month after forming the union, their leader gets dismissed. The “factory council” [a legally codified but in Hungary very rare form of representation] denies legitimacy of the new union (based on legal formalities) and connection between its leader’s union activity and sacking. The management adds: 70 members are 2% of the total 3200 workers… Based on these points, they don’t admit the union as negotiating partner. The fired union leader made a speech in a TV broadcast that “damaged the good image of the company”. He talks about how the management framed him: some closed bottles of alcohol were found in his locker (which was opened forcefully on the weekend before by an unknown person) – the allegation of having alcohol at the workplace was used for a reason to sack him. Eleven days after he got kicked out, a strike happened: 50 workers walked out spontaneously in protest against unpaid overtime.
In March 2007 the court finds that dismissing the union leader was illegal, although his demand for the wage of the past year is still in question.
In December 2008 management announced that 1200 out of 5523 workers must leave Suzuki from the 8th December on, due to the reduction of orders in the crisis, from 3 shifts only 2 remain. First the outsourced, then those on probation time, then those working there for less than 3 years are to be dismissed. Workers put on “technical leave” get only the basic wage (no “bonus”), this means 20-25’000 HUF less than usual. Those leaving “on their own” by the middle of December are offered to gain 2 more months’ salary instead of the legally prescribed severance pay/compensation of 1 months payment per 3 years spent at work. (About 800 people were tricked by Suzuki again: they left by themselves, only to learn that this compensation offer was meant only for those living out of 30 km radius around the factory. In order to replace these workers leaving in masses, many of those put on “technical leave” were called back to work.) Buses to transport workers to work are cancelled from the 5th January 2009.
8.1) Open Letter on Maruti by Mouvement Communiste to Comrades in Delhi
8.2) Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle
8.3) Proposal for Critical Debate on ‘Academic Research’
8.4) Phd by Bose on Automobile Industry in Delhi
8.5) Further readings
Workers on their way to shift in Gurgaon industrial area…
Open letter from afar to comrades in India
We went to India some weeks ago and we met many comrades of various tendencies in a friendly and open-minded way. We also met workers in some plants.
The situation of the working class in India, mainly in the automotive industry, shows that a new generation of workers is rising and expressing discontent, not only inside but also outside the factories.
Before the Maruti Suzuki strike (from June to October 2011), other strikes took place, successful or not, with both contract workers and sometimes casual workers, taking part.
We feel that the conditions – both objective and subjective – are ripe for something to happen. There is a hidden potential strength close to emergence. And militants must contribute to the birth of the first stage of workers self-organisation.
Obviously we are writing this letter from a long way away, so we don’t expect you to just follow our recipe – the intention is to open discussion. But if we were militants in India, this would be our proposal.
It is necessary to know more about factory organisation (along with Suzuki operations).
It is necessary to discuss to the greatest possible extent with workers from Suzuki to check that common political goals are both understood and shared.
So, a kind of workers’ inquiry must be launched.
This has to be made visible to other workers, not only to those working for local sub-contractors, but to the workers of the whole Delhi area.
In order to do this, we need “human resources” and basic organisation. This implies clearly advocating for workers autonomy. It does not mean political merger or hiding political differences. But those to which this letter is addressed share, from our point of view, a common will to dedicate their political energy towards working class self-organization, giving it the highest priority.
We are not against any attempt by workers to organise themselves to fight for their interests, even into rank and file unions, but we are very cautious about the evolution of such unions (here we are thinking about what happened at Honda, but not only that). This is a practical point produced by class struggle itself. So a basic point of agreement or disagreement.
There is already an existing medium: FMS (Faridabad Majdoor Samachar). It must become the common political paper. It must be extensively distributed among workers. It must become a tool for workers.
Class struggle never stops, but it often has lower phases and slightly higher ones. We think that now could be the beginning of a higher phase of struggle in the Delhi area, and maybe even other industrial centres across India.
This is an occasion not to be missed. It won’t come again quickly. Taking on the responsibility of this situation is the purpose of this open letter.
Mouvement Communiste/Kolektivn_ proti kapitálu
25th April 2012
About workers’ inquiry
This method was used in Italy, starting in the early 1960’s, by a specific political current, Operaismo.
It was needed to understand Capital’s organisation and Class composition.
A knowledge of the organisation of capital means understanding the production process, not only within factories but also geographically, understanding productive units and their links between factories. The goal is to identify weak points and bottlenecks but above all, capital’s logic and means.
A knowledge of class composition allows the analysis of differences in working class structure between jobs and skill levels, not from a static sociological perspective but from the potentialities and dynamics of struggle. Class composition analysis is intended to discover the underground forces that trigger workers’ struggles and workers’ organisations.
To bring out those key elements, Operaismo brightens up an old method, the workers’ inquiry, in reference to a short questionnaire written by Marx in April 1880.
Workers’ inquiry is both a means of knowledge and a tool for the use and profit of workers themselves.
Workers’ inquiry can be a success only if it gets rid of the static method of bourgeois sociology through common research within factories with workers or, best of all, directly by workers themselves.
Tea stall out of Aliyar…
Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle
Public note in IMT Manesar…
Proposal for an Open Debate on ‘Research on Automobile Workers in the Global South Today’
This proposal goes out to you four, but is not necessarily constricted to this circle. If you can think of comrades who work in a similar field and who might be interested in the exchange, let us know. I assume you have heard from or about each other, nevertheless a short introduction.
L. studies in London, she has done fieldwork at FIAT in Italy and various automobile companies in India.
A. studies in Delhi, engaged in research of automobile industry in India. He is a political activist who has been closely involved with the Maruti Suzuki workers’ strike.
F. studies in London, he researches conditions and struggles in automobile industry in China and Mexico, he has done fieldwork in both places.
T. is at university in Australia, he has written on class formation in India and did fieldwork on automobile industry in Gurgaon.
Let me shortly say something about the background of this proposal. On an individual level we had discussions about ‘research work’/’academic knowledge production’ in relation to industrial changes, the emergence of a new generation of automobile workers and their promising struggles in China 2010 and India 2011 and, last but not least’ the question of ‘political organisational activities’ amongst these workers.
I have to admit that I know very little about research work and the academic mode of production, but it seems clear to me that a more collective debate about ‘research and organisation’ is necessary and could be fruitful. I am not sure how to structure the debate or how to organise it – the questions below have to be seen as a preliminary structure open for comments and changes. What could be the aim of the debate? On one side an exchange of positions about the ‘actual developments’ in research, industry and struggles – on the other side a debate on the current relation and ‘potential/traps’ of ‘academic form of research’ and ‘political organisational activity’. I think this debate is relevant for a wider circle, though unfortunately it is so far often confined to individual and often rhetorical discussions.
Preliminary Structure / Questions
* What is your research focussing on and why? Where do you see the ‘political relevance’?
* What empirical sources do you rely on?
* How did the fieldwork look like? Who were you able to talk to and how did this relationship look like?
* What kind of political activity are you engaged in (even on minimalistic level) and how does your research work relate to this?
2) General Condition of the Automobile Sector
* Could you briefly (!) describe the general global trends you see in the automobile sector, the specific relation between the industry in north and south and the concrete relation between your focus of research (region, specific perspective) and these general tendencies?
* What is the current focus of mainstream research into automobile sector and automobile workers mobilisations? How would you describe the current material relation (resources, methods etc.) between the academic apparatus and the research into development of the automobile sector and work-force?
* How do you see the current relation between ‘academic research’ in the sector and the official ‘labour movement’ (trade unions, labour NGOs etc.)?
3) Workers’ Struggles
* Briefly, how do you interpret the recent automobile workers’ struggles in China 2010 and India 2011? Is there a ‘general trend’ in the global south? How do these struggles relate to the situation in the ‘older’ regions? Is there a material basis for generalisation both within the respective regions (India, China) and on a more global scale?
* What impact did recent movements of workers in the automobile sector have on both the ‘official labour movement’ and the academic sphere, in terms of research focus and methods and ‘internal contradictions’?
* Do you see any tendencies of ‘organisational political activity’ in relation to these mobilisations which have the potential to go beyond institutionalisation and immediate conflict?
4) Current Potentials and Limitations of Academic Research
* What could be a ‘fruitful’ relationship between ‘academic research’ and ‘political organisational activities’ within current class movements? Do you see any examples?
* How does your work concretely depend on the academic apparatus (finance, access to resources, debate etc.)?
* What does usually happen with the ‘product’ of your work? How do you and / or the academic apparatus make it public or uses it? Do you get anything out of it, in terms of debate, responses, which lead to ‘clarification’?
* From your own concrete experience: what kind of restrictions does the academic mode of production impose on the relationship between ‘researcher’ and workers or political activities – or between ‘researchers’? How do you deal with these restrictions?
* Why do you think comrades currently try to ‘do research’ through the academic despite these restrictions? Do you see any form of individual or collective alternatives, concrete examples of alternatives?
* How do you see the near future: do you have concrete ideas or projects which bring together ‘research work’ and ‘political activity’?
* Do you have any concrete comments, criticisms and / or suggestions concerning the practice of FaridabadMajdoorSamachar and / or GurgaonWorkersNews?
Maruti truck driver…
Phd thesis by Bose on Delhi automobile industry
Full thesis in PDF
Below a list of relevant further sources on automobile workers struggles and the Maruti Suzuki dispute.
Mainstream news video on 18th of July unrest in Manesar:
Collection on articles concerning Maruti Suzuki from Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in Hindi:
Longer journalistic article on ‘workers’ view’ on Maruti Manesar dispute:
Article by comrades of radicalnotes.com on relevance of Maruti struggle:
Material in GurgaonWorkersNews relating to the local automobile industry:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.3 on the automobile supply chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.3 on dispute at Amtek:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.5 on conditions of a truck driver in the supply-chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.6 on conditions at supplier Motherson and gender relations on the shop-floor:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.6 Conditions and struggle at supplier Delphi:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.8 reports from workers in the supply-chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.8 on wildcat-strike at supplier Delphi:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.8 on struggle at Maruti in 2000:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.11 on struggle at supplier Automax:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.13/14 on struggle at supplier Graziano:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.18 on struggle at supplier Boni:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.18 on struggle at supplier Mushashi:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.19 reports from supply-chain workers and worker at Motherson:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.21 on struggle at Rico and the condition of the automobile sector in India
GurgaonWorkersNews no.22 on struggle at supplier Rico
GurgaonWorkersNews no.23 on struggle/lock-out at supplier Denso:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.24 on lock-out at supplier Denso:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.26 conditions and struggle at supplier Sanden Vikas:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.30 on conditions of workers in the supply-chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.31 interview with CNC operator at supplier:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.32 on situation within the supply chain:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.33 on the supply-chain mix of welding robots and slum production:
GurgaonWorkersNews no.35 on the supply-chain of Maruti
GurgaonWorkersNews no.36 on the supply-chain of Maruti
GurgaonWorkersNews no.41 on the Maruti occupation in June 2011
GurgaonWorkersNews no.44 on Maruti struggles in 2011
GurgaonWorkersNews no.45 on Maruti struggle update
GurgaonWorkersNews no.48 on Maruti struggle update
GurgaonWorkersNews no.50 on lock-out at supplier Senior
Article by wildcat car worker on the ‘end of the automobile’:
Article by Marco Revelli on historic strike against layoffs at FIAT Italy:
Article on ‘political assembly’ of workers at Alfa Romeo:
Article on Lordstown struggle US: