Gurgaon Workers News

Issues of the Gurgaon workers news letters with news, workers' reports and analysis from the Indian boom region.

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About Gurgaon Workers News

A brief introduction to the Gurgaon Workers News project.

Gurgaon Workers’ News is a project independent from political parties or unions, trying to support workers’ self-organisation in their struggle for a better life. One of the projects aim is to document the development and workers’ struggles in and around Gurgaon, one of the current boom regions of global capital. For this reason we publish a monthly electronic newsletter on our site.

GWS is not meant to be a purely documenting project, it is not supposed to be a one way street. We plan to distribute a regular newsletter/leaflet amongst workers in the area which, apart from local news, would contain workers` information of related industries, companies or boom regions from other places in the world. If you want to have your information distributed to workers of a specific company, see list of companies on the site, or if you would offer to do the same at your place, please get in touch.

web: http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com
e-mail: gurgaon_workers_news at yahoo.co.uk

Gurgaon Workers News #30 - September 2010

English-language edition of the class struggle newspaper produced and distributed in Gurgaon, in the Indian state of Haryana. Contains workers' accounts of their experiences, reports of collective action, and analysis of the intense development of the city.

Gurgaon in Haryana is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers uprooted by the agrarian crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, Asia’s biggest Special Economic Zone is in the making. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via:

www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com

gurgaon_workers_news[at]yahoo.co.uk

Isolated Social Work in the Household

The following story has been published several years ago in the Hindi workers’ newspaper Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. We document it in the wider context of workers’ reports, demonstrating the hidden side of the factory world. Recently a new documentary on ‘house-workers’ in Delhi has been published, click here for the announcement.

I am not yet 35 years old. My husband and elder son both work. I look after the house and also earn some money from stitching and embroidery. Every day I get up at a.m. I have to go out for latrine in the open. It is dark. I fear pigs and dirty men. (Men sit and hide). It’s forced on us. I have to prepare for it. After coming back, I fill up water from the public tap. If it is not crowded, it takes twenty minutes, otherwise it takes an hour.

After bringing water, washing the dishes, cleaning the place then I cut the vegetables and grind the spices. I don’t use readymade spices. My husband works in Okhla now and he has to catch the 7:40 a.m. train. On one stove, I cook vegetables and on the other I make rotis (bread) after kneading the flour. Sometimes, on the kerosene stove, I have to heat up the water because my two kids have to get ready for school. After the vegetables are ready, I make tea. My husband has to leave home at 7:15 a.m. to catch the train. The children leave at 7:45. In the morning, they have breakfast of roti and vegetables and then drink tea. My husband also takes his rotis. The children come back at 1 p.m. and eat. After I’ve completed my work then if some tea is left, I drink that or I make another cup. I drink tea but I don’t feel like having breakfast. I heat up water and have a bath. Then I wash the dishes, broom the place, fold up the beds. I work very fast but still it is ten to 11 before it’s over and if some guests come in it takes more time. Then I take rest for an hour or two.

I again fill up water in the morning from the public tap. I have to collect water three times in a day. Then work for money. I stitch a pajama for ten rupees. An underwear for five. A petticoat for ten rupees. Contractors bring clothes from factories on which I do embroidery at piece rate. It is 4 to 5 p.m. By the time I bring milk and vegetables from the market, it is time to start preparing for dinner. Taking it all into consideration, it means that I cannot take care of my body. There is no time for myself.

My eldest son has night duty for 15 days in the month. Today he has night duty. He has to go at 8 p.m. from the house. I had prepared food by 7 because if he leaves immediately after a meal, then he’ll have a stomach. He eats one hour before and takes some rest. At this time, he is also ill. His duty is of 12 hours. From 8 p.m. till 8 a.m. tomorrow, the boy of 17 years old has to stand at a plastic-moulding machine for 12 hours every day. I feel a lot of pain. I wish he didn’t have to work but he is forced to. How can I have him sitting idle at home?

By 9:30 p.m., everyone is free and lies down for bed and watches T.V. Sometimes, I am not able to sleep the whole night because of worries. When I’ve fall ill, I worry about who will do my work as my son and husband go to work and my children go to school. If you take help from someone then one fears the false allegations by neighbors of having a ‘loose’ character. My daughter is getting older (she is 13) and I keep thinking about her. I have to carry so many burdens, yet have to still keep going. How can I go on? I have not even lived half of my life. My blood-pressure goes down very low and I have very bad thoughts. If I die, what will happen to my children? Now I don’t feel like meeting people whereas earlier I used to get-together a lot with people. Now my daughter has become a great support for me.

When I was 12 or 13 years old, I was married. And my husband and I stayed like two friends. Our children respect us. Again and again I try to convince myself that my children will support me. Like others’ children, my sons will not leave for their marriage. The fear of being left alone in old age…I cut down on meals to save some money so that at least their greed for money will make our children look after us in old age. When I get too tired then I become irritated and think why is this life being given to me? Death is better than this life.

Faridabad Majdoor Samachar, 2003

The Fractured Assembly of Automobile Workers

The distribution of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar has recently been extended to the new industrial area of Manesar, near Gurgaon, an area dominated by the automobile industry. We document short reports from automobile workers, mainly within the fractured cooperation of parts manufacturing. Recent struggles like at Rico, Denso, AG Industries or VXL, workers have not been able to extend their disputes along the arteries of this vast territorial assembly line.

Honda Motorcycle and Scooter Worker
(Plot 1 and 2, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There used to be joint buses for the 1,800 permanent and 5,500 workers hired through contractors – now they introduced separate bus transport. Both categories of workers used to use the same gate for entering and leaving the factory, now they introduced separate gates. Every worker used to have the right to 2 paid hours monthly for getting the gate pass, now this right has been reduced to the permanent workers – they say that there is too little admin staff, so they try to deprive the workers hired through of the gate pass. The management has recently increased the production target from 1,125 to 1,200 scooters. When workers met the new target the management distributed sweets – only to the permanents, not to the workers hired through contractors.

Munjal Showa Worker
(Sector III, IMT Manesar)
The factory runs on three shifts, manufacturing shocks and suspensions for Hero Honda, Honda, Yamaha. and for spare-part shops. There are only very few permanent workers. There are 500 casual ITI workers and 800 workers hired through four different contractors. They entice the casual workers by promising a permanent contract after five years – actually the workers are kept in a loop of ‘casual worker becoming trainee’ and ‘re-trainee becoming casual worker again’, no one gets a permanent contract. The workers hired through contractors are given enforced ‘breaks’ after six months of employment. The wages for the ITI worker is 4,500 Rs and for the workers hired through contractor 4,214 Rs. The wages are low… If you have to work in a standing position the whole time, then doing overtime means hell. We work 100 to 150 hours overtime, it is paid less than double rate, about 35 Rs per hour.

VG Industrial Worker
(Plot 26 F, Industrial Area, Faridabad)
We produce parts for export to Australia. In the plant only foremen, supervisor and managers are hired directly by the company, all workers are hired through contractors. The workers’ wages are 3,000 Rs, neither PF nor ESI. We work 12-hours shifts. On the obligatory weekly holiday we work 8 hours. Overtime is paid at single rate, wages are paid late. VG Industrial runs another factory on Plot 31 B in Industrial Area, a paint shop. The wages of the 25 workers hired through contractors is 3,000 Rs, neither ESI nor PF. In the GPS press-shop and the Model B press-shop they run two 12-hours shifts, day in, day out. The fixed production target is high, they pressure you a lot, the supervisor swears at you, there are accidents at the power-presses: in one year I have seen 10 workers cutting their hands. In the weld-shop and the packing department they make you work 4 hours extra, after a 12 hours shift. Every month 400 to 500 Rs get embezzled from your wages. The 300 Rs for DA in January 2010 was not paid yet (April 2010).

Haryana Industries Worker
(Plot 318, Udyog Vihar Phase II, Gurgaon)
In the factory about 2,500 to 3,000 workers produce parts for Maruti Suzuki. There is no day off. For 30 working days of 8 hours we get 3,500 Rs. Normal working-times are from 9 am till 8 pm, the second shift from 8:30 pm till 9 am. Overtime is paid single rate. On 22nd of April 2010 a worker cut off four of his fingers at a power-press. Workers don’t get ESI, if you cut your fingers, they make you pay for private treatment. The drinking water is bad, the toilets are normally locked – they open them only in the evening.

AG Industries
(Plot 8, Sector III, IMT)
The 100 permanent workers work on three 8-hours shifts, the 500 workers hired through four different contractors work on two 12-hours shifts. The factory runs 30 days a month. The factory manufactures fibre-side-covers for Hero Honda. The permanent workers get 7,000 to 10,000 Rs, the workers hired through contractors who run the moulding machines get 4,214 Rs. The permanent workers started to set-up a trade union, so the company sacked 5 and later on 13 permanent workers in January and February 2010. After back-and-forth workers laid down tools on 20th of March and gathered inside the factory premises. Permanent workers and workers hired through contractor stood side by side. The company called the police. They arrived in two buses, they first pushed workers out of the factory, then told them to keep a 200 meters distance to the company gate, and they attacked the workers with lathis in order to make themselves understood. One worker ended up with his hand broken, several others had bleeding heads. The police followed workers right into Sector V, beating them with lathis. Later on the police returned and smashed the window-pane of the companies’ security room and of their police car. On the very same 20th of March some workers turned up for the evening shift and started working – the management worked, too. On the next day, the 21st of March, two Hero Honda company buses from Gurgaon turned up, full with workers. They got paint-shop workers from Dharuhera and Gaziabad. New people were hired at the gate everyday… On the 26th of March, the union had a demonstration in Gurgaon. Over 10,000 people came, there was an assembly in Huda Park. They handed out food. But afterwards nothing. We kept on sitting 100 feet away from the company gate. Leaving their victimised 18 work-mates outside, the permanent workers decided to go back to work on 2nd and 3rd of April. The 500 workers hired through contractors pay for ESI and PF, but see neither card nor PF fund number.

VXL Worker
(20/3 Mathura Road, Faridabad)
The management had laid out a trap for yet another wave of redundancies. The number of permanent workers had already come down from 400 to 93, the management wanted to lay off another 46 employees. By instigating they created an atmosphere for a lock-out, which happened on the 6th of February 2010. Not surprisingly the management proclaimed that the workers were engaging in an illegal strike action. In order to move the demonstrating workers away from the factory gate the company cut the water supply on 2nd of April. During February, March and April both union and management had 15 to 20 separate meetings with the higher levels of labour commissioners, no joint meeting at all. The main outcome seemed to be that 7 workers would be sacked, 4 suspended and 41 transferred to other places, but the government official said that the company would not agree. After the 3rd of April even these type of meetings ceased… Therefore the union called for demonstrations on 20th of May to walk from the factory gate to Bata Chowk, on 21st of May to walk from the factory gate to Goodyear Chowk, on 24th of May to walk to the office of the labour commissioner. On 25th of May the labour official and labour inspector came to the workers and told them to stop the demonstrations, to stop causing public commotion and to talk again. On invitation from the management there were talks between company representatives and union leaders on 28th and 30th of May. Us workers still – today on 1st of June – don’t know what the outcome of these talks was. The company produces bomb-timers for the army and other electronic items. The management has replaced permanent workers with casuals and outsourced work to 50 suppliers.

Kiran Udyog Worker
(B-182, Okhla Phase I)
The 110 workers hired through three different contractors are paid 3,300 to 3,800 Rs. They get neither PF nor ESI. The 40 workers who are directly employed by the company get ESI and PF, but the helpers wage is below the minimum, they get 3,800 Rs, the operators get 4,300 to 4,800 Rs. You start working at 8:30 am and finish at 11 to 12 at night. There is a 12-hour night-shift, too. Overtime is paid at 12 to 16 Rs an hour, 100 to 200 Rs are embezzled each month. The factory produces parts for Honda and Denso in Noida. The drinking water is bad, there is only one toilet, people have to queue up. The bosses swear and sometimes hit workers. If you are 5 minutes late they cut one hour from your wages, but shift finishes 10 to 20 minutes late, which is not paid. Tea breaks are 5 instead of 15 minutes. There is a lot of pressure, lots of accidents – but workers have to pay for medical treatment themselves.

Micro Precision Worker
(Plot 96, Sector V, IMT)
They pay you the minimum wage, but instead of 8 hours they make you work 10.5 hours. We manufacture dies for Hero Honda, JBM, Neel Metal and other companies. There is also a lot of sheet-metal work, lots of workers get injured. The managing director swears a lot, sometimes he hits people. The shift runs from 8 am till 8 pm, sometimes you have to work till 1 am. Overtime is paid at single-rate.

Yamaha Motors Worker
(The factory is situated at Mathura Road, Faridabad)
The company hires young workers who have completed ITI as casual labourers. After seven and a half months of employment the companies sends workers on an enforced ‘break’. After that the company hands out ‘Vancancy’-leaflets and sends the former casual workers to a labour contractor. The former casual workers are now hired through contractor and work in the same department as before. The wages are the same, but the ESI and PF numbers have changed. After seven and a half months these workers are officially sacked by the contractor and re-hired as casual workers by Yamaha. Workers work since ten to twelve years in this ‘casual way’ at Yamaha. The work is permanent, the workers are non-permanent. The permanent workers get 25,000 Rs, doing the same work their casual/temp work-mates get 4,734 Rs. The helpers get 4,214 Rs and they have to pay a bribe for getting hired. Yamaha company only issues one T-Shirt for the casual workers, some of the contractors don’t even do that. There are three shifts, in the A-shift mainly permanents work, so in the C-shift mainly casuals are employed. The B-shift finishes at 2 am, that’s when the C-shift starts. There is a lot of trouble in these shifts – and once you are on C-shift you stay, shifts don’t change.

Oswal Electrics
(48-49 Industrial Area, Faridabad)
Around 1,200 workers are employed on 2×12 and 3×8-hours shifts, manufacturing parts for TVS Motorcycles and Orient Pankha. If they make you work double-shift, meaning 16-hours, they only give you 9 Rs extra-money for food – only few get 12 Rs. Overtime is paid at single rate. The machine operators are only paid the minimum wage for helpers.

Northern Tools and Gadgets Worker
(Plot 330, Sector-24, Faridabad)
Workers manufacture parts for Maruti Suzuki on 2×12-hour shifts. They force you to work overtime on Sundays – there is no day off, you work 30 days a month. The 90 casual workers are employed throughout the year, but they neither get ESI nor PF. Their March wage was 3,000 Rs. They said that wages would be increased to 3,500 Rs by April, but they paid only 3,000 Rs in April, too.

Super Age Worker
(Plot 109, Sector-6, Faridabad)
Workers work 150 to 200 hours overtime. Workers manufacture parts for two-wheelers of Yamaha, Bajaj, Hero Honda and parts for export to Dubai and Kuwait. Wages are paid with delay.

Pranav Vikas Worker
(45 – 46 Industrial Area, Faridabad)
The company employs 10 to 12 workers directly and 250 workers through 5 to 6 different contractors. They manufacture heating and cooling coils for Maruti Suzuki, Scorpio and Ambassador. Around 125 to 240 hours overtime, the permanents get double pay, the rest single. If you are forced to work 16 hours non-stop, they don’t even give you extra-money for food. The workers hired through contractors used to get two working uniforms per year, since three years there have been no uniforms at all. Money is cut for ESI and PF, but you will hardly get an ESI card and you have to pay 1,000 Rs bribe to the contractor in order to get the PF fund.

The physical limits of (garment) production

The international market pressure between low-wage regions like Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh or India translates directly into excessive work-load on the shop-floor. Below you can find some reports, published in May 2010 issue of Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar under the title “Make it through the day… or Living life”. The monthly minimum wage (April 2010) at the times for unskilled workers in Haryana: 4,214 Rs (6-days week, 8-hours day), Delhi 5272 Rs. On 20th of August 2010 the Haryana minimum wage was increased slightly to 4348.21 RS per month for unskilled workers.

In terms of general wage development we quote from the article on mechanisation:

‘His job in the sampling department (which creates the first few samples of every new design) of a large garment manufacturer and exporter fetches him Rs5,700 per month.”That’s a Rs1,700 increase in 10 years,” he says despondently, “while the price of atta has gone from Rs8 to Rs18.”‘
The following article on increasing mechanisation is a good summary of current conditions, but in its predictions it is ideologically tinted. Obviously the spokes-people of capital want to make themselves believe that potentially they are able to replace workers with machines. Nevertheless, the article hints at some important changes within the organisation of garment production, e.g. the expansion of ‘chain-systems’, a more minute division of labour, and the introduction of computer-controlled machines for certain work tasks like thread cutting or embroidery. Often these work-steps have been undertaken by ‘helpers’ and/or female workers.

These Garment Factories Don’t Need Tailors

Live Mint By Akshai Jain (June 2010)

As garment units in Gurgaon scale up into mass manufacturing centres, machines are doing the trickiest work, cutting out the craftsman. When Santosh Kumar Kaushal came to Delhi from Allahabad 20 years ago, he found a job easily. He was a competent tailor, having worked in a small tailoring workshop back home for nearly a decade. After a few years in similar units in the neighbourhood, he settled down in a “fabricator” workshop, a 30-person unit where tailors lived and worked, being paid according to the number of pieces they produced. Till 10 years ago, says Kaushal, he’d make Rs150 a day tailoring coats. “We worked to our own schedules,” he says wistfully, “the atmosphere was friendly and newcomers learnt on the job.” But time and the garment factories of Udyog Vihar in Gurgaon, where he now works, have been cruel to him. His job in the sampling department (which creates the first few samples of every new design) of a large garment manufacturer and exporter fetches him Rs5,700 per month. “That’s a Rs1,700 increase in 10 years,” he says despondently, “while the price of atta has gone from Rs8 to Rs18.”

Ironically, business is better than ever before in Udyog Vihar, one of the largest garment manufacturing hubs in the country. Exports of readymade garments, the mainstay of the manufacturing here, are again on the rise. In 2009-10, India exported garments worth $10.64 billion (Rs50,008 crore today). This year the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), a trade body, expects growth of 10-15%. The garment industries of the National Capital Region, spread across Gurgaon, Faridabad and Noida, contribute more than 28% of India’s total exports; and of this the largest contribution is from the 2,500 manufacturing units of Udyog Vihar. These units, says Darlie Koshy, director general of AEPC, make higher-end “fashion” garments for companies such as Gap Inc., JCPenny Co. Inc., Ivy Co., etc. Among them they employ around 200,000 workers, and are always on the lookout for more.

A skilled tailor such as Kaushal should not find it difficult to get another job. But a series of changes in the manufacturing process over the last decade have made his skills as a tailor redundant. It started with the flood of readymade garments from China and South-East Asia. Fabricator workshops found themselves outpriced and started shutting down.

Manufacturing shifted to factories, where the tailor went from being a craftsman to an employee. Where once a tailor would work on a single garment at a time, now the work was split up among three or four tailors. Productivity went up, and though payment continued to be at “piece rate” or per piece, the charges dropped.

Then about six years ago came the assembly line or the “chain system”. Processes were standardized, and new machinery was brought in to do everything from cutting cloth to sewing on labels and buttons. An army of 30-40 workers would now work on a single garment. One would do just the hem, the other the zip and the third the collar, etc.

Manufacturing costs came down even further, and a flood of international orders started pouring in. Suddenly there was a huge demand for workers, but they didn’t need to be craftsmen. Skilled tailors were relegated to small sampling departments and a new kind of labour started taking over in the factories.

These were unskilled workers brought in by contractors from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. While it would take a tailor a year to acquire the skill to stitch a “full piece” or entire garment, these workers were pushed onto the assembly line after two weeks of training. They settled in vast sprawling tenements in areas such as Kapashera, near Udyog Vihar.

The nali wali gali (street by the drain), which meanders off from the main Kapashera-Gurgaon road, is one such tailors colony in an area infamous for its filth. Local landowners here have created large compounds with hundreds of windowless, matchbox-sized brick rooms that they let out to the garment workers. In the heat of the Delhi summer, the rooms are baking and oppressive. The only access to the compounds is over a concrete beam that spans an open drain clogged with sewage and plastic bags. Four-five workers cram into each windowless room, for which they pay Rs1,000 a month.

In the warren of mud lanes, the conversation is about the wages being offered at different factories. The workers stay with a factory for five-six months, before returning home to their families. When they come back, they find work in another factory. Their wages are around Rs3,600, just above the minimum wage in Haryana. But the work hours are long, stretching at times to 15 hours. They’re paid overtime, they say, but only at their average hourly pay, not double that, as is customary.

Dozens of small “tailoring centres” have come up in these colonies to train workers for the assembly line. Zakir Siddiqui’s centre is a dusty room, open on two sides, with six electric sewing machines. His paan shop sits by the entrance. Siddiqui does not have time for ceremony. The rates for the tailoring courses are scribbled on the wall. A two-hours-a-day tailoring course that teaches workers just a little more than how to sew a straight line, but enough to get them into the factories, costs Rs300. The training for a “checker”, short for a garment inspector, costs Rs800. The centre currently has 80 students.

The tuition is brutal. Siddiqui paces between the machines shouting at the students, rapping them occasionally on the knuckles. “I need to train them with a stick,” he says, loud enough for all the students to hear. “If I train a student in 15 days, I make a profit of Rs100, if they take a month to learn, I make a loss.”

Malti, a middle-aged woman from Bihar, dressed in a bright polyester sari, is staring intently at her machine. She’s worked in Udyog Vihar before, but as a thread cutter. Now she wants to get on the tailoring assembly line. That she hopes will get her a better wage. Students at the centre are guaranteed a job with the caveat that they will only work for a single company that Siddiqui has an arrangement with. The agent from the company, he claims, gets Rs250 for every worker he brings. How much Siddiqui gets, he doesn’t want to disclose.

Virender Kumar, a worker from Uttar Pradesh, is the product of one such “tailoring centre”. He now works on the skirt manufacturing line of a company. Each individual assembly line has 42 workers, six helpers and one master craftsman. Kumar is responsible for the zips. In the years that he’s been working in Udyog Vihar, the number of machines on the assembly lines has gone up dramatically, as has the production. “Five years ago, a single assembly line would have put out 150 pieces a day,” he says. “Today we make 400.”

Kumar’s salary in the meantime has increased from Rs2,800 to Rs3,604. Unfortunately for him, while the minimum wage in Delhi was increased by 33% in February, wages in Gurgaon remain the same.
The increasing mechanization in the garment factories is being driven by clothing companies. In an effort to improve and standardize manufacture across units that are spread around the world, the companies have started stipulating the machinery a unit should use. “That way at least 70-80% of the quality is assured,” AEPC’s Koshy says.

Kaushal, meanwhile, has reconciled himself to becoming completely redundant. It’s only a matter of time before even the handful of skilled jobs in the sampling departments are taken away by sophisticated computer-controlled cutting, or CNC (computer numerical control) machines that have just started appearing in the factories.

“Soon there will be no difference between us and the assembly lines,” he says stoically. Would he join a tailoring shop? “There’s no work to be had there.” An assembly line? “Never.” “Gurgaon,” Kaushal says with a wide sweep of his hand as he prepares to leave, “is no place for tailors.”

———————–

The following is a main-stream newspaper article on Marks and Spencer’s and other multi-national’s take on the condition in Gurgaon.

Britain’s top labels thrive on Indian sweatshop labour

London, August 08, 2010
Britain’s best-known high street stores — Gap, Next and Marks and Spencer — have reportedly launched inquiries into abuse of working regulations at their Indian suppliers, which have resulted in children as young as six being left alone while their parents work in outlets in Delhi and in the satellite township of Gurgaon on its outskirts. According to the London Observer investigation, factories were using workers hired through middlemen, and paying them as little as 25 pence an hour, in the case of Gap and Next, and 26 pence an hour for Marks and Spencers. All three companies told The Observer that they are totally committed to ethical trading and will not tolerate abuses in their supply chain. All said their own auditing processes detected the problems and that they have taken swift action to tackle them. Gap, which uses the same factory as Next, confirmed it had found wage violations and gave its supplier a deadline of midnight last night to repay workers who lost out. Marks and Spencers said it has yet to see evidence to support the wage claims. Workers claimed that those who refused to work the extra hours have been told to find new jobs, a practice defined under international law as forced labour and outlawed around the world. The factory has pledged to apologise and reinstate anyone who lost their job. Next said it had found the situation to be “deplorable” and added the chairman of the Indian company it uses has apologised and promised to make amends, blaming demand for workers at the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi for leaving factories short of staff. Gap admitted wage and overtime violations and ordered its supplier to reduce working hours to within the legal limits and to refund workers who have been illegally underpaid. Marks and Spencer admitted its supplier had been operating excessive overtime, but said it had acted quickly to tackle the problem.
(London Observer)
———————-

While Marks and Spencer announced on 8th of August that they keep an eye on their suppliers in Gurgaon, on 21st and 23rd of August the very same suppliers sent armed thugs to attack workers at Viva Global. Following a press statement:

VIVA – GLOBAL (GURGAON) WORKERS BEATEN UP- HUNGER STRIKE BEGINS TODAY

MAZDOOR EKTA MANCH
Plot No. 48, First Floor, Opp. Maruti Gate No.2,
Old Delhi-Gurgaon Road, Gurgaon, Haryana
Phone No. 0124-4385478,9910159352,9958613761, 927828635.
Venue of the Hunger Strike: Viva Global Factory, 413, Udyog Vihar,
Phase – III, Gurgaon – 122 016, Haryana, INDIA

Workers including of the Viva Global Factory, including women were
brutally beaten up with hockey sticks and lathis by goons called in by
the Management of Viva Global, the Gurgaon based sweatshop apparel
house. The incident happened this morning between 9:30 and 10:00 AM
when workers were to enter the premises of the Factory, as part of a
tripartite agreement between the Management of Viva Global, the Labour
Department and the Garment and Allied Workers Union (GAWU). The
agreement was the outcome of a meeting between the three parties, held
on the 23rd of August 2010. The prevention of workers entering the
factory, is a serious violation of the above agreement. Besides being
beaten, a few workers were abducted in a vehicle by the goondas and
taken to an undisclosed destination. At least one worker is still
missing.

To protest against the high handedness of the Management of Viva
Global and its utter contempt for any laws, rules and rights of
workers, the workers of Viva Global have resolved that the President
of the GAWU, Ms. Anannya Bhattacharjee will be on an indefinite hunger
strike outside the gates of the Viva Global Factory. The hunger strike
began today after a notice to this effect was given to the Labour
Department. Our demands are :- 1) The abducted workers be immediately
brought back. 2) All workers be reinstated and 3) The Management of
the Viva Global apologise to the workers. Representatives of the
Mazdoor Ekta Manch have also lodged a police complaint against the
management for the unprovoked violence on workers and the abduction of
workers.

Viva Global is a major supplier of apparel to ‘reputed’ multinational
superbrands such as Marks and Spencer. There have been serious
violations of labour laws and human rights at the Viva Global Factory.
The Management has been using strong arm tactics against union
leaders, representatives of workers etc., each time that the workers
have demanded that basic amenities and legal wages be given to them.
On the 21st of Aug 2010, at 6.00 PM, contract workers were locked out
of the Factory in an attempt to illegally terminate them. Other
workers (non-contract workers) had then demanded that contract workers
be given their rights in terms of notice pay and the PF amount that
has already been deducted from their wages. Even on 23rd of August,
when workers reported at the gate for duty, they were allowed to to
enter the factory. About 15 local goons with pistols had threatened
the Union leaders and workers. A group of workers and union activists
had then complained about the incident to the Labour Department which
led to the tripartite agreement which had resolved : 1) That there
would be no goondagiri by the Viva Global Mangement whatsoever, 2) All
workers who were locked out would be taken back. Another tripartite
meeting is also scheduled for Thursday the 26th of August for further
discussions. However, the Management of the Viva Global has already
violated the agreement of the 23rd of August.

We would request you to spread the news of the workers struggle at
Viva Global. We would look forward to your solidarity and support!

With thanks // Rajeev Singh.
For the Mazdoor Ekta Manch, Gurgaon.
Media Contact: P. Saleena : 9 6 5 0 8 4 8 4 8 0 .

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Below the long list of workers’ reports from other factories in Gurgaon, showing that Viva Global is not a single ‘black sheep’.

Workers’ Reports – Faridabad Majdoor Samachar

24th of May 2010
Shahi Export, Plot 15a, Sector 28, Faridabad
…after days of overtime many workers collapse. on 24th of May 53 workers are brought to the nearby hospital. they have to be treated with oxygene. 41 workers remain in the hospital. most of the collapsed workers are women…

24th of May 2010
NTL Electronics, Plot F-28, Sector 6, Noida
…after days of overtime six female workers collapse and fall unconscious…

13th of May 2010
Palam Export, Plot A-205, Okhla Industrial Area Phase I
…after having worked 19.5 hours a day for several month a 22 years old worker suffers a heart attack and 50 female workers collapse at work…

13th of may 2010
Sargam Export, Plot 153, Udyog Vihar Phase I, Gurgaon
…during night-shift two workers collapse and fall unconscious…

Enexco Technology
(157 Nourangpur, Gurgaon)
There is money for ESI and PF cut from the 175 casual workers’ wages, but only 15 got an ESI card, and the card is temporary. If people leave the job PF is not paid – the PF form not given. After several years of employment a casual worker said: “Actually we are hired through a labour supplier, through a contractor”. In the factory there are another 125 workers hired through contractor and 40 permanent workers.

Orient Craft Worker
(Plot 15, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
The 26 thread-cutting workers get 3,000 Rs per month, no ESI no PF. Official shift-times are from 9 am till 6 pm, but they make you work till 2 am. Only if clients/buyers come to the plant workers are let go at 6 pm. We work 60 to 70 hours overtime per month, but the pay-slip only shows 12 to 15 hours. Overtime is paid double rate, but on Sundays they are paid less than single rate. Some supervisors swear a lot at workers.

JNS Instruments Worker
(Plot 3, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 15 buses who bring and return people to and from work. They work from 8:30 am till 5:30 pm, those 200 who work till 8 pm are returned in smaller cars. The male workers work on two 12-hours shifts. The workers hired through contractors get less than single rate for overtime: 14 Rs per hours.

Kailash Ribbon Worker
(403, Udyog Vihar Phase III, Gurgaon)
The helpers among the 400 casual workers get 2,700 to 3,300 Rs, the skilled tailors get 3,500 to 3,900 Rs – neither ESI nor PF.

Eltex India Worker
(887 Udyog Vihar Phase V)
The workers employed in the plant work 200 to 250 hours overtime per month. Sometimes they make you work from 9 am till next day 9 am and then force you to work another whole shift. The overtime is paid single, and 500 to 800 Rs per month are embezzled. The helpers hired through contractors get 2,800 Rs, neither ESI nor PF. The wages are always delayed, we haven’t received our March 2010 wages yet (24th of April 2010).

Sargam Export Worker
(153 Udyog Vihar Phase I)
There are an abundance of little irregularities going on in this factory: there is always some overtime left unpaid; people who had worked January and February 2010 and left the job since then were not paid the 300 Rs DA; those who leave now are not paid the statutory bonus.

Dheer International Worker
(299 Udyog Vihar Phase II)
People work 250 to 300 hours overtime per month. The payment is at single rate and 50 to 60 hours get embezzled per month. Wages are paid delayed.

Cosmy Worker
(864 Udyog Vihar Phase V)
The helpers working in this factory get 3,000 Rs. The skilled tailors get 140 to 150 Rs per day. Wages are delayed. If you leave the job you have major trouble to get your outstanding wages. Workers who go to the local ESI office in Dundahera have to face a lot of trouble.

Mac Export Worker
(143 Udyog Vihar Phase I)
The 400 workers employed in the factory get neither ESI nor PF. The helpers get 3,500 Rs. When being hired the tailors are promised 175 Rs for an 8-hour day, actually they are paid 150 to 160 Rs. The normal shift runs from 9 am till 9 pm, but they make you work longer, till 1:30 am. Overtime is paid at single rate, every month 300 to 400 Rs get embezzled. Lack of drinking water is a major problem in the factory. The toilets are very dirty. The big boss swears a lot.

Asian Handycraft Worker
(310 Udyog Vihar Phase II)
The helpers are paid 3,300 Rs to 3,500 Rs, the skilled workers get 4,000 to 4,500 Rs.

Kis Export Worker
(871 Udyog Vihar Phase V)
In the factory 450 workers are employed through two different contractors, they get neither PF nor ESI. The tailor helpers get 3,914 Rs and the tailors get 156 Rs per day. The 300 Rs DA statutory from January 2010 has not been added to the monthly wages. The thread cutting and bead-stitching women workers are paid 3,600 Rs. The daily working-times are from 9 am till 10 pm – 18 to 20 days per month they make you work till 1 am. About 100 women workers are send home at 9 pm, but a third contractor supplies 20 female workers who work from 9 pm till 1 am. There is no monthly day off. The male workers work 160 to 200 hours overtime per month, about 200 Rs get embezzled. There is a lot of swearing on the shop-floor, there is a lack of drinking water.

Security Guard
The office of the company Swift Security is situated at Nihal Bhavan in Dundahera. The company employs 6,000 security guards, on 2×12-hours shifts. There is no weekly day off. If you work 30 days per month, 12 hours per day they pay you 4,000 Rs to 5,000 Rs. Even after three to four years of employment they don’t give you ESI. They cut 540 Rs in the name of PF – when people leave the job, some are paid double amount of the fund money, some are paid single, some are not paid out at all. Sometimes you have to work 36 hours on stretch – they won’t give you money for food, and the overtime is paid single. Wages are paid with delay. If we don’t have any security ourselves, so will we give anyone else security? We just wear uniforms and stand around.

Eastern Medikit Worker
(292 Udyog Vihar Phase II)
The 300 casual workers were paid their March wages late, on 20th of April. The company did not pay the new minimum wage, only 3,870 Rs. The April wages haven’t been paid yet – 15th of May. The company does not include the DA of July 2009 nor the DA of January 2010. The casual workers work on two 12-hours shifts, the overtime is paid at 14 Rs an hour – March overtime has not been paid yet either. The management would not let casual workers leave after 8-hours, no matter if the worker is ill, no matter if he or she might drop dead.

Bharat Export Overseas Worker
(493 Udyog Vihar Phase III)
Non of the 300 workers employed in the factory get ESI or PF. The helpers in the finishing department get 120 to 130 Rs for an 8-hours shift. Workers work 150 to 200 hours overtime per month, payment is at single rate. There are three faulty fridges for drinking water. The toilets are very dirty.

Oberoi Hotel Worker
(Shankar Chowk)
The workers employed through Starling Vilasan work on the construction site of the five-star Oberoi Hotel. The 300 workers get neither PF, nor ESI. Their wages are below the minimum wage: 3,600 Rs.

Pearl Worker
(446 Udyog Vihar Phase V)
Even if management makes you work till 1 am, they won’t give you extra-money for food. Only the first two hours overtime are paid at double rate – the rest single rate.

Radhnik Export Worker
(215 Udyog Vihar Phase I)
If you want to get drinking water or go to the toilet you have to take a token. If they make you work till 2:30 am they give you 30 Rs extra for food, though the food in the canteen is not good. We work 80 to 100 hours overtime per month, they pay single, but force us to sign double-rate. The 500 skilled tailors get neither ESI nor PF – officially they run as employees of Om Enterprise, but management says, that when clients/buyers come to the factory we are supposed to say we are Radhnik company workers.

Polypack Worker
(193 Udyog Vihar Phase I)
If you take one day of per month, they mark all four weekly days off as absent, even so you have worked. This means that you lose 720 Rs of your monthly wage. The daily shift times are from 8 am till 8:30 pm, they often make you work till midnight. They call any work after 12.5 hours shift ‘overtime’, and pay it less than single rate. The 50 workers hired through contractors are paid 5,400 Rs: for 26 days of 12.5 hours.

Taurus Home Furnishing
(418 Udyog Vihar Phase III)
The helpers are paid 3,000 Rs, the checkers 3,500 Rs and the tailors work on piece-rate. Out of 300 workers only 10 to 15 might get ESI and PF. The drinking water is bad. The toilets are dirty.

Countess Craft Worker
(6 Udyog Vihar Phase I)
The workers employed in the carpet show-room have not been paid February, March and April 2010. The company has not paid into the PF fund the last two years. Since three years the company has not paid the statutory bonus.

Crew Banks Worker
(199 Udyog Vihar Phase I)
Severe wage delays of two month now.

Gaurav International Worker
(198 Udyog Vihar Phase I)
The managers swear a lot at us. The femal thread-cutting workers are paid only 3,000 Rs, the male helpers 3,000 to 3,300 Rs, there is also physical abuse going on.

The crisis and the global hunt for calls

Gurgaon is one of the biggest call centre hubs of the globe, having been re-location destination for a lot of US call centre work. Now that the crisis hits the US wage level, calls might be re-routed back up to the global north. A short summary of a recent study and a short workers’ report about house-keeping work in an American Express call centre in Gurgaon.

US matches Indian call centre costs

(Financial Times, 17th of August 2010)
Call centre workers are becoming as cheap to hire in the US as they are in India, according to the head of the country’s largest business process outsourcing company. High unemployment levels have driven down wages for some low-skilled outsourcing services in some parts of the US, particularly among the Hispanic population. At the same time, wages in India’s outsourcing sector have risen by 10 per cent this year and senior outsourcing managers based in the country command salaries above global averages. Pramod Bhasin, the chief executive of Genpact, said his company expected to treble its workforce in the US over the next two years, from about 1,500 employees now. “We need to be very aware [of what's available] as people [in the US] are open to working at home and working at lower salaries than they were used to,” said Mr Bhasin. “We can hire some seasoned executives with experience in the US for less money.” The narrowing of the traditional cost advantage is also spurring other Indian outsourcers to hire more staff outside India. Wipro, the Bangalore-based IT outsourcing company, started to recruit workers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa during the global economic downturn. Suresh Vaswani, joint chief executive of Wipro Technologies, forecasts that half of his company’s overseas workforce will be non-Indians in two years, from the current 39 per cent. India is still expected to retain the overall cost advantage, particularly in more sophisticated software outsourcing. The move to expand operations in the US also comes as protectionist rhetoric against outsourcers rises in Washington. Last week, Charles Schumer, a US senator, described Indian IT outsourcing companies unflatteringly as “chop shops”, a term referring to places where stolen cars are dismantled for their parts.

If you can bare to scroll through various rather tedious semi-racist comments on the article mentioned above, please have a go and click here.

Call Center Worker
(226 Udyog Vihar Phase I)
The call center company is called FIS. About 1,500 to 2,000 workers phone for American Express.In the call center 22 house-keeping workers are emplyed through contractor. In January 2010 we were given 3,600 Rs and the contractor promised to increase the next wage by 300 Rs. In fact he paid 3,300 Rs in February. We work between 40 and 160 hours overtime, each hour overtime is paid 12.5 Rs. Money for ESI and PF is cut from the wages, but we are neither issued an ESI card, nor do we receive PF when we have to leave the job. Instead they cut 1,400 Rs from your last wage. Therefore most people leave after pay-day, which is around the 8th or 9th of the month. You ‘only’ lose 800 Rs outstanding wage this way.

Circle of Animal Lovers: A NGO Worker Reports

(E-67, DDA Flats, Saket)
I work in the NGO. There are 30 of us employed here – doctors, drivers, cooks, helpers and office staff. The doctors get over 20,000 Rs per month for 8 hour days, the office staff gets 6,000 to 8,000 Rs. The drivers get 6,500 Rs for 12-hour duties. The cook and the helpers get between 3,000 and 5,500 Rs per month for 14-hours shifts. Non of the workers get ESI or PF. The NGO is engaged in a sterilisation scheme for street dogs – which is part of the street-dog eradication program run by the Delhi government. Although officially the government has assigned the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) for this task, but actually the big shots have decided to let cheap NGO workers complete the work. The MCD pays 445 Rs for the sterilisation of a dog, and besides provides other favours to the NGO management: the NGO gets water and electricity free. The vans are called ambulance and are in a bad condition – but because of the NGO name the police do intervene. The madam running the NGO swears at the workers and even lifts her sandal to threaten the helpers. The 15 workers who stay in the office take some of the restaurant food that was originally meant for the dogs, some of the donations meant for the dogs get messed with, too. The whole process of catching a dog, sterilising it and letting it free is very painful – several dogs die and are buried in the scrub-lands at night. But they are entered as completed sterilisations in the register. The two doctors have to perform 30 to 40 dog operations per day… a doctor let some younger helpers do the work. This increases pain for the animal and the likelihood of death.

Series of wildcat strikes of garment workers to enforce higher wages

We document six short reports by garment workers about seemingly spontaneous strikes to enforce higher wages, which took place in April 2010. The strikes have two parallels, one in space, the other in time. The strikes correspond with the more violent and widespread mobilisations of garment workers in Bangladesh and they continue the series of previous strikes during the last official increase of the minimum wage – click Gurgaon Workers News no.9.

The combination of the fact that companies do not passing on the wage hike and the fact of current inflation forces workers to react. One of the limitations of these struggles is the fact that mainly the skilled tailors get involved, while unskilled workers tend to remain outside. The struggles also depend on the enormous ups and downs of work/orders in the international garment industry.

Viva Global Worker / Marks and Spencer Worker
(413 Udyog Vihar Phase III)
The March 2010 wages did not contain the 300 Rs DA statutory since January 2010. The workers did not like that. On 8th of April 2010 600 skilled tailors stopped the machines and struck. On 9th of April the tailors continued the strike and some workers in the finishing and sampling department joint them. On the 10th of April the strike continued… when the management promised that the 300 Rs DA will be paid with the April wages the workers started work at 4 o’clock in the evening. Viva Global manufactures garments, among others, for Marks and Spencer. Non of the 200 workers in the finishing department get ESI or PF. Out of the 600 tailors only 150 get ESI and PF. Workers work 80 to 90 hours overtime per month, but payment is at single rate.
www.marksandspencer.com/

Fortune Garments Worker
(Plot 39, Sector IV, IMT)
The wages are delayed every month. On the 9th of April they told the skilled workers: “We will pay you after the lunch-break, now go back to work.” When wages were not given by 4 pm, the workers stopped the machines and went to the office of the general manager. At 6 pm the place was in chaos, the tables were over-turned, the window-panes broken, the company called the police. The skilled workers were given the March wages on 12th and 15th of April, the other workers were told that money will be given on the 17th of April. Then they said that wages will arrive on the 20th… On the 20th of April, after the meal-break, the workers in the finishing department stopped working, they continued their tool-down on the 21st and were paid a day later on the 22nd of April. The workers doing computer embroidery stopped working at 9 pm on the 24th of April and refused to do overtime on the following Sunday. On Monday the general manager told these workers that they will be paid by 2 pm, that they should go back to work… The workers continued working till 4 pm and then stopped the machines. The computer embroidery department was on strike Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday they gave 20 workers their wages, but the machines continued to stand still. On Thursday the 29th of April, after all workers in the department had been paid, work was re-started at noon. The workers in the knitting department did not stop working – they were paid an advance of 3,000 Rs, but they haven’t seen their March wages by 1st of May 2010. At the moment there is little work, so there are only 600 workers – after August there will be more than 1,000 workers, but none of them will have PF or ESI. I don’t know whether the middle-management and supervisory staff gets ESI and PF. In the factories minors of 13 to 15 years of age are employed. The thread-cutters get 3,500 Rs for a 30-days month, 8-hours day. The drinking water is bad, the toilets are dirty.

Boutique International Worker
(B-246, Okhla Phase I)
Around 200 skilled tailors struck work on 28th of March 2010 in order to enforce the new minimum wage of 6448 Rs instead of the old wage of 4,370 Rs, which was still paid by the company. After management reassured workers about a wage increase, they started work on 29th of March. After the management did not publish a written notice about the wages work was stopped again on 30th of March, the management put up the notice and work started at 11 am. The workers in the second factory on plot D-80 stopped work on 29th of March, because the management did not pay the February DA. Since then the company started to sack the ‘old tailors’ and to hire fresh ones, paying them 5,850 Rs.

Wearwell Worker
(B-61 and B-134 Okhla Phase I)
Around 850 skilled workers in both factories struck work on 20th of March 2010, from 9 am till 9 pm. The next day work stopped again at 10:30 am. Work resumed only after the management put up a notice saying that the 400 permanent tailors will get 248 Rs for an 8-hours day and the 450 casual workers 225 Rs. Then the company started to kick out casual workers and hired new ones, paying them 203 Rs. Workers in the factory have to work from 9 am till 3 am on regular levels. The company used to provide transport for the female workers, but they have stopped the transport.

R.V. International Worker
(D-153, Okhla Phase I)
On 14th of March 2010 about 100 skilled tailors stopped work and demanded 248 Rs for an 8-hours day. So far they were paid 175 Rs and they were promised 225 Rs. After two hours of strike the management agreed to pay 248 Rs. The company started to lay off people – end of April about 30 tailors were left. The thread-cutting and stitching female workers get 2,400 to 2,500 Rs per month.

Orient Fashion Worker
(F-8, Okhla Phase I)
On 15th of March around 900 skilled workers stopped the sewing machines. After one hour of strike the company put up a notice announcing 248 Rs for 8 hours-day.

The Student-Worker? Short glimpse at current disputes at Delhi universities

“There aren’t any students here, no teachers to suffer. It’s a school without rules out here”. (From movie-song, ‘Rang de Basanti’)

The relation between students’ and workers’ struggles used to be, if at all, a type of political alliance. Since the 1950s the relation changed, it increasingly became a social, rather than merely a political relation: more and more students were forced to see themselves as workers in the making. Whether a student will see her or himself as a worker while being at university roughly depends on six dimensions:

* young people from what kind of class background are able to enter university?
* how is the process of education in itself organised (division of learning, targets, hierarchies)?
* what is the relation between students and university staff and workers?
* do students have to work or do internship while studying?
* what is the influence of the wider (class) political situation and movement on the campus?
* what is the future prospect after leaving university, in terms of labour market, debts, position of intellectual labour in the social production process?

Quote:
Like the society to which it has played the faithful servant, the university is bankrupt. This bankruptcy is not only financial. It is the index of a more fundamental insolvency, one both political and economic, which has been a long time in the making. No one knows what the university is for anymore. We feel this intuitively. Gone is the old project of creating a cultured and educated citizenry; gone, too, the special advantage the degree-holder once held on the job market. These are now fantasies, spectral residues that cling to the poorly maintained halls.

(From: “Communique from an Absent Future”, California Universities)

We neither have space nor knowledge to describe how these six dimensions have re-shuffled over time. Therefore just some general remarks. There are about 104 lakhs higher students in India, which is only around 7 per cent of the young population in ‘university age’. During recent years more semi-private colleges came up. Young, often working class youth entered these colleges – rather than the traditional universities and IIT’s – given that they promise a ‘more directly’ marketable degree. The perspective of these students and their families on ‘education’ is mainly one of future investment: debts for paying the fees most correspond to future job and wage perspectives. The pressure on students to pass the exam has aggravated, apart from a question of pride, prestige it became a more existential question of managing the debts. In December 2010, 20 students (in high school and college) committed suicide in Maharashtra; most due to intense fear of poor academic performance. India has the second highest suicide rate in the world and 40 per cent of the cases are in the adolescent age group. In 2006, 5,857 students, this is 16 a day, committed suicide across India – this number has increased drastically since then.

“One day this will all end. We’ll all go our separate ways. Life gets busy. Too many problems. After college we have to dance to fate’s tune. When I’m out on the streets… nameless, faceless, scared. Just walking the streets”.
(From dialogue, ‘Rang de Basanti’)

The process of education is changing. Professors at a meeting about ‘Democracy and University’, held in March 2010 complained about the increasing Taylorism of their work: students are given DVD’s for ‘e-learning’, as part of the planned shift to semester-system at Delhi University professors would have to correct 30 papers for marking a day, the time for revision has been cut down, teachers are now officially called ‘stakeholders’, which creates a kind of ‘client’ relation with the students. Professors and students fear that the planned opening of the education market for ‘foreign universities’ will foster this trend towards ‘universities becoming a market-place’. Another expression of the ‘neo-liberal’ university is the increase in casual work among the university staff. Most of the work like canteen, cleaning, security is now outsourced to contractors. There have been various struggles around this issue – see for example the report by PUDR jnu_workers_report

In addition to recent fee hikes and hikes in hostel rents the state intensifies repression against the more radical part of the student movement – under the pretext of ‘anti-Maoist’ anti-terrorism. There are ongoing protests about this issue, for more information click HERE
While most of the more radical student groups either solely focus on the campus or use the student world as ‘cadre-recruitment-base’ for the party, for example student unions like AISA, some students start to debate the question of the ‘historical material’ changes of the position of students within society and in relation to the working class, for example the group Correspondence – click HERE for their pamphlet.

Students protest fee hike
Greater Noida, August 17, 2010
Protesting against the fee hike, students of IEC College of Engineering & Management today boycotted classes and held demonstration outside the college. “Though the university registrar has informed that the fee approved by the fee fixation committee is applicable to the first year students only, the college is demanding the hiked fee from the second year students as well which is unjustified,” said the agitating students.
“We are also protesting against the fee hike for the first year students. The fee of Rs 75,000 was already high. Now, it has been hiked to about Rs 85,000 for B.Tech., MBA and MCA courses,” the students pointed out. “Since Friday, we have been protesting peacefully and requested the college management to resolve the issue. As it did not pay heed to our pleas, we were forced to demonstrate today. We have come here to study and not involve ourselves in any agitation,” they added.

Protest by teachers against semester system at Delhi University
New Delhi, August 17, 2010
As the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) today held a massive demonstration outside the vice-chancellor’s office over the issue of intrroduction of semester system. DUTA today claimed that the tussle with the administration had strained its relationship with college principals. “Never before in the past have the principals and the DUTA come into conflict in this manner. The vice-chancellor is trying to create a rift between principals and the teachers to impose semester system in science courses. He is issuing them ‘orders’ to implement semester system,” said DUTA president, Aditya Narayan Mishra.

Rohtak University – Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
Maharshi Dayanand University Security Worker
(FMS January 2010)
In 2001 they started to hire guards through contractors. Because the minimum wage was not paid in 2002 the guards, the gardeners and cleaners went to an official who sent them to the labour department. Since then the number of workers hired through contractors has increased relative to the permenent workers and the labour law is violated openly. In 2005 workers started a sit-in protest and hungerstrike in front of the office of the principal. Workers gave a notification to members of parliament and even to the Prime Minister… In order to surpress the resistance they started to sack workers bit by bit. At that time only 18 guards out of 90 were paid the DC rate, the rest was paid 100 Rs for a 12-hours day. They don’t get ESI or PF. The guards come from nearby villages… When there was major construction work done at the university they brought workers from far away to do the job. The female workers carrying bricks, sand, cement they call coolies and they pay them only 82 Rs a day. The male workers are paid 92 Rs. There is a large number of 14 to 15 year old boys working, they are paid 82 Rs.

Strike against the Games / Life and struggles of workers building the Commonwealth Games in Delhi

Please click here for the report on living and working conditions of construction workers on the Common Wealth Sites in Delhi. Below you can find a short note on a current strike of CWG construction workers. For more information check out following links:
NSI
Radicalnotes

Building workers on dharna
New Delhi, August 12
For the second time in the month, construction workers employed at the Miranda House Commonwealth Games site sat on a dharma outside the college. The workers, students and teachers, under the banner of the Delhi Nirman Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, were protesting against the non-payment of wages. The workers were supported by many Delhi University students, members of the Miranda House Staff Association, women’s and youth organizations like Centre for Struggling Women (CSW) and Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS). They were also protesting against several other violations of labour laws. “The workers have not been paid for the entire one month and four days for which they have been working at the college. Furthermore, the rate of payment fixed by the contractor is well below the legal minimum wage rate. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the contractor has defaulted on paying the workers and violated several labour laws, the main employer, i.e. the college principal, Ms Pratibha Jolly has refused to step in and release the workers’ arrears,” said a member of the Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti. “Since August 4, only a small part of the workers’ dues has been released with no further surety provided by the college administration to look into the other key demands of the workers,” he said.

An Ideal Village and the End of Peasantry / Some days in a Village in Haryana

The south of Delhi’s industrial belt is connected to the vast village hinterland of Haryana. And there is no calm in the hinterland. We spent some days in Mandkaula visiting friends – you can read the travel diary below. It is followed by news items about recent semi-rural unrest.

Mandkaula, Haryana, India

Mandkaula is a village near Bawal, with about 15,000 inhabitants. It borders poor Muslim dominated Mewat district, situated close to the planned Manesar-Kundli Expressway. Mandkaula is an ‘Ideal Village’ meaning that it is chosen by Haryana government to get several crore Rupees for investments into road works, street lamps and so on. Mandkaula is an ideal Indian village in many senses. It has been in the centre of the Green Revolution, it has ‘benefited’ early on from irrigation and electrification. It is within the catchment area of the industrial labour market of Faridabad. The land-holding is more or less equally distributed between those who have land. Despite, or may be because of, being an ideal village we can see the social death of peasantry. After hundreds of years of ‘agricultural tradition’ the current older generation of peasants in their 60s is probably the last ‘peasant generation’ of this village. Their are few families who might continue farming, but the social domination of field work is gone.

Out of 15,000 inhabitants about 7,000 are landless, mainly ‘castes’ engaged in handicrafts like pottery and weaving, some street cleaners. This is a quite typical ratio for India. Less typical is the quite equal land-distribution amongst the landed peasants, belonging to the Jat caste. About 80 per cent of them have around 5 acres. Out of the 250 potter families around five people still work with the stone-wheel and clay – they have no apprentices for the future. There are only one or two hand-looms left, the nearby industry has undermined the market position for hand-woven goods. There are about 400 acre common land, which basically means land taken-over and used by the state. The government built a stadium and a university department for agriculture studies on the common land.

Mandkaula was in the centre of the Green Revolution. Electricity arrived in 1964, largely replacing hand or bullock-driven wells with electrically operated borewells. Irrigation was improved through a nearby bigger canal. In the mid-1960s the government ordered a structural program to ‘unify’ land-holdings. Individual farmers used to own scattered land, after the reform most of them had a single unified piece of land. Then came the tractors. Nowadays there are more than 300 tractors in the village. Crop pattern changed since the 1950s and 1960s. Where there used to be millet and other rough crops, there is only wheat left. Rice production only started with the development of the canal and the tubewells. A lot of the harvest and wheat thrashing work is done by machines plus wage labourers. A gang of wheat thrashers from Rajasthan travel with their diesel-fuelled thrashing machine. They take about 800 to 900 Rs per acre. They provide the labour force, around ten workers. It usually takes them about one hour for an acre. After the wheat harvest in Haryana they drive on towards the soy bean harvest in Madhya Pradesh. Thanks to mechanisation, the wheat harvest takes about seven days, the rice harvest not longer than 15 days.

The living standard amongst the peasant is decent, much better than the living standards of industrial workers in town. The houses and inner-yards are airy, no feeling of crowdedness. You are more likely to find more televisions, coolers, fridges here, than in workers’ homes. But life is traditional. Women wear their faces covered when around strangers. The houses of the landed are spacially detached from the houses of the potters and the cleaners. ‘Caste’ live amongst ‘caste’. Without land and without jobs the former artisans are much harder hit. They complain that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) is not implemented. There are about 150 people in the village who got a job card. There are 80 NREGS jobs, but they ran out. Instead of creating NREGS jobs, the panchayat engages outside contractors for road works and other infrastructural jobs, because he can cash in commission. Most of the farmers in Mandkaula are in debt, often for non-agricultural expenses like family houses, dowry or education.

The sons born in the 1970s and 1980s were not to become farmers. Most farmers tried to get them into government jobs: the police force, the army, the administration. The family of our comrade is no special case. His father owned 50 cows for diary production. In the early 1970s all his labourers left Mandkaula in order to work in the factories of nearby Faridabad. Contractors of Escort, Goodyear and other companies came to the village offering higher wages and a life in the urban. Our comrade himself left the village and worked in factories for some years. He returned to the village to keep the family farm going, but all his four sons have become office workers. Two of them commute every day between Faridabad and Mandkaula, which is about 40 minutes by train and another 30 minutes by three-wheeler. Living in the village is cheaper and better – but the younger sons want to leave the village soon.

If the Kundli-Manesar Expressway develops according to plan about 27 villages will disappear in the ‘special corridor’. Two kilometres on both sides of the expressway are dedicated for industry and real estate. The state starts to offer money to the land-owners, but people wait and see how prices develop. In that way the farmers always relate to the government: they need the government for jobs for their sons, they need it for the procurement of their harvest, for the subsidies and village development, for the final sale of their land.

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The longer lists about ‘village protests’ is random and arbitrary. The village is everything else, but not a ‘proletarian community’. We know to little about the background and class position of the farmers protesting against land acquisition for a nuclear power plant or against lack of electricity. We don’t know who blocked the street and attacked police posts. As we can see from the short report from Mandkaula – the villages are crisis ridden and they are divided. Social tension is increasing, and it finds many different channels, some of them seem to reflect the old inter-village oppression. For recent conflicts between Dalit and Jats in Mirchpur, a Haryana village please read HERE

Protesters halt traffic
Jind, July 28

The district witnessed traffic blockades at three places to highlight their grievances on various issues.

A large number of shopkeepers blocked traffic at Patiala Chowk by sitting on dharna on the main
crossing for an hour to express resentment over the increasing number of thefts in the locality in the past few days. The blockade was lifted after the intervention of the ASP, who assured them of a proper action.

Meanwhile, residents from Pouli village here blocked traffic on National Highway-71 linking Jind with Rohtak in protest against inadequate supply of drinking water in the village. The villagers claimed that there had been no water supply for the past three days. The third such incident was reported from Braha Khurd village located on the Jind-Gohana road. The villagers held protest after an elderly person was run over by a speeding vehicle this morning. Alleging delay and inaction on the part of the police to chase and arrest the accused driver, residents of the village blocked the traffic by laying down wooden logs and parking their vehicles across the road.-

Furious villagers attack police post
Sirsa, August 2

Irked at the merciless thrashing of a vendor by the police, villagers attacked a police post at Kulan village in this district last evening. Such was the fury of the mob that the in charge at the police post had to run for safety. The villagers, including women, later sat on dharna outside the post till senior officers reached there and made the policeman apologise for his act. The police had yesterday raided certain places to check gambling and rounded up five gamblers. Puran Singh, a vendor, out of sheer curiosity, went towards the police post to see what was happening. Prem Kumar, in charge of the police post, beat him up with a stick, dragging him inside the police post situated on the main crossing of Kulan village. The police action incensed the villagers and shopkeepers in the vicinity, who raised slogans and against the police and freed the victim. In the meantime, some women members of the family of the victim reached there with sticks and barged into the post, forcing the cop to flee. Additional police force from Tohana and brought the situationunder sat on dharna outside the police station with the victim and his wailing children. The villagers demanded an apology from Prem Kumar and that the police should bear the expenditure of victim’s medical treatment. They blocked the crossing halting traffic towards Bhuna, Ratia, Tohana and Jakhal.

Power Pangs – Villagers lock up school, anganwari
Sirsa, August 10

After the alleged beating up of a power nigam SDO by some villagers and subsequent arrest of an accused, residents of three villages today adopted a tough posture and decided to withdraw their children from schools and anganwaris. Villagers from Dhigtania, Chouburja and Rangrikhera today blocked traffic and locked the village school and the anganwari in protest against the erratic supply of power to their villages.

In Jind village, substation closed
Jind, August 10

Residents of at least three villages in the district locked a power substation and blocked traffic at two separate places here today to highlight their grievances over short supply of power in rural areas. The protests were lifted after intervention of the officials concerned. The villagers locked the 33 kV substation at Singhana village following an altercation with the staff posted there.

Irate villagers damage buses
Karnal, August 11

Incensed over the alleged failure of the authorities concerned to regulate power supply, residents of Tahkhana village blocked the National Highway No. 1 near Tarawari, 15 km from here, for about two hours today. The protesters, comprising mainly children and women, pulled down hoardings and went on the rampage, damaging three Haryana Roadways buses of the Panchkula, Ambala and Chandigarh depots. Hundreds of vehicles and commuters remained stranded on the road and foreigners, who were on their way to Chandigarh, got scared of the protest. The protesters alleged that power supply was erratic for the past over five months, but nothing had been done in this regard.

Gorakhpur farmers oppose acquisition
Fatehabad, August 17

Farmers from Gorakhpur village in this district, where the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NIPCL) is to set up a power plant soon, are up in arms against the government move to acquire their land. Hundreds of farmers met District Revenue Officer Om Prakash Verma today and submitted a memorandum asking the authorities to acquire alternative land for the plant. The villagers, whose land has come under this notification, have started filing individual objections with the authorities. They held a meeting in the village chaupal yesterday and decided to oppose the government move, threatening suicide if the government did not budge. The state government had recently issued a notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act-1894 for acquisition of 1,313 acres of the village for the plant. “We are not going to part with our agriculture land at any cost,” declared Dana Ram, a farmer, whose 52 acres fall under the land selected for acquisition. On 25th of August the media reported: The farmers’ agitation against the acquisition of their agriculture land for the proposed nuclear power plant at Gorakhpur has picked up momentum with villagers from 14 neighbouring villages coming out in their support.

For more: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/aug2010/indi-a26.shtml

Power-less, villagers clash with cops damage substation; police fires into air; sarpanch among 300 booked
Jind, August 19

Sans power for the past three days, hundreds of irate residents of Nagura village in the district resorted to violence, which lead to a clash between them and the police last night. The police fired several rounds into the air, besides resorting to a lathi charge, to disperse the mob. The violence resulted in heavy damage to the 132 kV substation and disruption of power supply to several villages in the region. Several persons, including some policemen, were injured when protesters resorted to throwing stones. A large number of policemen have been deputed at the substation and in the village. The police has booked about 300 persons, including the sarpanch of the village, Rajesh Kumar, in this connection. According to reports, hundreds of villagers assembled on the Jind-Assandh road last night in connection with the power supply problem. The police then opened fire into the air and resorted to a lathi charge to disperse the violent mob. At least six policemen, including Krishan Kumar, SHO of the Alewa police station, were injured in the violence. Property and machinery worth about Rs 8 lakh was damaged at the substation, said an official.

Villagers make team beat a hasty retreat
Fatehabad, August 22

A team of officials of the Food and Supplies Department from Fatehabad had to beat a hasty retreat when they went to Nadel village near Jakhal for “door-to-door checking” of some records of foodgrains supplied through the public distribution system (PDS). Villagers, who suspected that the officials had come to the village to tamper with the records, snatched ration cards from them when they were allegedly making some entries in the cards of the villagers. The Tribune had published a report, “Rotten wheat finds way through PDS”, in these columns yesterday and highlighted the fact as to how fungus-infested wheat was sold to poor families in the village. Gurjeet Singh, a former member of the village panchayat, entries in whose ration card was allegedly tampered with by the officials, called villagers, who asked the team to leave their village.

3 killed as farmers go on rampage near Aligarh
August 16, 2010

Three persons, including a PAC jawan, were killed and nine injured in a village near Aligarh when farmers, demanding higher compensation for land acquired for a township, fought pitched battles with police who opened fire to restore calm. The violence broke out last night in Jikarpur village when the farmers went on a rampage vandalising a police post, indulging in heavy brickbatting and setting afire a bus and another vehicle. The trouble erupted after rumours flew thick and fast that a farmer leader had been arrested near the village which lies close to Uttar Pradesh-Haryana border. Over 2,000 farmers on Sunday staged a sit-in at Jikarpur, the epicentre of yesterday’s violence. The protesters also tried to block traffic at several places on Aligarh-Tappal road. Vijay Prakash said the farmers this morning destroyed machinery for construction of the Expressway. The farmers are on the warpath demanding higher compensation for land acquired for a township project along the Delhi-Agra Taj Expressway.

Short note on real estate business and the private-public land mafia in Gurgaon

Gurgaon is still an Eldorado for the international real estate business. In August 2010 the Hooda Haryana government was put into a no less dubious public spot-light for getting engaged in shady land-deals in Gurgaon. Farm land was turned into cheap property to build an amusement park. We summarised some news items on the matter.

Govt under fire over Gurgaon land deals
Tribune News Service
Gurgaon, August 10

The Haryana government has come under sharp criticism for the recent move of leasing out big chunks of prime public land in Gurgaon to a private party at rates much lower than the prevailing market price. The plots, located in Sector 29 and Sector 52 of Gurgaon, have been leased out for the development of amusement parks.While the local HUDA officials and other authorities concerned are tightlipped over the issue, all-out efforts are being made to hand over the said chunks of prime public land to the private player. So much so that a road passing through one such chunk of land is being covered with loose earth to facilitate the beneficiary. The front leaders of the Federation of Residents Welfare Associations (FORWA) and Gurgaon Citizens Council (GCC) maintained that the 25-acre plot in Sector 29 had been given on a 33-year lease at a nominal price of Rs 56.25 crore, as against the prevailing market price of Rs 2,016.67 crore for the purpose. “Similarly, the 17-acre plot in Sector 52, which could have been leased out for 33 years at Rs 548.53 crore as per the prevailing market price, has been given away for a meagre Rs 38.25 crore,” they asserted.”So many controversial land deals coming to light clearly vindicate our stance that the Hooda government is a regime of property dealers,” said an opposition party leader, adding that even the Punjab and Haryana High Court had also pointed out at the nexus between the state leadership and builders. Talking to The Tribune today, a front leader alleged that the Hooda regime eyed prime property in the National Capital Region (NCR), especially Gurgaon, and its single-point agenda was to grab farmers’ land in collusion with unscrupulous builders and colonisers.

The Social Tsunami Impact / Snap-Shots against Capital-Class-Crisis

This is an attempt to introduce a regular update on general tendencies of crisis development in India – motivated by Greek shock-waves, naked shorts and potential spillovers. Apart from short glimpses on the macro-level of things we focus on general trends in agriculture and automobile sector: the current demise of the past and the toxicity of the future.

The Crisis in July and August 2010 – A Summary

Tension between short-term influx and growing internal debts

The months of July and August 2010 confirmed the picture of the economy in India being in a waiting-loop of crisis. The government is able to announce that GDP growth is still on 8 percent-growth-path and that, after the massive outflow of 20 billion USD of short-term invested capital after the ‘Greek-Shockwaves’ in May 2010, money is flowing in again since June – mainly as short-term portfolio investment. These ‘good news’ are in contrast with the probably more substantial worries expressed during the last two months:

- the association of industrialists Assocham expects inflation to increase to 15 per cent in the coming months; the general inflation, which is in double digits for the fifth consecutive month, stood at 10.55 percent June – July 2010;

- the current trade deficit, which is a measure of higher imports of goods and services over exports, has already risen 50 per cent to 21.7 billion USD during April-May 2010 from around 14.4 billion USD a year ago; the trade deficit of the January – March quarter was the biggest since 1981;

- bank credit is growing at an annual pace of around 22 per cent while deposits grow at a 15 percent; the credit-deposit ratio has widened to 73.44 percent in July 2010 from around 70 percent at the start of this year, climbing above the monthly average of the past five years of 69 percent;

- 50 per cent of the 2009-10 foreign currency reserves growth is due to appreciation of the Rs in relation to the US-Dollar; the Rupee has proven to be a rather volatile currency, meaning that there is a big scope for depletion of the reserves in case the Rupee plunges

- according to a Reserve Bank of India report from August 2010, `total factor productivity’ has dropped from 2.6 per cent in ’92-97 to 1.7 per cent in ’97-2005; while productivity in agriculture has slipped from 3 per cent to -0 .2 per cent, that in industry has dropped from 3.1 per cent to 1.4 per cent

Total GDP 2009: 1,367 Billion USD
Total Export 2009: 165 Billion USD
Trade Deficit 2010-11: 120 Billion USD
Total FDI 2009: 39 Billion USD
External Debts 2009: around 200 Billion USD
Public debts of GDP 2009: 60 per cent
Fiscal Deficit: 5 per cent
Share in global merchandise trade in 2008: 1.5 per cent

Tension over Inflation between Finance and Fiscal Managers

The major concern, the high inflation, causes increasing tensions between the ‘political class’ and their financial managers, e.g. in the form of the Reserve Bank of India. While the government still claims that the general inflation is mainly due to high food prices and that ‘a good monsoon’ will sort things out, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced in July that two-thirds of May inflation was contributed by non-food items. The RBI gives credits to the banking sector, the interest rates of these credits have been hiked four times since March 2010 in small steps of 25 basis points. Each of these interest hikes were accompanied by major public controversy whether the danger of inflation or the danger of ‘smothering the boom’ is more pronounced. “We will tell them [the government] that if inflation expectations solidify, it will push up government bond yields, loan rates will go up, and there will be a spiralling impact economy wide,” an RBI source said in August 2010. The interest hikes of the RBI have been passed on to consumers via the State Bank of India in August 2010. The SBI is the country’s largest lender. In August the SBI raised benchmark lending rate by 50 basis points to 12.25 per cent, making home, vehicle and other corporate loans linked with the rate costlier to middle-class consumers – and will very likely reverberate within the micro-finance sector of rural poverty, see below.

Tension between Central and State Government

The government’s take on the inflation problem is highly contradictive. After the central government has fuelled inflation by its reform to free-float petrol prices – causing considerable price hikes in June 2010 – Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee now asks the state governments to cut taxes on petroleum products, “a move that would help tame the current double-digit inflation”. According to Rupe Report from August 2010 on subsidies – click HERE [http://www.rupe-india.org/49/subsidies.html] – state taxes on petrol in India are significantly higher than average: “While India’s petrol and diesel retail prices are lower than those in many developed countries, they are higher than US prices as of May 2010, solely on account of taxes. The ex-tax prices of petrol and diesel were, respectively, 7 cents and 11 cents lower in India than in the US; yet the retail prices of petrol and diesel in India (i.e., including tax) were, respectively, 36 cents and 6 cents higher than in the US.” So basically the ‘state subsidies’ for the petrol or fertilizer sector are actually a ‘ slight lowering of taxation from a very high basis’. A similar point of tension between central and state governments is the implementation of the new goods and services tax (GST) across the country next year. State governments fear that the new tax will shift taxation power further towards the centre – increasing the problems of the debt-ridden state budgets. Terming the new tax as “anti-democratic, anti-poor and anti-farmer,” Madhya Pradesh finance minister Raghavji said in August that the new tax regime is aimed at divesting the states of their financial freedom. The proposed new indirect tax, which will subsume all the major levies like excise, sales tax, VAT and other local levies like octroi, is anti-democratic as the proposed GST Council will not be accountable to Parliament as well as to the state assemblies and through it the power of the states to levy tax on sale and purchase will be taken away. After the implementation of the GST regime, Madhya Pradesh will lose revenue to the tune of 2,200-2,500 crore RS per year. The Finance Minister’s answer does not require any further comments: “The gain from GST will propel the country from one-trillion dollar economy to two trillion-dollar economy in a short span of time,” he said while addressing a meeting of the industry chamber Ficci.

Tension over International Markets

Apart from re-shifting debt burdens the state in India is up for selling more assets. This time we don’t talk about mobile-phone licenses, but about the real stuff: coal, oil. In August 2010 the central government announced plans to list its state-owned coal mining company Coal India by October 2010 and to sell an additional stake in its national oil company. The Indian government gave the mandate for the offering for Coal India shares to Deutsche Bank, Enam Securities, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Kotak Mahindra Capital. Coal India claims to be the largest coal producer in the world, accounting for 85 per cent of Indian output. Question remains if this partial opening will ease the general tension concerning foreign investment in the Indian market, particularly the retail, defence and agricultural sector. In August 2010 US Trade Representatives engaged in a diplomatic clash when announcing that they will be “exploring all options, including legal tools, to force India to open up its agriculture market”. “We are exceptionally frustrated. I will tell you it’s generally not our practice to comment publicly as to whether we are going to take legal action, but I would tell you we are exploring every alternative and every enforcement tool available to us to get India to open up their markets on a number of agriculture issues, the dairy sector in particular,” the US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, told the US lawmakers in early August. During his visit to India in late July 2010 David Cameron aimed at a similar direction: Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced the government will allow the export of British civil nuclear technology to India for the first time. In return Mr Cameron is expected to call on India to reduce trade barriers in banking, insurance, defence manufacturing and legal services. A £500 million deal for BAE systems, Britain’s biggest defence contractor, to supply Hawk jet trainers to India is expected to be among “a string of high-profile contracts” to be signed during Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit. During the same visit immigration minister Damian Green made clear that in future only ‘high-class’-migration to the UK is wanted: “I’m convinced that we can achieve our objective of reducing migration to the UK, whilst driving forward our commitment to trade and inward investment. We can do both. We want to encourage to come the UK the brightest and most talented workers, entrepreneurs and investors”. He said Britain is now working more closely with Indian police and educational bodies to clamp down on unscrupulous agents who use fake qualifications to get student visas for customers and those behind bogus colleges.

Tension in some of the multi-national industrial core sectors

Obviously there are dozens of union mobilisations each day – click HERE for daily up-dates on LabourStart. At this point we only want to mention certain apparent parallels between mobilisations at multi-nationals in China and India. While the Honda strike in China was paralleled by a dispute at Hyundai in India in spring 2010, now Foxconn workers in India entered the sad stage of victimisation after their Chinese brothers and sisters. The strike at Hyundai was followed by a similar ‘open’ dispute at Volvo, while unions at Apollo tyre maker agreed to employment of temp-workers and workload increase after two months of lock-out.

- 500 Foxconn workers stage protest
July 2010
Workers who came under exposure of mysterious gas leak at Foxconn factory in Sriperumbudur were admitted to Hospital with complaints of giddiness, nausea and breathlessness. About 500 workers from the factory with the support of unions in neighbouring industrial units went on a sit-in protest in front of the Foxconn factory. However, the protest was called off later on as authorities and management promised action. Meanwhile, there was no operation in the company, which assembles handsets for Nokia.

- Employees at Indian Volvo bus plant strike over pay
August 2010
The two week long strike at Volvo Bus factory in Hoskote near Bangalore has ended with both the management and workers union coming to a mutual agreement on wage revision. Management has agreed to revise salaries of workers with retrospective effect from April 1 last for three years. Management, however, declined to reveal the exact rise in compensation for the workers. This was the first ever strike at Volvo’s bus plant in India. The strike lasted for two weeks, but a labour conflict which has slowed down production has been going on for about three months, he added. Four of the plant’s employees were suspended following a dispute at the plant in April, during which they allegedly physically assaulted a manager. During the three month labour conflict some employees have worked less or not at all in protest. The conflict has set the plant’s production pace back 60 buses, Johansson said. The factory rolled out 535 buses last year.

- Lockout at Apollo Tyre plant ends
End of August 2010
The two-month lockout at Apollo Tyres Ltd.’s Perambra, India, plant has ended as the company and two unions have come to a resolution. The parties have agreed to raise the plant’s daily capacity from 308 tons to 340 tons. Meanwhile, Apollo will hire an additional 200 people, and unions have conceded that the company can use “secondary manpower” at certain times. “The increase in capacity, manpower and the use of secondary labor are all progressive steps,” says Satish Sharma, chief of Apollo’s India operations. The Perambra factory produces light truck, medium truck, bus and agricultural tires.

The Rural Crisis

The news items we collected for July and August relate about growing farmers’ debts in Maharashtra and Punjab and the announcement of the state to claim land from bankrupt farmers, if necessary with the help of force. The rulers and their social managers also presented solutions to crisis-ridden farmers: the bad fix of micro-credits, micro-electronics, and, if necessary, re-location to African bloody soils of civil war. In the long-term the rural crisis might be fought out in the cities: “On a conservative estimate, 45 per cent of Indians would be living in towns and cities by 2050. This means that 379 million people may be added to the urban space over the next 40 years,” the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) said in its report ‘How India Earns Spends and Saves’ in August 2010. Urbanisation is a process of concentration: While nearly 25 per cent of urban population in India lived in cities with a population of one lakh in 1901, the number increased to 45 per cent in 1951 and 69 per cent in 2001.

To cater to this growth, India needs to invest $1.2 trillion in capital expenditure, mainly infrastructure, over that period, an eight-fold increase of current spending levels, MGI said. India now spends 17 USD per capita on urban infrastructure, compared to rival China’s 116 USD. What ‘state-management’ of urbanisation also means was revealed in mid-August in Bangalore: concentration-camps. From a BBC report: “Officials in the Indian city of Bangalore are investigating a spate of deaths at a camp for beggars. At least 100 inmates have died in the government-run camp on the outskirts of the southern city this year, 27 of them in the past week. Activists accuse the state government of negligence and say conditions in the camp are appalling. More than 2,500 inmates live in squalor at the camp and diseases there are rife, correspondents say. There are just two toilets for every 500 inmates.”

Foreclosures in Maharashtra

Scores of farmers mired in debt in the arid cotton belt of Vidarbha in Maharashtra are close to losing their property rights, as the state-controlled Land Development Bank has kick-started the process to recover dues from them. A top revenue ministry official said the process to recover loans by selling off land belonging to those farmers who have defaulted is “definitely on” and could start as early as July 23. It is now a well-accepted fact that mega loan amnesty schemes, such as the ` 71,000-crore waiver announced by the central government and the state’s ` 6,240-crore loan waiver, excluded many farmers in the state. The waiver was applicable only for loans contracted from a government-backed institution. But in the hinterland, most farmers borrow from money-lenders. Many of them could not avail of the amnesty schemes, as the eligibility was restricted to those having two hectares or below. More-than-half of Vidarbha’s 35-lakh farmers own more than two hectares and, therefore, according to the government scheme, can only obtain a loan waiver of 25 per cent of their outstanding loan instead of a total write-off. Now, the state government wants to recover the remaining 75% of the loans that have not been paid back until now. “According to rules, the Land Development Bank needs to recover loans within five years from disbursement. More delay than the stipulated time makes it mandatory for the bank to recover its dues by selling the immovable assets, in this case, the land,” an official associated with the exercise told ET. He said necessary orders to take over the properties of farmers have been issued and the powers to take possession of defaulters’ land have been vested with the respective district deputy registrars. “These officials have demanded police protection. This is being extended to complete the process,” a Nagpur-based government official said.

Debts in Punjab

Central Punjab has been the food basket of the state and the country since the 70s when the Green Revolution brought bumper wheat and paddy crops in its wake. A quarter century later, farmers of the area continue with the same foodgrain rotation but at a heavy price. A steep fall in water table is forcing farmers to dig deeper in search of water fanning the start of an agrarian crisis. Farmers of these districts are not only digging deeper borewells for water every few passing years but also digging themselves into debt from which they have a little hope of climbing out. Amar Singh from Khairpur Jattan village in the Ghanaur block of Patiala says 95 per cent of its residents are under debt. Amar Singh, who owns 16 acres of land and has two grown up sons and their extended families to feed, says 10 years ago, the family irrigated their land with 60-ft deep borewells. He says he dug his first deep borewell in 2002. At present, he is replacing an older borewell, which had become defunct with 375-ft deep borewell. Ironically, he has not struck sweet water even now. The story of Harmesh Singh of is similar. Harmesh’s march towards debt stated five years ago when he installed a 225-ft borewell. He took a loan of Rs 1.85 lakh from a bank to do so. He also purchased a tractor shortly afterwards so as to reap the rewards of mechanised farming. However, whatever he earned was offset by continuous expenditure on his borewell. The farmer started off with a 5-brake horsepower (bhp) motor, upgraded to 7.5 bhp and finally installed a 15 bhp motor over a year ago. With a debt of Rs 4 lakh now and minus the tractor that he has sold off, Harmesh is now indifferent towards life. When asked about his loan repayment schedule, he says, “Sometimes I give it (instalment), sometimes I don’t.”

Bad Fix One: Microcredits

Microcredits became big business in India. The sudden credit crunch after October 2008 global banking crisis has shown how close the remote Indian villages are to Bombay financial district or the Wall Street – in financial terms. According to their own sources the microfinance sector growth 80 to 100 per cent a year. Around 70 to 80 million small farmers depend on micro-credits. There are reports that small ‘self-aid groups, e.g. women who buy a hand-loom together, turn against their members once they are unable to pay back their share of instalment. The microfinance sector has to grow quickly in order to dish out credits, in order to grow. So far the microfinance companies had to take loans from normal banks, paying about 12.5 per cent interest. They passed the interest on to the small farmers, who have to pay around 25 per cent interest. These farmers cannot obtain credit from ‘normal banks’, because they cannot show the required securities. Microfinance is placed between the official financial sector and the money-lenders. While before the crash US banks used to grant people mortgages 120 per cent above what they were able to show as security, the microfinance institutes in India still lend credits around 150 per cent above the value of the small farmers’ property. In order to attract more capital from global streams they have to show growth rates of the mentioned 80 per cent – the sector is overheating. International Groups like the German Allianz or real estate developer Larsen and Toubro entered the market. Using the argument that the sector has to get financial sources independent from the official banks – in order to lower the interest rates for the farmers – microfinance companies started to issue shares on the stock-market. SKS Microfinance is one of these companies. Within three years this company increased the number of ‘clients’ 20-times – now around 5.3 million people depend on loans from SKS. In June 2010 188 million shares of SKS were sold on the market. A boom similar to the IT bubble, but the crash will have much more severe social consequences.

Bad Fix Two: Microelectronics

In the 1870s the colonial state promised that the telegraph system will prevent further famines in India, given that the information about the lack of foodgrain can be circulated quicker. The famines in the 1890s were even worse – partly because of the telegraph-system resulting in even quicker speculation. History does not repeat itself, it move in a social-technological spiral. A study about ‘agricultural productivity increase through mobile-phone services’ concludes in August 2010: “Among the states studied, small farmers from Maharashtra (income between Rs 12-17,000/month) reported the highest use of their phones to access information, leading to diverse benefits. These included yield improvements, price realisation and better adjustment of supply to market demand. Ideally, market price information is valuable in deciding where and when to sell, but also in deciding the cropping pattern. On the ground, there was some marginal evidence that the bargaining power with traders (who used mobile services widely) improved when farmes were armed with market price information”.

Bad Fix Three: Relocation

African nations offering land for free to Indian farmers
11 Aug 2010, 1551 hrs IST,PTI
Some African countries are offering land on lease for 99 years for free to overseas farmers and India should grab the opportunity, industry body Assocham said today. The countries that were in the forefront trying to attract agriculturists were Sudan and Ethopia, he said. Several Chinese farmers have already accepted the offer and begun cultivation of land, said Tyagi.

Bad Fix Four: Pre-emptive Counterinsurgency

Currently the state in India is undertaking a major operation to enforce identity cards, which means photographing, fingerprinting, and iris-scanning every resident of India, plus issuing of digital files, the so-called UID System. Combined with the ID-card is a supposed reform of the ‘Below-Poverty-Line’-food program. The idea is to not ‘guarantee’ minimum prices for the ‘officially poor’ anymore, but to issue food coupons. The definition of who is poor and changes in the households composition or income is supposed to be combined with the ID-drive. From an official document: “Since the Unique Identification will not, in itself, have information on people’s poverty status, these kinds of tailoring of information will need to be added to the UID System. Further, since households do move in and out of BPL status there has to be provision for updating of information.” This again is added to the ‘job-card-regime’ of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which only grants paid employment to locally registered people, often requiring a bank account. The state is blatant about the ‘counterinsurgency’-character of NREGS:

“India battles Maoist influence with jobs scheme – BBC July 2010
Also called the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, it is being used to kick-start much needed development work in the area. Kaushik Lohar is a fortuitous beneficiary of a sudden rush of development work to keep the rebels away from his village. “If the Maoists were not at our door, all this wouldn’t have happened,” said Mr Lohar. “We have been waiting for development for decades.” He said he earns up to 3,000 rupees a month working on the dam, much more than what he used to earn as a daily wage worker.”

The “3,000 rupees a month” is the utter exemption. Not even 1 per cent households in Bengal got the promised 100 days’ work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in 2009, the latest report of the rural development ministry has revealed in August 2010. Out of the total 31,15,422 households, only 19,163 got 100 days’ employment. Households on an average got 32 days of work. Seventy-two per cent of eligible households got merely 15 days of employment, the report said. The figure for most other states hovers around 5-6 per cent. Not only do people get less than 100 days, they also tend to get much less than the minimum wage. Reported in August 2010: “For 11 days, 99 people toiled to dig a check-dam under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in Tonk district of Rajasthan. But when it came to wages, they were paid only Rs 11 – Rs 1 for each day of labour. The Rs 11-payment was decided by a Junior Engineer who inspected the work site. Gudaliya residents protested, calling it a cruel joke, and appealed to the district administration. To no avail. For Gudaliya residents, this is not a lone case. For four jobs between April and June, they have reportedly been paid Re 1, Rs 7, Rs 12 and Rs 25. These wages have only increased their ire against the government. Incidentally, details of the payments are available on the MGNREGS website but have failed to move the authorities.”
Obviously, NREGS plays a role for poor people’s income, particularly for women – around 40 per cent of NREGS workers are women. A recent study – click HERE [upload pdf]- on NREGS impact on women says that although NREGS wages in the studied areas formed only 15 per cent of the total households income, it formed a significant income for the female members.
The state can not rely on the violence of structure and control alone, please read the fact-finding team’s press release about the killing of comrades Azad and Pandey from the 22nd of August 2010.

The Automobile Crisis

We have little to say about the automobile crisis this month, just three news article snippets about Maruti: More Sales, Less Profits, More Debts!

- “The country’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki India, reported 29.18 per cent jump in sales for July 2010 at 1,00,857 units.”

- “Maruti Suzuki’s July Profit Unexpectedly Falls 20 per cent as Raw Material Costs Swell”

- “Maruti Suzuki is among carmakers to have introduced waiting lists in India as a lack of parts including tires, bumpers and batteries damps vehicle production. Local components makers have struggled to expand because of debt levels that are twice as high as Asian suppliers. India’s 133 listed makers of components and tires have an average debt-to-equity ratio of 138 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The average for the 73 companies in the Bloomberg Asia Pacific Auto Parts & Equipment Index is 58 percent

Gurgaon Workers News #33 - December 2010

English Language edition of the class struggle newspaper produced in Gurgaon, in Haryana, India. The paper contains workers' enquiry and testimonials, collective action reports, theory and analysis.

Gurgaon in Haryana is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development.

At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region.

If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via:

www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com
gurgaon_workers_news[at]yahoo.co.uk

Local Automobile Workers: Electronic Flow-Management - Combining High-Tech Assembly Plants and Slum Production

The Indian car industry is in a ‘sales boom’: all time record figures during the last months. But does the ‘sales growth’ translate into a ‘profit growth’?! The supplying industry complains about ‘squeezed margins’: the pressure on prices is so high that it hardly allows sufficient upgrading of capacities and future productive investments. They have difficulty to keep up with the demand in productive output. With dwindling profits per car the central assembly plants suck the supply chain dry: just-in-time, low inventory, low prices, full quality.

The 1st and 2nd tier suppliers are squeezed from two sides of capitalist contradiction, from both sides of the supply chain: from the down-stream side of capital-intensive manufacturing and from the up-stream side of workshop and slum production. The low wage regime of workshop and slum production hardly makes it profitable to invest in machinery. The workshop and slum production itself is part of a ‘human supply chain’ of cheap labour, reaching into the rural parts of society. The current conflicts about minimum wages for rural employment schemes will re-shape this supply – see ‘the Social Tsunami Impact’ in this newsletter.

Below we document some glimpses at different sections of the supply-chain: an article on ‘electronic flow-management’ at Suzuki Maruti in Gurgaon; articles on the situation of 1st tier suppliers and a worker’s report about conditions at ‘Wing Automobile’; and finally reports from workers employed in the workshop and slum production of the automobile industry in Faridabad.

The Electronic Flow

The ‘electronic flow’-management in central assembly plant symbolises the attempt of capital to get to grips with the flow of value. Their obsessive hope is that the ‘information’ passed on between assembly department and the scattered landscape of supplying industry can become the container of ‘value’ – ‘information’ being similarly immaterial and evasive. The ‘information-flow regime’ is their hope that a perfectly synchronized supply-chain will reconcile ‘technical productivity’ and ‘profitability’, by tuning the rhythms of welding-robots to those of the dexterous hands of child / slum labour.

“At Maruti Suzuki, electronic flow is a religion”
(Economic Times, 19th of November 2010)
At India’s largest carmaker, E. Nagare or ‘electronic flow’ is a religion. Simply put, this electronic flow is actually the sequence of production plans from the vendor [supplier] to Maruti’s shopfloor, which now sits at a two hour cycle from 30 days in the past. As S Maitra, Managing Executive Officer (Supply Chain) of Maruti Suzuki indicates, “E . Nagare has completely transformed the supply chain at Maruti over the last four years.” Across Maruti’s twin sprawling plants in Gurgaon and Manesar, multi-coloured bumpers arrive in mobile trolleys and components line up outside factory sheds directly feeding the ever-hungry , multitasked assembly lines. For the company’s 250-odd Tier I vendors and 20 global suppliers, supply is now a seamless activity. Maruti receives multiple supplies in a day within a slot of two hours based on the information given out to its vendors the previous night. That’s a far cry from the initial 30-day or subsequent 15-day cycles Maruti drove in years ago. And that’s what it takes to crank out 4,600 cars a day.

Along with processes like E. Nagare, new technologies and materials such as plastic instead of a metal fuel tank or light tinting of glass to keep the car cool, are now in the offing. Increased competition in the late 90s gave rise to global suppliers coming to India, like Delphi of GM. “Delphi came with a range of technologies, like wiring harnesses, chassis and powertrain components and AC components and they became our suppliers as well,” says Maitra. At that time, it was the ‘Materials’ division of Maruti that dealt with the supply side. Instead of price increase, which was the order of the day, Maruti called on its existing vendors to focus on cost reduction. Initially, the company could bring down the cost of production by 2-3 per cent and in 2006-07 , it even lowered that by 5%. “We had to induct many global suppliers in our vendor network, like Faurecia for seat mechanism, Bosch and some Japanese suppliers like Dentsu, Sumitomo Metals and Continental, all with a global footprint ,” elaborates Maitra.

The 1st tier squeeze

The profit squeeze of the wider industry appears as ‘unfair price policy’ to the supplying companies.

“Sales of passenger vehicles have set a scorching pace-25-27 per cent in the first half of the financial year-and auto component makers are struggling hard to catch up. Over the next few years, the vendors are expected to pump in at least Rs 2,000 crore to meet the demand. One factor that has enabled companies to make such high investments is the willingness on the part of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to re-negotiate contract prices. In the past ten months, the average contract prices have gone up by 5-10 per cent. As Ramesh Suri, chairman of the country’s largest car air-conditioning company Subros, which supplies air-conditioners to Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors and Hyundai Motor, says, “We are going to invest up to Rs 200 crore for capacity enhancement,” adding that the only option left for his company is to constantly ramp up production to meet demand. Suri explains that while passenger vehicle makers constantly put pressure on component makers to cut costs, there is a limit to how much they can manage. He says while the company’s topline has been growing steadily, there is constant pressure on the bottomlines. “The average net profit per sale has certainly declined,” he claims, adding, “Auto firms have realised that they can’t continue to do business till the time they increase contract prices.”Managing director of Gurgaon-based auto component maker Omax Autos Jatender Mehta adds that his contracts with leading carmakers have increased 5 per cent in the past one year. “If we have to invest in our facilities, we cannot do it till we get more for our components,” he says. Mehta explains that high volatility in prices of key components like steel, copper, zinc and aluminum, which have increased 10-12 per cent since last year, has burnt a big hole in the budgets.”

The 1st tier workers’ anger

Wings Automobile Worker
(I-35, DLF Industrial Area Phase 1)
There are 25 permanent workers and 325 workers hired through contractor. They produce ignition coils for two-wheelers of Hero Honda, Bajaj, Yamaha, Honda, Hero Puch and Kinetic. They also produce parts for Maruti Suzuki. Officially workers are employed 8.5 hours per day, but actually they work 200 hours overtime per month, paid at single rate. If workers are made to work 20 hours non-stop, they get 20 Rs extra for food. There is a constant danger of cutting your hands – the production targets at the 12 power presses and the 10 moulding machines is too high. Even when the machines are faulty you have to run them. If one of your pieces is rejected (due to flaws) they cut one hour of your wages, they swear at you, they also push-beat you. Fingers are cut on a regular level. They don’t fill in the accident report. After an accident you are sent for private treatment and then you are dismissed. In an auxiliary of the company (Eden) 5 permanents and 70 workers hired through contractors produce horns for two-wheelers, cars and tractors. Recently, a newly hired worker was made working 26 hours non-stop on a power press, he had an accident and lost two fingers. The toilets are very dirty. There is no drinking water. Wages are paid delayed.

http://www.wingsauto.com/

(from: Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar no. 267)

The Automobile Slum-Production Workers

In the ‘industrial villages’ and slums of Faridabad more than 100,000 workers are employed in small workshops, which produce for the bigger industry on contract bases. Nearly all of them are ‘invisible’, they don’t show on any official documents. The workshop economy is an outcome of the 1980s restructuring process – see ‘Workers History’ on the GurgaonWorkersNews site. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed mass lay-offs of permanent workers. Some of them remained in touch with their former department managers and turned into their suppliers: they opened a workshop. The machinery of the workshop stems from a similar cycle of re-structuring: lathes, power presses and other machines replaced by micro-electronic revolution, often imported from Germany and Japan. New workers stream in from the countryside and find a job in the slum economy – in many cases they come from the workshop-owner’s villages. Below some voices from the low-wage labour-intensive regime.

Boxer India Worker
The workshop is situated near Industrial Area, 17 workers are employed. They work on six power presses, three lathes, one grinder and one reamer. They manufacture cycle clamps and other parts for JCB, Maruti Suzuki and RK Industries. The helpers are paid 2,500 to 3,000 Rs and the operators get 4,000 to 4500 Rs per month. The shift-times are from 8:30 am till 8 pm, but people are made to stay till midnight, too. Overtime is paid at single rate. Due to working too long hours, due to lack of maintenance and due to the fact that helpers are made to work on power-presses there are a lot of accidents: fingers get cut. Injured people are supposed to organise bandages through private channels. After being given 100 or 150 Rs by the boss they have to hear: if it does not get better through the bandages, why don’t you urinate on the wound. Even if you are still injured and bandaged you have to come to the workshop and do whatever work.

Aman Enterprises Worker
The workshop is in Saray Mohalla in Mujesar. There are two surface grinders, cylindrical grinders, internal grinders, a lathe machine, MNCR, a tool grinder, a drill, two generators – four workers, the workshop owner and his nephew use them in order to make dies for factories. The wages are between 2,500 Rs and 5,000 Rs. There is no toilet. Due to the surface grinder and the generators there is a lot of dust and exhaust in the air.

Lakshman Singh Mittal Industries Worker
The workshop is in Dabua, near the Sarvoday School. In the workshop 25 workers work on 12 power presses, on a surface grinder and a big drill, manufacturing parts for Whirlpool. Official shift times are from 8:30 am till 9 pm. The workshop owner knows all tasks, he does the setting – his son supervises the outsourced work. He is a senior die fitter, he does not work himself, he gets more than 5,000 Rs. The helpers and operators get 3,000 Rs to 3,500 Rs.

BS Enterprises Worker
The workshop is in Saray Mohalla in Mujesar. Three workers use a lathe, a surface grinder, a drill and a generator in order to do job work for bigger factories. Wages are about 3,500 Rs.
(from: Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar no. 267)

Local Call Center Workers: Re-Location, Domestication and an Angry Workers’ Report

Short article on a rather dubious ‘technological fix’ for the Gurgaon call centre industry and an angry worker’s report from Sparsh BPO about working conditions, a strike and mass lay offs.

The Technological Fix

Finally an end to expensive office blocks and mingling of sexes: modern technology is supposed to enable ‘housewives’ to do the call centre job from their domestic sphere. “With just one laptop or desktop computer with internet and a phone connections, people could operate from their rooms, attend to inbound calls that otherwise land at the call centre. With this, housewives, who would never otherwise dream of joining a BPO, would be able to take jobs and do it from their homes,” said Mike Manson, director of the ‘innovative company’. “Virtualisation of voice technology would help setting up of one-seater or 3-5 seater micro BPOs in tier 3 and 4 cities from where the BPO companies are drawing talent pool,” said Sriram Srinivas, vice-president. “This would not only benefit the employee to save on overheads such as rentals and high cost of living in metros like Gurgaon but also helps the company reduce cost on things such as employee transportation expenses.” Experiences in the US and Western Europe taught us that even in call centres capitalist production is still mainly a ‘socially enforced’ type of productivity: despite rent costs the mass office is still more productive due to mass cooperation, flow of creativity, discipline and surveillance.

The Angry Worker

Sparsh BPO Service Worker
(409 Udyog Vihar Phase 3)
“We currently operate through 20 state-of-the art facilities across nine locations in India. Our dedicated workforce of over 16,000 motivated professionals provide qualitative solutions in the areas of transaction processing and call centre services, aiming to achieve excellence in every transaction.”
(from company web-site: http://www.sparshindia.com/)
The call centre is in a 12-floor building, several thousand workers are on the phone 24 hours on three shifts, phoning for BSNL, Airtel, Airsale, Reliance Com, Orient Bank of Commerce. For 26 working days per month they get 4,800 Rs. After 8-hours shift they are often made to stay two hours longer, which is not paid. The company does not pay for transport and those workers who use the ‘employee cabs’ have 1,000 Rs per month deducted from their wages. In addition 210 Rs is cut for PF and 80 Rs for ESI – but no ESI card is given. The food break is only 15 minutes – there are two 5 minutes breaks for tea. There is never enough time, but no matter what, you are supposed to work. You cannot make the customer wait, that’s what they say. Against this the workers stopped work at the end of March 2009, they stopped work for three days. They went inside the office, but they did not log in. The management reacted by smashing 4-5 computers and trying to blame the workers for it, saying that they will file a police case and send them to jail. Bit by bit they started to kick people out – in the end it must have been about 2,000 workers. Actually a lot of workers handed in their notice, but the company refused to take it – instead they said that the workers just left the job. After having worked there for more than two years I went to the office in order to make them sign my PF form. They just threw it away and said that I left the job without giving notice and that I won’t get the PF. The company keeps 200 workers for housekeeping. They work 12-hours shifts, 30 days per month and get only 4,887 Rs – no ESI and no PF. The company has another office at 195 Udyog Vihar Phase 1. There workers phone for Vodaphone, Shub Yatra, Bhartiy Jivan Bima Nigam and others.
(from: Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar no. 267)

Migrant Workers’ Living Sphere in NOIDA / An Academic Research Project

GLOBAL CAPITALISM, WORKERS’ SPACES AND PROCESSES OF SELECTIVE INCLUSION/EXCLUSION
Findings from a Newly Industrialising Area in India
Anita Trivedi
August 2007

[We document an excerpt dealing with the living arrangements of migrant workers in NOIDA, a neighbouring industrial area to Gurgaon and Faridabad]

Material differences at the workplace and variation in work practices and responses were reflected in the living spaces of workers. Key findings reinforced the theme of variation observed in labour management practices and the responses of workers at the workplace. At the same time, while the strategy of control of workers and undermining the commonalities through differential employment contracts and remunerations was reflected in the hierarchy of the living spaces, it was also crosscut by a sense of unity among workers arising out of shared spaces, experiences and a sense of unfairness. The living spaces formed a significant dimension of social relations of production.

In the five residential areas a form of hierarchy originating from and akin to the one at the workplace could be observed, with the government-planned (Industrial Authority) sectors/colonies at the top and unauthorised slums at the bottom as shown in Table 2. In between, in descending order were the company colonies, unauthorised colonies, ‘urban’ villages and authorised slums. The areas towards the upper end of the hierarchy had access to better services and to the decision-making levels of the state; such access progressively declined as one moved down the ladder.

Type of residential area
Name & Location
Features

Planned colony
Gamma, Greater Noida
High level of public infrastructure, services and law and order

Authorised company colony
Y Nagar, Noida;
A Colony, Greater Noida
Slightly reduced scale and reach of public infrastructure and services

Unauthorised regularised colony
Harola, Noida
Come up through unauthorised sale or grab of land but regularised by government by providing some services

Authorised urban villages
Surajpur, Greater Noida
Villages surrounded by industrial and municipal urban settlements

Unauthorised slums
Khoda, Noida
Very little infrastructure / services

The processes of selective inclusion and exclusion extended here too. The ‘included’ permanent workers in the MNCs largely resided in well-developed and serviced areas; others ‘partly incorporated’, e.g. skilled migrant workers, apprentices, lived in company colonies, peri-urban areas and villages; and a majority of temporary and migrant workers, adversely incorporated or excluded, dwelt in the slums. Such scaling of the spaces resulted in further divisions among workers.

I admit we are better than others, especially the unauthorised ones, but not very good either. The light (electricity) doesn’t always come. The colonies of the Authority are much better. Why the difference?
(Union Functionary, J3, resident of a company colony)

Workplace injustices were overshadowed by demands for services and other issues in some areas. This continued the process of fragmenting the workers evident at the workplace and of weakening the formation of a collectivity.

However, on closer examination certain variations in the above scheme of things were observable. Not all ‘included’ workers resided in areas where they were expected to, i.e. well-developed and well-serviced residential areas. Some locals, who owned land and were economically and politically powerful continued to reside in or maintained strong links with villages, ‘urban’ villages and sometimes slums. This provided them with an opportunity to continue with an additional source of income (usually from agriculture or related activities); and allowed them to retain their dominant status (of class and/or caste) with its resultant social networks and benefits.

The ‘most included’ permanent workers, both in terms of employment status and also of the quality of the areas of residence and access to services, had the greatest fear of being ‘excluded’ from both. They suffered from a sense of insecurity similar to workers in other categories. At the other end, the ‘most excluded’ migrants who resided in slums exhibited no such fear and were resigned to workplace inequality and apathetic towards living conditions:

What is the point (of services)? We only come here to sleep. I am here to earn…and they will never give us a permanent job.
(Focus group of migrant workers, I1 and I2)

In between, there were many variations based on levels of inclusion and exclusion both at the workplace and in living areas. Many who were ‘more included’ at the workplace felt ‘excluded’ in the living spaces and vice versa. The skilled migrant workers (e.g. J2) who lived in the ‘urban villages’ experienced a greater sense of inclusion with respect to work but exclusion when it came to access to people of influence/ decision-making processes because they did not ‘know anyone’.

Yes, we live together but half of them are locals and they go home. The people (locals) understand our problems but they live here during the week and go to their villages over the weekend. They are different. We are different. We have skills and we held good jobs. They work at the firm only for the name. Pay and conditions don’t matter to them.

What can we do? Nobody listens to us…we are from different places. We don’t know anyone here and even if we ask for help, no one will stand by us, we are from outside.
(Focus group of migrant skilled apprentices, J2)

The reverse was true for many unskilled local workers (e.g. K1, J2) who lived in the surrounding villages and continued with the original agrarian pursuit (often as a fallback option during periods of unemployment). They drew confidence from local networks of community, village, and region and were vocal in their criticism of workplace practices and migrant workers for ‘putting up with them’:

I tell the security men who misbehave (manhandle, shout) with me…I will see you at the gate…
Others (migrant workers) who put up with it are not men.

(Local temporary worker, K1)

Many of the relatively prosperous and influential locals, who were excluded or partly included-excluded in the workplace as temporary workers in its various categories, often indulged in land grab in the slums and extended accommodation at high rents to migrant workers. The economic strength and political clout required for this originated from their insertion into channels of influence (access to officials and politicians through links of family, caste, village etc that are often drawn upon in times of crisis or during elections). They were most vocal in their demands for services and more hopeful of their fulfilment because of their social support systems.

I tell you it is a matter of time…we will get the recognition (thereby services in the unauthorised colony). They [the government] will have to do it. We are a solid vote bank for them.
(Local temporary worker, J1, Head of the residential committee)

In a way, their exclusion at the workplace was sought to be remedied by seeking greater inclusion in their other spaces. Despite the very evident divisions, the unintended outcomes of such structuring and reconfigurations were the coexistence of the workers in the living spaces, the urban-rural continuum and the overlap of spaces and issues in the physical and mental landscapes of workers. Shared spaces encouraged sharing of the experiences and injustices of the workplace. The empathy and the sympathy from the shared plight, or the fear of it, often overcame the divisions and hierarchy of both the workplace and living spaces.

The situation in those areas [Khoda and Harola] is bad. The workers there are mostly in export units and it is well known the kind of exploitation that goes on in such units. The government supports the owners of such units but ignores the terrible conditions that the workers live in… where else can they live on the pittance that they receive? As for us (in the MNCs), it is a different kind of exploitation. [Nods of approval by all]
(Union President, J1 during a mixed focus group)

A fragmented workforce from fragmented work organisation lived in hierarchical living spaces. Given their degree of fragmentation, sense of insecurity and spatial segmentation, one would expect to find a much weakened workforce with reduced avenues of organisation and representation. Yet, the politics of the workers displayed complexities that arose from their varied exclusion/inclusion at the workplace and in living spaces and the varied nature of interest articulation. The emphasis on the interests articulated differed on the basis of the place of residence (more service-oriented in the slums and completely work-related in the residential areas of the MNCs), or origin of workers (migrant or local), or skills of workers.

Variation of interests could be observed between the slums, where demands centred on better living conditions and services, and the well-serviced residential sector developed by the government, Gamma, where the permanent MNC workers were concentrated, where workplace and work related issues completely dominated. Again, service-related demands in slums were vocalized by influential local residents of the area and not the migrant workers. The urban village of Surajpur and the company colonies showed a mix of demands: the demands for services were not as strong as in the slums and were mixed with criticisms of work culture and practices.

While migrants and temporary workers in the slums displayed apathy towards their living conditions and towards the idea of political solutions to the same, and felt completely disempowered politically and economically, those in other areas, e.g. the migrant skilled workers working in the MNCs and residing in the ‘urban villages’, were more engaged. This stemmed from their sense of greater inclusion (however selective) at the workplace. However, it is significant that the engagement was not with the local politics but with the new economic policies of the state to attract MNCs and its impact on them, i.e. at the global-national level (the case of apprentices of J2 who spoke of workplace issues but disregarded the local ones).

Migrants, whether in temporary low paid employment or skilled, felt weaker on account of ‘not knowing anyone’ compared to the local workers who felt stronger because of their social support systems despite their insecure jobs. The presence of many well-placed permanent workers and entrepreneurs, mostly local, in the unauthorised slum of Khoda indicated both the operation of an ‘informal’ economy and the use of informal channels and mechanisms by the workers to gain economic strength and social status, and thereby access to the decision-making processes and institutions.

If they are going to take our land away, why wouldn’t we grab this land? We have to live and this is our place, our roots. [AT - But land grab is not good, surely?] No, it isn’t. But a man has to go up in life. Money talks, power matters.

None of the locals wanted to move and all felt that the migrants were unfortunate, thus manifesting the relationship between spatial mobility and social power.

Nobody wants to be rootless; I can’t imagine going somewhere else to live… it is sad to be a migrant.

This fractured politics with conflicting interests in the slums and the ‘urban villages’ reflected the inclusion-exclusion experienced by workers at the workplace. The local residents were ‘more included’ in the social processes of decision-making and power because of their origin (as compared to the migrants) but ‘more excluded’ than the permanent workers in the MNCs (who had access to better services). The latter, for their part, were not as concerned with the conditions of the slums (when asked about it) as with their own largely work related issues. The greater inclusion of the migrant skilled workers and exclusion of the local unskilled workers at the workplace reinforces Massey’s (1996) emphasis that space implies a co-existence of differences and multiple trajectories. Also, the preoccupation with service provisions in the slums was counterpoised by very powerful workplace and work-practices related responses in the company colonies and the residential sectors of the workers.

At the same time, the workers in the MNCs were as likely to exhibit a place-based politics in their villages.

I still have my land in the village…have bought some more too. This area is only going to grow more, not less. At the end of the day, it is family [extended family], community that matters…in times of need, marriage, troubles, and illnesses. Without your roots and links (in the village), a man is anchorless.
(Permanent worker, MNC)

Another example was found in interviews conducted with a local, permanent worker and a focus group of a mix of workers from the same organisation in one of the villages. When the interview was completed, I requested for all categories of temporary workers to be assembled. None of the temporary workers sat down and no response was forthcoming on any of the issues raised except from the permanent worker, who belonged to the dominant caste, was one of the rich men of the village, and was also instrumental in getting others employment. On being prompted, the permanent worker said ‘I am telling you, why do you need to ask them’ and the temporary workers said ‘we agree with what he says’.

Despite attempts by capital to undermine their commonalities, the possibility of a common consciousness emerging among workers, identified at the workplace, was also identifiable in the living spaces of workers. There was a keen awareness of trends and practices in other workplaces. Also, all along there was an emphasis on injustice and unfairness and a feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them’ among workers. Despite the divisions and conflicting interests there was a continued sense of awareness that such differences were largely work-mediated. This came through in almost all interviews and focus groups when workers, after initial scapegoating of other groups of workers, would end by attributing all their problems to the ‘MNCs, employers, state, new policies and changes’. Use of local networks were accepted by all and resented by some but always attributed as a counter to the prevalent ‘unfairness’.

It appeared that processes of exclusion-inclusion were multiple and interrelated and operated in all domains of workers. Although at some level the exclusions at workplace and living space were mutually reinforcing, in other respects and for some groups they were mutually compensating – e.g. exclusion at work can be offset by living space inclusion, and vice versa. The locational sources of power, i.e. those rooted in a place, local support structures and networks of influence that followed from it played a role. Also, though the fragmentation of both living space and workspace was a source of division, there were countervailing sources of solidarity deriving from a shared plight (or fear of it). Workers attempted to counter work-generated and spatial inequalities by demands for services, through recourse to formal as well as informal channels of influence and institutions of the state. What emerged was a lack of concordance between power location within the village or other living space, and power location in the company. Old social structures rooted in agrarian systems persist alongside new power relations in industrialised workplace settings.

Student Protests against Fee Hike in Haryana

Part of the international student protests? On 5th of October, students enrolled in Adarsh College of Education held a militant protest outside the college. They were protesting against the college authorities for forcing students to pay 40,600 Rs for the course offered. Read article by KYS (Revolutionary Youth Organisation).

KRANTIKARI YUVA SANGATHAN (KYS)
Haryana State Unit of All India Revolutionary Youth Organisation (AIRYO)
Munshi Premchand Library, Dharodi, District-Jind, Haryana
Email: kys.haryana@rediffmail.com, Ph. : 7876103701

On October 5, students enrolled in Adarsh College of Education, Shadipur (Julana), held a militant protest outside the college along with their parents and youth activists of Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS). They were protesting against the college authorities for forcing students to pay Rs. 40,600 for the B.Ed course offered. This amount exceeded what the college had earlier advertised as the fee for the B.Ed course. The youth were also protesting the manhandling of students who tried to meet the college administration earlier and get an appraisal on the situation. The protest successfully drew working class youth from different districts in Haryana.

The protesters argued that as an ‘educational’ institute, it was expected that the college run on the basis of no-profit-no loss/minimal profit. They emphasised that even if the concerned college was a private institution it could not ignore the fact that education is a sector which is based on the notion of service to the society. When mobilising the affected students for the protest, KYS highlighted the fact that the declared fee for the course was already a very large amount and so the extra fees charged was completely unjustified. The fee structure was especially unwarranted considering the fact that most students enrolled were children of agrarian labourers and small peasants.

Indeed, this is no isolated incident, but one which is symptomatic of rampant privatisation of education in Haryana. It is a fact that the government has not been spending adequately on education and health. It is not, for example, creating more of its own institutes for B.Ed/JBT education. Rather than increasing the number of its own educational institutions the government has increasingly allowed private capital to enter the education field. It has been consistently doing this by giving recognition to private institutions that actually refuse to perceive education as a social service. Such private education institutes are well known for their profit-hungry mentality. In the interest of cutting costs to the minimum, these private institutes have no qualms functioning from small, cramped buildings, and in providing minimum teaching facilities. They are simply interested in manufacturing degrees, and are hence, characterised by the lack of teachers, regular lectures and classrooms/other infrastructure.

It is a shocking fact that in Haryana out of the total 459 B.Ed institutes only 19 are institutes funded and run by the Haryana government. Similarly, out of the 20,117 JBT institutes in Haryana only 2620 are government run institutes. Expectedly, in such a situation where government run educational institutions are scarce, the competition is very high and only those with good public schooling make it to the government colleges. On the other hand, students who have studied in badly run government schools due to their working class background are unable to make it to the few government run colleges. As a result, they are forced to enroll in expensive private colleges to pursue higher education. Clearly then, the nexus between the interests of private capital (in the education sector) and the government is a cause of much suffering to lakhs of students and their families.

Unfortunately, while the students were holding their peaceful protest outside the private B.Ed institute, the hired goons of the institution attacked the protest. Some of the protesters were struck by bricks and lathis. Many were bruised in the assault and four were seriously injured. Angered by the administration’s bullying tactics, the protesters decided to approach the District Commissioner. After being apprised of the situation and given a copy of the memorandum, the District Commissioner assured the youth of a positive intervention on his behalf.

Considering how the rampant privatisation of education in Haryana, KYS has decided to intensify its struggle on the issue and mobilise working class youth against the Haryana government’s measures to privatise education. It has been decided to launch a state-wide struggle so as to block the government’s openly capitalist education policy. Indeed, despite the fact that some of the protesting students were returned their money by the college principal on October 9, there remains a strong desire in them to take on the government on the issue of privatisation and commercialisation of education. This is best reflected in the fact that many of the affected youth refused to toe the line of the local panchayat (dominated by wealthy landed elements) which was suggesting a more amicable settlement of the issue. It is also reflected in their decision to march to Kurukshetra University (to which many of these private institutes are affiliated) so as to expose the nexus between the University and the education mafia.

Death of a Manager and Murder case against 377 Automobile Workers at Allied Nippon

In September 2008 an industrial dispute at Graziano car parts manufacturer in NOIDA ended in a manager’s death and subsequent victimisation of workers. Two years later, a different location in the wider Delhi industrial belt, a different automobile parts manufacturer, the same victimisation of workers after a violent dispute. Again the media worries about the ‘investment climate’. See link below for report by Bigul.

A report on the Sahibabad Allied Nippon incident

By Bigul Mazdoor Dasta

November 16, 2010

Sahibabad is amongst those industrial areas where there has been a glorious history of labour struggles. The martyrdom of Safdar Hashmi of Jan Natya Manch at this place is also a testimony of the labour struggle here. But, at a time when there has been an ever increasing onslaught on the rights of the workers in the era of liberalisation and privatisation and when the administration and industrialists are taking resort to authoritarian means to prevent the workers from getting organized, it is but natural that the workers’ anger would be vented at some or the other place. It is to be recalled that it was not without reason that the ex-president of India K.R.Narayanan had stated, “The patience of those who are suffering for long has got exhausted which can lead to an explosive situation”. If we look back, the reports of the simmering anger of the workers amidst the exploitation, repression, oppression and suffocation have been surfacing in the last decade (The recent labour struggles in Gurgaon, Ludhiana, Gorakhpur and Graziano are testimony to this fact). But this time the anger was released in Sahibabad Site-4.

On 13th November a bloody struggle took place between the management and the workers on the lawful demands of the workers of the Indo-Japanese Combo Allied Nippon Company situated in Sahibabad Site-4 in which the manager of the company Yogendra Chaudhary lost his life. Immediately after this episode the administration and the institutions of the industrialists were alerted to teach a lesson to the workers. The entire media with its clamouring tone is hell bent on terming the workers as murderers. Let us first learn the history of the conditions and struggles of the workers of the Allied Nippon Company before reaching to any conclusion.

What transpired on 13th November? - The Union had earlier declared a strike and the company management wanted to halt it. On the ill fated day at 2 o’clock in the afternoon the HR Head of the company Mahendra Chaudhary went to the two wheeler clutch wiring department along with Yogendra Chaudhary. Some altercation ensued with the workers there. After that Yogendra Chaudhary opened fire and in 4-5 rounds of fire a bullet hit a worker named Brijesh. Subsequently the angry workers valiantly fought with the officials and in an act of defence by the workers, the manager lost his life. Many people were injured from both the sides.

The real cause of the incident – There was a tension between the management and the union from last three months on the issues of contract, bonus and salary hike. Besides the demands of the permanent workers, there was a demand to make those workers as permanent on the priority basis who were working for last 6-8 years. The company had also kept 7 casual workers out of work and there were demands from the management regarding this and a concerned case was pending with the DLC. On the other hand the owner-management did not want to accept these demands. About six month ago the owner had secretly given lakhs of rupees to the so called management (in reality the white collared goons) – Yogendra Chaudhary and his colleagues Rajkumar, Omvir,Mahendra Singh Chaudhary and Narendra Dabas for breaking the union. Since then this so called management was arbitrarily running the factory. It was quite common for them to roam inside the factory openly carrying the guns in order to terrorise the workers. There was a surge in the incidents of threatening and intimidation to the workers, beating them and expelling them on the frivolous grounds so that the owner does not have to regularize any worker and a ground is prepared for not honouring the contract. Whoever was showing any sign of protest was shown the door at some pretext. All this caused enormous indignation among the workers. The workers were living in a condition of fear. If anyone dared to complain he was sure to lose his job. A worker was always living in a dilemma of his economic needs and fear. He was always fearful that if he would protest he would have to lose his job and face economic hassles. On the other hand he was also thinking of salvaging his dignity and self-esteem. This condition was gradually taking a dangerous turn and on 13th November it took an explosive form.

The reality of the so called management – After talking to the workers of the neighbouring locality we came to know that Yogendra Chaudhary used to utilize his influence and contacts to break the union and for intimidation. The workers told that he had earlier done this act of breaking the unions at Rama Steel, TCL and at other places. Yogendra’s wife Sheela Chaudhary is posted at Ghaziabad police department as sub-inspector and he had links with top shots in police, bureaucracy and politics owing to which he used to succeed in breaking the unions. He was running this kind of enterprise at other places as well. In the management of this company as well he had continued to recruit and retrench the people arbitrarily so that his purpose is served soon. But 4 years ago after the formation of the union, the owner had agreed to accept the demands of the workers. But there was a tussle between the management and the workers on the issue of implementation. There was a plan to organize a three day long strike from 16-17-18 November. But on 12th November the DLC ordered a stay on the strike by imposing rule-4 of the Industrial Dispute Act. The union got this information in the evening itself and gave its response on 13th.

Strength of the workers - There are around 300 permanent workers in the Allied Nippon Company and the same would be the approximate strength of the casual workers. Further around the same number of workers work on contract. The workers formed their union in 2006 against the increasing exploitation of the company.

The empire of the company – The workers tell that owner of the company has 4-5 other factories in Gurgaon and other places. There is a big show room in Delhi. The owner’s son’s name is Rohan Talwar.

The authoritarian behavior of the administration with the workers – Yogendra’s relative and the security officer of the company Omvir Singh has lodged an F.I.R. in the Link Road police station against 377 people and by naming 27 workers this case. Police has arrested 8 persons in this connection. Right from the day of the incident, the SSP Raghuvir Lal has been saying that the clash was initiated from the workers’ side. On the other hand the labour department has already stayed the strike by the union by taking refuge to Industrial Dispute Act. The stand of the administration is very clear. The entire site-4 has been converted into a police cantonment and the police teams are conducting raids at different places in the workers bastis. On the other hand the leadership of CITU which claims to represent the interests of workers is maintaining a conspicuous silence over this issue.

Some questions which remain unanswered by the administration - Clearly the death of the manager cannot be justified but the question arises if the pistol is the way how the management wanted to hold a dialogue with the workers? If a case can be filed against 377 workers then why not against the management which carried out a fatal attack on the workers. Secondly if the management at the time of the formation of the union had promised to implement the demands of the workers and now when they have betrayed the promise and arbitrarily retrenching the workers, the union did not have any other means than to go on strike which is a constitutional right of every citizen.

377 workers guilty of murdering one manager – The incident of the site-4 Allied Nippon Company reminds one of the similar incident at Greater Noida’s Graziano in which 136 workers were sent to jail for the death of the CEO of the company and a case was filed under the National Security Act against 6 workers. The incident at the site-4 has once again shown that in the struggle between the owners of capital and the workers the capitalists and government, police, administration,courts, broker trade unions all are united against the workers. Nobody is punished for the death of the industrial accidents in India which are indirectly an outcome of the actions of the management. The murderers of the workers of Bhipal tragedy, Metro Rail Jamroodpur site or Korba episode are not punished till date. The blatant class prejudice of the so called independent and impartial judiciary is seen in this incident as well. When a person belonging to the propertied class is arrested in connection with a crime such as murder he gets bail immediately. On the other hand a case is filed against the workers without any proof of murder.

Big Industry and Local Land-Owners: Alliance in Gurgaon

If we believe the wider media-coverage than the current boom sectors in Gurgaon are ‘indoor-golf’-facilities and eye-surgery or stem-cell treatment for US patients – at least most of the announcements of new investments concern decadent entertainment or medical tourism.

In November 2010 Harley Davidson announced to open an assembly plant in Gurgaon area, in order to avoid import duties. All parts will be manufactured in the US. Given the sales figures of 250 to 300 sold bikes in India per year, the factory is rather an extra-gimmick for the ‘indoor-golf’-palace anyway. A rather more serious investment: Panasonic announced to invest 2.5 billion Yen in a new washing machine factory in Gurgaon. Production is supposed to start in 2012 – annual manufacturing target 500,000 washing machines.

The power base of Haryana’s political class is the combination of big industry and local landowning class. Real estate rent and industrial profits transform into tax money – of which the local peasantry receives their share in form of compensation payment. In November 2010 the Haryana government announced to a Revised Land Acquisition Policy 2010, which basically means an increase in the state-fixed minimum land prices. For land situated within the notified limits of Gurgaon Municipal Corporation, the new MFR has been fixed at Rs 72 lakh per acre, including Rs 8 lakh as no litigation incentive. Earlier, the highest official acquisition rate in the state was Rs 22 lakh per acre. Hooda said the annuity for acquisition of land for private companies / initiatives would be Rs 42,000 per acre per annum with an annual increase at Rs 1500. The additional amount paid as annuity over 33 years worked out to Rs 21,78,000 per acre. Explaining the provision regarding giving jobs in government, the Chief Minister said that in cases where more than 75 per cent of land, subject to a minimum of two acres or above, was acquired for a public purpose other than that for HUDA/ HSIIDC/ HSAMB, one dependent from the land-owning family would be provided a job in the state government.

The Social Tsunami Impact / Snap-Shots against Capital-Class-Crisis

Debating the dimension of the micro-credit crisis in India we have to go beyond the old formula of ‘parasitic moneylenders in new disguise’. The growth of micro-credits is essentially part of the wider global development: credit money has to fill the gap between global over-capacities and subsequent under-consumption.

In this sense the growth of micro-credits can not be explained by general ‘greed of loan sharks’, but by, on one hand the global ‘hot money’ leaving the low interest regimes of the ‘over-accumulated’ developed states in order to invest in the interest-yielding industrial periphery, e.g. in growing sectors like micro-credits (2009 growth rate in India: 58 per cent); this ‘hot money’ then meets the ‘credit needs’ and ‘reproduction crisis’ of a large segment of semi-proletarianised population, which cannot survive as farmers, nor as small entrepreneurs, nor as fully proletarianised wage workers. Micro-credits are rarely ‘invested’ productively, they mainly serve as household income.

The current conflict about whether the wages for the rural employment scheme NREGS should be tied to the general minimum wage level, is part of the picture. Currently in most states the wages for NREGS are below the minimum wage. The central state fears that the fiscal deficit would expand even more once NREGS would be linked to minimum wage levels. It would be easy to counteract this argument by pointing at the planned four-year budget of 45 – 50 billion USD for acquisition of military hardware, but this would ignore the necessities of a ‘capitalist state’.

Fact is that despite the ‘hot money inflow’ the state deficit is increasing, that the current boom does not generate enough ‘employment’ and that the wage level of most of the new jobs can hardly be called a ‘family living wage’. The changes in the international migration regime will change the flow of remittance – last year India was the record receiver of remittance amounting to 55 billion USD – and will aggravate the social crisis in ‘emigrant-states’ like Punjab, already ridden by mass debts. The ‘micro-credit’ – as much as ‘subsidies’ or ‘farmers’ debt waivers’ – has therefore to be seen as the ‘grease’ in a troubled process of proletarianisation The Nobel Prize idyll of ‘small entrepreneur’-ship has capsized in the rough sea of global crisis.

In the following we summarise in a rather random fashion some general news relating to the development of social crisis.

a) inflation continues to stifle ‘industrial growth’
b) central state has subsequently increased its expenses beyond plan
c) nregs wages are supposed to remain below minimum wage levels
d) micro credit system threatens to default
e) tighter control of rural poor through electronic ID system
f) remittance on record high but threatened by changes in global migration regime
g) expansion of defence budget and US reiteration that China uses Pakistan to stifle India
h) increased investment of ‘Indian’ companies in Africa
i) towards a global class: recent workers’ strikes at Foxconn, BYD and General Motors India

a) inflation continues to stifle ‘industrial growth’

Garment industry suffers from Rupee appreciation. From April to August, exports were down 6.4 percent from a year earlier in the $10 billion Indian clothing industry. Although it represents only about 1 percent of the nation’s economy, the garment industry is India’s largest employer after agriculture. “Soaring inflation, rising input cost and slow growth in capacity addition are some of the reasons that are inhibiting growth in specific sectors,” Food inflation in mid-October stood at 13.75 per cent. Industrial output growth in August slowed to a 15-month low of 5.6 per cent from 15.2 per cent in July. While flows into the stock market have more than doubled, foreign direct investment into India fell more than 24 percent in the first seven months of the year, to $12.5 billion, compared with the comparable period a year earlier.
(1st of November 2010)

b) central state has subsequently increased its expenses beyond plan

The government is looking for approval to spend about $9.8 billion more than what was passed in its February budget, towards interest and subsidy payments.
(26th of November 2010)

c) nregs wages are supposed to remain below minimum wage levels

Fiscal experts are worried the government could be staring at a financial black hole if it agrees to the demands to provide minimum wages under the employment guarantee law. The spending on scheme is already one of the biggest item of expenditure for the government, budgeted at Rs 40,100 crore for the current fiscal. [But] “As per the latest figures, only about Rs. 17,000 crores has been spent – roughly 42% of the allocated budget. Immediately notifying the prevailing state minimum wage will have no impact on the Center’s fiscal budget,” said Roy, one of the founders of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.
(24th of November 2010)

d) micro credit system threatens to default

India’s rapidly growing private microcredit industry faces imminent collapse as almost all borrowers in one of India’s largest states have stopped repaying their loans. Sector’s leading company SKS Microfinance shares have lost 41 percent since Oct. 15. Lenders say that less than 10 percent of borrowers have made payments in the past couple of weeks. Indian banks, which put up about 80 percent of the money that the companies lent to poor consumers, are increasingly worried that after surviving the global financial crisis mostly unscathed, they could now face serious losses. Indian banks have about $4 billion tied up in the industry, banking officials say. Now some Indian officials fear that microfinance could become India’s version of the United States’ subprime mortgage debacle. Micro-finance company association demands a 200 million USD ‘state rescue package’ in case the crisis aggravates.

e) tighter control of rural poor through electronic ID system

The purpose of this exercise [current census] is to build the National Population Register (NPR). In due course, your UID (Unique Identity Number, or “Aadhaar”) will be added to it. This will make it possible to link the NPR with other Aadhaar-enabled databases, from tax returns to bank records and SIM (subscriber identity module) registers. Benefits and services that are linked to the UID will ensure demand for the number.” That UID is, in effect, going to be compulsory is clear from many other documents. For instance, the Planning Commission’s proposal for the National Food Security Act argues for “mandatory use of UID numbers which are expected to become operational by the end of 2010″ (note the optimistic time-frame). No UID, no food. Similarly, UIDAI’s concept note on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) assumes that “each citizen needs to provide his UID before claiming employment.” [...] Take for instance Captain Raghu Raman (of the Mahindra Special Services Group), who is quietly building NATGRID on behalf of the Home Ministry. His columns in the business media make for chilling reading. Captain Raman believes that growing inequality is a “powder keg waiting for a spark,” and advocates corporate takeover of internal security (including a “private territorial army”), to enable the “commercial czars” to “protect their empires.”
(24th of November 2010)

f) remittance on record high but threatened by changes in global migration regime

Indian expatriates are expected to remit about $55 billion into the country this year as the number of emigrants from the nation is likely to clock 11.4 million, a new World Bank report said.
(24th of November 2010)

Offshore IT staff face new pay thresholds
UK migration officials said that non-EU entrants using intra-company transfers would need to earn at least £40,000 to work in the UK for more than 12 months.
(1st of November 2010)

India IT firms say US rejecting business visas
US is rejecting a growing number of visa applications and visa interviews are bordering on interrogations, Indian information technology companies say.
Also recently, the US Border Security Bill hiked the fees for H1B and L1 business visas, leading to protests from Indian IT firms.
(4th of November 2010)

With 5 mn pounds to invest, make UK your permanent residence
If you’re rich and ready to invest more than £5 million in Britain, you could now get permanent residence in two years and full citizenship in five. The UK government is easing immigration rules to woo millionaires to make England their home.
(6th of November 2010)

36 Indian illegal immigrants arrested in Britain
LONDON: Thirty-six Indian nationals have been arrested in Britain for working illegally in the country, while six other Indians were found hiding in a lorry in France, trying to enter Britain illegally, officials said on Wednesday. Since July, over 400 operations have taken place across Britain which resulted in arrests of more than 800 people from various countries.
(1st of December 2010)

India imports 15,000 Chinese laborers to build, teach infrastructure projects
“India may be an IT superpower and producing thousands of doctors, lawyers and MBAs every year. But the biggest gap is in the availability of skilled electricians, carpenters, welders, mechanics and masons who can build mega infrastructure projects,” said Raghav Gupta, president at Technopak. India’s demand for steel is growing exponentially, and steel production, now at 70 million tons a year, will need to grow 12 percent every year to keep up. “China is the only country in the world that has built so many new steel plants in the past decade, almost like assembly-line products, adding about 80 million tons of steel capacity each year. So we decided to get their technology and manpower,” said R.S. Singh, director of Electrosteel Steel Ltd., the company building a factory in Chandankyari. “This factory is a classroom for Indian workers and we will create a benchmark for speed, quality and cost,” Singh said. The Indian workers are learning a new work ethic from the Chinese and are now more punctual, not stopping work to take frequent tea-breaks or gossip, managers said.
(23rd of October 2010)

g) expansion of defense budget and US reiteration that China uses Pakistan to stifle India

During US-president Obama’s visit to India this autumn some 250 businessmen were traveling with him. American exports to India have doubled between 2005 and 2009. India plans to spend 45 yo 50 billion USD on military hardware during the next four years. The Indian state hopes that intensified economic relations will translate into formal political recognition: “Will he make a major push to support India’s hopes of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council? Unlikely, say most analysts. Though the Indo-US nuclear agreement sounded the death knell of the era of defence technology apartheid practised against India, it will still be a decade or more before the ghosts of technology denial regimes are finally buried. The deeply entrenched bureaucracies in the departments of state, defence and commerce around the Washington beltway will take quite some time to finally accept India as a co-equal partner with whom dual-use technologies can be shared to mutual advantage.”

In the meantime the US diplomacy prepares the atmosphere for future arms deals.
“Relations between India and China have deteriorated in last 18 months and is unlikely to get better”, Blackwill, a former US Ambassador to India. “The Indians have a long list of Chinese transgressions, which in my judgment are accurate, having to do with Chinese policy on Kashmir and on the border dispute between the two countries and the so-called ‘ring of pearls’ of Chinese quasi-military installations in Bangladesh and in Sri Lanka and in Pakistan and so forth,” he said. “In other words, China using Pakistan to slow India’s rise,” Blackwill said.
(4th of November 2010)

h) increased investment of ‘Indian’ companies in Africa

In the past 18 months India-based Essar group bought coal mines in Mozambique, half an oil refinery in Kenya and a call center in South Africa. Essar Energy Plc. plans to invest heavily in Nigeria’s power grid. “Africa looks remarkably similar to what India was 15 years ago,” said Firdhose Coovadia, director of Essar’s African operations. “We can’t lose this opportunity to replicate the low-cost, high-volume model we’ve perfected in India.” India-based Karuturi Global Ltd. leases 311,000 hectares of land — larger than the U.S. state of Rhode Island — in Ethiopia and Kenya, and sells more than half-a-billion roses a year.

i) recent workers’ strikes at Foxconn, BYD and General Motors India

* Government seeks to crush strike of Foxconn workers in India

Defying police repression, thousands of workers have been on strike since September 21 in the industrial city of Sriperumbudur. The more than 7,000 workers at the plant are demanding an increase in wages, increased health benefits, as well as recognition for the trade union Thozilalar Sangam (FITS), which is affiliated with the Stalinist Communist Party of India (Marxist). On October 9 police arrested several hundred Foxconn workers who, in defiance of repeated police attacks, have continued the strike. A total of 319 workers, identified as leading activists, were remanded into judicial custody and transferred to Vellore central jail. The remaining few hundred workers not arrested were laid off. After being held for four days in jail, 307 workers were released on bail on October 13. On October 10, the day after the mass arrests, over 3,000 workers staged protest demonstrations on the streets of Sriperumpudur. They have been staging ‘Dharna’ (sit in protests) near the District Collectors Office. Police are preventing workers from staging any protests in and around the Foxconn plant. Foxconn workers are paid 4,800 rupees ($US106) per month. The workers are demanding a basic pay of 10,000 rupees ($US221) and other additional bonuses, along with health checks and medical insurance. Foxconn management has contacted some workers from distant villages who live in the Sriperumbudur area and forced them to report back to work. However, most of them defied that order. Now the factory is staffed partly by workers brought from villages through labor contractors, along with some workers who have given into management threats. However, only a few hundred are working in the factory now. Even the vast majority of the 6,000 contract and trainee workers have joined the strike. On October 19, CITU General Secretary Tapan Sen sent a letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi urging his “effective intervention to resolve the crisis” at Foxconn “in the best interest of the company and its 7,400 workers”. That is, the union leader is appealing to the chief minister of a government that has framed up striking Foxconn workers to intervene in the interest of the company.
(World Socialist Web-Site, 25th of October 2010)

* BYD Electronics fires most of its workforce, after police break up sit-in

The Indian subsidiary of the giant Chinese-based BYD Electronics has fired most of the workforce at its plant in Oragadom in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, after the workers staged a sit-in to press their demands for increased wages, an 8-hour work day, the regularization of contract employees, and recognition of their newly-formed union. BYD has now locked out the entire workforce at its Tamil Nadu plant and announced the dismissal of all 2500 contract workers. More than 3,000 of BYD’s 3,350 production workers participated in the plant occupation, which began on the night of October 28 and lasted for almost two days. The workers chose to end their sit-in on the evening of Saturday, October 30, after baton-wielding state police surrounded the plant and vowed to storm it if workers didn’t vacate the premises in 30 minutes. When the BYD workers returned to the plant on Monday, November 1, they found the gates shut, a heavy police presence, and a letter on the company notice board. The letter said BYD is dismissing all its “contract” workers-that is, 2,500 workers the company has hired through recruitment agencies so that it can pay them even less than its 850 “regular” workers.

The BYD notice also announced the firing of 60 regular workers and said 437 others will be required to sign a letter of apology for “misconduct,” i.e., for their participation in the occupation. The three-and-a-half-year-old plant is now closed, ostensibly for a snap week-long “holiday.” Management is using this time to plot with the state government to resume operations using other poor villagers, recruited through various labor contractors, as scabs. Workers at the plant, which produces parts for Nokia cell phones, are forced to work 12-hour shifts. A majority of them are young women. Those with four years’ experience earn just 5,400 rupees (about US $120) per month. Workers approached the Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the union federation led by the Stalinist Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, to form a union on October 9, after BYD announced the layoff of a hundred workers. The vast majority of the workers-regular and contract-soon joined. With the company refusing to negotiate, the workers staged an initial sit-in on October 21. Faced with this militant action, one moreover that united contract and regular workers, the company agreed to hold negotiations with 68 of the workers. But within a week the negotiations broke down because the company insisted that it would not discuss the grievances of the contract workers. Suriyadevi, a young woman worker, told the WSWS, “We don’t get proper food in the company canteen. That’s also run by contractors. During our occupation the management cut off the water supply so that we couldn’t even use the bathroom. There was no canteen facility. All of them were deliberately stopped to exert pressure on the workers to return to work. Now we have been locked out and are standing under the burning sun.”
(World Socialist Web-Site, 4th of November 2010)

* GM workers call off strike, work resumes at Halol plant

Around 450 [other sources say 900 worker] workers went on strike on 29th of October 2010, demanding hike in wages. The plant, which produces 150 vehicles per day, has 900 permanent workers distributed equally between two shifts. The Halol facility has an installed capacity to produce 85,000 units every year in three shifts. The strike was ended after three days. Management claims that the strike was called off unconditionally, while union leaders say that they have a written agreement to negotiate a wage deal.

Past Tense / Present Unrest: Local Working Class History – Faridabad, India

Below you can find various historical documents on working class experience in Faridabad in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite having been one of the largest industrial areas in India at the time and a hotspot of post-Emergency proletarian turmoil, the experience of workers in Faridabad rarely entered the realm of official labour history. For the current generation of workers and communists a critical engagement with the voices from the past is essential part of the search for new trajectories and new forms of organisation.

The material comprises translations of old articles from the still present local workers’ newspaper Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar; transcriptions of academic articles and other documents; and notes of ongoing conversations with workers about their past. The material is sketchy and the translations are not perfect – please see this as an open invitation to participate in the process.

In the near future we intend to bring more documents and voices back into our present discussions and extend the archive on this site. We will also try to debate some conclusions. At present we want to refer to the pamphlet on ‘Workers’ Self Activity’ by Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar, which you can find below.

Please get involved.

gurgaon_workers_news@yahoo.co.uk

List of Content

Sources:
Economic Political Weekly (EPW)
Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar (FMS)
Gurgaon Workers News (GWN)

/// 1970s ///

* Faridabad Workers’ Anger
EPW no.28, 1977: Report on mass strike and riots on 30th of June 1977 after death of worker Harnam Singh in police custody in Faridabad

* Capitalist Terror in Ghaziabad
EPW no.38, 1977: Report on industrial dispute and subsequent riot on 7th of September 1977 at Harig India, a company in Faridabad

* After CITU What?
EPW no.42, 1977: Analysis of workers’ discontent with union politics in Faridabad in 1977

* Anti-Worker Offensive in Haryana
EPW no.11, 1978: Analysis of post-Emergency repression of workers’ discontent in Faridabad

* Industrial Repression at Faridabad
EPW, 1978: Report on repression against workers, amongst others at company Autopin on 15th of February 1978 in Faridabad

* After the Massacre of Dalli Rajhara Mining Workers
EPW no. 24, 1977: Series of reports on contract mining workers struggle, the police massacre and the involvement of Congress and CPI

* Massacre of Kanpur Workers
EPW no.9, 1978: Report on police firings in Swadeshi Cotton Mills in Kanpur, on 6th of December 1977

* Police Massacre in Faridabad
EPW no.44, 1979: Report on police massacre and repression after general strike and demonstration in Faridabad, on 17th of October 1979

* From Emergency to Rural Maoism to Leninism in Faridabad
GWN Conversation, 2010

* Worker in Faridabad in early 1970s, Full Time Activist for CPI and later Naxalites, Sangarh Samiti 1979
GWN Conversation, 2010

* Escorts/Ford Worker in Faridabad in 1970s and 1980s
GWN, Conversation 2010

/// 1980s ///

* Revolutionary “Termites” in Faridabad
Loren Goldner, March 1998: Summary of important struggles in Faridabad in 1980s and 1990s

* Some Agitation in Faridabad
FMS, September 1983: Short news items on struggles in various companies (Biko Engineering, East India Textile Mill, Atul Glas, Usha Spinning Mills, JMA)

* Some Agitation in Faridabad II
FMS, October 1987: Short news items on struggles in various companies (HYDERABAD ASBESTOS LTD., Nukem Plastics, Autopin, Bombay Rubber, Metal Box, Escorts Anciliary, East India Textile Mill)

Escorts

* Escorts Intro
In 1980s Escorts was one of the ten biggest manufacturing companies in India. The Faridabad plants employed over 20,000 permanent workers, manufacturing tractors, motor-cycles, parts for the railways etc.

* “Interview with President of All Escorts Employees’ Union, Subhash Sethi”
by Journal of the Marxist Workers’ Tendency of the African National Congress (October 1981): Union leader who helped enforcing productivity scheme at Escorts portrays himself as anti-Stalinist revolutionary

* FMS – May 1983
Summary on powergame between old Escorts management faction Nanda and Indira Gandhi backed Swaraj Paul, from an internationalist Marxist perspective

* FMS – June 1983
Update on struggle about the Escorts ‘take-over’ through Gandhi – Swaraj Paul

* FMS – October 1983
Old Escorts union leadership breaks up workers’ protest and attacks new trade union leadership

* FMS – November 1983
Analysis on how both Nanda and Swaraj Paul make use of different trade union factions

* FMS – January 1987
Critique of Escorts Union president Subhash Sethi’s intimidating leaflet to the Escorts workers

* FMS – March 1987
Report on new agreement which settles a 50 to 80 per cent work-load increase

* FMS – December 1988
Report on how productivity bonus scheme has lead to productivity increase and piling up of inventory

* FMS – April 1989
Report on new agreement, which contains new work-load increase

* FMS – July 1989
Escort Union’s president resigns after only 17 workers turn up for 1st of May celebration

* FMS – February 1990
Report on introduction of compulsory pension scheme

* FMS – April 1990
Report on temporary closure of motor-cycle plant and mass lay-offs of temporary workers

* FMS – May 1990
Article on workers refusing the new agreement proposed by management and union

* FMS – July 1990
Article on reduction of over-time payment and the word-games attached to it

* FMS – November 1992
Article on the results of the formal breaking up of Escorts into various companies

* FMS – February 1993
Article on over-capacities and lay-offs in both motorcycle and tractor plant

* Escorts economic situation in 1998
News on take-over of motor-cycle division by Yamaha, of piston production by Mahle etc.

Gedore Jhalani Tools

* Self-Activity of Wage-Workers: Gedore Jhalani Tools
Kamunist Kranti / FMS, 1998: Summary of over a decade of practical involvement in Gedore Jhalani Tools dispute in Faridabad

* Revolutionary Termites: Gedore Jhalani Tools
Loren Goldner, 1998: Shorter version of the kamunist Kranti / FMS summary

* FMS – March 1983
Summary of 9 months of dispute previous to the tool down strike, which started on 12th of February 1983. The strike happens on the background of the threat of automation and mass lay-offs

* FMS – April 1983
Report on conflict between CITU and workers after workers’ rejection of agreement on 20th of March 1983, CITU leadership first tries to break strike, then has to resign

* FMS – May 1983
Short news item on union leader’s ‘excuse’ for signed agreement on 1st of May protest

* FMS – June 1983
First attempts of management to further delay wage payment and to provoke workers

* FMS – September 1983
Management pays outstanding wages to supervisors and staff after on one-day strike

* FMS – October 1983
Report that union leaders held plan for redundancies secret from workers

* FMS – November 1983
Short criticism of article on Gedore dispute published in the paper “April Kranti”

* FMS – January 1984
After having not been paid for three months staff of all three plants went on strike

* FMS – February 1984
Quarrel over minor issues between CITU and INTUC factions undermine workers’ unity

* FMS – March 1984
Lock-out at the third plant as first step for redundancy drive. CITU thugs start resisting workers (followed by summary of events between 1984 and 1988)

* FMS – December 1988
After having laid off over 1,500 workers in 1985-85 management started to loot the company – automation machinery has not been introduced

* FMS – May 1989
Several months of outstanding wages amount to 8,000 Rs per worker – the union suggests that the workers accept the companies’ ‘motor-cycle’-deal

* FMS – January 1990
Union leadership misinform workers about new agreement, workers confront them when they find out

* FMS – February 1992
Management cuts 800 Rs from monthly wage of some workers – according to the new agreement they have not met the production target

* FMS – July 1992
More arbitrary wage cuts based on ‘new agreement’, workers write collective letter

* FMS – March 1993
Wildcat strike and gathering against the new agreement on 9th and 10th February

* “The Company They Keep A Report on Workers of Jhalani Tools Ltd., Faridabad”
by Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi (November 1997): Longer report about dispute over outstanding wages – Jhalani Tools has not paid its workers wages due for the period March of 1996 to September 1997

/// 1990s ///

* “Dedicated to the Memoirs of Shankar Guha Niyogi”
FMS, October 1991: Memorial after murder of working class leader and review of struggles in Dalli Rajahara mining region since mid-1970s

* Police Firing on Striking Workers
EPW no.25, 1998: Report on police attack on protesting workers of the Pashupati Spinning and Weaving Mill at Dharuhera, Haryana, on 19th of February 1998

* Self-Activity of Wage Workers
FMS, April 1998: Political reflection on workers’ self-activity and the pitfalls of representation after nearly two decades of working class life and struggle in Faridabad

—————————–

* Faridabad Workers’ Anger

EPW 1977, No. 28
Ramnath Narayanaswamy

FARIDABAD is an industrial township, 20 kilometres from Delhi, with over 1,000 small-scale industries and a working class population exceeding four lakhs. On June 30, all activity in the township came to a standstill. Thousands of factory workers downed their tools in protest against the death in police custody of Harnam Singh, a maintenance foreman, working in one of the leading concerns of the area. Towards the afternoon, over 5,000 workers proceeded in trucks to Delhi to seek the intervention of the Union home minister, Charan Singh. Among the demands made to the minister were: a judicial probe into the alleged murder of Harnam Singh, immediate arrest of an inspector of the Haryana Central Investigation Agency and other police officials responsible for Harnam Singh’s death and the arrest of the owners of the factory where the deceased was employed.
Feelings ran so high that violence had erupted in many parts of Faridabad and vehicles proceeding to the capital were stoned, looted and burnt. Harnam Singh, it is alleged, had been tortured to death by the police on the factory premises in the presence of the managing director, a sub-inspector of police, and some other senior company officials. His co-workers allege that he was also administered some chemical and later taken to the hospital where he was declared dead. Harman Singh had been employed with the concern for the last 13 years. He resigned on June 13, when ‘the factory owners registered a case of theft where he and some of his co-workers were listed as the likely suspects. He was called to the police station on June 20 and after some preliminary interrogation permitted to leave. He was again called to the police station at 5 p m on the same day.

Balbir Singh, Harnam Singh’s brother, was called by the police on June 27 to Ballabhgarh where the CIA interrogation cell is located. According to him the CIA inspector systematically tortured his brother. Harnam Singh’s hands were tied and the other end of the rope was passed over the ceiling fan in the room. The fan was then switched on while the inspector kept asking Harnam Singh to confess. Lighted cigarette butts were applied to different parts of Harnam Singh’s body. Balbir Singh saw his brother for the last time on June 29. Harnam Singh was taken to the factory premises. After a cup of tea at the reception office, the police party proceeded to the electro-plating shop, beside which there was a well into which the stolen goods had been allegedly dumped. Harnam Singh breathed his last in the electro-plating shop allegedly in the presence of the managing director, assistant general manager and police officials. A brief view of the body at the mortuary revealed extensive torture marks. No part of the body had been spared and, according to one informant, the soles of Harnam Singh’s feet had been pierced with nails and subsequently burnt. While at Faridabad this writer also met Balbir Singh, who fully confirmed the reports of the torture of his brother.

On July 1, workers of the Okhla industrial estate observed a day’s strike to protest against the brutality of the police and the factory management that caused the death of Harnam Singh. The decision to go on strike was taken by over 2,000 workers in Okhla and a condolence resolution was adopted. The atmosphere was tense with rising anger at the police who the workers allege, are hand in glove with the management. Armed guards had become a common sight in Faridabad and armed police had been posted at various strategic places in anticipation of further disturbances. The same morning, an armed mob of over 50 persons, broke into the premises of the Presolite factory on Mathura Road and attempted to set it on fire. The security and accounts offices were set ablaze and a number of company records were damaged by the blaze. Local rumour has it that the fire was deliberately caused by one section of the management concerned in the Harnam Singh case. The fire, it seemed, was aimed at the location of the records that may have implicated the management.

A police camp and a special control room has been set up in Faridabad. Armed guards are on constant vigil while armed police who have been urgently summoned from Rohtak, Ambala and Karnal have been posted on Mathura Road to prevent further disturbances.
The police have registered 13 cases of rioting so far and made 158 arrests. On July 2, workers at Okhla decided to continue the solidarity strike the next day as a gesture of support to the workers at the Presolite factory. Some of the factories had begun to open their shutters while the Presolite factory remained closed. The Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights has called a protest. The march will be sponsored by 12 trade unions and democratic rights organisations and will condemn the high-handedness of the police in the Harnam Singh case and also protest against the firing in the Dalli-Rajahara mines in Madhya Pradesh on June 3. Efforts are also being made to secure the release of workers arrested under section 144 and to ensure that there is no victimisation. The Haryana government has announced a grant of Rs 5,000 to the bereaved family. An inquiry by a sessions judge into the incident has been ordered and the superintendent of police of Gurgaon has been transferred. An inspector of the Haryana Central Investigation Agency, who had been suspended on June 30, was later arrested in connection with the death of Harnam Singh.

* Capitalist Terror in Ghaziabad

S K Rao
EPW 1977, No.38

On the morning of September 7, Harig India, a machine tool factory located in Mohan Nagar near Ghaziabad, was the scene of a violent confrontation between workers and the management, in which two persons died, 76 were hurt and the factory was gutted by fire. The events leading up to this violent incident add up to a dismal story of murky methods and goondaism in management-worker relationships.

Harig India is a 16-year old plant manufacturing surface grinders, cylindrical grinders and other such machine tools. It employs about 128 workers, of whom about half are unskilled and semi-skilled. The semi-skilled and the unskilled workers, it is reported, get a monthly pay of Rs 200 to Rs 300, while the skilled workers get from Rs 300 to Rs 900.
The events of the 7th morning seem to be a direct culmination of the efforts by the management to prevent workers from voicing their long-felt grievances through legitimate trade union activity. The management, it is alleged, had brought in goondas to suppress the workers’ trade union, which resulted in these violent incidents.
Ramu Roy, the President of the Harig India Workers’ Union, says that none of the workers have got appointment letters or identity cards; and while provident deductions are made, the management refuses to give them receipts for it.
The workers of this factory formed a union in January 1977 before the Emergency was lifted. All the workers joined the union. After the Emergency was lifted, in June this union sought affiliation with CITU which has become the major trade union force in this area. CITU has managed to double its strength after the Emergency – its membership has gone up from about 10,000 before the Emergency to about 20,000 after the Emergency. During the Emergency and even before it, the other trade unions had lost much of their credibility because of their soft-pedalling of workers grievances. After the Emergency, the CITU, because of its militant advocacy of workers’ rights in the past and the favourable political climate, has emerged as the most important trade union in this area. And, precisely for this reason, the industrialists of this area, where about 100,000 workers are employed, have been resenting the growth of this trade union. They have been adopting various tactics to keep the labour servile and underpaid: very often, it is alleged, that several workers are employed under the contract labour system, which denies them the usual privileges which go with regular employment; and often even the recommendations of the engineering wage board are not implemented. To this day, it is said, the recommendations of the engineering wage board, made as long back as 1969-70 and which could make a difference of as much as Rs 90 and more in the monthly pay of workers, have not been implemented. The growth of the militant trade union, CITU, in these circumstances has caused much apprehension and anxiety among the employers in this area.

What happened at Harig India should be seen in this context. When the newly-formed factory union got affiliation with CITU and demanded recognition from the management, the management refused it. Not only that, the workers allege that the management set in motion a train of events which culminated in the violence of the 7th. On June 28, the Union presented a charter of demands including bonus payment, variable dearness allowance, house rent, cycle stand, canteen for the workers, right to casual leave and facilities for drinking water which had all been denied to them so far. The management, instead of accepting or negotiating these demands, brought in four new security guards who carried guns, kirpans, etc. and allegedly lounged about the place making threatening noises against workers. The workers allege that these new security guards were known goondas whom the management hired on a contract basis to suppress the trade union; they were to receive, it is said, Rs 50,000 as hush money, of which Rs 15,000 was paid in advance. Suraj Bhan Bharadwaj, the chief organiser of CITU in Ghaziabad area, has alleged that some of these new security guards were employed earlier by another firm, Bramac Suri (Pvt) Ltd., to break an 108-day old strike. The management of this factory denied this. At any rate, the allegation calls for investigation into the antecedents of these four people. It is also alleged by the AITUC leaders that these same people were employed by Harig India earlier to scare away some villagers from whom the land had been acquired by the UP government on which this factory is located. These allegations of unsavoury background of these new security guards has not yet been denied by the management through detailed clarification of their earlier careers. The police say that they are looking into the antecedents of these people but nothing has yet come up which denies these allegations of the workers.

The management then inducted these disputed characters onto the scene when the workers were presenting their charter of demands through CITU. Moreover, the workers allege, the management in an attempt to get rid of the activist workers started denying raw materials to the sections where they were working and eventually laid off eight workers on August 10. After this, the management says that there was a tool down strike on August 17, 18 and 22; the workers’ representatives deny this. The management in any case cut 7 days’ wages even for a single day’s strike. But before the workers discovered this on September 6 when the pay packet arrived, on August 30 the central office of CITU in Ghaziabad submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of UP through the District Magistrate Ansari, in which among other things they pointed out that some managements, including that of Harig India, had been employing goondas to terrorise workers and that the authorities should take immediate steps. Bharadwaj says that he had even told the Police Superintendent verbally that an Assistant Inspector of Police was seen to be very friendly with the alleged goondas-cum-guards of Harig India and that the SD had assured him that he would look into this immediately.

Then came September 6 when the workers discovered that a week’s wages had been cut from their pay for the alleged tool down strike which, even according to the management, had lasted only three days. The workers, considerably incensed by this, refused to take any pay at all. The workers, according to Bharadwaj, decided on a strike following this and were planning to give notice of this to the management the next day in due manner. The next morning, that is on the fateful 7th, about 10 workers reached the factory gate by 7.00 am to put up posters and raise slogans. The new security guards, who were amusing themselves in a restaurant opposite the factory, it is alleged, advanced towards the factory workers with their kirpans. This confrontation immediately attracted some other workers and passers nearby. As the crowd grew in size, some of the guards allegedly opened fire; the pellets hit the crowd. The injured, among whom were Veer Singh, Nareshan and Dharm Vir Choudhary, were immediately rushed to hospital which was two minutes away. By 7.30 am the Shahibabad Police were informed; the police did not, however, come immediately because they were held up on the way by a crowd of students who held up the buses. According to Press reports, the Ghaziabad Police were also informed by 7.45 am and one industrialist even claims to have sent his own vehicle to fetch them. But they too did not come immediately. It is reported that by the time the first police party arrived it was 9.00 am.

But by 9.00 am a large crowd gathered numbering thousands. What happened that morning is reported in several contradictory ways, with different parties claiming different versions to be true. The first newspaper reports say, however, that by the time the police arrived the guards were on the roof firing gunshots into the crowd. About 70 people were indeed injured by pellets and other wounds – a fact that is not denied by anyone. The police, it is said, finding that the guards were firing dangerously into the crowd, ordered them to come down; when the guards refused to come down, the police made their way onto the roof and fired at the guards – a fact which again is not denied by the police. The guards when then disarmed and brought down by fire ladders – for the building had been set afire already. The workers say that the guards themselves had set the building on fire as they retreated onto the roof in the face of the surging crowd to prevent it from getting nearer; the management denies this saying that the crowd set it on fire. In any case, the first newspaper reports say that the police after firing at the guards on the roof disarmed them and brought them down. As they were being taken away, the police say, the crowd by now enraged asked the police to hand over the guards to them. The police refused, but the crowd seized two of them, Harbhajan Singh, a foreman, and Jeet Singh, allegedly a guard and lynched them to death. This is the police version. The workers say that while it is true that the crowd hit at these two people, they were already dead by the time they were brought down from the roof by the police; they say that the police in fact lowered them by ropes after tying them up, which shows that they were already dead. One should say, however, that this fact – that these two persons were lowered down by ropes by the police from the roof – is not reported in the news reports on the first day. However, the subsequent post-mortem reports on these two bodies say that while Harbhajan Singh died of multiple injuries, including damage to the vital organs, Jeet Singh’s death was caused among other things by a gunshot wound. As none of the reports say that anyone in the crowd was seen using a gun, who exactly fired the shot at Jeet Singh remains a mistery, for the police say that while admittedly they had fired at the guards on the roof, it was not a wound from a shot fired by them which was found on Jeet Singh.
Thus two people were dead; about 70, including some among the police, were hurt by pellet or other wounds. The whole event has enraged the workers in the area so much that most of the workers went on a snap strike that day, culminating in a public meeting in which about 20,000 people participated. Since then, Section 144 was imposed and several arrests were made, including those of Veer Singh and Nareshan, two workers, who, according to the workers’ representatives, had been wounded by the pellets and been taken to the nearby hospital much before the police came after which the alleged lynching took place. The workers are now demanding a judicial enquiry and release of all the arrested.
(…)

* After CITU What?

EPW 1977, No.42
ANS

An uneasy feeling of betrayal by the present political leadership is spontaneously manifesting itself among militant sections of the working class in and around the Capital. A great deal of the resentment bottled up during the Emergency, and quiescent for a period after, has begun to boil over in the manner witnessed at Faridabad in July and Ghaziabad last month.
For a brief period it was possible to argue that the ‘labour unrest’ was part of the post-Emergency euphoria. Not so any longer, as the frequent clashes in Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Sahibabad will testify. The cry for reinstatement of those sacked during the Emergency and restoration of rights and privileges is gradually giving way to resentment against the present “democratic excesses”, such as the UP government’s decision to ban strikes in a number of industrial units (private as well as public sector), the partiality of the Haryana police towards owners in Faridabad and the use of hired thugs by industrialists to terrorise workers at Pilakhua-Ghaziabad and Mohan Nagar.

The trade union movement in this region is itself in a state of flux. The unions have till now existed on the explicit understanding that the state had the right to formulate laws for all sections of society. Union struggles have, at their highest stage, been directed against particular laws and have not been part of a general struggle to recreate society itself. With the increasing inability of the unions to influence the government even as ‘pressure groups’ on behalf of labour, this role of the trade unions is being called into question by labour militants. Outside of the wage demands, there is a widening tendency for workers to “take the law into their own hands”. Trade unionists are forgotten, indeed they remain discreet bystanders, in direct confrontations between workers and managements. They often enter the scene after the event. In a confrontation between workers and some hired thugs in the pay of some Hapur industrialists in July, for instance, it fell upon local union leaders to play the role of “harvest brokers” to placate a 500-strong band of irate lathi-wielding workers. Similar confrontations have been reported from Pilakhua and Sonepat as well.
The major recent confrontations in Faridabad and Mohan Nagar (Ghaziabad) highlight this dichotomy between working class struggles and the trade union movement. At Faridabad, the confrontations reached the stage of an open battle against the government with the police emerging on the side of the owners. The entire working class upsurge at Faridabad in July had an element of spontaneity. Even the call for a general strike in Faridabad and neighbouring Badarpur came from the workers with the trade unionists lamely following behind. Indeed, most of the unions, including those of the left, were caught on the wrong foot. When irate workers stormed the Prostolite factory and set it on fire, the unionists were beseeching the workers not to destroy “national property”. Some unions, including those of the left, branded the destruction as the handiwork of outside saboteurs, thus disowning the working class they claimed to represent. It was only after workers in Badarpur joined the struggle that the unionists “rose to the occasion” by issuing statements of support and sympathy. They soon even claimed responsibility for a “successful general strike” which was not their doing.

At Mohan Nagar, resentment against the use of hired thugs by the managements had been building up since the early 1970s. Hired thugs are not new. The Emergency merely intensified such forms of coercion and the post-Emergency period has brought no let-up. Before the Harig India incident of September 8 (EPW, September 17, pp 1635-36), several other units had used thugs to break workers’ actions. A major textile plant in Modinagar nearby employed as many as 250 armed men to break up a strike which had been banned by the UP government a few days earlier.
When the hired goons of Harig India allegedly began firing on the workers, neither the trade unionists nor the police were much in evidence. The unit leader, Ramu Roy, was present, but he appeared to have very little to do with the developments. Once again the workers had reacted spontaneously. The general strike by workers, the processions and wearing of black arm-bands were decisions taken by the workers with the unionists endorsing them belatedly.
The present writer recalls a rather amusing meeting shortly after with an AITUC leader in the posh air-conditioned offices of a major liquor magnate in the neighbourhood. After some exchanges of compliments between the union leader and the industrialist, the former drew attention to the failure of the police to arrive on time and the resultant “sad loss of national property” (the factory was burnt by the workers). The union leader added, “there is no discipline left after the Emergency”.

Middle level trade union functionaries have had to face some difficult situations. One such left wing functionary in Faridabad was assaulted in early August by a 4,000 strong band of textile workers. The leadership of the union classified the event as a “plot” hatched by right-wing elements. The issue, however, goes much deeper than a right wing left wing confrontation and the hatching of “plots”, for, if there had been no initial resentment, it would have been difficult for agent provocateurs to forment a “plot” among workers who till the other day had enthusiastically accepted the leadership of the very unionist they later assaulted. The workers alleged that the assaulted unionist had been responsible for the arrest of numerous worker militants during the Emergency and was even in the pay of the mill management.

All this is not to say that the established central trade unions in the area are all on the wane. A shift is taking place. The INTUC and the AITUC are yielding place, mainly to the CITU – the fastest growing union in the area. In a few months, the CITU has taken over leadership of at least 70 units in the Ghaziabad area, creating alarm in political circles in UP. In fact there is every evidence of a concerted political drive by the UP and Haryana government to project the BMS (affiliated to the erstwhile Jan Sangh) and to stem the CITU advance.
Such shifts in alignment must, however, be viewed as temporary phenomena. The inability of trade unions to speak for labour as a whole is compounded by the fact that at no time does the total union membership of registered unions exceed 25 per cent of the total organised work force. The “peak periods” of trade union membership in the organised sector in recent times were in 1966 and 1971 when there were 4.08 million and 4.37 million union members (in central unions) out of an organised work force of 16.8 million and 17.49 million, respectively. If one were to take the unorganised sector, including the more than 100 million landless agricultural labourers into account, the performance of the trade unions would be seen to be pathetic. This trade union vacuum is especially felt in areas like Sahibabad, a fast developing industrial area in Ghaziabad district, and Hapur, a major foodgrain mandi in UP and also an expanding industrial town, both of which attract large numbers of seasonal labour from rural areas during slack periods in agriculture.

While all the central trade unions are, in one way or the other, linked to various political parties, the membership criteria is quite unambiguously non-political. Confronted by a wider choice of unions, labourers either continue to stick to the status quo or, if the present union should badly fail them, cynically shift over to the most likely to deliver the goods. Thus unions attached to the party in power may be preferred sometimes purely on the ground that demands made through them are more likely to be viewed favourably. The INTUC, for instance, registered a spectacular rise of 13 per cent in membership between 1975-76 and 1976-77 at the height of the Emergency. The AITUC and the HMS, on the other hand, registered increase of 3 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively in 1967-68 to 1968-69 which also saw the emergence of numerous united front governments all over the country. In this same period, INTUC membership fell by 8 per cent.
In this situation the failure of the central trade unions reflect not so much in the total decline in union membership as in their inability to induct new members (not yet unionised) into the sphere of union activity in keeping with the rising labour population. In and around the Union Territory of Delhi, such a situation has led to the growth, albeit still small, of ‘internal’ unions and of what are referred to as ‘Syndicalist’ tendencies on the part of the working class.
Another factor which is gradually becoming irrelevant are the ‘alternatives’ placed before the working class in the form of various unions. By now the organised sections of workers in Faridabad and Ghaziabad have gone through the whole gamut of unions and the sole ‘alternative’ left is the CITU. At each point of time, the shift has been leftwards to more militant unions, but disillusionment also has come faster. As Bhaskar, a militant worker in an oil mill in Ghaziabad said quite cynically, “they are all the same. The CITU talks of working class unity here while the CPI(M), its political leadership assures industrialists in Bengal that gheraos will not be tolerated. Leaders of the 1974 railway strike are ministers today and the same bonus demands of railway workers made then are no longer justifiable today. Such empty talk will not fill our stomachs.” Which still leaves us with the question, “After CITU what?”

* Anti-Worker Offensive in Haryana

EPW 1978, No.11

(…)
Since 1967 when the first united front government was formed in West Bengal followed by a spate of working class protest demonstrations, about 300 industrial units have shifted to the Haryana region from that state. One of the attractions in north India at the time was the ready availability on unorganised labour who were still unaware of the rights they enjoyed under the existing labour, and could therefore be made to work on subsistence wages.
But “the wind will not cease even if the trees want to rest”. Attempts to organise the workers into unions soon brought trade unionists into a direct confrontation with the employers. In 1973, during troubles at the Gedore Tools factory in Faridabad, a workers’ procession led by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions was fired upon by the police, and one worker was killed. Soon after this, a strike in the Usha Spinning mill fizzled out after police brutality and hunger had forced the workers to return to work without winning and concessions from their employers.
With the declaration of the Emergency, it became evident that labour in Haryana was more than ever at the mercy of the employer. The CITU was virtually banned since it was not allowed to function openly. The Trade Union Co-ordination Council consisting of CITU and AITUC, set up before the Emergency, became defunct.

Extreme Exploitation

A brief look at the working conditions in the industries in Haryana would reveal the extent of exploitation. Of the 100,000 odd workers in the area, more than half are unorganised. Although the minimum monthly wage fixed by the Haryana government is Rs 170, a large number of workers, particularly women, receive only Rs 70 to Rs 80 a month. It should be remembered that as far back as 1957, the 15th Labour Tripartite Conference held that a monthly wage of Rs 100 should be the minimum for a family of four. According to the present price index, trade unionists estimate, the minimum should be raised to Rs 350.
Quite a number of workers employed by the industries are what is known as “contract labourers”. They are not entitled to any casual or earned leave or any other facilities like provident fund. The employers’ rule of ‘hire-and-fire’ decides their working conditions. As soon as the Emergency was lifted, the accumulated grievances of the workers broke out into spontaneous protest demonstrations and charters of demands. Owners of at least 100 factories at the moment are facing charters of demand from their workers who mainly want the implementation of the minimum wages act and an end to contract labour and other unfair practices. (…)

Use of ‘Security Guards’

The industrialists of Faridabad, Ballabhgarh, Ghaziabad and other areas of Haryana have indeed begun to behave like the early American bourgeoisie. The latest feature of their labour policy is to hire so-called security guards to crush unions. One is reminded of the notorious US detective agencies – Pinkerton, Burns, Corporations Auxiliary Company – whose services were bought by American business firms to spy on employees’ associations, wreck them when they secured a foothold and destroy them when they tried out their strength. (…)
Something of the same sort is happening today in Haryana. The fact that some industrialists were maintaining a private army of their own to deal with recalcitrant workers came to light in October 1977 when ‘security guards’ shot down workers at the Harrig India factory in Faridabad. Since then the news of such mercenaries employed by several industrialists have been pouring in. The incidents at Auto Pins factory in Faridabad (on February 15) were sparked off by attacks of these ‘security guards’ hired by the owner on workers who were demanding a restoration of their wage-cut. According to later police inquiries, it was found that at least three of the 17 security guards were notorious criminals of Alwar. The Deputy Superintendent of Police of Haryana did not rule out the possibility of the remaining 14 having criminal records elsewhere.

That the owner of Auto Pins factory has been maintaining these guards on his pay roll for quite a number of years was revealed recently through the leakage of an old letter written by a fellow industrialist to another industrialist in Haryana. Piqued by abuses hurled by these guards when he came to attend a Rotary Club meeting at Faridabad, the writer of the letter dated November 22, 1974 complained that a “heinous atmosphere was being created by Mr Avtar Singh [owner of Auto Pins] and added: “25 to 30 goondas hired from Alwar have been retained by his group of industries and spread over the various associate concerns of M/s Auto Pins to be utilised as a terror at every eventual occasion to harras and horrify me”.
Avtar Singh has apparently given a lead to other industrialists in Haryana. It is estimated that as many as 15 agencies – the Indian counterparts of Pinkertons and Burns – are doing roaring business in recruiting and supplying ‘security guards’ to factory owners. The majority of these guards are recruited from professional criminals, and lumpen-proletariat from Muzaffarnagar and Alwar.

Pro-Employer Role of Government

The events at the Indian Dyes Chemical Organisation in Sunepta, which took place a few days before Auto Pins incidents, reveal not only the same pattern of hiring mercenaries to crush unions, but also the pro-employer role of the Haryana state government and the unfortunate contradiction between the unemployed and the organised labour force which is exploited by the employers. The management of the IDCO at first tried to prevent the workers from forming any union, notwithstanding which the CITU managed to organise a union and launch a strike demanding among other things implementation of the minimum wages act in August 1977. The then Haryana minister for Labour, Sushma Swaraj, asked the company to pay Rs 100 to each worker, which the company refused to do. Soon after this Sushma Swaraj was replaced by a new labour minister, Satwir Singh Mullik, who declared the strike illegal. The factory owners in the meantime succeeded in bringing in some villagers from nearby areas to replace the striking workers, who began a ‘dharna’ in front of the factory gates. On February 11 this year, the company director arrived on the scene and his ‘security guards’ demolished the workers’ tents and fired upon the workers killing a CITU office-bearer of the union.
There is a strong suspicion among many in Haryana that some of the leading members of the state cabinet have personal stakes in the industries, which explains the attitude of the state government. It is rumoured that the son of the labour minister is connected with agents who supply coal to the industry. The Home Minister, Mangal Sain, is reported to have shares in Auto Pins Ltd.
But it seems that the involvement of the politicians with the industrialists extends further up. When a calling attetion motion on the Haryana incidents was put up at the Rajya Sabha on February 21, the minister of state for labour, Ram Kripal Sinha, told the house that the law and order situation in Haryana was the responsibility of the state government and it would be desirable to leave it to the government of Haryana to sort it out.

False Propaganda

Utterances by various Central and State Ministers indicate that the authorities are going to be quite tough handling working class movements. To befuddle the public and alienate them from the workers, they are already harping on the theme of inter-union intra-union rivalries are the reasons for the industrial unrest. The President of the Employers’ Federation of India in a recent communication to the Union Minister has already given this cue which is likely to be followed by government spokesmen when called upon to inform the public about the growing labour troubles.
The facts of the cases in Haryana however contradict the version of the management. Also the Jan Sangh labour wing, the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and the Reddy Congress front, National Labour Organisation (NLO), are trying to make inroads into the industrial scene, they are still insignificant forces and the CPI(M)-dominated CITU is considered to be the main threat by the employers, some of whom have been known to have urged workers to join any union except the CITU. CITU spokesmen challenged the authorities to cite any single instance of clashes between their unions and BMS or NLO unions, and reject the management propaganda of inter-union clashes as causes for disturbances.
But it appears by default the CITU is assuming a political importance which is in no way commensurate with its organised strength in Haryana. By their own admission, the CITU has not yet been able to set up unions in the majority of the factories in the area, although they claim to be receiving invitations from workers from various units. But lack of organisers and a desire to concentrate on a few important units are probably the main two factors behind their present strategy.

Employers’ Calculations

The employers however are calculating on a long-term basis. The sudden surge of spontaneous militancy among the workers may force the hands of CITU or other trade unions to stage movements on demands like implementations of awards which the employers have been able to ignore all these years. In 1967 and 1969 movements on similar demands in West Bengal forced them to shift to unexploited areas like Haryana, Punjab or Uttar Pradesh. In 1978 however few such untapped areas are left. Although statistically industrial relations in 1977 was only marginally worse than that in 1976 (from January to October 1977 11.2 million mandays were lost on account of work stoppages against 10.2 million mandays for the corresponding period in 1976), the number of such stoppages increased in almost all the major states in India.
Such being the case, from the employers’ point of view, any manifestation of workers’ protest, however embryonic it might be, will have to be nipped in the bud. This explains the ruthless behaviour of the industrialists in Haryana.
It would be worth observing how in such a situation the CITU and other Leftist trade unions shape their strategy and tactics. The conventional form of struggle like ‘dharnas’, sit-down or tool-down strikes, or long-drawn-out strikes can sometimes be effective depending on the vulnerability of the employers and the tenacity of the workers.
(…)

* Industrial Repression at Faridabad

EPW, 1978
Ramnath Narayanswamy

VIOLENT clashes between management and labour have always characterised Faridabad, the industrial township of Haryana. On February 16, over 120 striking workers and 17 security guards of the Auto-Pin (India) were arrested in the evening on charges of rioting and arson. Over 17 people had sustained injuries – some of them, injuries on the chest and shoulders, caused by brickbats and lathis. The arrested were remanded into judicial custody by the sub-divisional magistrate at Ballabgarh. It is expected that AITUC and CITU will launch a series of demonstrations and gate-meetings to protest against the increasing industrial repression let loose by the managements of the leading concerns in Faridabad.

Management victimisation, non-payment of allowances, prevention of workers from forming unions, and low wages have continued to be the main grievance, of the workers in Faridabad. Refusal by managements to negotiate the question of forming unions has led to innumerable gate-meetings, tool-down strikes, and other forms of protest. Workers allege that it is common practice among concerns who have not allowed a union to be formed to employ ‘goondas’ to meet labour protest. The workers also allege that the police assiduously avoid interfering with the activities of the ‘management goondas’ who – well-armed with knives and in some cases even guns – are the primary forces of industrial repression against workers.

The February 16 incident centered around the strike which the workers of the Auto-Pin (India)- were waging against the company. Auto-Pin (India) manufactures leaf springs and bodies for tractors and defence vehicles. The workers were demanding negotiations on a charter of demands relating to increase in wages, bonus, incentives, and house rent.
Security guards (the workers allege they were ‘goondas’) were employed by the managing director about a fortnight earlier because he was apprehending “definite trouble”. It is significant that according to the managing director he had no knowledge of the past records of the ‘security men’ he employed where they came from. According to the workers, about three or four days before the strike began, they had begun to brandish knives and guns.

The trouble began when the tent in which the factory workers were lodged was ripped down at the orders of the management. When the workers resisted, the ‘security guards’ lathicharged the workers. The story was later confirmed by eye-witnesses who were present during the exchange between the workers and the ‘security guards’. The workers’ strength swelled, and the retaliation began when bricks were hurled at those inside the factory. Meanwhile brickbats continued to be thrown from inside the factory. How they got there remains unexplained. The workers insist that a day earlier they had been stored there by the management. There was an exchange of brickbats between the striking workers and those inside the factory. Several vehicles parked outside the factory premises were burnt and the windscreens of the cars smashed. The factory glass panes were also smashed, and the premises bore signs of wreckage.

The management has circulated a story that it was provocation by the workers that led to the violence on both sides. According to them, management personnel were prevented from entering the premises and the ‘security guards’ were “forced to act” when the striking workers refused entry to the management personnel and attempted to enter the premises.
When this writer visited the factory premises, there were a dozen armed policemen at the factory gate. According to some workers from the neighbouring concerns, the management was responsible for the destruction of the vehicles parked outside the factory, which they had caused in an attempt to rest the blame on the striking workers. According to both trade union leaders and workers, the employment of ‘goondas’ under the guise of security men by the management has become common practice in Faridabad. These ‘goondas’ are fully armed, and play a prominent role in breaking unions where unions exist, in preventing their formation. The managements employ them particularly when strikes are in progress.

According to the trade union leaders, the police in Faridabad turn a blind eye to the activities of the goondas even when acts of violence by them are brought to their notice. According to Sharms, secretary of the Faridabad unit of the CITU, three of the security guards of Auto Pin were well known thugs of Alwar. Consequently, the enormous arms build-up in the concerns at Faridabad and their free use by the goondas in times of industrial tension is not at all surprising. It is significant, too, that reportedly in the aftermath of the arrests at Auto Pin the security guards were released on bail whereas the 120 striking workers were not.
Indeed, incidents of victimisation, lay-offs, and management-hired goonda violence, have been increasing steadily over the recent past. Several instances can be cited. Among the most prominent of them was the case of Shiv Sharan, a worker, who was attacked en masse bv over 60 armed men at his residence in Ballabgarh. He was soon bullet-ridden, and succumbed to his injuries in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. Among the others shot, were his wife, his 17-year-old daughter, his 80-year-old mother, and over 20 other workers of the same locality. In the midst of such violence, the Haryana Home Minister, Mangal Sein, has declared that the law and order situation was completely under control. He also added that the government was in favour of trade unionism and assertion of workers’ rights, but that the government would not ‘allow anyone to take the law into his own hands’. According to the honourable minister, the labour unrest was due to “elements that want to misuse the restoration of democracy”.

* After the Massacre of Workers of Dalli Rajhara Mines

EPW no.24, 1977
N K Singh

[We suggest as further reading the article by FMS, which was published after the murder of Niyogi in 1991 - see section on 1990s]

KILL ordinary workers fighting for their just demands and dub them Naxalites. The police firing on the striking workers of the Dilli-Rajahara mines, in which ten persons, including a woman and two children, were killed and at least 15 others received bullet injuries, smacks of a carefully-planned plot.

On June 2, the president of the recognised union of the mines, a CPI leader, tells a press conference that Naxalites have ‘struck a reign of terror’ in the area. Acting quickly, the same night the police goes to arrest the ‘Naxalite leader’, Shanker Guha Niyogi, who had been making allegedly ‘derogatory speeches’ and ‘instigating’ the workers to continue their agitation. Niyogi is the leader of a union, Chhatisgarh Shramik Sangh, which is not recognised by the Bhilai steel plant authorities who own the mines. Some two to three thousand workers assemble and resist the arrest of their leader.

They ‘turn violent’. The police ‘resorts to firing’. So runs the official story. When the first reports of the massacre arrive on the Samachar printer, it is given out that three workers had been killed. After some time comes another report, putting the number of the dead at five. Then comes a report that police had opened fire a second time, at noon, to ‘rescue’ some police-men allegedly held captive by the workers who were demanding the release of Niyogi. The toll goes up to seven. This time the report adds that among those killed were some police-men as well. By late night the figure mounts to nine. Samachar, which had failed to mention that among those killed were a woman and a 12-year-old boy, withdraws its earlier report that some policemen were in the casualty list. “No policeman was killed”, it now says. Next day yet another body of a 12-year-old boy is ‘discovered’ from the place where the firing took place, now under curfew. It is now disclosed that apart from the leader of the Chhatisgarh Shramik Sangh, Shanker Guha Niyogi, five other persons have been arrested; that the police are combing the area for more union leaders who are alleged to be Naxalites; however, the law and order situation was under control. Peace at last!

The Dilli-Rajahara iron ore mines in Durg district are the captive mines of the nearby Bhilai steel plant. While the, mechanised section of the mines is run departmentally, the manually-operated units are run by contractors, violating the government directive, issued way back in 1971, to take over all such units where the work was of a permanent nature. There is a big difference between the wages and service conditions of workers employed by the Bhilai steel plant and of those employed by the private contractors. The contractors, it is an open secret, resort to underhand methods and use of force they employ a private army of armed goondas – to suppress the restive workers. Since almost all the contractors are Congressmen, political patronage was never lacking. Coupled with the vested interest developed by the officials in the contract labour system, the political influence of the powerful contractors had thwarted all the attempts of the workers to force the government to implement its own six-year-old decision to abolish the contract labour system. The recognised AITUC union, the Samyukta Khadan Mazdoor Sangh, was only too happy’ to play ball with the contractors and the Bhilai Steel plant managenment. Shanker Guha Niyogi, today’s much-maligned Naxalite’, entered the labour force in the area as an ordinary mine-worker. Most of the labourers employed through contractors are local people, while the better-paid jobs in the mechanised mines have been cornered by outsiders. Niyogi took up the cause of the poorly-paid local workers and named his newly-formed union the Chhatisgarh Shramik Sangh. Although the union was not recognised by the management, Niyogi led many successful agitations and forced the contractors to accept a number of long-pending demands of the workers. Workers began to desert the recognised but inactive AITUC union and join Niyogi’s non-recognised but active union. At this point the authorities discovered that Niyogi was a ‘Naxalite’ and decided that his proper place was behind bars.

So in 1970 he was arrested and sent to prison, much to the relief of the contractors, the officials and the AITUC leaders. It was not till the Lok Sabha elections were announced in February this year that he was released along with other political prisoners. As was to be expected, during the Emergency the AITUC union had turned into a shameless lackey of the management. There was very strong discontentment among the workers and as soon as Niyogi reappeared on the scene a majority of the workers shifted their allegiance to the Chhatisgarh Shramik Sangh, which gave a call for strike in support of its demand for abolition of the contract labour system, payment of bonus, and allied issues. The two-week long strike was a complete success.

What was the AITUC’ attitude to this success of the workers? Homi Daji (1), general secretary of the Madhya Pradesh AITUC, declared that “Most of their [the workers'] demands were unrealistic, which could not be met”. Talking to this writer a couple of days after the Rajahara firing, which he condemned like all the other political leaders by issuing a statement, Daji said that Niyogi and his men ran a trade union in “a non-trade union manner”.”‘They soon started attacking our workers”, he alleged. On May 30, the workers led by Niyogi gheraoed the Assistant Labour Commissioner, the agent of the mines and three of the contractors for 27 hours. They were freed after police intervention. All these officials and the contractors lodged a complaint with the police that they were made to sign an agreement conceding the workers’ demands under duress. On May 31, the workers allegedly attacked the AITUC office and burnt its flag.

On June 1, the Chhatisgarh Shramik Sangh launched a strike, completely successful again. The contractors and the AITUC leaders were desperate. The CPI addressed a press conference at Raipuir urging the authorities to intervene in the ‘explosive situation’. The district administration duly intervened and arrested Niyogi and his associates for making “inflammatory speeches – and inciting the workers”. The arrests led to the massacre of Itajahata. The ^state government has ordered a judicial enquirv into the incident. The enquiry commission is expected to determine whether the firing was warranted or whether it could have been averted by more tactful handling of the situation. Was there really any danger to the lives of the six policemen gheraoed by the workers, as alleged by the authorities? However, the facts speak for themselves. Two among those killed by the police were children. Among the 18 hospitalised persons 15 are workers. And all the 15, including two women, have received bullet injuries. The condition of two of the injured workers is said to be critical. Meanwhile, the workers’ strike continues.

(1)

http://www.mail-archive.com/marxist-leninist-list@lists.econ.utah.edu/msg09000.html

After the Massacre

EPW no.25, 1977
N K Singh

ALTHOUGH the poor workers of the Dalli-Rajahara mines are literally starving as they have not received their wages for the last three weeks, their two-week old strike continues. And so does the curfew, clamped on June 3, when the police firing on agitating workers resulted in the death of ten persons, including a woman and two children, according to official figures. The toll went up to 11 later when one of the 15 wounded workers succumbed to bullet injuries in hospital. The situation in Rajahara is peaceful, says the government. As anyone can find out for himself, this is the peace of the graveyard. The sirens are silent. The heavy machines at the mining site are silent. Many workers have fled to the nearby villages to avoid harassment by the police and their dark and dingy huts, which are an apology for dwellings, are quiet. The deserted roads and markets of the curfew-clamped township are silent. A pall of gloom hangs over this mining colony of some 11,000 workers.

Considerate as the district administration is, it asked a local merchant to arrange for free rations for the starving families. The merchant promptly agreed and later reported full compliance with the request. Pleased with themselves, the authorities praised the merchant for his magnanimity. And of course the matter received wide publicity in the local press. A check with the recipients, however, later revealed that none had been given the full quantity of five kgs each of rice, one kg of pulses, wheat flour, potatoes and onions. In fact, a few workers had received only just one kg each of rice, two potatoes and two onions. No one in Rajahara is prepared to believe the authorities’ claim that only ten workers were killed in the two police firings. “Anyone who received bullet injury was picked up by the police”, said Gaya Ram, vice-president of the militant Chhattisgarh Shramik Sangh, whose office in the mazdoor basti was the starting point of the trouble. According to the Bhopal correspondent of the Times of India who visited the spot a week after the incident, there had been “apparently some random shooting. A bullet hit the cement wall of a tank far away from the scene of the trouble”. Some of the workers said there had been no warning, while others said that they had been given three minutes to ‘clear out’ before firing was resorted to for the second time at noon on June 3. A large number of bodies, the workers allege, were taken away in trucks soon after the second firing. However, as many of the workers have fled to the nearby villages in panic, the actual number of deaths can be assessed only after the curfew is lifted and all the labourers return. The police contention is that they resorted to firing both the times only when the workers held some policemen as hostages and refused to release them and “even tortured them”. The workers maintain that they held some policemen as hostages only after, and not before, the first firing in which four of their men and a woman had been killed.

Gaya Ram recalls the moonlit dark night: “As the strike was continuing, we could not take any rest. That night [June 2-3] we were discussing our struggle, formulating the strategy for the future, at the union office. About four to five hundred workers were camping outside the office .. . When a strike is going on how can anyone go to sleep? At about 2.30 about three dozen police-men led by the district collector arrived in a vehicle and dragged Shanker Guha Niyogi outside the office. We protested. Meanwhile about five thousand people, including women and children assembled. They started throwing stones at the police party. The police burst tear-gas shells. And then, without any warning, they opened fire. When it was all over, we collected our dead and injured as well as the six policemen who were left behind in the melee by their colleagues. They had taken Niyogi away. So we said, first release Niyogi and only then shall we release the six policemen. They did not release Niyogi and so we did not release the policemen. Now they say that we tortured the hostages, that two of them nearly died of thirst as drinking water was refused to them. In fact, the authorities had themselves cut off our water supply to make us surrender. Now tell us, when we ourselves had no water to drink, how could we give it to them? The workers were very angry, of course. Who would not be when their comrades and their womenfolk and children are killed just because they protested against an obviously illegal step of the police? Was not the arrest made to break our strike? And when they opened fire the second time in the noon of June 3, it was sudden, without any warning.”

Out of the total working force of 11,000, about 3,000 departmental labourers employed. by the Bhilai steel plant get Rs 9.80 per day. Under the rules, those hired through the contractors or the labour co-operatives should also receive the same wages. But they are paid only Rs 4.50 per day. And of course they are denied the other facilities available to the departmental workers. “I had never heard of fall-back’ wages till Niyogi told me about it recently”, said a worker working in these mines for the past eight years. The Bhilai steel plant has been patently guilty of doing nothing all these years to remove the causes of squalor and subhuman living conditions of the workers. For instance, the water mains run right through the cluster of hutments, but there is no water available for the workers. There is just one tap through which some water trickles for half-an-hour in the morning and evening for some 4,000 residents. The immediate demand of the workers is for an increase in the pre-monsoon allowance for repair of their huts (from Rs 20 to Rs 100), payment of ‘fall-back’ wages for enforced idleness during the rainy season and bonus comparable to that given to regular mine-workers of the Bhilai steel plant. The bonus had been reduced from Rs 308 to Rs 70 during the Emergency.

Victory for Workers

EPW no.28, 1977
N K Singh

THE martyrdom of the 12 workers of the Dalli-Rajahara iron ore mines killed in police firings on June 2 and 3 has not been in vain. The striking workers of the mines have emerged victorious in their struggle against the contractors, the co-operative tycoons, the top brass of the Bhilai steel plant and the unscrupulous leaders of the ‘recognised’ trade union – whose unholy alliance had thwarted the implementation of the recommendations of the iron ore wage board. The workers’ demands for bonus, fall-back wages and increase in the pre-monsoon allowance for repair of their huts have been conceded. The workers will receive a bonus of Rs 100 each – to be shared equally by the Bhilai steel plant and the contractors – and the hut-repair allowance has been raised from Rs 20 to Rs 100. A committee consisting of, among others, workers’ representatives has been constituted to fix the norms for fall-back wages for enforced idleness at work-sites. What is more significant, however, is that the agreement was reached with the non-recognised union, the Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh, whose leadership is drawn from the ranks of the workers themselves.

The recognised AITUC union was by-passed by the authorities, in effect conceding the workers’ plea that it had lost its representative character after the formation of the new union. With the settlement and the calling off of the strike, normalcy has been restored and the small industrial town-ship near Bhilai looks peaceful on the surface. But there was tension in the air still when this correspondent visited the area in the last week of June. The workers are particularly agitated over the fact that their leader, Shanker Guha Niyogi, whose arrest had sparked off the trouble, had not been released as yet, though there are no specific charges against him. Workers allege that the administration is using delaying tactics to prevent his release. Although Niyogi has been arrested under section 151, which relates to a relatively minor offence, a bail of Rs 1 lakh has been allegedly demanded. The CPI(M) MP, Ahilya Rangnekar, had visited the area a few days earlier and there was expectation that CITU may use its good offices to get Niyogi released on bail. What shocked this correspondent during his visit to the scene of the firing was the discovery that officials are tampering with and destroying evidence of the brutality of the police. A water tank far away from the scene of the trouble had received bullet marks, as testified by the Times of India’s Bhopal correspondent who had visited the spot a week after the trouble, suggesting the random nature of the shooting that had taken place. However, when this correspondent visited the place he found the walls of the tank all plastered up. It is to be hoped that the judicial commission appointed to probe into the incident will not ignore these pointers. Though the collector and the police superintendent were both transferred in the wake of the institution of the judicial enquiry, they are reportedly on 40 days’ leave and continue to live at Durg, the district headquarters. It is widely feared that they may use their influence to tamper with evidence which goes against the administration.

What marks the Rajahara workers’ agitation is the emergence of a leader-ship from among the workers. All the office-bearers of the Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh, the newly-formed militant union, belong to the working class. This is in sharp contrast to the other trade unions functioning in the area, whose leadership is provided by professional trade unionists from the middle class. The only person with a middle class background in the new union is Shanker Guha Niyogi, but he has been working as a farm hand and ordinary mazdoor for the last 10 years. There is no dearth of second-rank leadership in the new union. When Niyogi was arrested after the June 2 firing, the workers carried on their struggle successfully till June 17, when the management had to climb down. Ordinary mine-hands participated in the negotiations held with the contractors, the Bhilai steel plant officials and the Labour Department’s representatives and pleaded their case.

Another significant development is the radical role played by women workers in the agitation. A large chunk of the total labour force consists of women, who have occupied their due place in the new union. Quite a few women are in the executive and one of them, Durga Bai, an illiterate worker, has the reputation of being an excellent orator. Women workers braved police bullets as much as their menfolks (one of the workers killed was a woman). Last but not the least, though the majority of workers are illiterate – a few local educated unemployed persons have joined their ranks of late – the level of their consciousness has to be seen to be believed. It is, however, not political consciousness – the ‘Naxalite’ bogey has been raised by the management and government officials to divert attention from the real issue which is the ruthless exploitation of the workers – but class consciousness. The workers have become aware not only of their exploitation and their rights but also of the hypocrisy of their ‘leadership’ and the power of a
united working class.

“We toil all day long, and they [the contractors] have built up empires… While we get bullets in reward for our hard labour, those babus sitting in the Bhilai offices get high salaries and the benefits”, one worker told me in the shanty office of the Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh in the mazdoor basti which was dripping all over with the first onslaught of the monsoon. Another worker remarked, “it is we who are the real makers of steel. If we stop work there would be no steel”. When I told a worker that Prakash Roy, general secretary of the All-India Khadam Mazdoor Sangh (AITUC), says that it was his union which had been fighting for the workers’ rights for the last two decades and had secured many facilities for them, the worker retorted: “Yes, we know all about that. He has worked so much for us. And that is why he seems to have developed a disease which can be treated only in Russia. Every time he falls ill – and that happens so often – he takes the flight to Russia … He has the gumption to say that he has worked for us! They have worked for no one but themselves. Have you seen their office building in the main market here? [It is a huge building, whose value is estimated at over Rs 1 lakh. All of them arrived penniless in this town, and now they have purchased lands in the nearby villages, move about on motor-cycles. Where has this money come from?"

Both the government officials and the Bhilai management are afraid of the new militancy of the workers. "These same workers used to be so peaceful", said a high police official who has been camping at Rajahara since the firing. Manoharlal Jain, a contractor of the Rajahara mines and the treasurer of the Durg District Congress Committee, echoed him and lamented, "hardly a few months back the workers here were such an obedient lot that we used to raise our hands like this [precious stones set in half-a-dozen gold rings glitter in the air as the pot-bellied businessman raises his hands in a gesture of mock-offence] and the workers would flee from the spot. But this time … this time, we just could not believe it: their fellow-workers were dead, bodies were lying all over the place, but it looked as if they had lost all sense of fear. Instead of fleeing from the spot and taking shelter they fought ding-dong battles with the police.” The wealthy contractor confided to me, “they are not the same old workers. They have lost regard for the sanctity of the malik-mazdoor relationship”. “You know”, he whispered, “now they even say that it is we [workers] who labour and the contractors enjoy the fruits of our labour … Have you ever heard of any such thing?” The contractors are worried over this transformation and they blame Shanker Guha Niyogi for it.

But what about the old times, and the old union? “They were good chaps. AITUC used to raise only reasonable demands. They respected the rules, procedures and labour laws”, said Manoharlal Jain. In fact, the contractors and the representatives of the management whom I met were all ga-ga over the role of the old union. A spokesman of the Dalli-Rajahara Mines and Transporters, a private firm owned by Anupchand Jain, a big-wig of the area, told me that it was wrong on the part of the labour department to have by-passed the AITUC union in arriving at the agreement with the workers. “They were a responsible lot.” Most of the contractors asked me, “have you met Prakash Roy and other AITUC leaders? You must meet them”. A visit to both Prakash Roy and his union colleagues at Rajahara proved rewarding. Photographs of Lenin and Rabindranath Tagore hang side by side in Prakash Roy’s modest house in a lower middle class locality of Rainandgaon. He admitted that most of the workers have joined the new union, but contended that “they were forced to do so: coercion was used”. I gently pointed out that may be the workers deserted his union because it was not active enough to protect their interests. This provoked the ageing, veteran trade union leader, “What else we could do? It is obligatory for the recognised union to negotiate with the management. We can take to agitation only when the negotiations fail. This is the pre-condition of the recognised union.”

Roy’s comrades at Rajahara echoed him. “We follow the Industrial Disputes Act … We have also gone on illegal strikes, but never for more than one day. And these people – they are totally irresponsible. Ever since the new union was formed, there has been a spate of wild-cat strikes, gheraos, intimidation of loyal [sic!] workers and what not.” There is an INTUC union also working in the field, though its membership is limited to the co-operative societies that the union is running. The co-operative societies running the mines have a reputation of being as ruthless in their exploitation of the workers as the contractors. A spokesman of the INTUC union told me, “the leadership of the workers has gone into wrong hands. Shanker Guha Niyogi does not want to run the Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh on established trade union lines”. The contractors agree. A memorandum prepared by them urges that the problem can be solved only by a “change in the leadership. A stronger, dedicated leadership is required”. But dedicated to whom?

Trade Unionism with a Difference

EPW no.29, 1977
N K Singh

SHANKER GUHA NIYOGI, leader of the ‘Naxalite’ union of Dalli-Rajahara mine workers, has alleged that the police tried to kill him after his arrest in the night of June 2-3. Niyogi – whose midnight arrest had led to police firings in which 12 workers were killed – has alleged that while being taken to the jail at the subdivisional headquarter of Balod, a police official accompanying him stopped the jeep in a jungle and told him, “if you want to escape, you may just slip away: only assure us that you would never again step into this area”. Niyogi says that he was not taken in by “the police trick”. “I know all about encounters and the killed-while-escaping stuff.” Obviously, Niyogi is a dangerous man for the contractors and the authorities. That is perhaps why he has not been released even a month after his arrest, although the ‘offence’ is a bailable one, under section 151 of the IPC. An impossible bail of Rs 1 lakh has been demanded and, of course, the poor workers of Dalli-Rajahara simply cannot manage it. Although at the time of his arrest it was given out that Niyogi had been arrested for “making inflammatory speeches and inciting the workers”, the officials have now discovered that “had we not arrested that man, they could have burnt the entire town the next day”. “We have definite information”, a high police official, who did not want to be named “in view of the judicial enquiry”, confided to me by way of justifying Niyogi’s apparently unjustified arrest.

In fact, the authorities, the contractors, and the CPI have painted such a picture of ‘Naxalite’ violence engulfing the whole area that, while entering the mazdoor basti at Rajahara, this correspondent had almost expected to be accosted by gun-toting guerillas. Instead, he was greeted by a stray dog, some sick workers, and the closed doors of the hut housing the ‘Naxalite’ union. All the workers had left for work, including those whose dear ones had died in the police firing. Mourning is a luxury which the workers cannot afford. After a long wait by me, the union leaders arrived. Exhausted with my encounter with simple workers, who did not know the difference between the prime minister and the chief minister, I tried to strike up a dialogue with the union leaders in Marxist jargon, but drew a blank. There were also no photographs of Mao or Naxalite slogans within miles of the union office. Shanker Guha Niyogi has become a household name in this industrial area of Chhattisgarh. Every one talks about him – many with reverence and af-
fection, and some with hatred and fear. But they all – contractors, police, administration, trade union leaders, and the people of Rajahara – seem to agree on two points: Niyogi is the undisputed leader of about 8,000 workers of Rajahara; and his honesty, integrity and dedication is beyond question. “You can buy every one of these trade union leaders here, but not Niyogi”, a police official told this correspondent at Rajahara. “Niyogi is made of different stuff”, agreed a contractor. “The new union was formed with the backing of the contractors to break the unity of the workers”, alleged an AITUC leader. “Do you mean to say that Niyogi was the contractors’ man?” “No, no, not Niyogi”, the trade unionist hastily added, “It is the other leaders of that union who are dishonest.” Onkar Jaiswal, a local journalist said, “I know all the union leaders of this town, but I had never noticed Niyogi’s presence till May 31, when he led a huge procession of workers to celebrate the acceptance of their demands after a 27-hour gherao of the contractors and the officials. It was the biggest procession in the history of Rajahara.”

Shanker Guha Niyogi denies that he is a ‘Naxalite’. “I have no connection with the CPI(ML) or any of the Naxalite groups. In fact, I violently disagree with them on the issue of trade unions”, said Niyogi in the first interview given by him to a newsman after his arrest. Tall, lean and darkish, the 28-year-old Niyogi, clad in a pair of not-very-clean white pajamas and shirt, was at first a little reluctant to talk – after all, I could well have been an intelligence man – and what he said was mostly about the exploitation of the workers and the complicity of the CPI union. But, gradually, he began to talk about his work among the working class and peasantry during the last one decade. His mission, Niyogi said, was to educate the working class and make them conscious of their rights. “Once they are conscious, nothing can stop them.” “Why talk about me? I am immaterial. A new wave of awareness is sweeping through the people. If I had not gone to Rajahara, they would have got some other leader.” Niyogi comes from a lower middle class family of West Bengal. He came to Durg, where his uncle lived at the time, in the early sixties for studies. Since then, he has identified himself with Chhattisgarh. Though there is a trace of the Bengali accent in his speech, he fluently speaks Hindi and Chhattisgarhi, the local dialect.

Owing to poverty, Niyogi completed his B Sc with difficulty, doing various odd jobs to maintain himself. As a student, he was actively associated with the student movements. He was the joint secretary of the student wing of the CPI. After his graduation, Niyogi plunged into revolutionary politics in 1966-67, the year of ‘spring thunder’ over India. He left the CPI(M) to join the newly-formed Co-ordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries. However, later he severed his connections with this splinter group of the CPI(M) too, unhappy with its stand on trade unionism – “they dubbed it as economism”. As a worker of the Bhilai steel plant, Niyogi helped organise the first militant trade union there – the blast furnace action committee. Soon, he was sacked from the plant on “security grounds”. His first arrest took place in 1968, when he started publishing a radical Hindi weekly from Jagdalpur, the heart of the adivasi belt. “Since then I have been arrested more than 20 times.” He has spent about five years in jail altogether, the longest term being 13 months during the Emergency.

Niyogi organised the workers of the Dai Tola mines, near Rajahara. He worked there as a daily, labourer, breaking stones in the quarry. “How can the workers treat you as their man, if you do not live as a worker, merge yourself with them, identify with their hopes and aspirations?” Niyogi also married a Chhattisgarhi mazdoor girl, Asha, working in the quarry. “She still works there.” At Dai Tola, as elsewhere in the area – “I know only about Chhattisgarh. I’ve worked in this region” the problem was the same. There was no honest trade union to protect the interests of the workers. Both the AITUC and the INTUC unions had become stooges of the management. They served the interests of the exploiter rather than the exploited. Niyogi first joined the AITUC union “all the workers were in their grip” and then, through dedicated work and persuasion, organised the workers under a new union. “It was not a difficult task. I was one among them, while the other leaders were outsiders, babu sahibs.” The contractors got worried over this new threat to their prosperity, and Niyogi was consequently arrested several times. Niyogi also tried to build up a peasant movement. He worked as a farm hand in Keri Jungata, a nearby village, and organised the agricultural labourers and landless peasants. “There is basically no difference between the peasants and the workers in the area. Both came from the same families. If the elder brother works in the farms, the younger one goes to the mines. If the father is a peasant, his son works as a miner to augment the family income.”

After the declaration of Emergency, there was a warrant of arrest under MISA for Niyogi. He managed to evade arrest for six months, but was then arrested and was released only at the time of the Lok Sabha election. Meanwhile, the workers of Dalli-Rajahara mines, dissatisfied with the agreement on bonus signed by their recognised trade union had started a spontaneous strike. The strike was also the product of grievances bottled up during the Emergency. The contractors and the trade union leaders thought that the disorganised movement would soon fizzle out. And so it did. On March 23, the workers ended their 19-day strike and signed an agreement for a bonus advance of Rs 50 as against Rs 70 earlier negotiated by the AITUC and the INTUC. Niyogi alleged that the workers were terrorised by the then Collector of Durg – now transferred after the institution of the judicial enquiry to sign this agreement. “He is known for his strong-armed tactics. Do you know, Durg ranked first in the country for the largest number of family planning operations performed? You can just imagine what he was like.”

Things changed radically when Niyogi was released and arrived on the scene. He organised the spontaneous movement of workers into a well-knit union. The contractors, who were initially happy at the recognised union losing its hold over the workers and the split among the workers, got seriously worried when almost all the 8,000 contract labourers joined the new union en bloc. The reason, Niyogi felt, was the same as in Dal Tola. The babu trade unionists had suddenly come into wealth. “What will illustrate the point better than the fact that many union men, like Jivan Mukherjee and Naseem, have left the party (CPI) to join the services of the contractors? The margin is so thin! The workers were becoming aware of this trend – the collusion of their ‘leaders’ with the management.” Niyogi maintains that he was arrested in order to break the morale of the workers, who were on strike at the time. He dismissed the allegation that the second firing in the noon of June 3 had become necessary because there was danger to the lives of the policemen held hostage by the workers. “Had they wanted to kill the policemen, they could have done it in the night, when five of their colleagues had already been killed in the firing.” The police were in a vindictive mood, enraged by the stone throwing of the workers. “All the injured workers have received bullet injuries – and that, too, above the waist.”

The Struggle Continues

EPW no.30, 1977
N K Singh

ON July 9 the pits of Dalli-Rajahara iron ore mines did not work because over 10,000 workers did not turn up. But they were not on strike; they had abstained from work because their leader, Shanker Guha Niyogi, had been released after 35-days’ illegal detention on the orders of the Durg sessions court and they wanted to accord him a heroic welcome. The acceptance of their immediate demands after a 19-day long successful strike which continued even after the police firing and large-scale arrests – an obvious attempt to break the strike – and the release of Niyogi has boosted the morale of the workers. Niyogi, whose arrest on June 2 last was followed by indiscrimninate police firing resulting the death of a dozen striking workers, had been ordered by the subdivisional magistrate of Balod to deposit a personal bond of Rs 25,000 with two sureties of like amount. Niyogi, a poor worker, was unable to manage this heavy bail of Rs 75,000. His lawyers, two CPI(M) sympathisers of Durg, challenged this order in the sessions court of Durg. On July 8, the sessions judge of Durg quashed the order of the subdivisional magistrate which was held “illegal and without jurisdiction”; the judge specifically held that the detention of Niyogi from June 3 to June 6 on the orders of the additional district magistrate was illegal.

Niyogi was initially arrested on June 2 under section 151 Cr PC and produced before the additional district magistrate of Durg who had remanded him to judicial custody till June 17. Meanwhile the subdivisional magistrate of Balod initiated proceedings under section 107 Cr P C on June 6. The case was again transferred to the additional district magistrate on June 13. On July 6, as soon as the section 144 imposed upon the township elapsed, over 10,000 workers brought out a procession to protest against police repression and in support of their demand for unconditional release of Niyogi, end of contract system in the mines and early implementation of the fallback wages envisaged by the wage board. The problem of fallback wages, denial of which means a saving of at least Rs 10 lakhs per year to the contractors and co-operative tycoons, has been hanging fire for the last several years. During the latest tripartite agreement between the workers, Bhilai steel plant, the master employer, and the contractors, the matter was referred to a committee to fix the norms of fallback wages. But if the past experience is any indication, it may take several more years before the contractors relent.

Before the formation of the new union, fallback wages for enforced idleness had never been an issue. The established unions, AITUC and INTUC, avoided the issue by saying that it was very difficult to fix the norms for wages for ‘not working’. The contractors as well as the Bhilai steel plant management were firm in their opinion that once fallback wages were enforced, workers would avoid work, for “who would like to work when one can get wages without working”. The real problem lies elsewhere. For instance, between May 27 and May 30 the contractors denied work to 669 persons on their regular roll as ‘blast’ had not taken place or because there was shortage of vehicles for loading and unloading operations. Such instances are not uncommon and fallback wages envisage payment of 80 per cent of the normal wages for such enforced idleness.

The management of the Bhilai steel plant has also its share of responsibility for the present labour unrest. Though the Bhilai steel plant is the master employer, the management has never cared for the labourers employed by the contractors and the co-operative society. For instance, over Rs 3 crores – half of which is contract workers’ share have accumulated in the welfare cess fund. However, although the departmental workers have been provided w[th quarters, the contract labourers have not received similar welfare benefits. The workers' money is lying idle, while they live in sub-human conditions. More recently, it was the Bhilai steel plant's decision to pay plant performance bonus to its departmental workers which sparked off the trouble. The contractual workers did not get their bonus. Unable to distinguish between the 'plant performance bonus' and 'bonus' - the regular Bhilai workers had not also received any bonus - they were angry that while they were engaged in the same work as the departmental workers, they were denied the facility given to the latter.

The contract system, continuing despite the seven-year-old Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, seems to be at the root of all the trouble. Though a committee appointed by the steel ministry had unanimously recommended in December 1976, after two years' extensive study of the problem, immediate abolition of contract labour in all the mines except at the loading sites of the railways, the system still continues. One reason for not abolishing it may be that it is very cheap; the cost of mining iron ore in the manual mines run by the, contractors is about Rs 30 per tonne while the mechanised mining by the Bhilai Steel Limited costs around Rs 50 per tonne. Another reason could be 'the vested
interest developed by a section of Bhilai steel plant management in the contract system. Officials get their 'cuts'. And it is interesting to learn that the manager of Bhilai Steel Plant is a Jain belonging to Rajnandgaon. This piece of information becomes significant in view of the fact that the majority of contractors too are Jains belonging to the same place. And so the struggle continues.

Shanker Guha Niyogi gave assurance of that while addressing a press conference at Raipur after his release from jail. Niyogi, who said that he and other union leaders had been threatened with dire consequences for opposing the contractors, has demanded a re-election in the Balod and Gunderdehi assembly constituencies from where two-office-bearers of the Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh had contested' during last month's assembly election. Supporters of the two contestants were arrested while canvassing and the candidates had to go underground due to police terror. The Election Commission had been informed of these facts. Niyogi has also alleged that there was a conspiracy behind the firing. The contractors, police officials and leaders of the 'recognised' union had held a meeting for about two hours in a bar-cum-restaurant of the township in the evening of June 2. According to Niyogi, the police had made a special target of Anusuya, a 30-year-old activist and inspiring folk-singer of his union. The police bullet hit her right on the chest. "They aimed at her straight." The most nauseating aspect of the whole affair is the role of the CPI. Like many Congressmen, the CPI is now shedding crocodile tears; but it was CPI activists who had instigated the police to "take action against the Naxalite menance". In fact, on May 31 an AITUC procession of about 1,000 persons, mostly consisting of the departmental workers, had gheraoed the Rajahara police station to press its demand for the arrest of Niyogi.

* Massacre of Kanpur Workers - Government's Lies Nailed

EPW 1978, No.9
Nikhil Chakravartty, A. K. Roy and Satish Saberwal

The tragic events in Swadeshi Cotton Mills in Kanpur on December 6, 1977 attracted nation-wide attention. Though even according to the government's version 11 workers had been killed and 43 injured in the police firing, the government refused to order a judicial enquiry. In the circumstances, the Citizens' Committee for Enquiry into the Kanpur Massacre constituted a three-member group (...) to undertake an on-the-spot investigation into the incident. The report prepared by the group after its investigations exposes many lies in the government's version of the police firing on the workers of the Swadeshi Cotton Mills. Most important of all, the group's findings established that, contrary to the government's claim, the police firing did not start after the two officers of the mill, who had been gheraoed by the workers, had lost their lives, it started earlier when the Superintendent of the Police had been hit by some hard substance dropped from the roof of one of the buildings in the mill compound. This gives the lie to the official propaganda that the police had been forced to open fire because the workers had murdered the two officers. The full text of the group's report is printed below.

We visited Kanpur on February 7-9, 1978 for an on-the-spot investigation about what really happened on December 6, 1977 when a number of lives were lost following police firing within the precints of Swadeshi Cotton Mills in the city.
In the course of our investigation we had the opportunity of meeting a large number of persons including the District Magistrate and other government officials, some of the officers of management of the mill, as also a large number of workers. The cooperation, which we received from different sources helped us to get a clear picture of the happenings that led to the tragic loss of lives in the Swadeshi Cotton Mills on December 6.
The Swadeshi Cotton Mills Ltd. Controlled by the House of Jaipurias, has been passing through a period of crisis, according to the management. Originally the Swadeshi Cotton Mills was started in 1911 by Sir henry Horseman. He sold it in 1946 for Rs 2.10 crores to Mungtu Ram Jaipuria who happened to be his trading agent in Calcutta. It was claimed to be the biggest mill in North India having a labour force of over eight thousand.
This turned out to be such a profitable concern that, over the years, the Jaipurias were able to acquire or establish five textile mills in other parts of the country - at Pondicherry, Udaipur in Rajasthan and in UP at Naini, Maunath Bhanjan and finally at Rae Bareli (Initially a synthetic fibres millwas to be established at Rae Bareli, but the license for this was transferred to Ghaziabad.) The Rae Bareli unit of the Swadeshi Cotton Mills was set up for what the management euphemistically calls "political considerations" - - in other words, to placate former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, whose constituency happened to be in Rae Bareli. In fact, quite considerable amount of machinery for the Rae Bareli unit was sent there from the Kanpur unit of Swadeshi Cotton Mills.

From this it is evident that the Swadeshi Cotton Mills, Kanpur, was for a long time fetching considerable profits for its owners so that they could set up five more profitable textile units apart from promoting the Swadeshi Polytex Ltd. In which it owns today 30 per cent of the shares with its block of one lakh shares originally priced Rs 10 each.
The trouble with the Swadeshi Cotton Mills started when the two brothers, Sita Ram and Raja Ram - the former adopted and the latter the real son of old Mungtu Ram - fell out. In November 1975 Raja Ram displaced Sita Ram as the Managing Director of the Swadeshi Cotton Mills while Sita Ram took over as the Managing Director of the profit-making Swadeshi Polytex Ltd. By March 1975, the company on paper showed loss. Meanwhile from 1974 onwards the management at Kanpur was found to be repeatedly defaulting in the matter of paying the workers' wages while at the same time it was not clearing its dues to the government. It has also eaten up the Provident Fund of the workers to the tune of over Rs 25 lakhs and the Employees' State Insurance accumulation to the extent of Rs 20 lakhs, both cognizable offence under law but the government did not bother to prosecute them.
From 1974, the workers of this mill had to resort to gherao to get their legitimate wages. This became regular practice from 1975. The state government, under Chief Ministership of N D Tiwari, arranged for the company a loan of Rs 1.50 crores in March 1976 from Punjab National Bank, underwriting the guarantee for it. But within a few months the company again started defaulting in the payment of wages. There are strong grounds for the presumption that this persistent defaulting arises from a sustained effort by the Swadeshi management to drain the company of its resources, possibly into unaccounted channels.

Why is the management creating this crisis? From all the circles we met in Kanpur - the management, the government and the workers - we formed the definite conclusion that the management is bent on pressurising the government to allow it to sell the Swadeshi Polytex shares at an inflated price; in addition, it seeks also to convert half of its capacity from cotton textile into synthetic textile in order to go in for large-scale profiteering.
The situation went from bad to worse last year and several gheraos had to be resorted to by the workers to secure their long-standing dues. In September 1977, the workers gheraoed the son and the son-in-law of one of the officers of the mill and only then the management could be forced to come out with a written assurance that they would disburse the wages long due by October 10. But nothing was done. The workers held a number of peaceful demonstrations including one before the luxuriously appointed Swadeshi House in the affluent part of the city. Meetings at the mill-gate followed in the next few days. Even the clerks of the establishment went on a strike on October 24.
On October 26, 1977, the workers gheraoed the Secretary of the mill, K P Agarwal, for a stretch of 54 hours. It may be noted here that the workers organised the gherao in such a way that production was not interrupted: those who were outside the shift took over, by turn, the task of keeping up the gherao. Agarwal was gheraod in anopen space near the cooling tank inside the mill. The next day the District Magistrate intervened and the state government hurriedly appointed a Receiver and at the same time arranged a loan of Rs 13.50 lakhs for immediate disbursement of the workers' wages which partly met the huge arrears due to them. During this gherao there was no question of the workers threatening the life of the gheraoed officer. Rather they even helped to instal a temporary telephone connection for the gheraoed officer so that he could speak to the mill authorities. At the end, when actually the cash was brought for immediate disbursement, the workers not only released but garlanded the gheraoed officer. So there was no question of menacing violence on the part of the workers.

The appointment of the Receiver naturally created a sense of expectation on the part of the workers and they rightly hoped that from now on they would be getting back not only their dues but also their wages regularly which were paid in fortnightly instalments. (...) [The Receiver] He was expected to supervise the sales of the products and to ensure the recovery of government dues “after the payment of labour dues and other essential items of the running of the mills”. What was interesting was that the Receiver was appointed “over the mills at Kanpur” and not over the company of the name of Swadeshi Cotton Mills Ltd. In other words, The Receiver was expected to oversee the financial position of only the Kanpur unit of Swadeshi Cotton Mills and had no jurisdiction over the other five thriving mills of the same Company located in different parts of the country. (…)
Towards the end of November it was clear from the testimony of the workers that they had the feeling that the Receiver was soon going to arrange for the payment of the dues by some means or other. But nothing of the sort happened. Even the officers began to disappear from the mill premises. The situation became desperate indeed for the workers whose wages for nearly two months were now overdue.

On the fateful December 6, two officers came to the mill premises on some other work: Iyenger, the Production Manager, and Sharma, the Accounts Officer were gheraoed by the workers roundabout 2 pm. It is to be noted here that on that day and for a few days preceeding there was power break-down in the mill due to a failure at the power station of Kanpur Electric Supply Authority. Most of the workers coming on shift duty were only signing for work were laid off. Only a few departments were functioning through the power supplied by the mill’s own generator.
The two mill officers were gheraoed exactly in the same way as it happened in the case of Agarwal on October 26. They were taken on the very same spot where Agarwal was confined in the open space in one of the yards near the cooling tank within the mill premises. Two police officers were also seen to be sitting near them and there was no sign of any menacing commotion.
From the evidence at our disposal it is clear that a large force of police turned up under the command of Superintendent of Police, Rai, somewhere after 3.30 pm, that is less than two hours of the start of the gherao. It may be noted here that no such force had been seen at such a short notice on October 26. The District Magistrate was on tour on December 6 and instead the Additional District Magistrate turned up, a man who is known to be very friendly to the Jaipurias.
From the evidence collected by us, it appears that the police started its operation first outside the mill premises on the main road and the lanes leading to the main road. There are reports of firing having begun in this area and we examined a number of spots inside the lanes in the crowded bustees opposite the mill gate – even bullet marks at a distance of more than 300 metres from the main road on which the mill stands. We also examined some people who were wounded by the police firing in this part of the town.

Meanwhile the police under the Superintendent of Police began to force its way within the mill compound. According to the version we got from the police, the SP as he was leading his force was wounded on the head by a hard substance (which might have been a brickbar or a piece of iron) dropped from the roof top adjoining one of the buildings within the mill compound. Since he was wounded the police which before that had tried teargas, began shooting.
The firing, according to the police, went on for twenty to twenty-five minutes. All other evidences, however, indicate that the firing lasted for nearly two hours. The police force not only went on charging while shooting but they climbed on the roof of one of the buildings from where they started firing indiscriminately on the workers. Rifles and muskets were both used liberally in this operation. With such large-scale firing most of the workers tried to escape from the backdoor, climbed over the wall at the rear of the factory, or tried to hide in the worksheds; and in course of it some of them broke their limbs also. We examined some of these workers including those who were wounded.
Meanwhile the workers who were still working in some of the departments which had power supply, did not realise that they would have to face the police attack. They were not participating in the gherao at all but they were forced by the police at bayonet point to come down and they were forced to run through two lines of armed policemen in course of which many of them had to suffer severe wounds. This was a totally unprovoked and calculatedly terror operation because these workers had nothing to do with the gherao.
The police rounded up nearly a thousand workers, those they could lay their hands on. Some of these were forced to load the wounded and the dead on the police trucks. After that the police left out the aged and put as many as 231 workers under arrest and sent them to the police lockup in different police stations in the city where in some cases they were beaten up and sent to prison next day.
As for the wounded who were taken to the hospital, most of them had to pay for their treatment and most of the wounded also were taken to prison as soon as they were discharged from hospitals.

What happened to the two gheraoed officers Lyenger and Sharma? A propaganda has been sedulously built up that the police shooting on the workers had to be resorted to because the workers had murdered the two officers. It is clear as daylight from the version we have heard from the authorities themselves that the police firing began when Superintendent of Police was wounded; there is not a shred of evidence of the two gheraoed mill officers having already been killed. The evidence that we have collected points to the fact that as soon as the indiscriminate firing was resorted to, the workers who were gheraoing the two officers ran away; and when these two were last seen they were standing under the portio leading to the building in which later on the police claimed that they found their battered corpses. The staircase leading to the room where the officers were found dead is such that nobody could be dragged through it. This leads to the reasonable inference that the two officers went up on their own for safety from police firing. (…)
In this context, it is worth noting that when the application was moved in court for the release on bail of the arrested workers who numbered over 230, the police at the beginning could not produce the FIR. (…) Most of the workers were released on bail only towards the end of January and the first week of February. We are informed that some of the workers are still in prison.
There is a wide margin of dispute over the casualty figures. The Government figure is that 11 workers were killed in police firing and 43 wounded and hospitalised. Many of the workers whom we examined claimed that a larger number were killed and some even said that they were forced to load the trucks with corpses which if counted would amount to a very large number. However, this requires further examination. What is clear is that the figure of killed in police firing must be more than 11. From the evidence that we collected in course of sixty hours, we could locate two cases in which the workers had not returned home nor could they be found in the hospitals nor in prison nor had gone back to their village homes. The obvious presumption is that they were killed in police firing. These two were Horilal, son of Mangali, living at the village of Macharia, PO Nauvasta (ESI No 237766; PF No UP 12/16367) and Gangaram, son of Narottam, living at 127/126 Juhi Bombaralaya. Both these names do not figure in the official list of the dead.

A lock-out had been declared at the mill since December 6. On January 7, 1978, the Company after getting a further loan of Rs 37.5 lakhs from the government cleared some of the arrears of wages to the workers. (…) Many of the workers, however, had left for their villages. From the side of the mill management we came to know that 267 workers had not turned up to take their wage dues. It is possible that these 267 had not got the information about disbursement of wages on that day. It is equally plausible that among these 267 missing, there might be a number of dead workers killed in the police firing. (…) During our on-the-spot investigation covering extensive talks with a very large number of workers, including trade union cadres of different affiliations, we could not help but realising that there has come about an erosion in the credibility of the trade union movement in Kanpur in the eyes of the working population, particularly at the Swadeshi Cotton where the trade union leadership proved to be ineffective in organising the workers’ struggle for securing the very basic demand of the workers, for their wages. (…)

* Police Massacre in Faridabad – Report of a Fact Finding Team

EPW, 1979, No.44

In one of the worst orgies of violence in recent times, Haryana police ran berserk and killed innocent people in Faridabad on October 17 and were engaged in concealing and destroying all evidence of their misdeeds, and in misleading the Press as to the actual nature of the incidents on that day. This is the finding of a three-member Fact Finding Team sponsored by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights, Delhi- Branch, which toured Faridabad on October 24, met victims of the police firing, visited the spots where the firing took place and talked to relations of those killed by the police and discovered that even though a week had passed since the incidents, the police were still persecuting innocent people. Contrary to what the police want to be believed, the Team found from its talks with those who had witnessed the police firing at Neelam Chowk’ on October 17, when a strike call had been given by different trade union organisations, that the provocation had come first from the police when Sub-Inspector Brahm Dutt opened fire on an unarmed demonstration of workers which reached Neelam Chowk. The Sub-Inspector had earlier given his policemen orders for a lathi charge to disperse the crowd which was not aware of the imposition of Section 144, promulgated by the police at 2 am on that day. No public announcement had been made. While some workers were engaged in an argument with the police, Brahm Dutt fired, killing one of the demonstrators on the spot. When the dead man’s comrades tried to lift the body, he fired again killing two more people. This enraged the crowd, who were reported to have pounced upon Brahm Dutt, who later succumbed to injuries inflicted by the mob.

The total indifference of the police and local administration towards basic human rights was described by the employees of a hotel at the Neelam Chowk, the epicentre of the incidents, in a statement made to the Fact Finding Team: When the trouble started, some policemen took up vantage positions above the building where the lime shop at Neelam Chowk is situated and started firing on the crowd in the streets. The policemen on the road started beating the people, including school children … The panic-stricken people moved to the railway bridge between Neelam Chowk and Mathura Road. Meanwhile a group of CRP men reached the Mathura side of the bridge to trap the crowd on the bridge between the two police forces. The police from both sides started attacking the crowd with gun shots. Many people jumped from the bridge down to a depth of between 25 and 40 feet. The policemen forced those who were dangling from the bridge to jump down by beating them on their knuckles. Also, some were physically lifted and thrown down from the bridge by the policemen. From the eye-witness reports that the Team heard from several sources, the lack of a properly organised labour force in Faridabad was evident. Those who were present at Neelam Chowk on the day of the incident reported that not a single leader of any union or political party was to be seen there before and after the incidents. This was corroborated by the CITU men whom the Team contacted at their office. Though various Haryana ministers have charged the CITU as having been responsible for the violence and disturbances, the CITU men appeared unaware of the number of dead, injured and missing and were generally ill-informed about the incidents of the17th.

On the other hand, police preparedness much before the trouble started was crystal clear. On the early morning of the bandh, Cr P C 144 was declared at 2 a m. According to the shopkeepers at Neelam Chowk, they were forced to close their’ shops and keep indoors by the policemen much before the trouble started. “The policemen themselves were preparing for a show-down” was how one shop-employee put it to the Team. Evidence suggests that after the death of the police officer, Brahm Dutt, the gun-carrying police force ran amuck, intent upon taking revenge. One engineer working in West Germany who is on a short leave to meet his relatives, told the Team that he saw a policeman stopping two young school children on their bicycles, returning from their school, unaware of the happenings. The school children were beaten mercilessly, although this was five hours after the morning incidents. Everyone in Neelam Chowk corroborated that the worst type of police raj prevailed in the whole area following the morning incidents. Policemen entered even shops and residences to beat up uninvolved and innocent people. One hotel employee showed the Team his right hand shoulder, which was difficult to move due to lathi-blows. He had been pounced upon by policemen while he was cooking inside the kitchen. Though the police and administration claim that no firing took place after 1 p m on the 17th, the gruesome incidents in the residential areas of Press Colony and Punjabi Colony speak otherwise.

The police did not stop at indiscriminately beating up and firing upon people who had either gathered in the demonstration or were watching as innocent by-standers at Neelam Chowk. They extended the range of their atrocities to areas far away from the scene of the demonstration, and to people who had nothing to do with the striking workers. The Team went to Punjabi Colony, 4 to 5 kms away from Neelam Chowk, and visited a house on the roof of which two of its residents, Kashmiri Lal Bali aged 42 and Jagdish Prasad aged 28, had been killed at point blank range by the police who had taken up positions at the landing of a stair-case of a house opposite the roof-top. Bali’s 12 year old son, Anil, who was shot in the abdomen, was still lying unconscious at the Safdarjung Hospital. Another boy, 16-year old Surendra Kumar, who was also standing on the roof-top was injured in the head and back by bullet splinters.

The story of Bali’s killing, as narrated to the Team by his brother-in-law and other relatives who were eye-witnesses to the incident, is pathetic. Bali was a printer at the Government of India Press. After his office closed at 4.30 pm, he came home and was told by his wife that -his eldest son Anil was playing on the roof. Asking his wife to prepare food, he went up-stairs to bring his son down. As he reached the roof, a bullet hit his head from across the road. Seeing him fall, Jagdish Prasad, who was staying in a room on the same terrace, came out to help him, but a bullet hit him in the waist and pierced his abdomen. He died in hospital. Bali’s son Anil was hit next, while the other boy Surendra Kumar, also a resident in the same neighbourhood, was injured by splinters from the bullet that had pierced Jagdish Prasad. This was a case of cold-blooded murder, as neither Bali nor Jagdish Prasad nor the two children were involved in strikes or demnonstrations on that day. That the police were keen on hiding all evidence of this murder was obvious from several facts. First, soon after the killing a police party came to Bali’s house and wanted to snatch away Bali’s dead body from his relatives. After they failed to take it away, a larger police party came headed by the DSP and forced the relatives to part with the body. But in the meantime, Bali’s relatives had managed to get a photographer to take pictures of Bali’s dead body and the scene of the killing.

Bali’s brother-in-law insisted on an inquiry into the killing, but the DSP said that the postmortem on the body would have to take place at Gurgaon on the orders of higher authorities. Bali’s brother-in-law then went to the Circuit House, where a meeting was in progress between a Haryana cabinet minister Khurshid Ahmed, high police officials and industrialists. When after an hour, the minister came out, the brother-in-law requested him to allow him to take Bali’s body and perform the last rites and cremate him. But both the minister and the industrialists who were present there rejected his request on the plea that “if the body was allowed to be cremated at Faridabad, it will further worsen industrial relations”. Finally, Bali’s relatives were allowed to accompany the dead body in a police van to the cremation ground at Gurgaon.

At the Gurgaon cremation ground, Bali’s relatives found that at least six more dead bodies were lying there to be cremated. The burning ghat people told them that the bodies had been brought by the police from Faridabad and were being secretly burnt there. They remained- unidentified. Bali’s brother-in-law told the Team that the same fate would have befallen Bali, had not his relatives insisted on getting back his body. The body of Jagdish Prasad was not handed over to his relatives after his death in hospital and no one still knew what happened to it. When relatives of the other dead people contacted the doctor at the Gurgaon Civil Hospital for post-mortem reports, he pleaded helplessness because of “limitations”. The relatives were in a state of utter desperation and helplessness. No one, including any political or trade union leader, had come to their rescue.

The story does not end here. On October 22, four days after Bali’s murder, a police party headed by an ASI visited the spot. Before killing Bali, the policemen who had aimed at him from the opposite house, had missed their target and one of the bullets had got lodged in the outer wall of the neighbouring house. To destroy this evidence, the police party which came on the 22nd climbed up the wall and with bayonets dislodged the bullet from inside the wall. The Team saw the original hole made by the bullet, further enlarged into a wide gap by the police team. The local people told the Team that the police were still on the prowl in the area to recover the cartridges of the bullets fired by them in the area on that day, so that they were not later produced by the residents to prove the misdeeds of the police. The police had also come to know of the photographs taken of Bali’s dead body. The photographer was being constantly harassed by the police. He told the Team that a senior police official had threatened him and even offered bribes to get back the film roll from him.

Thus, it was evident that the police were busy hiding and destroying all traces of their murderous activities of October 17. Plainclothesmen were prowling all over Faridabad, arresting people whom they suspected of giving out the real story. Reporters had not been allowed to enter the Badshah Khan Hospital where those injured on that day were being treated. The members of the Team managed to smuggle themselves into the male ward, and saw at least six persons with bullet injuries. They were shocked to see four of them – all with their hands or legs in plaster, and in no condition to move – chained to their beds in a separate corner of the ward and being guarded by armed police-men who were occupying some of the beds meant for patients. One of the injured was a post and telegraphs employee, who on the day of the firing was on duty on the bridge leading to Neelam Chowk. Hira Lal, Devi Lal, Jagdish K Pande and Tilak Kapoor (who is deaf and dumb) with bullet injuries on their bodies and chained to their beds, were workers who had been trapped in Neelam Chowk and shot at by the police. As they could not flee due to their injuries, the police arrested them and were planning to produce them as miscreants who had provoked the October 17 incidents. The Team also saw a 12-year old boy with bullet injuries under arrest. It came to know that at least three people who had been brought to the hospital on that day had succumbed to bullet injuries.

The Team also visited the neigh-bourhood of the bridge connecting Neelam Chowk with Mathura Road. During the day-long firing- and lathi charge, the police had spilled over into the outlying areas and beaten up innocent residents of the jhuggis and jhopris. One such victim was 60-year old Bishan Singh, a saintly looking Sardarji with white hair and beard. He showed the Team -the wall of his courtyard broken open by the police who entered the house as he was sitting on his charpoy and asked him to bring out those who were supposed to be hiding in his room. Bishan Singh said that no one was hiding, and offered to take the police to his room to prove the truth of what he was saying. Not satisfied, the policeman started beating him. With an injured leg, old Bishan Singh was now confined to bed. Children seemed ‘to have been a special target of the police. Wherever the Team went people complained that children were beaten up mercilessly.

The cases of Bali’s son and 16-year old Surendra of Punjabi Colony have already been mentioned. People with whom the Team talked at Faridabad estimated that from 50 to 120 people were still missing. Among them were a large number of children’. There was a widespread suspicion that the police had disposed of the dead bodies by burning them’ secretly – as evident from eyewitness accounts of the Gurgaon cremation ground – or by throwing them into the river. The Team found that there was widespread distrust among the people of Faridabad towards the local police force. For one thing, it was evident to all that the police had been giving out false reports. Immediately after the October 17 ‘incidents, they had said that firing had stopped at 1 pm on that day. But the Team was unanimously told by the people that at Neelam Chowk firing had continued till the evening. The killing of Kashmiri Lal Bali and Jagdish Prasad took place after Bali had returned from office, between 4.45 pm and 5.15 pm. As for the number of casualties also, the figure of eight given out by the police was dismissed as too small by the local people, many of whom were still searching for their missing relatives and friends who were suspected to have been killed. The people were further infuriated by the government’s immediate announcement of an award of Rs 15,000 to’ relatives of the dead sub-inspector. “What about the innocent people who were killed by him and his colleagues?” ask the people of Faridabad.

The Team was told that at every stage the local industrialists were influencing the police. At the Circuit House meeting where the industrialists, police officials and minister Khurshid Ahmed discussed the post-firing situation, it was the industrialists who had offered to pool the money and give the award to the dead policeman. It was they again who pressurised the Minister against giving Bali’s dead body to his relatives. There was a widespread feeling that the magisterial inquiry ordered into the October 17 police firing by the Haryana government would not lead anywhere, excepting defending the police. The people were demanding a judicial inquiry and suspension of the guilty policemen. The local people also complained that none of the major political parties or trade union leaders had bothered to visit the relatives of the dead or the injured. No help had been rendered to the victims in the hospital. The injured boy, Anil Bali, was lying alone in a critical condition when the Team visited him at the Safdarjung Hospital. In its report the Fact Finding Team has noted that the industrial climate at Faridabad had deteriorated over the years primarily because of the aggressive attitude of the local industrialists who habitually employ ‘goondas’ in the name of security guards to beat up workers active in the trade unions. For instance, it was alleged that on October 17, the ‘goondas’ employed by the management of a cotton mill near Press Colony, Faridabad, had chased workers belonging to the union. Eye witnesses told the Team that the police were protecting the goondas who hurled stones at the workers.

The Team has raised a number of questions in its report:

(1) Why is it that no arrests are made when organised goondas (working under the cover of security guards) attack workers whereas innocent victims of police firing are kept in chains in the hospital?

(2) Why is it that authorities in Faridabad impose Section 144 whenever there is even a notice of a strike in a single factory?

(3) Why is that compensations are paid by the government and the industrialists to the police personnel, while the victims of indiscriminate police firing are paid none?

(4) Why is it that seriously injured victims of police firing are kept in chains at the hospital with three armed guards? Summing up its findings about the events of October 17, the Fact Finding Team has stated that:

(1) Imposition of Sec 144 at 2 am, unannounced, was a deliberate provocative step.

(2) Disappearance of 150-200 men and children since October 17 was too much of a coincidence to be ignored.

(3) Threats, destruction of evidence and offer of bribes in some instances by the authorities proved their complicity in the incidents of the 17th.

(4) Disposal of dead bodies at Gurgaon without proper religious rites and the secrecy surrounding the act tended to suggest that the number of dead was much more than what the authorities want to be believed.

(5) People of Faridabad, workers, shopkeepers, housewives, children, etc., were all in fear of the police and critical of their acts.

(6) The reign of terror let loose by the authorities had to end before anything else could be done. A judicial inquiry must be held to inquire into the violent incidents of October 17 and the role of the police in them.

* From Emergency to Rural Maoism to Leninism in Faridabad

GWN conversation, 2010

We met some communist still active in Faridabad industrial area. Some of them entered reputable universities in the early 1970s, and spent their first years as ‘unpolitical’ students on the campus. Things changed during Emergency. Under the heavy atmosphere of the Emergency any kind of dissent obtained a new significance. Some of them had to leave university and joined a far-left organisation. The organisation sent these new recruits to work in the countryside, with Adivasis, the ‘indigenous population’. The Naxalite organisation had a kind of scale, there were class I areas, they were the poor Adivasi areas, class II for certain areas of poor peasantry, class III for urban working- class areas and so on. The Adivasi areas were not characterised by’ self-sustained communities’, most of them were wage workers for the timber industry. During these days these young comrades travelled from village to village, the organisation had contacts, often to village teachers or similar people. While being ‘underground’ the original organisation had split several times, but the young comrades were not aware of this. They continued their ‘organisational work’ for a non-existing organisation.

Some of them ended up in the ‘semi-tribal’ area of Mewat, a poor Muslim-dominated area in Haryana. They focused their activities less on the peasantry, but on the educated, unemployed poor youth. “We wanted to turn them into professional revolutionary cadres. We had some contacts within the Haryana electricity board. Some guys had been on strike in 1972, they knew people in various villages. In those days people liked revolutionaries, many people would help us and hide us from the state forces, give us food and shelter. Particularly in Mewat people were angry. The police had rounded up villages to enforce sterilisation – a sensitive issue particularly in the Muslim areas. We tried to break the encirclements, but this proved to be difficult. People were put into trucks and brought to the primary health centres. Each block and district local state officials were gratified for achieved numbers of sterilisation.”

The comrades met interested locals in B., a bigger village near Faridabad. They stayed with a mechanics and local teachers. Many underground revolutionaries arrived in B. after years of’ activities with the rural people’. There were CPI committees amongst peasants. Some clerk who had gone to Chandigarh to work had brought Marxist literature. “Although the official CPI line was against the Maoists and pro-Emergency, the CPI peasants in the village supported us. They were mainly from the Dagger tribe and had a history of resistance reaching back to feudal times. Every now and then the peasants of this village blocked power-stations, in order to protest against the lack of electricity. Police brutality in the area during Emergency had further radicalised them. A CPI official in the village had been to the Soviet Union as part of a party delegation. He was open towards the far-left, he managed to get people – who had returned from ‘activities’ in country-side – jobs in factories.”

Some of the peasants who had ‘joined the revolutionaries’ turned ‘workers’ for political reasons and went to work in factories in Faridabad during the late 1970s and early 1980s. “The factory was kind of a shock for the peasants. They were used to hard physical work, but not to having to stay in one place under surveillance and noise and the rhythm of the machines. Some of them wrote poems and songs about these experiences. Not just about the work, also about the ‘cultural changes’, e.g. at Bata shoe factory they found the village Pandits sewing leather sandals or Dalits in the restaurants serving food to the wider public, which was something unthinkable in the village. With the help of some of these ex-peasants we started our activities in Faridabad. We had broken with our Maoist heritage and had become urban Leninists.”

* Worker in Faridabad in early 1970s, Full Time Activist, Sangarh Samiti 1979

GWN conversation, 2010

I came to Faridabad in 1970. I got a job at Universal Electric Limited, a company manufacturing devices for the defence industry. There I worked for one year, I worked on a lathe machine. There was a strike by the union and in this I was thrown out.

Then I was employed at Porritts&Spencer Asia Limited, which was a British company, it still exists, but is now owned by Germany and America. In Porritts Spencer, I worked on the loom machine on which clothes are made. It was a factory where all the workers had to do all the jobs. They were trained in all jobs. So I was also trained in all the machines. At that time, in 1977, about 300 workers were employed. There was a strike in 1977. In that strike, I was the General Secretary of the union. Then I was thrown out.

Then I was fulltime with the CPI. Then I joined CPM full time. After that I worked for the Naxalite movement. In 1979 we formed the Sangharsh Samiti, the Struggle Committee. We brought the whole of Faridabad to a stop in 1979. Guns were fired in which many workers were killed. At that time, the Bhajanlal Congress government, ordered the gun fire. The guns were fired at the Neelam square which we today call the Martyr Square. The workers became martyrs. The government said 17 people had died. The workers and some police officers were hurt. The workers said that about 150-175 people had been killed. But the government made the dead bodies disappear. Because there were many arrests, in fear, the protest went down a little for some days. We could not find out whose dead bodies were missing.

Before that there were demonstrations in many different factories which the government could not control. At that time there were unions in about 50% of the factories and they helped one another. The police oppression was also very great, but the workers then were so militant that they used to fight with the police. This is the reason why in the Faridabad strike there was a struggle with the police, where the police fired guns and the workers were killed.

After that the workers movement declined, automation was introduced in the companies and the number of workers decreased. Many factories closed, a large number of textile factories closed and unemployment increased. Many factories were computerized and workers went back to their villages. The factories started outsourcing. Permanent work was reduced. People started to work on contracts. So the movement went back.

* Escorts/Ford Worker in Faridabad in 1970s and 1980s

GWN conversation, 2010

In the late 1970s and early 1980s trouble was brewing at Faridabad’s biggest company Escorts. The trouble was intensified and shaped by an internal fight between different management factions respectively supported by different political formations. In 1982 instigations against the old management started – a new management faction under Swaraj Paul and backed by Congress tried to ‘take over’. The emergence of a new union within Escorts was instrumentalised in order to attack the old management. After Indra Gandhis death in 1984, the new management under Swaraj Paul sold his shares. The old management and the old union were back in the seat. We mention these ‘power-games’ because they influenced and still influence any union formation in the bigger industry. We had a conversation with N., a comrade who worked at the Ford tractor department of Escorts in the 1970s and 1980s. N. got involved in union struggle on the side of ‘the new union’ – reading his story we have to see the double dynamic of workers’ unrest and internal management fights.

“I came to Faridabad from Kerala, in the early 1970s. In Kerala I had been engaged with the illegal CPI(ML), mainly struggling against land-lords. At the time it was not unusual for workers to come the long way from far – south Kerala, there must have been more than 20,000 of us working in Faridabad at the time. There was a huge demand for skilled workers which could not be satisfied from northern areas like Bihar or UP- that has changed quite a bit since then. In 1972 I got a job in the Ford tractor plant, where about 2,500 workers were employed. A comrade and me became elected as representatives of a left-wing union, which organised the vast majority of workers in the plant.

These were rebellious times. Workers were questioning a lot. Take the example of a struggle lead by a marginal work-force in the factory: the cleaners. Take their example of struggle over a seemingly minor issue: canteen food. During these times workers’ desires turned badly cooked vegetables into social dynamite. There was a canteen for workers and a canteen for the management. The production workers were allowed to use the canteen first, when they left, the cleaners could eat. This was not because workers would not have sat together with cleaners, it was because the cleaners would work while machines stood still during the workers’ break. Nevertheless, when the cleaners came to the canteen there were little vegetables left, just rice or roti. The canteen might have cooked more veggies, but they were often half done or there were literally five minutes left of the cleaners’ break for having a meal. The cleaners were not happy about this. They complained. The management did not listen. They addressed the left-wing union and asked them to do something. The management ignored the union. The next day about 150 cleaners entered the management canteen in protest and ate all kind of nice food, fish, deserts and so on. This was not heard off before and the management was in shock. The shock-waves entered various levels. The first reaction was to purify the canteen with Ganga water, purify it from the spiritually dirty cleaners’ hands. The next reaction was an attempt to suspend not only some of the workers involved, but also some ‘ring-leaders’. This was not that easy…

The management tried to ignore our union in the Ford plant. The Escorts and Ford management and the main Escort union plotted all kinds of coups against us. But they basically tried to keep us away from any kind of negotiations. The workers were rather angry about that, they had voted for us, because they wanted us to do things. When a general negation between Escorts management and unions took place about 2,000 Ford workers gathered in front of the administration building. They demanded that their reps could be heard. The management refused. Workers wrote a demand notice: “Either the management talks to our representatives or they will be beaten with sandals”. The management remained deaf. Workers then pushed into the main building and surrounded the management, started beating it with sandals like promised. This was hot. In Kanpur, where a similar thing happened in 1977 the police shot and killed hundreds of workers in side a textile mill – that was after the Emergency, in the so-called’ new democratic phase’. The next day Faridabad was full of police looking for sandal-wearing workers…

The police-force itself was not too reliable at that time – a clear sign for the depth of social discontent. The lower ranks of the police were badly paid and had to work long hours. In Faridabad they went on strike. Some of them were from Kerala and we got in touch with them. In the end they had to bring in the special police force CRPF. They sacked half of the local police and the CRPF disarmed the other half. We put up posters “Police against Workers – CRPF against Police – Army against CRPF: This is Indian Socialism!”. The activities inside Ford got us more and more into the focus of repression. Escorts paid the police good money to find and beat us. During these days most of the arrests were unofficial and never documented. They would pick you up, take you to a faraway station and give you a good beating. The home guards, a rather poorly paid part of the police informed us about the police plans.

Finally they caught us and drove us to a station near Balabgarh. There, the night-shift guards knew us and refused to beat us up. In the end we got a thrashing in the police station in Sarai. It was dark, we could not see who thrashed us, but they always asked: “Will you know leave Haryana?!”, and unsatisfied with the answer they would continue. I was kicked out of the Ford plant, six years of legal battle followed…”

* Revolutionary “Termites” in Faridabad

Loren Goldner

For complete text see: http://libcom.org/library/revolutionary-termites-in-faridabad-a-proletarian-current-in-india-confronts-third-worldist-statism

1980′s Struggles in Faridabad

The CITU in 1983 was involved in another militant strike in Faridabad, this time at Lakhani Shoes, which then employed 500 workers and is now much larger. The CITU carried out physical attacks on managers and supervisors, but the strike, which lasted for months, ended in defeat. It later came out that Lakhani had paid 35,000 rupees to the Faridabad leader of the CITU. (Subsequently, the CITU was ousted and replaced by unions affiliated with the Congress Party and then with the JP.)
Such union activity is not merely limited to manipulating struggles with management while covertly collaborating with the latter. In 1983, Dewanchard Gandhi, a CITU leader in Faridabad, was involved in a brazen use of union goons for a real estate scam. People from nearby village had occupied land in Faridabad’s Sector 6 and had set up a tea shop, thereby becoming de facto owners. The owner of the land sold it to Gandhi and his brothers. The Gandhi brothers’ own goons would not vacate the land for them because some of them were from the same village as the occupiers. Thus Gandhi organized a union in a nearby factory of 300 young workers, and called a strike. While they were on strike, he used them to forcibly vacate the land and to wall it off, in one night, telling them it was to be the site of a union hall. This accomplished, the workers went back to their picket lines, but the union stopped food deliveries to strikers. The workers resumed work and left the CITU. Ghandi kept the land. In the same year, a militant CITU union at J.M.A. Industries called a strike. Bombs were thrown, and the state arrested and brought to trial four strike leaders. Regional CITU leaders came in to replace them and announced a deal. It later emerged that the company had built a new roof on the house of one of the regional leaders; meanwhile, the four local leaders stayed in jail, 18 militants were laid off, and management’s aim were imposed.

In 1988, a struggle began at the Bata Shoe Company, a Canadian-based firm also operating plants in Batanagar, near Calcutta, in Bihar, and in southern India. Bata Shoe launched a plan to restructure and diversify into marketing. The offensive began with a lock-out of the roughly 13,000 workers of the Batanagar plant, where both Communist Parties had unions. As part of the strategy, the management of the Faridabad plant went from a 5-day to a 7-day work week, with the cooperation of the CP unions there. A month later, an all-India one-day strike against Bata Shoe was called; two months later, this was followed by a 3-day all-India Bata strike. Four months after the management offensive began, it imposed all 37 of its restructuring demands. The union in the Faridabad plant called another strike in April 1989, and 10,000 workers went out, followed by further strikes later the same year. At the beginning of the management offensive, Bata Shoe in Batanagar had 13,000 workers; at the end, 7,000. (KK points out that at every turn the Indian media gave very favorable coverage to the unions’ toothless strike strategy.)
In 1989, at K.G. Khosla Compressors Ltd., a plant with 2,000 permanent workers and 350 casuals, the union signed an agreement with the company in which they gave away the workers’ dues (“dues” in India mean severance pay, outstanding wages, pension funs and bonuses. It is common for management to quietly loot these dues in anticipation of a plant closing.) (Six years earlier, in 1983, the INTUC had led a militant strike which was crushed, ending in layoffs. When confronted, the local INTUC leadership said they signed the contract because the national leadership signed, and the national leadership said they signed because the local leadership signed.
Things came to a head in August 1991 as Khosla management declared a lockout, terminating 250 casuals, announcing 326 layoffs of the permanent work force, and offering only the minimum annual bonus of 8.33%, threatening closure of the plant if these demands were not accepted. No wages were paid for August and the lockout began in early September, lasting 8 months and breaking worker resistance. A similar downsizing was pushed through at Thomson Press, a printing plant in Faridabad, which reduced its personnel from 1700 to 900 between June 1989 and June 1991.

In 1987, Thomson brought in a new manager, replacing one who had had a close working relationship with the Congress-affiliated INTUC. The new manager preferred to introduce the JP-Iinked HMS, to the relief of the workers, who hated the INTUC leader. The new HMS leader was himself a dismissed Thomson worker. To start off the new regime, the company agreed to make casuals permanent.
In 1989, however, Thomson demanded 200 layoffs and the new HMS leader signed a giveback agreement. In August 1990, the workers responded by bringing back the old deposed leader. In response to this, the company announced the closing of one of the plant’s printing operations, cutting jobs. Two factions of workers formed around the two leaders. The state government exacerbated the division by cultivating ties to the INTUC leader, and fights broke out between the two factions. In March 1991 management suspended all production because of the fighting. Whereas the media had given wide coverage to the situation up to that point because of the state’s ties to the INTUC leader, there was a complete blackout of news on this lockout. Both leaders convinced the Thomson workers to leave the factory during the lockout, and that night the management removed machinery from the plant. The lockout continued for 70 days, at the end of which the HMS leadership announced that the workers did not want a fight. The plant reopened, with a very bad agreement in effect, and over the next 4-5 months 800 workers were forced to resign.

Relevant Struggles Elsewhere In India

One icon of the official left in India is the worker buy-out of Kamani Tubes Ltd. in Bombay, the Indian variant of the French LIP strike of 1973 (8), or the more recent ESOP’s (Employee Stock Option Purchase) in the U.S. Kamani Tubes Ltd. was taken over in 1987 by its work force of 450, after 60 workers were laid off. The workers raised the buyout funds by taking out mortgages, and received support from the Bureau of Industrial Finance and Reconstruction. The Kamani Tubes experience of self-managed austerity is still used as a paradigm by India’s NGOs and official left, and has been copied in a few other well-publicized instances, such as the Kanoria Jute Mill in Calcutta after 1993.

Not all workers’ struggles in India, however, are successfully contained or manipulated by the unions. In 1989, 35,000 textile workers in Kanpur, an old industrial city in Uttar Pradesh, revolted against all local unions and blocked the railway lines through the city, taking turns by shift. 100 trains were cancelled, and the government conceded their demands in 5 days. In this case, in contrast to the nation-wide, union-controlled Bata Shoe strikes, government propaganda and the media weighed in heavily against the action, and trade union officials also attacked it. (In 1977, just after Indira Gandhi’s state of emergency had been lifted and the anti-emergency Janata Party had taken power, the government had fired on Kanpur textile workers inside the Swadeshi Cotton Mill, killing between 30 and 150 workers and running off all trade union leaders. The textile mill had been nationalized shortly after the shootings.) In 1989, however, an impending election year militated against government violence. Nonetheless, once the struggle had died down, the government announced a retrenchment program and pushed it through over the next 4 or 5 years.
Similarly, in December 1988, at the No.7 mining area at the Dhanbad Coal Mines in the state of Bihar, the piece-rate workers, fed up with the unions and their goon squads, revolted. They drafted demands and started a hunger strike at the union regional headquarters, and surrounded the regional management offices with slogans denouncing both corrupt management and corrupt unions.
In July 1990, another struggle outside and against union control erupted. 5,000 miners from the Munidih mines of the Bahrat Coking Coals Ltd. (BCCL) struck on their own. The police opened fire, killing two miners. All unions opposed the strike, and denounced the influence of “outsiders”. Management refused to negotiate, until Aug. 7, when 2,000 workers surrounded BCCL headquarters and forced talks, in which management persisted in pressing charges against the strikers. On Aug. 10, fighting erupted with police, and union goons threatened workers. Under this pressure, 50-60% went back to work, but after an Aug. 17 solidarity demonstration that mobilized 1,000 workers, management caved.

The workers at Bengal Jute, living under the “Marxist” state government of the CPI (M) in West Bengal, were not so fortunate. Bengal Jute operates 49 jute mills, in which the CPI (M)’s own union, the CITU, and the INTAC were dominant. In 1984, in a previous strike, management had agreed to no layoffs of 250,000 workers, but subsequently managed to retrench 110,000. In June 1992, the two unions launched a strike demanding the reinstatement of the laid-off workers; during the ensuing, failed strike by its own union, the CPI (M), with state power, said nothing.

1990′s Struggles in Faridabad

Lakhani Shoes, which currently operates 19 plants in Faridabad, had been the scene of mass layoffs in 1983 (described earlier) and 1988. By the mid-90′s, it had become a joint venture with Reebok, using a large number of casuals in very hard work with low pay, rapid aging on the job, and loss of fingers. Many workers are Nepali, with a young work force because of the previous mass layoffs.
In these conditions, in May-June 1996, the workers decided to organize and went to the Hind Majdoor Sabha (HMS), mentioned earlier as the union affiliate of the Janata Dal. In July-August 1996, management suspended the union activists, and in September the union called a strike. Permanent, casual and contracted workers all struck. The strike continued into the spring of 1997, when workers began to disperse. The management resumed work using new hires, with the ex-leaders from the HMS as the labor contractors. A court order demanded that strikers stay 100 yards from the gates, and all strikers were ultimately fired.

In June 1995, a new struggle erupted at the East India Cotton Mills in Faridabad, where the 1979 strike was one of KK’s first formative experiences in the working-class milieu. In 1995, the mills employed 3,000 workers in two factories. When some equipment was dismantled and workers complained, six of them were suspended. 2,500 workers walked out and the six were reinstated. Management, however, wanted 600 layoffs. Without leaders among the workers, they were unable to control the work force. In the run-up to a confrontation over the layoffs, hunger strikes took place, and a group of rank-and-file leaders, demanding a “good contract”, took over. In June-July 1996 295 workers were forced to resign. Management floated a voluntary retirement scheme which found no takers. On July 10, they declared a lockout. 18 days later, the lockout was lifted and an agreement to resume work was signed, with 18 days pay lost.
In August, management simply paid no wages, and on Sept. 12 declared a lockout in both plants, backed up by the arrival of the police. In an unusual move in a lockout situation, the rank-and-file leaders told the workers to leave the factories. The lockout continued into the fall, with the workers dispersed. The rank-and-file leaders threatened to close down Faridabad if the lockout did not end before Diwali (a Hindu festival). At the same time they avoided demonstrations because they were afraid of losing control. The leaders tried taking the case to the Supreme Court. In January 1997, the smaller plant reopened, but two months later resumed the lockout, with management still demanding 600 layoffs. As of December 1997, the lockout continued.

* Some Agitation in Faridabad

FMS, September 1983

* At Biko Engineering situated at Mathura Road the pressure from management increased after the issuing of a demand notice. Workers got suspended.

* After workers at Elson Cotton raised their voice against lay-offs, they got beaten up and some of them suspended. The bosses hired goons.

* At East India Textile Mill INTUC keeps beating the drum and the management cries about’ worsening situation’ for the company while at the same time sending lots of workers back home.

*At Atul Glas workers are determined in their battle for creating a union. Management and police try to suppress the workers by beatings and arrests.

* At Usha Spinning Mills the lay-offs of workers continue. Workers are laid off without being paid outstanding wages. Now the union leader says that he will do something about it.

* After Indian Aluminium and Mahindra and Mahindra have fused and the atmosphere amongst the Indian Aluminium workers is heating up.

* The back-and-forth between JMA management and workers continues. In order to break the union the management has kicked out four leaders and now talks about a contract/agreement.

* Five workers at the Electricity Board have been suspended. The processions and protest-meetings continue. There are a lot of posters-meetings-slogans etc. about forming this or that union, but most of it is the usual ritualistic procedure.

* Some Agitation in Faridabad II

FMS, October 1987

* The company HYDERABAD ASBESTOS LTD. has changed its name to Hyderabad Industries Ltd., but in the Faridabad factories, the company continues to use the asbestos material like before, causing fatal cancer and asbestosis lung disease. The infamous management is in the first line when it comes to make workers fight among themselves. During the last ten years, whenever the management saw that trouble is brewing amongst workers, it used incantation-bribery-threats-divisions in order to make the workers smash each others heads. After having seen this happening again and again, this time the workers countered the management at the very attempt. This time, on October 14, the police shot at the workers. After this the management enforced a lockout. Apart from enduring the usual back-and-forth of the INTUC-AITUC-BMS, this time the Hyderabad Asbestos workers also had to see the pretentiousness of the HMS.

* Nukem Plastics manufactures by using poisonous gas, putting at risk the health of workers and the wider population. In the course of conflicts among workers, incited by management and trade unions, a worker died in October 1987. In 1977, the management of this factory used the BMS as their weapon. Being squeezed between management and this union, the workers tried to turn sometimes INTUC, sometimes CITU, sometimes HMS into their vehicle of rescue. A lot of empty promises have been made, causing damage to the workers and usually ending in a sell-out. This time the HMS, while hailing the Lok Dal government, created a big fuss in order to take over the chair at the negotiation table from its relative, the BMS. In the course of the dispute the workers anger got vented, a worker died in action, the workers got locked out from the factory and finally the union sold out. The factory management first locked-out the troubled workers and then handed out food to them. Now it has restarted production and disseminates its poisonous gas again – and both BMS and HMS are looking out for new grazing grounds.

* After having suffered under CITU, the Autopin workers are now pretty fed-up with BMS. In order to take over another chair at the table, the HMS created a lot of fuzz – they tore the BMS flag from the gate pole. They workers got agitated, the management resorted to lock-out. After ten-twelve days the HMS showed its true colours – exactly the same as BMS. Thanks to the new agreement signed by HMS, the bonus has decreased from 16 to 10 per cent, the September wages were paid in November and god knows when the October wage will be paid.

* At Bombay Rubber plant the CITU makes fools out of the workers. After two months of strike against the dismissals of five workers, the CITU now has signed an agreement which accepts the dismissals and has taken aback the rest of the workers – while the management distributes sweets amongst the workers.

* At Metal Box many workers had been dismissed in the recent passed. Management started to pay the remaining workers wages which are relatively higher than in other factories. Some of the Metal Box workers then felt big and they saw themselves as being different from other workers. Now, as consequence of capitalist reality, Metal Box has to face a new round of redundancies and Metal Box demonstrates the workers their essential existence as workers. In order to enforce the redundancies, the management of Metal Box has issued a lock-out.

* At Escorts Anciliary the union HMS has negotiated such great agreement that the workers organised a tool-down strike against it. HSM’s plan to sweeten the increase in work-load with a little wage hike – the two results of the agreement – did not go down well with the workers. The HMS leaders reacted by turning an issue, which essentially only concerned workers at a different Escorts plant into a point of conflict. In return management was then able to announce a lock-out in order to break workers resistance. In this way union and management forced workers to accept the work-load increasing agreement.

* Since ten years the workers in East India Textile Mill are looking for a messianic-miraculous solution of their problems. They have seen one Messiah after the other trying to perform these miracles, but the workers are still not satisfied. After the Lok Dal took over government in Haryana, workers once more stare at the performance of the HMS leaders. A series of meetings and speeches has been put into motion… on the other side the management smears honey around the mouth of the union president and sends him off in a specially provided car…

* Intro Escorts

GWN, 2010

In the 1980s the Escorts Group belonged to the ten biggest manufacturing companies in India, an industrial giant active in various product segments, such as tractors and agricultural machines, motorcycles, cranes, earth moving machines, parts for the railways. Like Maruti Suzuki or Hero Honda, Escort collaborated with various international companies, such as JCB, Claas, Yamaha, Ford Motors. Till the mid-90s about 24,000 permanent workers worked directly for Escorts Group, the main company in Faridabad at the time, which had various plants in the area. Hundreds of smaller factories and work-shops still depend on Escorts as their main ‘client’. From the late 1980s onwards permanent workers were attacked by various management schemes to increase the work load and productivity, often in collaboration with the union leader-ship. The union leader at the time, Subhash Sethi, interestingly enough presented himself as an anti-Stalinist revolutionary – see interview with ANC journal below. The underlying battle about re-structuring went on during the early 1990s; management used various strategies, such as shutting down certain plants for one or two weeks, putting pressure on older workers to accept early retirement etc.. This process got aggravated by various market slumps, which management used as a pretext to threaten workers with job cuts. From 1996 onwards the re-structuring process made great leaps forward: JCB, Yamaha and Claas split off from Escorts, the telecom division was sold. From then on Escorts focussed on the agro-machinery sector, of 24,000 former permanent workers now only 6,000 are left. This is not only due to the carve up of the former Escorts Group, but also because permanents were increasingly replaced by casual workers or workers hired through contractors. Till 1992 the number of casual workers in production was less than two per cent, today it varies from 10 percent to 50 percent, as per demand, and whereas there used to be no workers hired through contractors in the immediate production, now their numbers increase significantly. For current conditions at Escorts see:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no5/#fn1

* “Interview with President of All Escorts Employees’ Union”

Journal of the Marxist Workers’ Tendency of the African National Congress, October 1981

Inqaba interviews
SUBHASH SETHI,
President of All Escorts Employees’ Union,
Faridabad

India – ‘Workers must organise for Power’

India under capitalism is a giant In torment. With a population of 700 million (almost double that of Africa) and vast natural resources, India is potentially one of the most productive and wealthy countries in the world. Instead, after centuries of plunder by British imperialism, followed by the parasitic rule of the rotten Indian capitalist class, the country has been reduced to indescribable poverty and seething social tensions. Under the Impact of the mass struggle, India became politically Independent In 1947. British lmperialism handed power to the representatives of Indian capitalism. Though the trappings of a parliamentary system were established, for the mass of the people democracy does not exist. Enormous power has been concentrated fn the hands of Indira Gandhi and her corrupt family clique at the head of the Congress government. This power Is used In the most ruthless manner to enforce the interests of the big capitalists and landowners. Under their rule, over half the Indian people live below the official poverty line. 200 million working people survive on less than 20c a day. 100 000 children die of malnutrition every month. 80 % of children In the countryside will never go to school. The Indian workers and peasants struggle against these intolerable conditions. In every industrial city, heroic strikes have been fought in the face of murderous repression; in vast areas of the countryside, civil war reigns between landlords and landless peasants. In 1979, according to government calculations, there were 216 riots per day-nine riots every hour!

Pre-revolutionary turmoil

The capitalist class is completely incapable of solving the problems of the country. India has entered a period of pre-revolutionary turmoil. In the coming years the question of power will have to be decided-whether the present rulers will succeed in crushing the mass movement and stabilising their grip on the country, or whether their the only force capable of displacing them: the 21-million strong urban proletariat at the head of the countless rural masses. The most critical element in the workers’ struggle will be that of unity, leadership and programme. Thus far, the magnificent movement of the workers, in the towns and on the land, and the no less heroic struggles of the peasants, have been held back not by the power of the state, but by the failures of an utterly bankrupt and opportunist leadership. The leaders of the main organisations of the Indian working class-the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-cling to the bankrupt position that India is not ripe for the overthrow of capitalism. Therefore the task, according to them, is to consolidate ‘democracy’ on a capitalist basis. In practice, this means a series of compromises with reactionary have increasingly been driven into nightmare regime will be broken by capitalist leaders, watering down their half-hearted reformist programmes even more, and losing further support among the working people. It is due to the failure of the workers’ leaders to provide a socialist alternative that Indira Gandhi-brought down by a wave of mass struggle in 1977-was replaced by an equally bankrupt capitalist regime, and was then able to return to office last year. But the election result itself revealed the isolation of the ‘victorious* Gandhi regime. According to the official figures (despite widespread vote-rigging in Mrs Gandhi’s favour) little more than half the electorate voted; in all, less than a quarter of Indian voters supported Mrs Gandhi! In office, the Gandhi clique have continued to enrich themselves while building up the machinery of a police state to protect themselves against the anger of the masses. Their latest reactionary measure has been to declare a total ban on strikes in the main sectors of the economy. A punishment of a year in prison is laid down for organising strikes, and 6 months for taking part in a strike! These attacks will spur the workers on to even more determined struggles. Country-wide protests are already taking place. Everything points at an explosive sharpening of the class struggle in the period ahead. The capitalist class has no answer to the struggles of the workers and peasants except increasingly barbarous repression. Already sections of the ruling class are calling up the dark forces of communalism (ultranationalist fascism) as a bludgeon against resistance among minority national groups. Nationalist movements in different stales of India, reflecting a mood of despair, are struggling lo break free from the hated regime In New Delhi. Under capitalism, India faces a nightmare future of ruin and disintegration. Only the development of a Marxist leadership within the mass organisations of the Indian working class can provide a rallying point for the workers and peasants in struggle and show a way out of the present crisis. Organised on a socialist programme, the Indian working class can draw behind it the mass of the people, demolish the capitalist system and, on the basis of nationalised production under democratic working-class control, develop the resources of the country to meet the need of the mass of the people. The fate of the Indian revolution is of vital concern to the workers of South Africa and the entire world. If successful, it would enormously strengthen the workers in every country; If crushed, it would be a demoralising blow to workers everywhere.

INQABA has discussed some of the crucial questions facing the Indian working class with Comrade Subhash Sethi, a union leader from the Delhi area and a supporter of the ideas of Marxism. Shortly after giving this interview, Comrade Subhash Sethi was a leader of a 30 000 strong demonstration of workers in Delhi against the antistrike legislation. Many of the tasks of the Indian workers-in particular, the building of a united national trade union movement-are similar to the tasks, which face us in South Africa today. Many lessons can be learned from the experience of the workers in India, which will assist us in carrying forward our work.

INQABA :
Workers in South Africa are eager for information about the pre-revolutionary movement of the Indian workers and peasants, which has brilliantly begun over the last period. Could you describe this movement?

Sethi:
Sixty per cent of the people in our country are living below the poverty line. That means earning less than two rupees a day (20c). 74% to 80% of the people are living in the villages. Some are peasants, some are landless labourers. But when they go to the cities they see the capitalists living like princes, with cars, big homes and servants. Due to all these social evils the masses want revolution, they want to change society. They realise they are working hard and getting nothing. But the main problem is the lack of revolutionary organisation, the lack of national leadership. The left in India is split into many parties like the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the Revolutionary Socialist Party. But none of them provide a real alternative, a revolutionary leadership for the struggling workers and peasants.
None of the political parties is working democratically. This is a big problem and that is why they are divided. Anyone who criticises the leadership is sent out of the party. Also if he wants any change in the policy or programme, he is sent out of the party. Most of the trade unions are controlled by political parties and work in the same undemocratic way. What we need is to build one country-wide trade union organisation that will work democratically and carry forward the struggle for change. In the meantime we will also be building a revolutionary political leadership.

INQABA :
The name of Gandhi is well known in South Africa since Mahatma Gandhi was active In South Africa as well. Can you tell us about the regime which Indira Gandhi has set up in India today?

Sethi:
No doubt Indira Gandhis’ family were involved in the fight for independence, but she was not elected for this reason. 60% of the people have voted against her, always. Indira Gandhi game back to power in 1980 because the previous Janata Party government did not give what they had promised, and because of the failure of the main workers’ parties to provide any clear alternative. Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party is a nationwide party, but the other parties are regional parties. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is the biggest left party. It is the ruling party in three states – West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. In other parts the Communist Party of India has a hold. If the left put up a united front nationally Indira Gandhi could not win. She has to use bribery and vote-rigging in order to stay in power. But the left parties don’t unite. They are Stalinist parties, by which I mean that the upper leadership are the bosses of the parties. They dictate, they don’t want democracy in the party, they don’t want to lead the revolutionary struggles of the masses. That is why Mrs Gandhi is able to stay in power. This government of Indira Gandhi is pro-capitalist, anti-trade union and anti-working class. A new law has just been passed to ban strikes. But I tell you, half a million workers will march on 17 August to say to Indira Gandhi, you shall not pass this law. We in Faridabad are planning a strike on that day. But Indira Gandhi knows that the national trade union leadership do not have the courage to fight. After passing this law repression will increase. After that some workers’ leaders will be forced to come out in opposition because of the pressure of the workers. The workers will demand of their leaders that they to organise a united struggle.

INQABA:
What has been your experience of the struggle to create a united trade union movement?

Sethi:
Until 1974 I was working at Escort in Faridabad, when I was sacked for trade union activities. There were six trade unions in Escort, in a workforce of 10 000. The strongest of those unions were led by the CPI (M), the CPI and the Congress Party (Indira). I said to the leaders of the unions, why are we divided into six parts? We are crying that the employers are exploiting us, but we are doing nothing for the workers. We can’t get anything until we unite. The leaders agreed and said we should form a front. I said no, we should form one organisation, one union, and the workers should elect the leadership. The leaders said no. Then I went to the workers directly. I told them of my discussion with the leaders and explained to them that if we are divided our demands will not be met. The workers agreed. Then I asked them, why don’t we form one union and leave those other leaders? So they all left their unions and we formed one union. For the last four years we have had elections every year, and I have been elected President every time. After we formed this union we had a strike. It involved 10 000 workers, and we won it in three days. At first the employer said he would kill me. He said he would fire his factory before he would talk to me. But after three days he agreed to talk. Then we had a meeting with the management and got an increase of 125 Rupees (R12,50) per month per worker. And within three years we got another increase of 350 Rupees (R35.00). In the history of India there have never been such increases in such a short period. On that basis I went to the workers of the whole region of Faridabad. I asked them, why are we divided, why should we not form one organisation as we have formed in Escort? The workers agreed. We organised 15 000 workers more. Now we are the strongest organisation, in Faridabad. Within the next two years our aim is to organise 100 000 workers into our organisation, out of 200 000 workers in the region. They will come into our organisation because all the workers can see we are following the right path, we are following the democratic path and we are fighting for the workers’ interests.

INQABA:
How does democracy operate inside your union?

Sethi:
Democracy means, the leadership must be elected by the workers, if the workers believe they are right. I may be the leader of our organisation, but the leadership can be changed if it is not working in the interest of the working class. So I am not saying that I should be the leader, but that the leader should be elected every year. Any leader who is not working for the interests of the workers should be dismissed by election, according to the will of the workers.

INQABA:
What are the prospects for building trade union unity in India as a whole?

Sethi:
On the basis of our work in Faridabad we will try to form one trade union organisation all over India. I am working around Delhi but other people are organising the workers in every other part of the country. They are many and they are militant, but they cannot fight if they are divided. They will come together because they have similar ideas. When that happens we will form one national trade union organisation. That will provide the basis for a united political leadership of the working class.

INQABA:
What is the role of the present political leadership of the workers?

Sethi:
All the workers and the left should be united on the basis of a program and policy that is decided democratically. Every leader should be elected, from the bottom, to the city committee, district committee, state committee or central committee of the organisation. But at present the left parties are run by a dictatorial system. That is why there are splits. If there had been democracy in the party, there would be no need for splits. With democracy, the reformist leaders will be sent out because the working class want a militant leadership, they do not want reformists who cooperate with the authorities. The CP leaders have had many opportunities to build a mass revolutionary movement in India. But because of their policies they have always thrown these opportunities away. Instead they have taken their line from Moscow and betrayed the struggles of the Indian workers and peasants. The most notorious betrayal was in 1942-1945. At that time there was the ‘Quit India* movement to drive British imperialism out of India. The CPI opposed that movement, it opposed it because of Russia- because the Stalinist regime was in alliance with the British imperialists against Germany at that time. Because of its attitude to the independence movement the CPI was held in low esteem by the masses of India. If the CPI had been willing to support the struggle for national independence, then the workers’ movement would have become very strong, it would have led the national struggle. Instead, the people saw that the CP went against the movement, it was helping British imperialism. People were being hanged, people were sacrificing, and the CP went against it. Today the workers are very militant but the leadership is leading a princely life. The poor people are not able to eat; 70 million people don’t have houses but the leaders live like princes. How can it be possible for the people to believe in such a leadership? I can give you an example. In 1979 there was a one-day strike in Faridabad. This call was supported by all the left trade unions, so there was a complete strike. Everything was closed. The police prohibited any assembly of workers. We had a meeting already arranged but the police said, the order has been made so you have to leave this place. The workers said no. Then one of the police inspectors fired and a worker was killed. The workers then dispersed, and two workers carried the body away. The police inspector said, don’t touch the body, but they ignored him. Then he fired again and both the workers were killed. The other workers were watching this. After the police inspector fired, they ran at him and killed him. Minutes later, huge contingents of police arrived. They fired at the workers and more than 50 were killed. The workers had the support of all the people in the area. There was a mood of militancy. But this situation was turned into defeat by the leadership of the CPI and the CPI (M). The workers wanted to stay out on strike the second day but the leaders in Delhi said no, no strike. So the workers went to work. We were forced to go underground for three months. The workers said to me, what kind of leader are you-you tell us to go to work after 50 of us have been killed? I said, can there be a complete strike if only our union calls it? If the CP leaders ask you to work, can I alone ask you to strike? The workers were betrayed, very much betrayed. From that day the workers have been thinking very carefully before taking any action- whether under this leadership we should fight, or not.

INQABA:
How do you think the task of building the workers’ organisation can be carried forward in the period ahead?

Sethi:
I am going to collect 200 000 Rupees (R20 000) from the Escort workers for the purpose of organising the exploited, unorganised workers. We will ask 30 Rupees (R3) from each worker. We will explain to them that the unorganised are getting only 200 Rupees (R20) a month, whereas we get 600 Rupees (R60). We will explain that unless we can organise the working class in millions, there can be no social change. If this money is collected we can take on at least 15 to 20 full-time organisers. At present we only have 8 to .10 cadres working full-time for the union. In India the financial problem is a very big problem of trade union organisation. This problem has been caused by our leaders. Many of them are very dishonest. They have used the workers’ money for themselves. You have mentioned the problem of money and financial control, which is crucial lo prevent corruption in the leadership.

INQABA:
How do you tackle this problem in the union?

Sethi:
Our union is one of the most organised and financially stable in North India because we account to the workers, and the workers have control over the union’s finances. We show the workers every month, this is the income, this is the expenditure, and this is in the bank and in cash. We cannot draw more than 1 000 Rupees (R100) from the bank at once, and we cannot draw more than
3 000 (R300) in a month. If we need to draw more than 10 000 Rupees, the whole of the Executive Committee has to meet; and we have to get permission from a general meeting of the workers to draw so much money for such and such work. Then, if they give permission, the whole Committee has to sign. All these instructions have been given to the bank. This is the system we have. In the coming years we will have a very strong financial position. With these resources we will be able to meet our target of organising 100 000 workers.

INQABA:
We would like to turn now to the relations between India and the surrounding countries. A lot is said about the conflict between India and Pakistan. Can you give us your views on that?

Sethi:
Indira Gandhi says that we have a danger from Pakistan, and Pakistan’s Zia says that he has a danger from India. But Indira Gandhi has no danger from Pakistan, not at all, she is only making excuses to divert the attention of the people. The people are not afraid of Pakistan. The only thing the people want is to change society, they want to throw out the capitalists. There are so many struggles in different corners of India. The peasants have been fighting in Maharashtra, in Karnataka, in Tamil Nadu, in Haryana. They want lower prices, cheaper fertilisers, lower electricity costs. At least 100 have been killed. In Bangalore, 130 000 public sector workers were on strike for 70 days. They were only defeated due to a weakness of leadership. All these struggles are against Indira Gandhi, not against Pakistan. We need a national organisation to expand these struggles all over the country. There is no danger at all from Pakistan or China. The people are not thinking about it at all, they are only thinking about changing society.

INQABA:
What has been the attitude of the Indian workers’ leaders towards the struggles of the workers in Sri Lanka and other countries?

Sethi:
The more militant workers* leaders know the history of the revolutionary Sri Lankan working class, and know how the general strike was defeated. But the mass of the workers are not yet very conscious of the working-class struggle internationally. That is due to the nationalist policies of the workers’ political leaders. The CPI (M) and the CPI (ML) gave no help to the Sri Lankan revolutionaries at all. As for the CPI, it takes its line mainly from Russia.

INQABA:
We often hear about the caste system in India, which splits up the people and harshly discriminates against those who are born into the lower castes. How do you fight against this system in the workers’ movement?

Sethi:
Under capitalism it is very, very difficult to overcome caste divisions. Society is in such a form that caste differences are linked to economic and social privilege and power – The harijans (the lowest caste; the so-called ‘untouchables’-Ed.), for example, have almost no land, while the highest caste, the Brahmins, have among them many landlords and capitalists. But the workers’ leaders have failed to campaign on these issues, and so there is no clarity among the masses about the way in which casteism and religion are being used to divide and oppress them. In our agitation we concentrate on speaking against capitalism, why the workers are being exploited and how we can overthrow the capitalist system. When the working class takes power, casteism will be eliminated. But among the cadres we should always discuss these questions. We need to be clear about it at all times or we will have problems in the future.

INQABA:
Some of our leaders in the South African liberation movement still regard Indira Gandhi as an ally. She even gives out medals for the struggle of the South African masses. What is your comment on this?

Sethi:
Indira Gandhi did not fight for the masses, either in India or in South Africa, not at all. The working people of India are against Indira Gandhi. The people of your country should know this.

INQABA:
What do you see as the prospects for the Indian workers’ struggle in the period ahead?

Sethi:
In the next elections Indira Gandhi will probably win again because no alternative is being provided by the leaders of the left. If she does not win, then other rightist parties will come to power. But in the election after that, definitely we can come to power. By “we” I mean our organisations, like the CPI (M) and the CPI, when we have reformed them. The people will demand a leadership and a government that will make an end to the oppressive conditions of the capitalist system. We must use the time now to build that leadership. The conditions are very favourable. Thousands and thousands of cadres in the CPI, the CPI (ML) and the CPI (M) want to bring in their own revolutionary policies instead of the reformist policies of the leaders. If we can unite these cadres on the basis of a revolutionary programme, we can establish democracy in the parties and replace any leaders who don’t want to struggle for the demands of the workers and peasants. If this kind of party is formed in India, the left will be united, and a socialist government will be elected. It is possible that the capitalists will not give up their power peacefully, they will end democracy if they see that the workers and peasants will put their own parties in power. In that case there will be a fight. But with the revolutionary cadre united, and with the trade unions united, the revolution will be successful. The consequences of the Indian revolution will be very great. India is a country with the second-largest population in the world. If the revolution comes to India and capitalism is thrown out, the whole of Asia and indeed the whole world will be affected.

The things you have explained will contribute an enormous enthusiasm to the South African workers. Like the workers in India, we have the task of building a mass united trade union movement on the basis of a Marxist programme. We must do everything possible to link our struggles together, and with those of workers throughout Africa and internationally.

Trade unionists in South Africa who would like to get in touch with Comrade Subhash’s union directly can write to:
Subhash Sethi, President, All Escorts Employees’ Union, Neelam Chowk, Faridabad, Haryana, India.

* FMS – May 1983

Mr. Swraj Paul (1), a London-based citizen close to Shrimati Indira Ghandi, has stirred up trouble amongst the circles of local industrialists. Having his roots in the wealthy Amichand Pyarelal family, Swaraj Paul has become an English citizen. He controls the Caparo Group. The Caparo Group also owns 16 tea plantations in Asam. Swaraj Paul’s brother runs the APJ Company here in Faridabad.

In the current budget the Indira Gandhi government has dished out many offerings to the NRI’s. These ‘friends in the distance’ have replied to these offerings in the appropriate manner… Swaraj Paul has bought company shares from share-holding members of Escorts and DCM management. In a state of agitation the group around Birla-Jain-Modi-Shriram-Nanda has met the Finance Minister on 20th of April requesting, that the right of NRI to vote in share-holder companies should be abolished! So to hell with “Vasudeva Kutumb (2)”, what has become of the “Indian-ness” of the Birla friends?!

On 22nd of April we could see the troubled face of the Escorts chairman HP Nanda in the Financial Express. He announced that he would buy Escorts shares at all costs… Mr. Nanda said that those people eager to take-over Escorts are nothing but “money bags” who want to “trouble” companies which are run according to the national customs. So, Mr. Nanda, the aversion against “money bags” has now also entered yourself?! The pot calls the kettle black! And in regard to the “trouble”, Mr. Nanda, this is still the issue of the working class movement, isn’t it?!

Well, so trouble has broken out between “foreigners” and “locals” – and what do insecure wrestlers tend to do: they scream out loud. The BJP party-leader Vajpayee (3) met the Finance Minister on behalf of Birla and Nanda. A member of the Congress (S) asked the government during a session in Parliament to stop Swaraj Paul creating trouble in 300 factories! The Haryana Government announced through a district judge that it will make use of the National Security Act against Mr. Paul – based on the fact that he is a social enemy, a national enemy… Mr. Nanda, why don’t you throw Mr. Swaraj Paul into jail under the National Security Act – after his leave for London he seems to have forgotten that there are laws allowing to lock people up without trial!

On the 30th of April the Economic Times printed the declaration of ten senior MP’s of Indira’s Congress – denouncing Mr. Swaraj Paul to spoil the game. Factions are competing, and the niggling continues. Rajeev Gandhi and the Central Finance Minister position themselves in the middle… In the meantime Mr. Paul said in an interview with a London-based newspaper that he has invested capital after having been instructed by important people in Delhi – ‘in the interest of Hindustan’. He will make use of his shares of Escorts and DMC in order to give a push to the big corporations in Hindustan, given that most of the owners of big companies in Hindustan have actually invested very little themselves. Mr. Swaraj Paul said that he will free those companies from their feudal roots…

Obviously, in the majority of companies, banks and insurance, ‘state capital’ has the dominant position. Nevertheless these companies are categorised as ‘private’. These companies are managed by Birla-Tata-Modi-Nanda tycoons, whose shares constitute only around 10 to 15 per cent of total capital. A company of one crore Rs share-capital takes out tens of crore Rs of credits from the banks. In this way, the money of Birla-Tata-Modi-Nanda will amount to less than one per cent of the total sum invested in the company (Sanjay Gandhi, who holds 3,000 Rs shares runs Maruti, a three crore Rs company).

Mr. Swaraj Paul has bought one or two per cent of the shares of Escorts and DMC and… he has become part of the management. If the state-leaders want him to, he will take-over the leading position. There is another clear issue. The managing figures within Escorts and DMC will – now more than ever – try to intensify their good relations with the Delhi political class… the financial offerings will increase. This is the actual meaning of Swaraj Paul’s ‘putting an end to feudalism in companies’. Mr. Swaraj Paul has made Birla-Tata and friends realise the power of state capital, the power of Indira-Rajeev Gandhi. This is the current motive behind the wrestling.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swraj_Paul (in October 2010 he was suspended from the British House of Lords for fraud)
(2) Hindu concept meaning that the world is one family
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atal_Bihari_Vajpayee

* FMS – June 1983

From speculators at the Delhi Stock Exchange: Escorts chairman HP Nanda went to London to meet Mr. Swaraj Paul. Swaraj Paul bought thousands of 10 Rs-Escort-shares for 40 to 80 Rs each. Initially Nanda had offered the shares for 150 Rs each. Paul replied to Nanda by making following offer: Sell me all the shares you have for 200 Rs each. Given these large amounts of money, the Escorts workers are able to guess how much they are exploited. Swaraj Paul, a person close to Indira Gandhi, continues to put pressure on Escorts and DMC.

Nanda-Shriram and friends acknowledge the declarations of the government – Capitalists know their governments, therefore they don’t sit back and tighten their belts, no, they move their fat bellies and join the struggle over influence. Workers can take this as a lesson: they should give up their believe in the capitalist government’s promises. Obviously, behind all the chitter-chatter hides this main question: for whose private interest and to which extend is state capital employed. Therefore there is no clash between Birla-Tata-Modi-Nanda and Swaraj Paul. Their opponent is the head of state capital, Indira Gandhi. Nanda or Swaraj Paul? Whoever will benefit her more, will have Indira Gandhi’s hand in his back. Once either Escorts or DMC is handed over to Swaraj Paul there will be sweets in both of Indira Gandhi’s hands. From now on Birla-Tata-Nanda will be found more often in the palaces of state power – there will be more bribes changing hands.

Workers should take advantage of the in-fights between the different representatives of capital. This is a great opportunity for Escort workers to enforce their demands. Hence, it is time to put pressure on management through organised struggle, but the union leaders are entangled in a low level quarrel among themselves.

* FMS – October 1983

It has been an intensive week since the hunger strike of two dismissed Ford workers started on 23rd of September. The Ford workers have demonstrated a great unity and the workers in the second Ford plant have started to show on which side they are. But the Ford union leaders break the Ford workers’ eagerness to struggle by spreading the following wrong reasoning: if you fight back you might get hurt… so give up all this talk about struggle! On the eighth day of the hunger strike the leaders turned from being ‘peaceful’ to being ‘revolutionary’ – they stopped the demonstrations and the ‘lunch and tea’-boycott of the Ford workers! Instead of relying on the strength of the Ford workers the union leaders hope for miracles. And then suddenly they order to pack up the sleeping-mats of the hunger strikers on 3rd of October.

After having finished off the hunger strike, suddenly started to stir up trouble. Beatings in the Ford plant are followed by arrests of dozens of workers and the situation finally ends in a lockout.
Congress vultures turned all of a sudden pro-worker and bailed out the arrested Ford workers. The current situation, the conflict between Nanda management and other factions, are a golden opportunity for Congress to portraty themselves as ‘workers’ supporters’. These “workers’ supporter”-vultures of the Congress might bail out Ford workers, but are not bothered about the JMA workers being still in jail. How could they?! The order to put the JMA workers behind bars came from their INTUC [Congress Union} brothers.

DCS, PD, LC are experts in opportunism. In the current period the skills of these representatives of capital are coming into full bloom - the local lord is Nanda, but the main parental-power is Indira. Nanda's current interest is to keep 'peace' at Escorts, while Indira and Swaraj Paul are interested in 'trouble'. The bosses are solving this contradiction in an excellent manner. Presenting it as an 'external constrain' the 'peace-keepers' create 'controlled trouble'. The representative of the state are actually more 'militant' than both union leaderships: more than the leadership of the Escorts Union, who has been turned into Nanda's pawns and who preach that 'we have to keep the peace, because it is time for re-negotiating the agreement [collective contract]‘; and more than the leadership of the ‘troublemaking’ Ford leadership, who became pawns of Indira and Swaraj Paul.

Whoever portrays factions of the state as being ‘on the side of the workers’ has also to talk about the involvement of the state’s ‘law and order’… about the Atul Glas workers who have committed the crime to form a union have been stripped naked and beaten up in the police station; the lathi-attacks to prevent workers from holding meetings; the arrests of JMA Atul Glas workers, who were held in custody for four days without arrest notice. The police make sure that the Escort issue ‘is kept completely within the realm of the law’. To stick to the capitalist law in times when the bosses are in struggle with each other is hard work for the state representatives: “It is the order from above, what can we do, we are forced”…

* FMS – November 1983

In Faridabad, the struggle about the take-over of Escorts, which has erupted between the advancing Indira-Swaraj Paul faction and the Nanda clique, is heating up. Here the Indira – Swaraj Paul faction turns the Ford Workers Union leaders into their pawns, while Nanda does the same with the Escorts Employees’ Union leaders. At this point of time the main struggle at Escorts is not about the agreement. It is neither about the two leaders sacked at Ford. Neither is the struggle against the All Escorts Union leaders – so unpopular figures among the Ford workers – currently the main question at Escorts. Nevertheless, some stupid elements have used these questions to get workers entangled in a fight between each other: workers at the Ford plant on one side and workers of other Escort plants on the other side. At this point of time the struggle between Indira-Swaraj Paul and Nanda over Escorts is the central point of development and main concern at Escorts. To take advantage of the exploiters’ weakness – their factions being locked in a tug of war – is the workers’ task of the hour.

* FMS – January 1987

Leaflet of the Escorts Union Leader Subhash Sethi
When the struggle about the take-over of Escorts between Nanda and Swaraj Paul was still in full swing, the local trade union backed Nanda openly. During the peak-time of the tug-of-war over Escorts, the time came for a new three years agreement between management and union. The union presented a proposal to the workers: 20 per cent workload increase for a wage increment of 191 Rs per month. The workers ripped the proposal into pieces and demanded an agreement without inscribed workload increase. The union then proclaimed that they had achieved an agreement which would guarantee more money without higher workload – and they sold this to the workers as the most marvellous agreement under the sky of workers’ rights. Finally the Nanda management reclaimed the control over Escorts. Immediately after the successful re-instatement of Nanda management, both management and union told the workers to fulfil their part of the ‘whole agreement’: the wonderful agreement, which had guaranteed wage hike without asking for more work, contained I.E. Norms. And I.E. Norms meant that the workload of the Escort workers would be increased by 30 per cent. Facing this fraud, and given that they had turned a 20 per cent work-load increase agreement into shreds, the outburst of workers’ anger was not surprising. When the workers spat on an offered sweetener of 50 Rs wage increase, the union started to enforce the management’s policy by using threats and measures to create divisions among workers. When the workers faced a 30 per cent work-load increase the main union leader of Faridabad came out with a leaflet, with the headline “Two Issues”, which was distributed amongst the Escorts workers. The union leader’s [Subhash Sethi] leaflet reads:

“You can refuse the proposal for the agreement… but what right does exist to accuse leaders to have mingled with management… during the last negotiations the issue of 20 per cent production increase came up and you refused the issue, and we accepted your resistance. We then settled an agreement about the I.E. Norms and you were informed about this. Here and now we refer only to the decision about this issue, we don’t raise any new issues here.

It might well be that you have misunderstood things, we will have to explain to and understand from each other. “…but why all this general talk here”, you might think. “Why all this nonsense talk”, you might ask. “He is talking, but he does not say anything, and then he will complain again that all workers say that union leaders and management have mingled. Why all this double-faced attitude? Say what you want to say, speak straightforwardly. Unsubstantial nonsense-talk will not be tolerated. And we will have to find ways to deal with all this.”

Last year we have settled a mini-agreement. In this agreement the production increase was inscribed in ‘increase per cent’, but it failed. Now the management raised again the demand of production increase, again in terms of ‘percentage’. But one question comes up: if we apply a ‘percentage increase’ then those people who currently work 3 to 4 hours per shift will have to work only 40 to 45 minutes longer. Those who already work 6 to 6.5 hours will have to work 7.5 hours. The question has to be raised how this problem can be solved. One solution would be that those who work less will have to work the proper hours while those who work the full amount already, will not be bothered.

So now please tell us, should we have accepted the IE norms or not? Some were not accepting it. We – the union – thought that, alright, give us 50 Rs wage increase in the name of I.E. Norms. The management did not agree to this at all. Some people said at this point that “together with the I.E. Norms there will be a major increase in production targets”. Relating to this we told the management, that if there is a production increase, there should be a wage hike, too. So the management presented us this scheme. We did not agree to this scheme, but given that the I.E. Norms have to be introduced and that the workers should get something out of it, we thought that there will be no harm… Now, you will say: “this scheme is nothing else than the I.E. Norms in disguise”.

If you will not accept this agreement either, then you will have to accept that those people who work only 3 to 4 hours will continue to do so and those who work 6 to 6.5 hours will do so, too. Now you might reply that we should stop all the talk about I.E. Norms altogether, that the demands of the last settlement have been fulfilled from your side. The management will use this attitude of yours in order to obstruct the next settlement. To sort this out will take two months and the new settlement will be useless by then.

Now the question is: what are I.E. Norms? The management might have their position on this, but that does not mean that our union will have to agree. Our union delegates will see and find out how much work a worker is able to perform during 6.5 hours. Our union delegates and representatives of the management will meet and come to a decision about this. The norm that both sides agree on – which will have to be accepted by the workers – will be the I.E. Norm. You will receive 50 Rs wage hike for the I.E. Norm, if you will fetch more than that, that should be alright, and you should not worry about getting less than this. It is our task to establish the I.E. Norms, and in return there has to be a good settlement. Some people might now think that they could just work less during the I.E. Norms establishing process, or to create trouble. This was the case at Escorts plant in Bangalore – but go and ask the union leaders at plant 1 about the current conditions of the workers in Bangalore, these leaders have seen them with their own eyes. You will have to work double as much and will not get any wage increase at all – this is exactly what has happened in Bangalore.” [End of leaflet]

* FMS – March 1987

Three years agreement
At the beginning of every year Escorts management deducts the union dues from the wages of all workers and hands them over to the union – nowadays the annual dues amount to more than 200,000 Rupees. The last three years agreement between union and management is an example of how workers have to pay. Referring to the ‘last agreement’s conditions’ management and union asked workers to accept a 30 per cent increase of the work-load, which resulted in the workers becoming even more suspicious towards the union. Given this suspicion of the workers, the union did not manage to get the workers drawn into the whirls of their usual routine mobilisations, such as symbolic strikes “because the management is not willing to negotiate” – routine mobilisations, which, like at the moment, take place before the finalisation of a new agreement. When ordinary workers started to take the piss out of the union leaders cunning tricks, the union came up with their own remedy. Suddenly the union announced that in a struggle over life and death they have settled an agreement, which would guarantee the workers a 301 Rs increase of wages. For the desperate workers this was a rather surprising announcement – and the agreement received a nice applause.
But nowadays Nanda management is not engaged in any ‘internal’ struggle like during the last agreement, when the fight with Swaraj Paul was going on. Therefore it took less than a month before the workers had to face the truth of the current agreement. Shortly after the announcement workers were told that a further 50 to 80 per cent workload increase will be attached to the increase of wages. And the management in each plant made clear that the workers will have to meet the new targets first, before getting more money count in their leisure time.
The Escorts workers did not openly lament against this agreement, but in their groups they undertook steps against it. In all plants the maintenance workers strengthened their opposition against the agreement and formed collectives against it. In the third plant some department workers interrupted production and on the 28th of March in the Ford plant workers stopped the entire production acting against the agreement.

Here are some sections from the union-management agreement:
10. b) The union and the workmen agree that they will accept the production level defined by management and that they will undertake the effort to meet it.
c) If any workmen fail to meet the production level defined by management or are found being absent from their workplace, then the ‘no work no pay’ rule is applied.
e) …the union accepts that the company has the right to set time standards for different work tasks and methods. The workmen will deliver performance according the time standards defined by the company. The union also accepts that the time standard at one point defined by the company can be altered if there are changes in the production system, in the material or product, in machinery or tools or jig fixture, or any other factor which has an impact on the production system.
f) For production and productivity reasons a worker can be shifted from one machine or work station to another. If according to his skills the worker is able to run another or several other machines then the union will not interfere with or obstruct the worker being employed at this machine or these machines.
11. Whether the full amount of the wage is paid to the workmen will depend on the condition that the minimum production target is met, which is defined in the efficiency scheme.

* FMS – December 1988

Escorts: In Faridabad’s main company an incentive scheme has been introduced, based on last year’s agreement between management and union. Initially the workers were enraged about this work-load increasing scheme – but then, once earning two Paise extra, they only swore a bit and joined the scheme. Once the incentive scheme runs, the workers turn blind and drudge on. After only ten months the workers had already fulfilled the annual production target. At the beginning of November 5,500 Rajdoot motor-cycle stock started to pile up at the second plant. The situation is more or less the same at the tractor plant.

In this way ‘lay-offs’ entered the agenda of the management. The fact that now there is talk about a slow-down strike coming up, is not seen on the background of the looming lay offs. To suddenly come up with demands about pensions and to make workers engage in a slow-down can only be a measure to pull the wool over workers eyes. By having met the 12-months target in 10 months workers have handed over a sword to management, a sword to tackle and cut down 20 per cent of superfluous work-force.

* FMS – April 1989

Chess-Board Struggles
At the beginning of March, news about a “marvellous” agreement – all for the benefit of the Escorts workers – were published in the newspapers. In fact it was made to be published. But the Escorts workers were not too happy about this “marvellous” agreement, which the leaders had made ‘in the interest of the workers’. The same “marvellous” words were used during the 1986 agreement – which was forged in 1983 during the chess-board fights between Nanda and Swaraj Paul and which brought the I.E. Norms into effect.

Back then in 1986, the Escorts union president got enraged and threatened the Escorts workers in a leaflet named “Two Issues”. In the arbitrary name of I.E. Norms the work load of the Escorts workers had to be increased by 30 percent – and in the end the management and union leaders were able to force it upon the workers. The three-years agreement of 1987 again meant an increase of the workload for the workers – this time in the name of the incentive scheme. The Escorts workers verbally protested also against this agreement, but together the management and union were able to enforce it against the workers. For more and more incentives [productivity bonus] the Escorts workers started to speed up their work, exhausting themselves, shortening their lifetime. The workers, already running out of breath, had to face yet another “marvellous” agreement, which union and management put on their shoulders within less than a years time.

The incentive scheme ‘proved’ the management that the workers can easily work even more and that, up to now, they had intentionally worked less than they could. The Escorts union leader-ship agreed with the leading management – in their “Two Issues” leaflet distributed during the time of the I.E. Norms agreement they said: “Some people might think that they can work less and cause trouble… but in the end you will work double as much and will get nothing in return”. And the same union president, in order to enforce a 15 per cent work load increase, told the workers in March 1989 in a leaflet: “You will now say that we keep listening to the wrong advisors and that we should ensure that you will keep getting everything without being compelled to work a little bit: Then sorry! Such kind of leadership will not be given by Subhash Sethi!”

We actually do not know who is doing the wrong thing – the guy in the fine dress driving around in a car, agitating people; or the worker who uses the bike, wears blue-collar and drudges at his or her machine. But one thing is clear, that management and union have made the decision to threaten the Escorts workers. Having toughened the incentive norms, management will pay less for the workers, while at the same time they have increased the workload by another 15 per cent. In the last six-seven years again and again the Escorts workers and the union leaders have confronted each other over each and every main issues. It is clear that either the Escorts workers are to stupid to know their own interests; or the union leaders are wastrels who, in the name of the favour of the workers, do everything for the good of the management.

* FMS – July 1989

Union election
When out of the 12,000 members only 17 followed the call to come to the Mayday meeting, the union president made this the issue for his resignation. The actual issue is that during the last six to seven years the union has played a supervising and co-managing role when, under this pretext or the other, the work load of the workers has been increased. Therefore the union has lost its trust and credit amongst the workers. In the interest of the leadership of both union and management, something had to be done about this lack of credibility. The resignation was a step within the attempt to restore the credibility. The election of a new leader-ship was announced. During earlier elections it happened several times that the leadership had declare its resignation only in order withdraw it again shortly afterwards. This time they try to prevent this by ‘proper elections’, but actually the elections were hardly more than a drama. All leaders and their muscle men created a lot of pressure in order to prevent people from voting, and this actually made an impact. Nevertheless, 3,300 votes were counted and a new leader-ship elected.

* FMS – February 1990

Compulsory Pension Fund
The public workers got a little agitated about the current wage re-vision, they created a lot of fuss about the state’s announcement to transfer the outstanding wages – outstanding at the time of the wage re-vision – and the Dearness Allowance money into a compulsory public workers saving account. The government does not justify this compulsory saving scheme by saying that it is in the interest of the workers. The government says that it is forced to introduce it, it cries tears about having its hands tied. But look what’s going on here at Escorts.

In the name of the pension scheme the middle-men at Escorts do not just force the workers to pay into the scheme, but they directly cut money from their wages. Furthermore, this deed is portrayed as being a step in favour of the Escorts workers. This is published all over Faridabad. Lies don’t know any limits.
Every month Escorts deducts 125 Rs from each worker’s wage and pays it to the insurance. We do not know who will put commission-money from these crores Rs of insurance money into their own pockets, but fact is that the business of insurance companies is profit business and that in this case they extract this profit from the workers’ wages.

The Escorts pension scheme is actually a reduction of workers’ wages. Even according to the government’s own standards, a monthly wage of 3,000 Rs is hardly enough to fill the stomachs of a three-member family. Therefore, those who force us to cut money from a 1,500 Rs wage by beating the drum of a golden future actually make our black present even darker. And how should there be a golden future? One glimpse at the current Provident Fund policies is sufficient to see that if workers want to get their deposited money they have to pay bribes. In reality the Escorts pension scheme is a management scheme. Escorts biggest share-holder, the public company Indian Life Insurance Neegam (Bhartiy Jivan Bima Neegam) is already making money from the scheme, Escorts company also will use the gathered money of the workers, will invest for their own profit it and/or use it as credit.

* FMS – April 1990

Temporary plant closure
Since 23rd of March, production at the Escorts plants in Faridabad and the Yamaha plant in Surajpur has been stopped. On 23rd of March, 2,000 casual workers have been kicked out from their jobs. About 12,000 permanent workers will only get 22 days of wage paid for March. On 5th of April, the printing time of this issue, the production at the Faridabad plant was still down and the workers in a state of confusion. According to their business figures these are good times for the management – so why the production stop? In order to understand the management’s plot behind the decision to stop production for 14 days which produces more than 2.5 crore Rs per day, it is necessary to reflect on some facts in detail. The statistics we have taken from the management’s publication “Escorts News”.

In 1986 the production of Escorts was 382 crore Rs, in 1987 it was 482 crore Rs and in 1988 it was 600 crore Rs. Instead of taking January – December period as bases for their calculation of 1989 production they referred to the financial year period from April till 31st of March, meaning that they took a total of 15 month of production into account for 1989. From January 1988 to March 1989 the production was 783 Rs. The managing chairman told the share-holder meeting on 20th of September 1989 that production during the five months period between April to August 1989 was 308 crore Rs, which is a major jump compared to the 248 crore Rs during the same period in 1988. The profits in the April – August 1989 period were 80 per cent higher than those of the some period in 1988. And management and middle-men preach that Escorts workers work only four hours a day!

Given that their propaganda has an affect on some workers we refer to the figures given by management to the capitalist listeners, so that people can have a look at the bare facts. Obviously, from a superficial point of view in a production process, which runs in quick succession, any ‘resting’ workers look like they are idle. Actually, these workers subjected to the speed of work drown their mental and physical health – one expression is the increase in alcohol and gambling.
Well! In the Times of India of the 3rd of April 1989 it said that, according to a spokesperson of the chairman, the management proposed a 50 per cent increase in production – instead of a yearly production of 775 crore Rs an annual production of 1,200 crore. The management and the chief of their middle-men announced that he and his comrades are ready to increase the workload in order to obtain the 1,200 crore production… but management has to pour some sugar on this poison in order to enable the middle-men to get the 1,200 crore annual production down the workers’ throats.

After 18 years of increasing the work load, the collaborating union and their honoured management know very well that some minor incentives won’t do in order to further increase the work load: they will have to take more drastic measures against the workers. The current mini agreement which enforced 15 per cent workload increase and which was accompanied by speeches of the union middle-men, saying that there won’t be any further increases in the future, are recent events. Therefore, in order to grind workers down and to make them ready for the increased load, the management and middlemen arranged the drama of shutting down production on 23rd of March. Those 12,000 workers, who produce 20 per cent of all tractors and 40 per cent of all motor-cycles in India, have to face up to a serious issue.

* FMS – May 1990

Workers refuse agreement
The management and their middle-men announced the restart of production for the 20th of April, putting an end to their drama of shutting down production, which started on 23rd of March. In the last issues we had a look at the reasons behind this drama, based on the written announcements published by management and their middle-men: “In order to prepare workers for a 50 per cent workload increase, management and middle-men arrange this drama”. But this time the announcement that production would resume on the 20th of April, which was made by management middle-men during a meeting on the 19th of April, was torn to pieces by the Escorts workers. On 20th of April restarting production was not on the agenda, most of the Escorts plants were not even cleaned. It seems that the alliance of management and union middle-men, having their true pretensions revealed, will have to hurry up and get their own hands dirty.

Being irritated by the unaccomplished re-start of work the union middlemen called for another meeting on the 20th of April. Despite the drama staged by the union chief and his followers the workers could not be moved. For the first time since the events at Ford in 1983 the attempt of the union middle-men to silence the Escorts workers by threats and attacks failed. Despite being beaten and kicked the workers raised their hands against the 50 per cent work-load increasing agreement – those who raised their hands in favour of the agreement were mostly office staff who would not have been affected by the work load increase. The Escorts workers stand firm to oppose the workload increase. Having expressed their anger the workers also managed to extol money for the work (un)done in March.

* FMS – July 1990

Word games
The representatives of capital in India are experts in word games. English being the business language for the upper ruling layer, this game is their daily bread. In Faridabad there are two recent examples of how the representatives of capital use the ‘trap of words’ against workers.

In order to quell the initial collective steps of workers’ resistance at East India Cotton Mill, management suspended several workers in the power-loom department in December 1989. After six month of ‘investigation and inquiry’-drama around the question of suspension, management and workers were getting soft. Management told the suspended workers that they could be “dismissed”, but that they will actually be “discharged”. In this way, the power-loom workers at East India Cotton were sacked by management. In order to explain the mighty difference between ‘dismissed’ and ‘discharged’ capitalist scholars might meet you in that matter, but if you need a legal decision then please wait for the decision of the supreme court via high court via labour court – which, first of all, has to make a case concerning ‘dismissed in the name of being discharged’, which needs a decision of the supreme court and so on. Escorts management makes use of the mighty difference between ‘discharged-dismissed’, too.

At Escorts, nowadays workers do not work ‘over-time’, they do ‘over-stay’. You don’t need a Plato to explain the difference between ‘over-time’ and ‘over-stay’. For the Escorts workers the difference between these words is so big that an elephant could pass between them: for over-time double-rate was paid, while for over-stay only single-rate is given. Obviously, the law which fixes double rate for over-time is rather old. Most capitalists in Faridabad break this law without any shame – by changing hours in the over-time register etc.. But Escorts is a reputed and famous company and there are so many people employed in the middle-management strata that the top management does not dare to engage in such blunt swindles. But then Escorts is forced to make workers work over-time and they have to pay less for it – what has to be done? Together with the union the management made an agreement that at Escorts there will not be any over-time, instead workers will be stopped from leaving after their duty-time in order to work and they will do ‘over-stay’, paid at single rate.

* FMS – November 1992

In hundreds of small factories in Faridabad work for Escorts is done. Thousands of workers working in these factories are usually not paid according to the minimum wage fixed by the government. In the Escorts plant itself there is a notable amount of casual workers and workers hired through contractors who work extremely hard for very little money. And then there are 14,000 permanent workers, who have been subjected to a continuous series of workload increases issued by management-union agreements. These conditions have the combined effect that in the last ten years the business of Escorts has increased four fold, which amounts to an annual production of more than 1,200 crore Rs.

Normally the workload increase is accompanied by a nominal wage increase. But the real purchasing power is constantly falling. In this way the real wages of the permanent Escorts workers, like the wages of other workers in India, have fallen continuously. The reasons for taking an additional part-time job, to work over-time, to let children and wife run a shop, has to be found in the fall of wages. And concerning the right to leisure-time: workers would be shocked if they’d compare the official 60-70 years old laws and their reality.

Normally the statutory bonus is paid on company or factory level. Despite the fact that within Escorts there are various ‘Companies Ltd.’, bonus had been paid on the bases of the All Escorts Group as a whole. But this year there has been a change. ‘All Escorts’ is finished and the bonus payment on plant level has also ended up in the furnace. In the Escorts Plant I bonus is paid on department level. It was announced that workers in some departments get 20 per cent, while other get only 8.33 per cent annual bonus. Furthermore, while the 20 per cent bonus was paid on Diwali, the people who are paid 8.33 per cent received only 500 Rs as an advance payment. In the Motorcycle Division Rajdoot, Plant II) management announced the same thing: only 8.33 per cent, only 500 Rs advance. The Escorts management uses their union middle-men to whitewash these dangerous procedures.

Managements of other factories are not far from following the example given by Escorts: separate bonus for different departments. New machinery, difficult situation on the market, tight financial conditions: Escorts management plans some new and major attacks on the permanent workers at Escorts. To only swear at the union middle-men will not be a sufficient response, neither will a physical attack change anything.

* FMS – February 1993

Crisis kicks in
After the motorcycle department, now the tractor division is in trouble. The market slump gave Escorts a blow. The management reacts by cutting production, in one plant it is down to a half, in the other to a third of the normal level. Instead of two or three shifts only one shift is run. In addition to Sundays there are one or two more days off per week. The incentives [productivity bonus] drop. Permanent workers having to pay their instalments for their house-TV-fridge have to reduce their food to dal and roti. The supplying small factories and workshops are in trouble, too. There is less work and Escorts payments are delayed: Escorts pays only after six months, instead of every three months. The vendors at the Ford plant are only paid after 9 to 10 months. The situation of workers employed on 12-hours shifts in these smaller factories and workshops go from bad to worse.
Given the generally bad economic situation at Escorts, the internal wheeling and dealing of the Nanda management comes to the open more quickly. There are talks about the damaging impact of ‘corrupting relations’ on the company, e.g. there are fights between the sons of the chairman and other stories follow in rapid succession.

The situation in 1993 will be very complicated. The managers themselves don’t know what is going to happen. Insecurity is a normal atmosphere at Escorts. The sometimes 5,000, sometimes 8,000 casual workers know this atmosphere already, so do the workers hired through contractors; now 11,000 permanents and 3,000 staff and 800 managers know it, too. All Escorts Group wants to sacrifice 30 per cent of its work-force. On the Escort agenda is the dismissal of 3,300 permanent workers, 600 supervisors and staff and 240 managers. To blame this or that person for this situation only means to disguise the actual reasons.
Escorts is not an exception: in Italy thousands workers, managers and supervisors are laid off. It becomes necessary to look at the deeper reasons behind the possible lay-offs at Escorts. Individual workers have been replaceable and secondary, now managers and supervisors have become secondary, too. Nevertheless, managers and supervisors normally see the current system as being in their interest. Don’t the facts contradict this view? What does it mean that – once it becomes a ‘necessity’ – managers and supervisors are thrown on the scrap heap like unnecessary parts of the machine? Do these ‘necessities’ not increase on a world wide scale? And the issue does not confine itself to the workers. You might be a chairman, a managing director, a chancellor or prime minister: in front of the crisis of the industrial market system they are all helpless.

Having become parts of global competition means that in terms of their quality there is no difference between socialist, progressive, nationalist, culturally conservative or governments of other labels. There is only a formal difference: between the 60,000 lay offs at computer-giant IBM since 1986 (and the plan to sack another 30,000) on one side and the usage of armed police to quell workers resistance at Hyundai Heavy Industries in Korea on the other – the methods are different, the essence is the same. Behind their various veils the actual differences between Thatcher and Major, between Indira and Narasimha Rao, between ‘shining’ and CP political leaders are neglectable. So is the difference between the work of a highly paid genius, specially hired to run the company, and the old men of inherited family business with their rather general experience.

Production cuts, lay offs, reduction of wages and benefits, workload increase, continuous automation, growing numbers of unemployed – it might be Japan or America, Germany or Russia, Korea or India, the melody-rhythm of this lullaby-truncheon is present everywhere. General Motors is sacking 74,000 production workers in its global manufacturing units. There is the saying that what is good for General Motors is good for America (it is self-evident that workers are not part of this ‘America’). Having given the waking call of industrial revolution and it’s coal-steam force to spread around the globe, the English government has recently sacked 40,000 workers from the coal mines and moves heaven and earth to layoff another 30,000. Having used brute force to mitigate unemployment and to climb the ladder of development, Russia now makes big sacrifices to the crisis, which, apart from the usage of brute force, puts things topsy-turvy. The same process is happening in Vietnam and China. The seemingly solid foundation of the public sector has turned into a difficulty for the Indian government and the discussion about ‘privatisation as being the remedy or not’ continuous, despite the fact that it has ceased to say anything.

In this context of the fundamental issue the particularities become secondary. The company particularities become secondary. National particularities become secondary. In the times to come this fact will become more and more noticeable.
So should workers, should humans put their hope into ‘individual particularities’ when looking for a solution to their problems? Is there a solution on the level of ‘company particularities’? And can there be a solution to workers’ problems, to the problems of human-kind on a national level?

According to our understanding

After five hundred years of creating stronger ties and links day by day, the global market has now obtained a concrete form. Production for the market is now established on a world scale. All elements of human life are now controlled by the market or are affected by it.
Profit and competition are two essential elements of production for the market. Given that the market is now a global market, both profits and competition are now relating to a global level. It is for this reason that governments, which came to power because of their popular stance, might suddenly be forced to undertake unpopular measures. It is for this reason that companies – booming in terms of local competition and leading in terms of the national market – suddenly start to tremble. The new economic policies of the Narasimha Rao government and the collapse of Gedore Handtools company in 1982 to 1984 are current examples.
But to reduce production temporarily instead of increasing it; to take measures to cut losses instead of making profits; and to intensify the struggle over subsidies are becoming world-wide phenomena which make the fact more prominent that production for the market is prone to crisis. The path of fulfilling human needs through production for the market has become undermined. To leave human needs unsatisfied while cutting production at the same time… what is this about?
There is no lack of raw materials, no lack of machinery, no lack of people able to work… and reduce production! Lay people off! Cut wages! Drive forward automation!
America-Japan-Germany-Russia-England-India-China-Brazil-Egypt-South Africa: the wheels keep on turning faster and they run off track. The crisis is omnipresent and deepening. In order to overcome the crisis governments and managements in each country and company turn workers into offerings to be sacrified – as a result of which we seen two world wars and dozens of other wars in this century, killing 15 to 20 crore people. The devastating argument to save the hand by cutting off the fingers is established widely.
Today we do not face the problem of not being able to produce. The problem is that we produce for the market. From the issues mentioned above it becomes clear that the production for the market has entered a dead end and has turned increasingly anti-human. Therefore the search for an alternative to production for the market is an urgent agenda. This is where a solution to our problems can be found.
Once having broken the ties of production for the market and advanced on the path of a production for human needs, we will be able to build true relationships between individuals, as a society, with nature.
Be it the workers at Escorts, the mining workers in England, the General Motors workers in America or the steel workers in Brazil – the problem is identical. Not only that, the root problem of all workers is identical. Therefore we might struggle against the layoffs at Escorts or against wage cuts in Australia, the focus of our struggle should be to end the production for the market.

* Escorts economic situation 1998

EPW no. 4, 1998

With a view to concentrating on its core business of manufacturing and selling agri-machinery, the company undertook a major restructuring exercise during 1996-97 which involved divesting its piston and motorcycle businesses. The company’s automotive pistons business was divested to Escorts Mahle – an equal joint venture with Mahle GmbH (Germany) to enable this activity to access the latest technology vital for growth and expansion. The Rajdoot motorcycle manufacturing business too was transferred to Escorts Yamaha Motor on conclusion of negotiations with Yamaha Motor Co, Japan, while automotive shock absorbers will be transferred to a joint venture company with COFAP of Brazil. COFAP already has a large share of the international market in this field. The tractor market remained firm and Escort’s FARMTRAC brand maintained its leadership position in the market in the segment of 50 HP and above. While total vehicles sold increased from 2.28 lakh to 2.79 lakh vehicles, representing an increase of 22.3 per cent, sale of two-wheelers touched 2.36 lakh units while that of tractors touched 42,234 units as against 21,415 tractors sold last year. The company sold 4,349 more ESCORT brand tractors during 1996-97 than in the previous year, representing an increase of more than 20 per cent. With a view to upgrading the quality of its products to bring them on par with international standards, the company is now forging alliances with international industry majors in the field of engines, transmissions, hydraulics, etc. Escorts plans to set up a joint venture with Carraro SpA of Italy for manufacturing axles and transmissions for tractors, construction equipment, etc. In addition to introducing a special range of tractors from 60 to 85 HP, Carraro will support Escorts to upgrade its axles and transmissions for its full agri-machinery range including those that are currently being produced. The company fared well both in the domestic and export front. The export demand for tractors is expected to be in the region of 15,000 per annum, which is likely to materialise in the next three to four years. In order to meet this demand the company now plans to set up a new generation manufacturing unit near Pune at a cost of Rs 175 crore. This will be financed through internal resources. The company also plans to enhance the combined production volumes of all its tractor plants at Faridabad and Pune to 80,000 units per annum.

* Self-Activity of Wage-Workers: Gedore Jhalani Tools

Kamunist Kranti/FMS, 1998

Background Gedore Hand Tools, headquartered in Germany, had three plants in Faridabad exploiting 3500 wage-workers. U.S.A was a major market for its produce. Hand tools enterprises located in China and South Korea were Gedore’s market competitors. Shrinkage of production in the auto and engineering industries in the early 1980s sharpened the competition in the hand tools market. In this scenario, in order to maintain its competitiveness, Gedore management planned a major intensification of work through automation and large-scale retrenchment. For installation of an automatic plating plant Gedore management took a loan of Rs. 2.5 crores (~ $2.5 millions) from the Industrial Development Bank of India, a government of India enterprise.

The unfolding of events

In the beginning of 1982 incidents of chargesheeting, suspensions, transfers from one department to another, shifting workers from one job to another, wage-delays, downgradation in canteen quality, insistence on quality in production, strictness about production targets, time strictness, no rest during shift hours etc. increased noticeably.
In a gate meeting on June 7, 1982 union leaders spoke at length about capitalism, global crisis, company in crisis, and then asked the workers to make sacrifices in the larger interest. They put forward three alternatives to choose from:
- 25% reduction in wages.
- Go on special leave for six months at half wages.
- Retrenchment of 600 workers.
Workers rejected outright all these options put forth by the leaders. At this rejection, managements’ escalated their strong-arm tactics and instigation. Leaders and ex-leaders oiled their networks and accelerated mobilisations around caste and regional identities.

Workers disenchantment with leaders increased rapidly. Their self-activity became more pronounced. Large number of workers stopped paying union dues, attending union meetings, side-stepping leaders in day to day activity and began to deal directly with management individually and in small groups. Graffiti inside the plants increased. A group of workers belonging to, or influenced by, the fringe left posed inconvenient questions in a signed handbill on June 12, 1982. The handbill read “… management says that it does not have money even to buy raw materials – then where are the crores of rupees (millions of dollars) for automation coming from? Is it not because of automation that 600 workers are being told to resign? Soon, will you not talk of the need to retrench a thousand workers? Instead of struggling against it, haven’t union leaders become advocates of the management?”

The confidence of the leaders was shaken. Management was put on the defensive. Uneasy questions in the workers’ minds became points of widespread discussion. The tactic deployed by leaders and management – of announcing their attack in the gate meeting – had turned out to be a blunder. For damage control, the leaders adopted silence and the management took steps – show cause and advice l etters were issued to the signatories of the handbill. Through a circular, management warned workers to beware of disruptive forces. It said that automation was for the health of the workers. The management claimed that it had never had any intention of retrenching workers who would be made surplus by automation. If the management had wanted, it could have retrenched half the workers as it had been paying full wages to idle workers for one and half years. The circular ended with a rhetorical flourish: “Increase production OR perish!” A twisted version of the management slogan: “Increase production AND perish!” became popular amongst the workers.

The sequence of events at this point is as follows : there are prolonged delays in the payment of wages, machinery for automation reaches the plants, leaders maintain a strict silence, and ex-leaders attempt to form a rival union. There are physical attacks, by leaders and their network, on workers who still try to focus discussion on the looming retrenchment. To silence these voices, management uses suspensions. Besides the delay in wages, the issue of the annual bonus is used as another diversionary entanglement. Further on, the management goes for work suspension at half wages for three days and says that this may continue for quite some time.

Leaders complement these steps taken by the management for an open confrontation by ordering a tool down strike on February 12, 1983. Fiery speeches at gate meetings became a regular feature. Dissenting workers who have been trying to focus attention on looming retrenchment are denounced as disruptive elements and attacked. On February 21, 1983 leaders announce at a gate meeting that they have reached an agreement with the management. In the agreement it is agreed that no further work suspensions would take place but wages of January’83 would be paid in January’84. The workers reject this agreement. The management then tries, unsuccessfully, to instigate violent confrontations amongst workers through ex-leaders.

The same agreement is again put for approval at the gate meeting of February 28, 1983 after a number of thundering speeches challenging the management to lockout the factory if it wanted. The workers again reject the agreement. After the second rejection, the leaders announce that the way now is to go for an ‘open struggle’. A meeting of factory delegates (who had been elected in 1980) and other militant workers is called and suggestions asked for. Leaders then reject the suggestion for demonstrations on the plea that the conflict was with the Gedore management and not with the government. However, as soon as t he question of steps against the management comes into focus, the leaders somersault and announce a demonstration & a sit-down at the district administration chief’s office to be organised on Mar, 21.

On March 20, leaders call another gate meeting. Besides members of their network in the three plants, leaders bring their supporters from other factories and spread them out strategically. The same agreement is announced yet again. It is immediately hailed by the strategically placed supporters! And before the workers can react, leaders and their henchmen jump the factory gate and rush in to the plant to switch on the machines. The leaders had here used a time tested and most effective strategy. By switching on machines and restarting the plants, the workers would now be split into confronting groups, where one section would demand a continuation of the tool down strike while the other would be in favour of resuming work. This clash amongst the workers, and the concomitant unfolding of violence, would then facilitate large-scale retrenchment.

But in this case this strategy failed miserably. Enraged, the 3500 workers rush into the plant, shut down the machines and then beat up the leaders who are forced to run away. The President of the union who was also beaten and had to turn tail, had been the president of the union for ten years and was also the President of CITU, Faridabad district unit of the central trade union of Communist Party of India (Marxist). Production does not resume. There is now massive police deployment. Leaders again try to start the machines at night. They are again forced to retreat. Tool down continues.

Some workers belonging to the fringe left call a general body meeting on 23rd March, the weekly rest day. All the workers attend it. A committee proposed by militant, articulate workers and ex-leaders to obtain the resignation of leaders is not opposed. In view of the mounting discontent of workers, the leaders have to resign. After the resignations, the struggle committee, however, does not materialize and the ex-leaders take over. Tool down continues till April 14, 1983. The workers reluctantly accept the agreement that they had rejected earlier.
Stalemate. The issue of retrenchment has got bogged down.

The cycle of shopfloor instigation and wage-delays reemerges as a part of renewed attempts to retrench workers. Police are now posted inside one of the plants. Mobilisations being made on the basis of region and caste come to the fore. There is now a delay in the payment of wages to supervisory and clerical staff.
The management obtains government approval for retrenchment of 300 workers. Leaders hide the list and deny that there is any retrenchment on the cards. They start talking about a new long-term agreement and preparation of a demand charter for it.

At this juncture, management steps up attempts at violent confrontations amongst workers. Old leaders form a committee with the claim that they will negotiate a good agreement with the management. Mobilisation by the two lead-ry networks on the basis of caste, region and plant identity became frantic. The management flames the fire by locking out the third Gedore plant in February 1984. Enraged workers attack the existing leaders and the committee of old leaders uses this opportunity to take over leadership. Lockout in the third plant is lifted.
The finishing off And then began joint action by the management, leaders, police, state administration and the media, to retrench workers in Gedore Hand Tools. A gang of 15 to 20 leaders and their musclemen freely roam the three plants. They pick workers from their machines, take them to the plant time-office and force them, through physical violence and threats, to sign resignation letters. In this way, up to 50 workers are forced to resign in a single day. Workers coming to factory for work and those leaving after shift hours are attacked on the roads and forced to resign. Workers are threatened at their homes and forced to resign. Workers who had lodged complaints with the police find that the police have framed cases against them. Government administration merely files away the complaints made at the District Administration office. Newspapers do not print any news of these events. Not even letters about a fellow worker who committed suicide on the rail tracks after he was forced to resign.

In these circumstances hundreds of workers sought shelter in their villages for months. And the environment at Gedore? Armed police in tents inside the factory, armed police in trucks making rounds of the three plants. This is how the stalemate was broken and retrenchment implemented. Even then, it took one more year to retrench 1500 workers out of the 3500 in Gedore Hand Tools, Faridabad.

*** SELF-ACTIVITY OF WAGE-WORKERS AGAINST POLITICS OF CLOSURE DEFINING CLOSURE

A viable enterprise means that enough surplus is being extracted and realised in order to be appropriated as taxes, interest payments, cuts & commissions, managerial life-style and dividends. For financial institutions, management & state apparatus, a company becomes non-viable & sick when the extracted and realised surplus is not sufficient to meet the existing levels of taxes, interest rates, cuts & commissions, managerial life-style and dividends.

It is not uncommon to find that state apparatuses, financial institutions and management are sometimes forced to reduce their amounts of surplus appropriation to keep an enterprise running. But the overriding tendency, of course, remains one of perpetually increasing the amounts that are appropriated, resulting in increasing “sickness” and “unviability”. The dominant propaganda and media, however, all the while speaks of “sickness” and “closure” in terms of either mismanagement or lack of profitability (i.e. inability to pay dividends). This screens the fact that the major portion of extraction from wage-workers is appropriated as taxes, interest payments, cuts & commissions and managerial lifestyle.

POLITICS OF CLOSURE

The common interests of management, financial institutions and state apparatus dictate the survival, running and growth of an enterprise. In their common interest, they collaborate to increase intensity of work & workload, decrease wages, retrench workers and create techniques to counter wage-workers’ self-activity.

Despite all the cunning and guile, force and deception used to keep an enterprise viable, when an enterprise “becomes unviable”, then it is in the management’s interest to swindle as much as it possibly can of the company’s assets. When a goose no longer lays golden eggs, wisdom advises – ‘Cut and Eat the Goose’.
There is a well-tried out management method to grab as much as is possible of wage-workers’ legal dues before the closure of a factory. Along with the months of outstanding wages, years of provident funds/ pension funds, gratuity/ retirement benefits, years of bonus and leave travel allowances, etc. are also not paid. Company properties are then sold off with the management taking large cuts & commissions. This has been a routine exercise in a large number of factories which have been closed in Faridabad and other places. The dominant schema is:
When a factory “becomes sick”, and closure has been decided, management – through union leaders – instigates strikes, and/or violent incidents to create conditions for lockouts. This facilitates the dispersal of workers. In these situations, management stops coming to the factory and wage workers are channelised into long drawn out civil and criminal court cases – fifteen years is very common. During all this, closure is very actively camouflaged. In the rare cases where the court cases are finally decided in favour of the workers, and the workers are at hand to take their legal dues, there is no property in the company’s name to pay. Banks’ and state apparatuses’ dues (taxes and other bills) gulp most of the little that remains.

A BREACH IN THE POLITICS OF CLOSURE

This is the scenario that is being tried out in Jhalani Tools Limited, Faridabad. But the wage-workers in Jhalani Tools are actively countering this management-leaders-state administration schema to gobble-up workers dues through various modes of self-activity. These steps of self-activity, in our opinion, have wider ramifications for wage-workers. Management of Jhalani Tools stopped paying wages to workers from Mar’96. The past experiences of wage-workers in Faridabad and specifically in Jhalani Tools, have thoroughly discredited leaders amongst wage-workers. Through silence and passivity, the 2,000 workers countered leaders’ and management’s methods of instigation around tangential issues. No heed was paid to grand agreements, identity politics, change of union affiliation, change of leaders, provocation by transfers, instigation to violence etc. Four groups of leaders have come (have been brought) and gone, banging their heads against this wall of ‘dull and dumb’ silence.

With mounting legal dues and increasing hardships, workers had hesitatingly started looking for alternative courses of action. Initially a small group of workers in Sept.’96 had on their own demanded back wages from the state labour department officers. Slowly, in affinity groups of 5-8, workers complaints to the state officials increased. And very soon the working of the labour department and district administration was almost jammed when 300 small groups of workers separately started approaching the officers. Legal obligations of separate dates and hearings were done away with, but then talking to hundreds of workers at the same time was another impossibility. Like the management, the district officials desperately tried to foist leaders on workers, but failed. Faced by this stubborn refusal to accept anyone as leaders, district officials then tried their best toinstigate workers to violence. They failed again.

Another facet of this incident is that collecting a crowd by giving a single date to 300 affinity groups facilitates the spread and legitimization of the ageless rhetoric of unity and delegation (for negotiation with management and administration). This was attempted by the district administration. But an interesting metaphor to counter this arose from within the crowd outside the administration office. A worker responded to the call for “unity and delegation” by calling out that – “Bees united in a hive can easily be smoked off and their honey taken away. But if affinity groups of bees swarm about, no one dares to touch their honey”.

Then the management tried to create leaders and instigate strikes through summary dismissals of workers. But even when the number of dismissals reached a hundred, the workers neither made leaders nor took to violence.

With this stepping up of pressure by management, leaders and state officials, the workers of Jhalani Tools in August’97 started taking very simple steps to take their predicament to more than 300,000 co-workers in Faridabad & Delhi. Overcoming hesitation, fear & shame, some workers in small groups of 8-10 started standing along various roads during morning and evening shift hours with hand written placards. This was done to engage in discussions with workers of other factories without any intermediaries. They have been doing this daily since Aug’97.
On the placards is written:

“We are from the 2000 workers who have not been paid their wages for (so many) months”;
“What is to be done when management does not pay wages?”;
“We have changed leaders four times and union flags three times, but each time it has been from the frying pan into the fire”;
“We have made many complaints to govt. officials and ministers but conditions have gone from bad to worse”;
“Metal Box, Delta Tools, Electronics Ltd. and now Jhalani Tools workers. Whose turn tomorrow?”; etc.

Everyday they space themselves along a different road. Along each route that they stand on, workers from hundreds of factories pass by. The response of workers at large has been tremendous. Dispersed, multi-nodal conversations without intermediaries are emerging about the urgent need for new modes of self-activity of workers. Over this period of eleven months, more than 200,000 workers have read these placards and thousands of workers have stopped to have extensive conversations with them. In almost all factories of Faridabad (and large number of factories & offices in Delhi) questions posed by these workers are being debated.

What is being discussed by an ever-increasing number of wage-workers is how to act on their own strength against the triumvirate of state, management and representatives. It is a constant process of conversation, argument and counter-argument as to the ‘Whats’ and ‘Hows’ of steps of self-activity. There is awareness that the charted out paths and networks of representatives, leaders and their organisations are all geared to subvert this process.

Management, leaders and state officials are finding it difficult to instill fear in workers at large as they can find no appropriate targets for their terror tactics. More difficult than the small numbers of workers on the roads, is the problem that the straight and silent faces of workers are posing for the bosses. An additional difficulty for the bosses is the workers’ refusal to go to court despite all the advice that the specialists have been doling out wholesale.
More and deeper discussions have been taking place amongst Jhalani Tool factory workers. These have found visible expression in forms like wall letters and graffiti, but a truly significant fallout has been that workers have innumerable and extended conversations within and outside the factory premises and with co-workers as well as workers from all other factories. From being a problem of one fac tory, it has now become a problem of all workers.

To counter the increasing self-activity of wage-workers, the provincial government organised elections, in Oct’ 97 in order to establish a new leadership in the factory. From Dec’ 97 the management started paying wages. However, these steps failed to put a brake on the workers’ self-activity. Neither the issue of back wages & other dues could be side tracked, nor could the management sell the IIIrd plant of the factory, nor could it make leadership credible amongst workers.
In this situation, in Apr’ 98, the management resorted to massive wage-cuts in order to instigate workers. Failing again, the management then created an atmosphere of fear & violence and threw out the elected leaders – replacing them with its hand picked works committee in the first week of June’98. This hand picked committee has resorted to direct physical attack and identity politics. But the continuous rise in workers’ self-activity has put a hold on this.
Small groups of workers with placards standing on the roads have increased and are increasing in number and so are the workers in conversations with them. Thereby not only creating problems for Jhalani Tools management, which has not been able to close the factory, but also for managements of thousands of factories.

KK / Collectivities, June, 1998. Majdoor Library, Autopin Jhuggi, N.I.T. Faridabad, 121001, India

* Revolutionary Termites: Gedore Jhalani Tools

Loren Goldner
For complete text see: http://libcom.org/library/revolutionary-termites-in-faridabad-a-proletarian-current-in-india-confronts-third-worldist-statism

The extracts from Goldner’s article below can serve as a summary of the various articles in FMS covering the dispute.

In 1982, a struggle erupted at the German-owned Gedore Hand Tools works, consisting of three plants and employing 3,500. The dominant union was the CITU, the affiliate of the CPI (M). Gedore management demanded 600 “resignations” (6) and a 25% pay cut or six months of “special terms” for pay. All demands were rejected. Management attempted a “pinprick” strategy, to which the union responded with a “tools down” strike. Management attempted a lockout, and the union struck. As is often the case, the union called the strike just before payday, ensuring that the workers would go into the strike with the least possible financial cushion. A month passed, and two contracts were rejected; with a third offer, the union packed the strike meeting and ordered a return to work. The strike continued nonetheless, as strikers occupied their own union hall and demanded the resignation of the leadership, which took place, after which a new leadership took over the CITU. The strikers returned to work, but nine months later management locked out one of the three plants. A “Committee of 15″ was formed to get a better agreement, but it was then learned that the new leadership which had taken over in the original ouster had collaborated with management in the lockout, which brought the “Committee of 15″, which had ties to the original leadership, to power in the union. The “Committee of 15″ in turn began forcing people to resign by force. Armed police and police trucks were posted inside the plants. On some days as many as 50 workers were forced to resign and beaten by union goons. Many workers went back to their villages to avoid being forced to resign. In this conditions, it took a year to force 1,500 resignations (7), and in May 1985 the struggle was over. Later, the German management sold off the company, which became Jhalani Tools.

The (ongoing) struggle at Jhalani Tools Ltd. is one of the most recent struggles in which Kamunist Kranti has been involved, one of the most dramatic, and the one about which I have the most documentation so, at the risk of overkill I will give it more space. Jhalani Tools provides an unusually clear illustration of what Faridabad workers (and workers in other parts of India) are up against. Workers everywhere are familiar with asset-stripping by management. But most workers in Europe and America, when their company goes bankrupt or is absorbed in a leveraged buyout, at least expect to be laid off with a final paycheck, collect some unemployment compensation, and perhaps eventually some part of a pension. Of course in the fly-by-night sweatshops of Los Angeles and New York, as in similar maquiladora operations on the US-Mexican border, there are constant cases of companies folding up and disappearing while owing workers weeks of pay. But there have to date been few cases of decades-old, well-known “mainstream” companies operating for nearly two years without paying any wages.

Not so in Faridabad. Jhalani Tools Ltd. (9), the successor to Gedore Hand Tools (cf. above for the account of the 1982-85 struggle there) has not paid wages to 2183 workers since March 1996. Since there has been no hiring at Jhalani since 1978, (and the forcible “downsizing” of the work force in 1984) these 2183 employees have been at Gedore/Jhalani for a minimum of 20 years. They are the target of an asset-stripping strategy that is not uncommon among Indian firms. Jhalani Tools is not merely attempting to loot two years of back wages; it is also looting money owed workers for two annual bonuses, three years of “leave-travel” allowance, 3 years’ payments to the group medical plan, and other “contracted” benefits. It is able to blackmail workers in this way because of the difficulty, not to say impossibility, for them to find other jobs by walking away from their “legally guaranteed” employment.

After reducing staff almost by half by goon terror in 1984, as described earlier, Jhalani in 1989 colluded with the union to ram through a contract containing three secret clauses that were withheld from workers (the contract was read aloud, minus these clauses, at a gate meeting). The clauses linked wages to production targets (requiring a minimum of 200 tons before any wages would be paid), absolved the company of the obligation to pay workers when production was impossible because of electricity blackouts or raw materials shortages, and gave the company the right to assign work irrespective of job classification. Even after pay had been docked for electric outages and materials shortages, these clauses remained in a new contract pushed through in 1993. Pleading poverty from various causes, Jhalani Tools in December 1995 got an “ad hoc committee” to agree to a 50% pay cut until further notice. The company began paying wages months in arrears and finally, in March 1996, stopped paying wages altogether, largely blaming work stoppages and indiscipline for the company’s problems, using further endless salami tactics and manoeuvres, and blithely ignoring the occasional labour board and court decisions in the workers’ favour (the latter hardly being news).

Seasoned by decades of these tactics by management and the unions, Jhalani workers refused to be provoked into a set-up strike or other easily-targeted actions and instead took their case to the Faridabad working class as a whole with roadside informational pickets. (For further details cf. KK’s response to this article published in CAN, Fall 1998). As of this writing (March 1998), the standoff remains unresolved.

* FMS – March 1983

Since 12th of February 1983, Gedore workers in the three plants are engaged in a tool down strike against the enforced two days layoff per week. Without understanding the root of an illness it is impossible to cure it. This is why a report about the events of the last 8 to 9 months is necessary. The plans of the Gedore management to go ahead with mass redundancy were made public during a [union] gate meeting on 7th of June 1982. Please read the leaflet distributed in the name of six workers shortly after the meeting, on 12th of June 1982:

“At the gate meeting of the 7th of June 1982, the union leaders advocated following measures of the management: wage cuts of 25 per cent; lay offs; dismissals of 600 workers; workload increase. But the workers scolded their leaders. Let’s have a deeper look at the arguments presented by management and their advocating union leaders. The management and leaders claim that currently the bosses don’t have the money to pay for the raw materials. Therefore it is necessary to cut wages in order to be able to run the factory. Why don’t they take the money they spoil on air-conditioning, cars, bungalows and other luxuries? Moreover, the management drives forward automation and both management and union now say that the workload will have to be increased. Therefore additional raw materials will become necessary. So it seems that these people tell us that in order to keep the factory running we are supposed to work for free and that, apart from our last shirt, are supposed to hand over our money to the bosses – the January 1983 wages are now supposed to be paid in January 1984!

The situation of the bosses is bad. This is the argument of the bosses and their drum beating leaders for why the dismissal of 600 workers is necessary. To increase production through automation and thereby to create a surplus of workers is a common issue in capitalism. This is why workers fight against capitalism. But these leaders give support to the bosses, they became advocates for class collaboration. Even the INTUC leaders barely conceal their open advocacy for wage cuts. According to their argument it is necessary to cut wages in order to save the Gedore bosses in the current crisis of global capitalism: so that the workers still find work and their daily bread. The fact that these leaders not only put forward this line of argumentation, but at the same time shout slogans denouncing CPI(M) and CITU of ‘collaboration’ with the capitalists’, have crossed all the boundaries of shamelessness.

We ask the management and their advocate leaders: Where did the crores of Rupees for automation come from? Although it was not openly mentioned, wasn’t it clear already when automation started that 600 workers would become superfluous? Will you not very soon say that actually 1,000 workers have to go? Work-mates and comrades, it is a fact that in order to introduce automation a quarter of the work-force will have to go. This is why management cries about how bad their economic situation is. The management’s current trajectory is to incite us by paying wages late, by dishing out charge sheets at the smallest occasion.”

This was written in the leaflet from 12th of June 1982. After that the CP(M) – CITU leaders turned into silent ascetics. The reply to the leaflet was issued by the general manager (personnel and administration). He replied on behalf of these leaders and the Gedore management. He circulated a two-and-a-half page leaflet in English on 14th of June 1982. Some days later the Hindi translation was circulated amongst the workers. On 17th of June 1982, the management issued a letter [official warning] to those workers who had distributed the initial leaflet – on 16th of July 1982 management issued an advance letter to the same workers, making clear that they want to silence the whole dispute. In July 1982, in issue no.4 of our publication, we expressed some thoughts about the reply of the Gedore manager. Please consider some excerpts:

“On 4th of June 1982 the General Manager, Personnel and Administration, Gedore Tools announced following ‘facts’, in order for the Gedore workers to receive ‘information for finding a true position’, who ‘had been let astray by troublemakers’.

“1. Automation in the plating plant is being introduced for the benefit of workers’ health. It was never management’s intention to sack those workers who have become superfluous as a result of the automation. If the management had intended to sack workers, they would have been able to sack half of the workforce already. Management has paid the full wage to all those workers who sat idle during the last one and a half years.”
Capitalism obviously considers workers’ health a lot! And obviously you did not intend to lay off workers! We accept your words, but… the rule of capital does not function according to your will. So what will you do? It is a very good deed to pay full wages to those workers who sit idle – but how many unemployed are included in your royal court? Your endowments are also paid in order to save taxes and to give workers their bit of opium to smoke. In the current system we live in, every new machinery embodies both, the workload increase for some, the lay off for other workers. Therefore the managers, in the end, have to give out the slogan ‘increase the workload or be destroyed’, which obviously means ‘increase the workload and be destroyed’.

This was on 1st of July 1982. We ask the management: when you stopped paying wages to workers in January and February 1983, the time when they suffered hunger, you only had their health in mind, didn’t you? The CITU / CP(M) leaders kept on remaining silent, now the Gedore management, as well, retreated into convenient silence. In this situation we wrote in the issue no.5 on 7th of August 1982:

“At Gedore, the production runs on full steam now. But workers should not fool themselves by adhering to false hopes… machinery for automation has arrived in heavy trucks. The Gedore management is wielding the blank sword to sack at least 600 workers. On the bases of a proper understanding of the situation, the Gedore workers’ unity can secure workers’ own interests.”

This was on 7th of August 1982. In order to diffuse the workers’ attention regarding the threatening mass redundancies, the Gedore management resorted to the manoeuvre of delaying payment of wages. The CITU leaders, during the gate meeting on 7th of June 1982, did not open their mouth about this issue. In issue no.6 on 7th of September 1982 we wrote:

“The August 1982 wages of the Gedore workers are again delayed. In order to debate about the current threat of automation and dismissals, 200 workers asked the union leaders to call for a general union body meeting on 20th of August 1982 – they confirmed this demand with their signature.”

But why should the CITU leader get involved in a general body meeting? What kind of value should workers’ signatures have for them? In the meantime the Gedore management arranges religious ceremonies and offerings inside the plant in order to fool the workers. In issue no.8 on 7th of November 1982 we commented:

“And regarding the question of fear, you keep the sword of mass redundancies above of the heads of your (Gedore management) workers.”

After that the Gedore management tried to entangle the workers into the issue of bonus payment, while the attempt to form a second trade union inside the company failed. The CITU leaders escaped from the elections – everyone was now able to see them as what they are. In order to obstruct the elections they grabbed for the brought up issue of bonus payment. From the management’s perspective the redundancy program started to get more pressing. The Gedore management started to put pressure on the CITU leaders. This is when the leaders, trained by the CP(M), revealed their true character. While previously the CITU leaders used paid thugs, they now themselves beat up those leading workers who had showed opposition towards the collaboration between Gedore management and CITU leaders. The Gedore management fulfilled their part of the job by suspending one of the leading workers.

But the situation at Gedore developed in quite a different direction from what management and leaders had expected. Instead of being intimidated and silenced the leading workers stood firm on the side of their co-workers. At this point the Gedore management withdrew their believe that the CITU leaders will be able to arrange a ‘silent process of redundancies’. The management forged a new scheme. They suddenly enforced lay-offs [lay off meaning that people were not dismissed, but forced to stay at home or idle]. The CITU leaders saw no other chance but to call for a tool-down strike. After having been fooled around for months, the Gedore workers were now determined to fight back. After having called for the strike, the CITU leaders withdrew into their usual business. As a worker in the third plant put it: “At Gedore, the leaders don’t get engaged in struggle, it’s the workers who fight”.

Previously the conflict between workers and CITU leaders had never been as open as now. After having torn to pieces the agreement between Gedore management and leaders of the 21st of February 1983, the workers also rendered useless the management’s attempts to break them. On 28th of February 1983, the workers turned into shreds another agreement proposed by the CITU leaders, which would have meant that current January wages would have been paid in January the following year. The leaders also said: if the management wants to lay-off, they will do so, there is nothing we can do to stop them.

* FMS – April 1983

Since the 12th of February a tool down strike is on in three Gedore plants. A summary of the events in March: After the workers rejected their negotiated deal on 28th of February, the CITU leaders announced to ‘fight’. Those leaders elected as delegates in 1980 (and some others) called for a meeting and demanded suggestions. The CITU leaders refused to call for a demonstration, saying that the struggle is with the management, not with the government. Then the question was put in front of them to undertake steps against the management. In response to this question the CITU leaders made a u-turn and suddenly announced a protest and procession on 21st of March in front of the DC office. The CITU leaders started to plan their manoeuvring.

On 20th of March they held a gate meeting. They secretly placed external lumpen-elements in the meeting… and the CITU leaders announced that they have come to an agreement with management. The workers shouted enraged. The CITU leaders escaped and started the machines in the second plant. But… the Gedore workers taught the CITU president of Faridabad and the president of the Gedore Workers Union a little lesson. Work in the factory was not resumed. The CITU leaders disappeared. The police arrived. During the night the CITU leaders again tried to start running the machines. Again the leaders were forced to run from the scene. The tool-down continued. In fear, the CITU leaders tried to break the strike.

On 23rd of March, a bank holiday, the Gedore Workers Union called for a general body meeting. Having seen the strike-breaking role of the leaders, the general body meeting decided to make them resign from their posts. In order to enforce the resignation a committee was formed and the decision was made that after the resignation of the leaders another general body meeting would be called and that a struggle committee elected. Neither on 24th nor 25th of March the CITU leaders announced that they would resign. The discontent amongst the workers started to increase. On 26th of March a meeting was called for the morning and the CITU leaders were finally forced to resign. The tool-down strike in three plants continued. On 26th of March a faction of INTUC took over the leadership of the Gedore Workers Union and during the gate meeting on 1st of April they revealed their true nature to a lot of workers. They focussed the hope of some workers on a meeting with the Prime Minister of India on the 6th of April.

* FMS – May 1983

The same eminent leader, who had praised the agreement of the 14th of April as “a marvellous agreement”, said on the occasion of the 1st of May that “we ourselves have not been too happy with the decision [regarding the agreement]“. We see the same helpless state of being. But yes, it has helped the Gedore Workers to understand: ‘Neither the prime minister, nor the minister, neither the DS, PD, nor the LC will act in the interest of the workers, because they are all representatives of capital’. This is the outcome of two months of tool-down strike.

* FMS – June 1983

The 15th of May was fixed as the payday for the February-March-April wages. Management paid some wages between 20th and 25th of May. In any case, in front of some well-known people the INTUC-Leaders have settled the date for payment of salary and of the bonus. They have ‘settled’ dates before, why should the problem of payment suddenly disappear? And the management has put up a notice saying that the workers do not work properly! In order to prepare dismissals on a larger scale management is busy making use of lumpen-elements for provocations.

* FMS – September 1983

From the leaflet of the Gedore general manager, published on 14th of June 1982:
“Don’t be lead astray by instigating forces! The automation is implemented in order to benefit the health of the workers. The management does not intend to make workers redundant.

In the meantime, on 2nd of September 1983, the circular of the general manager reads: “The company can not be run with the current number of workers. We have to reduce the work-force by at least twenty per cent.”

The management cries about lack of money. “We nevertheless spend the little amount of money that we have. What can we do, we are forced by the circumstances”. In the first and third plant, the staff [middle management] engaged in a one-day strike. The following day management paid out the total bonus to staff of all three plants and sacked eight people. Suddenly there was money available, wherever it came from! The staff in the third plant showed their courage and went on strike against the dismissal of their eight colleagues. Management paid the first and second plant staff the June wages, as well. Where have they kept the money? After the staff of the third plant stayed determined, staff in the other two plants went on strike in solidarity – the management bowed a little. The strike of the staff has stripped the management plans for mass redundancies.

* FMS – October 1983

Since 16 months now, everyone who warns Gedore workers about redundancies is denounced as ‘misleading’. Some of those people who were busy denouncing the ‘misleading troublemakers’ had actually received lists with details about imminent redundancies. Hiding these lists from the workers they asked: what do you mean by redundancies? Now these friends of indecency themselves say that there will be redundancies. Redundancies are on the agenda, but the recently published demand notice of the INTUC faction does not even mention them. Let’s not believe in the reassurances of the state representatives; those representatives, who, while trying to appear as being on the side of the workers, set up police posts inside the plants.

* FMS – November 1983

“This is not a sweet agreement after all… there is no mentioning of the bonus anymore… and the management does not talk about the agreement anymore – they say that we first have to talk about redundancies! In fact, the issue of redundancies is nonsense talk.” This is how the current situation is portrayed by the ‘watch-guards’ of ‘April Kranti’. To cling to power they should lie upon lie. But the Managment is shameless. After all, how long can these ‘watch-guards’ keep telling lies ?

* FMS – January 1984

The management has not paid the staff the wages for three months. On top of that management started to threaten the staff. In response the staff in the three plants went on strike for their rights. The staff cooperated with the workers during the time of the workers’ tool-down strike. Management eagerly tries to break workers of the first-second-third plant, using the issue of the 75 per cent [bonus?].

* FMS – February 1984

The management has started again to lay off staff. In order to go forward with the lay offs, the management encourages the middlemen to break up workers unity. Sometimes the hand of the management is in the back of the INTUC faction, sometimes in the back of the former leaders belonging to the CITU. These leaders suddenly started a minor row about the 200 Rs agreement. They showed themselves outraged. They brought up the issue of union elections. The INTUC faction raises the issue of the 75 per cent and the bonus in order to prevent new elections. On 21st of January a decision was supposed to be made during a gate meeting. But on 20th of January the former leaders belonging to the CITU – who had raised the demand for union election – organised a separate meeting and instead of elections decided that their committee will recognise the 200 Rs agreement. On the 21st of January the CITU leaders created clamour. The police, the DLC and the management [mathadhisha] all showed full support to the CITU leaders. Since then there are two adhoc committees who claim to represent the majority – one of the INTUC faction the other of the CITU – both work day and night in order to undermine workers unity.

* FMS – March 1984

With the help of their middlemen the management has been successful to break the unity of workers. With the lock-out at the third plant management has given the scheme of mass redundancies a final form. In order to foster workers’ unity, individual workers of the first, second and third plant have gone on hunger strike at the gates. The middlemen try with all might to prevent these steps, which have been taken by workers. Thugs of the CITU have used brute physical violence to drive away the hunger-striking workers.

(Due to the fact that the newspaper ceased to be published between May 1984 and January 1987 there is a gap in the coverage of the events at Gedore. Given the importance of the events we summarise them in the following.)

Instrumentalising the anger of the locked-out workers of the third plant, the clique around the Faridabad CITU president beat up and chased away the leader of the CITU recognised Gedore Workers Union. Having started, the CITU and their thugs joined the ranks of Gedore management, the police, the state administration and the press in their effort to enforce the lay offs against the Gedore workers.

The management walked around the factories unrestrained in groups of 15 to 20 men. The workers were forcefully taken from the work-place to the time-office, they were beaten and threatened by groups of CITU thugs and forced to sign their notice letters. In this way they managed to force 50 workers per day to resign. They stopped workers on their way to or from work, beat them up on the street and forced them to sign their notice. They went to works homes, and forced them to resign through beatings and threatening. If workers went to the police in order to complain, the police filed a case against these very workers instead. The state administration piled up the workers’ complains untouched in a remote and forgotten corner. The daily newspapers refused to publish any reports about these incidents. After a worker – who had been forced to resign – committed suicide on the rail-tracks his work-mates wrote a letter about this: which the big daily newspapers refused to print. In this social atmosphere dozens of workers decided to leave Faridabad and go back to their villages. On the premises of the factory, inside the company gate, the armed police put up tents. The armed police patrolled the three Jhalani factories in trucks. The management unleashed an open regime of violent intimidation inside the factories. The labour department, the state administration and the press were their silent henchmen.

In this atmosphere Gedore management put into effect their redundancy policy. Nevertheless, it took them one year to lay off 1,500 out of 4,500 workers. This noteworthy chain of events at Gedore, which took place between 1982 and 1985, confront the workers’ movement with some serious questions. Can workers wage struggles over important issues successfully if the struggle is limited to the level of a single factory? Are unions still organisations on the side of the workers?

* FMS – December 1988

The company name is now Jhalani Tools. Seven years ago the management took out a 2.5 crore bank loan and installed machinery for automation. After violent repression 1,500 workers left their jobs in 1984. But five years later the automation machinery still waits to be switched on and used for production. It seems that in 1985 management realised that even after mass redundancies of 1,500 workers and introduction of automation the business will not yield too great a profit – since then management started to fill their pockets individually. Be it the money from the service and PF of workers or the money put in the pockets of managers in the name of loans for the company – from wherever it is possible Managment is busy collecting money.In the last three years the company stumbled and teetered. The root of the struggles around this or that director lies in this wider condition of the company. The company has already been declared as sick. The management is now engaged in looting before the company is declared bankrupt and finally closed.

* FMS – May 1989

Don’t ask for outstanding wages – take the motorcycle offer instead!
The Gedore management has been engaged in various rip-offs during the last four years: they did not pay the statutory contributions to the Provident Fund; they did not return the money taken from workers for a housing scheme even after having sold the housing plot; they did not account for the money collected for a company society. After four years of promises-postponements they have now taken seven months of outstanding wages from the workers. About eight to ten months ago management said that they will pay the outstanding wages in 200 Rs monthly instalments. But they even messed with the payment of the 200 Rs, so that now they owe each worker around 8,000 Rs to 10,000 Rs of unpaid wages. The union leaders gave a hand to the company in order to reduce the workers’ discontent – they suggested that instead of the wages the workers should take a motorcycle or scooter. Please be informed that the current union leader is the president of the CITU gangs of thugs who engaged in the beatings of workers in 1984, when Gedore management started their lay-off policy; the beatings resulted in 1,500 workers signing their notice letters. After the dirty involvement of the CITU president made too wide rounds, the Delhi CITU committee dismissed him and the Faridabad branch joint secretary from the CITU in 1987.

Currently a lot of workers think that in a situation where everything and nothing can be expected of the Gedore management, it might be better to take the offer of the motorcycle and sell it quickly. The workers have to understand that if the motorcycle-scheme comes into effect the actual bank loan will be in the name of the workers, the management will only give their name as security. The actual documents of the vehicle will stay with the bank, which therefore has the final word about selling it. There is another serious issue: if the worker does not pay the instalments in time the bank can fine the worker, who him/herself might not be aware of it, thinking that the management is responsible. A management, which evades paying the instalments for outstanding wages and does so openly in front of all workers, if such a management pays even one monthly instalment as a result of a bank letter demanding the instalments of the last six months – workers could count themselves lucky. The fine will be paid by the worker and together with the interests, the bank will cut the money for the fine from the workers’ service or seniority bonus etc.. In 1976 Gedore management took over a similar role as ‘guarantee for security’, when some workers were encouraged to take out a 2,000 Rs housing loan from the New Bank. Management deducted the monthly instalments from the monthly workers’ wages, but transferred this money only with three months delay to the New Bank. In the end the bank fined the workers – not the management – for not keeping up with the due payments.

* FMS – January 1990

The methods of the middle-men
At Gedore alias Jhalani Tools, union leaders called for a meeting on 20th of December in order to announce the next three years agreement. Workers from all plants and all three shifts came along. The leaders started their speech with the complain that once meetings concern issues of interest for the workers, thousand arrives – but that when the AITUC calls for a union meeting not even hundred workers attend. Then the leaders announced the agreement and repeated several times to the workers that they should accept it. Having heard this, the workers thought that the agreement will be alright.

Then union leaders went to plants separately and told single groups of workers that there have been wrong information in the announcement of the agreement. The union leader said that they were forced to speak untruthfully, because if they had announced the correct content of the agreement they would have been attacked – facing thousands of assembled workers. As a result of this betrayal a wave of workers’ anger surged in the three plants. The union president, once encircled by workers of the first plant, said: “The mistake has happened, now do what you want!”

The next day the union leaders announced that the reason for having lied is that otherwise – given the general chaotic situation – the ‘evil’ former Faridabad CITU president, who had just been expelled by the union, would have returned. Now the current CITU union leaders, who were goons of the former CITU president, have adopted the same attitude of 1984, when they compelled 1500 workers to sign an agreement: an agreement about which the workers had not been informed beforehand – just like today.

* FMS – February 1992

On 10th of January the workers of the second plant were thrown into confusion. Management had cut 800 to 900 Rs of the December 1991 wages of many workers. The wage cut was also documented on the pay-slip.

The management and their middlemen at Gedore alias Jhalani Tools are ill-reputed in the whole of Faridabad. After major efforts to lay-off workers failed in 1982-83, management and middlemen forced 1,500 workers to re-sign in 1984 by brute physical and mental violence. After the redundancies the remaining 2,500 workers stirred every now and then, but most of the time they kept being silent and afraid.

The wages of the 150 workers in the second plant have been cut. With the spreading of the news, the workers’ anger erupted and replaced the previously pre-dominant fear. Facing this anger the management and middle started whispering and finally paid out the missing amount to the workers. The issue over the wage cut calmed down, but workers’ worries increased. Some workers, who asked the middle-men for the reasons behind the wage cuts, were intimidated in response and the middle-men tried to silence them – but the workers did not keep silent about this. After consulting each other, workers decided to ask management in written form about the reasons for the wage cuts. The management refused to take the workers’ letter. If a worker would refuse to receive a document issued by management, this worker would be accused of and officially warned for not following orders. So, Jhalani Tools workers sent the letter by UPC post and informed the DLC of the issue.
Obviously, the cutting of wages of workers of the second plant was a way for management and middle-men to instil fear among workers and to find out how they would react. The management and middle-men came to the important decision to enforce the collective agreement upon the workers. Please have a look at the details of this agreement:

“Eight hours work performed by workers will be counted as four hours of production. The management will not be responsible for supplying workers with material and electricity. Any worker can be employed at any machine, for any job or task.”

It becomes clear that the issue is not about some workers at the second plant, but that we have to deal with a general attack on workers of all three Jhalani Tools factories in Faridabad. This is a serious issue for the Jhalani Tools workers. Only the collective strength of the workers will be able to take care of the workers’ interests. The Jhalani workers should remember that in 1983 their collective power made the chief of middle-men, the Faridabad CITU president, bite the dust. Their collective power also made Gedore management feel rather uneasy. But it was the united strength of management and middle-men and state together which the Jhalani Tool workers alone were not able to come up against. Workers managed to deal with the thugs of the CITU president in 1984 as long as it was just them. If Jhalani Tool workers continue to establish and strengthen the unity with workers of other factories they will manage to deal with the unity of management, middle-men and state. Courage and tenacity will be necessary.

* FMS – July 1992

In May, for the duration of a week, each worker of the rough grinding department (in the second plant) was given a letter – one on every single day of this week. The letters were written by management and written in English. The workers went to the union leaders in order to show them the letters. The leaders said: “This doesn’t mean anything, the management has always issued this type of letters.”
When May wages were paid, management had cut 100 to 150 Rs of the wages. After a lot of running about, workers found out that management’s letters stated that workers had not met the production target and had remained idle despite having been told to perform their duty. In fact, during the respective period there had been power cuts for two and a half hours each day and the electricity from the generators had not been supplied to the rough grinding department.

The workers reported this fact to both management and middle-men, but were only told that “we will see” – nothing else. Actually the CITU union and Jhalani Tools had just signed an agreement saying that wage levels depend on production levels… and that the supply of material and electricity is not part of the responsibility of the management. In June workers received another letter, similar to the May ones. This time workers replied to the management, but management refused to take the workers’ reply. The fact that workers showed resistance will surely have had an impact, given that the management refrained from sending a second, third, fourth, … letter like in May.

* FMS – March 1993

The management and leaders are very happy about their three years agreement. After announcing the agreement during a gate meeting on 6th of February, the leaders said that the first shift can take the rest working day off and management did not cut wages for these four hours of extra-holiday. The production target fixed in the previous agreement had already been difficult to meet. Stating that production levels were too low, management had sent various letters and cut wages of workers of all three plants several times, by in total around 800 to 900 Rs. After back-and-forth the deducted amounts were paid later on. In the new agreement production targets were raised by 25 per cent!

During the 6th of February meeting, some people who don’t have to work but nevertheless get the productivity incentives for ‘topping the target; plus some people who are close to the leaders; and some workers of departments where wages had not been cut, raised their hands in support of the agreement. These workers accounted for about 20 per cent of the total workforce. The leaders did not even come to their usual tricks of asking if there is anyone opposing the agreement. No one will speak against the agreement at this meeting – this is what leaders repeatedly said on 6th of February. One worker asked about the wage cuts, but his question was smothered by general racket and the announcement of the half-day holiday. Then the meeting was over.

Eighty per cent of the workers, those workers opposed to the increase of work-load – they kept silent during the meeting. Those workers whose wages had been cut under the pretext of ‘too little production performance’ – they, too, kept silent. This is not all: without even knowing its full content, workers signed a blank document in support of the agreement. For the last agreement it took groups of ten to fifteen musclemen to surround single workers at their machine in order to make them sign a blank document. “I signed because these hooligans forced me to.” This time no worker was surrounded and forced to sign, nevertheless they gave their signature? Why? What reason for?

On 9th and 10th of February wages of many workers were cut by 800 to 900 Rs – because “production was to low”. In the morning of the 11th of February – on the initiative of the workers of the grinding and forging department – workers of the first plant stopped production and gathered in front of the administrative block. The workers of the packing department acknowledged the fact that raising their hands in support of the agreement had been a mistake.
Union leaders came running from their office. One of them tried to appear commanding and to intimidate workers. The result of giving this guy a beating was that the president, the secretary and the cashier turned all soft. Facing the open and fierce opposition towards the agreement, the union leaders announced that they had not signed the agreement yet. The leaders gave their assurance that they would call for a meeting and only once all workers agreed they would sign the agreement.
The production was put to a halt from 8 to 11 o’clock – management put up a notice saying that three hours would be cut from wages. Not only this, seeing their plan going down the drain the management called the DLC. Within four hours after production was resumed, management and union signed an agreement in the presence of an official from the Haryana State Labour Department. In the end… union leaders are also entitled to democratic rights!

* The Company They Keep A Report on Workers of Jhalani Tools Ltd., Faridabad

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, November 1997

JHALANI TOOLS LTD. is a well known company which makes hand tools such as spanners, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, etc. It is a reputed exporter and has six plants in India 2 in Aurangabad (Maharashtra), 1 in Sonepat and 3 in Faridabad (Haryana). The company started its Faridabad operations in 1960 as a German collaboration project called Gedore Hand Tools. When Gedore withdrew from the company in 1985, it came to be known as Jhalani Tools. In 1986 Jhalani Tools had been declared a sick company but its process of recovery started by 1992 and currently it is no longer considered sick.

Today, at New Industrial Town, Faridabad only 2 plants are functioning. The third plant was shut down in 1984 but the workforce was absorbed in the other two. Through the decades of the sixties and the seventies the workforce had built upto about 4000. However, following mass retrenchment in 1984 this number today stands at 2183. All these workers are registered, permanent workers of the company. There has been no new recruitment since 1978, which means that almost all of these 2183 workers have served the company for at least 19 years. This report concerns such workers who have not been paid any wages for the last 19 months; who have been reduced to pulling rickshaws, setting up thelas of petty merchandise, or depending insecurely for survival on other family members.

Jhalani Tools has not paid its workers wages due for the period March of 1996 to September 1997. The company also owes its workers many other dues. For the last two years no bonus has been given, for three years no Leave Transport Allowance; and no dues for uniforms, shoes, soap or saafi (protective head gear) for a similar period. Further, the company has not paid its Employees State Insurance (ESI) dues for more than three years, and Provident Fund amounts have not been deposited since May 1994 (see Box-1).

However, it is the issue of non-payment of wages that is central to the current deadlock prevailing in the Faridabad plants. It is also the issue that brings out the complex role played by various mechanisms of governance and justice, including even trade unions, in helping the company to extract the maximum possible from its workers. And what’s more, to justify that extraction. In its investigation, PUDR team spoke to many company workers, the current workers union, the senior management of Jhalani Tools, the Deputy Commissioner (Faridabad), the Deputy Labour Commissioner (Faridabad), and other functionaries of the Labour Department.

Background

The history of the relationships between workers and management, workers and their unions, since the early eighties, seems to have been problematic. The company has played a visible role furthering, manipulating and gaining from this.

Over the years the unions in Jhalani Tools have not been chosen through election. Instead, barring the odd exception, groups have staked their claim to leadership by collecting in their favour signatures of a simply majority of workers, and sometimes by sheer muscle power. The groups that thus come to power are called “ad hoc committees”. It is such groups that negotiate with the management on behalf of workers and formalise labour-management agreements. The Gedore/Jhalani ad hoc committees have mostly been affiliated with CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) and sometimes with INTUC (Indian National Trade Union Congress). An example of the manipulative role that Jhalani Tools management has played in the functioning of these ad hoc committees is in the matter of union chanda (contribution). The management deducts the chanda directly out of the workers salaries and hands over a lumpsum to the committee in charge.

The most controversial year in the company’s history was probably 1984. In its drive towards automation the management decided on massive retrenchment. In Faridabad as many as 1500 workers were retrenched in one year. According to the company these workers had opted for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS). But according to the workers and the press, the company used brute force, the complicity of the then CITU union and the help of armed police to terrorise the workers into resigning. The presence of a police chowki within factory gates in 1984 speaks for itself. Union leaders are alleged to have been directly involved in drawing up lists of workers to be targeted and in aggressive tactics used against the workers. (The President and General Secretary of this union were eventually expelled by CITU’s Delhi Committee in l985.) Notably, the company, having gained its ends in l984, today in all its statements and letters to authorities, glosses over that year as the year of “Voluntary Retirement”.

Another instance of management-union leaders collusion appears to be the 1989 long term agreement which workers today describe as a “terrible agreement”. At that time they were given no idea as to the specific clauses it contained. After the agreement had been signed, at a gate meeting, the leaders read out a certain version of the agreement. The very next day they confessed to individual workers that they had withheld information about three crucial clauses so as to avoid the eruption of workers protest. These 1989 clauses set the precedent for all later settlements. The main point was the linkage of wages to production targets. In 1989 it was agreed that the workers would be given wages only after they produced 200 tons of goods. Secondly, the company refused to take responsibility if there was shortfall in production due to shortage of raw materials and electricity. Thirdly, the company could switch around workers from one job to another, irrespective of their skills.

The impact of the first and second clauses proved to be lethal to workers interests. For example, in May 1992 wages were reduced for non-achievement of targeted production, even though this was due to erratic electric supply. Electricity shortage in effect thus became workers responsibility! The electricity problem grew to such an extent that, according to the management [letter to Deputy Commissioner, 17 October 1986], “there had been long periods of 100% power cuts from 1993 onwards”. Yet in the agreement signed in 1993, there was no attempt to take into account the electricity problem. At the same time the production targets were extended by 25%.

The latest agreement signed on 6th June 1997 once again links wages to production but it nowhere takes into account the lack of raw materials. At the time of signing, the ad hoc committee showed the Deputy Labour Commissioner (DLC) authorising signatures from workers in what the DLC calls “an irregular format”. Later he received complaint letters from as many as 1600 workers denying that they backed this agreement. The DLC formally declared it null and void (circular, 30 July 1997). The Jhalani Tools management, however, is still trying to uphold this officially invalidated agreement. In a notice signed Yogesh Jhalani 26 September 1997, workers are told “your agreement has taken place…under the care of CITU’s national Joint Secretary who has the trust of 20-25 lakh workers”. The invalidation of the agreement is explained away as the “pressurising” of the DLC by a few disruptive workers.

An important facet in the company’s history has been its `sickness’. In 1986 the company was declared sick under the Sick Industrial Companies Act, 1985. According to the management this was because a steep rise in the price of steel in 1981 made the company unviable in the international market. From 1989 remedial measures could be implemented as the government started providing steel at international prices. The management states that the next few years, till 1992-93, showed substantial improvement and the company started implementing a rehabilitation package approved by the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction. The Annual Report for 1996 states that the company has been consistently earning profits for the last six years and that the net worth of the company is now positive.

Today whenever the Jhalani Tools management has to answer for its workers’ problems this background of sickness is heavily invoked. The management admits that its problems have been mainly due to factors such as competitive international markets, the price of steel and, in the 1990s, massive power cuts, difficulties with creditors, postal and transporters’ strikes etc. Nevertheless, in dealing with the current problem it insists that the workers are mainly responsible for the company’s losses and cites go slows, stoppage of despatch and carelessness in handling material by workers as a cause of heavy damages.

The logic of the financial crisis is used to compel workers into agreements such as that of December 1995, in which the ad hoc committee agreed that workers would accept only 50% wages till conditions improved. And, as we shall now discuss, by explaining the present crisis in terms of workers `non-co-operation’ and misdeeds the management absolves itself of all responsibility for giving workers their dues.

The Current Problem

“Today the world is one of competition and no company can exist without productivity. Therefore every agreement is linked to production. In future too, any agreement, of any kind, at any time, will be linked to production.”

Translation of a Hindi notice to workers, signed Y.C. Jhalani, 19 September l997

The three agreements of 1989, 1993 and 1996 (and various interim mini agreements) established the linkage of payment of wages to specified production targets. Simultaneously, by 1996, lack of electricity or generated power, of raw material, and non-maintenance of old machinery were entrenched problems. So was the tradition of late wage payments. For example, wages given in March 1996 were for work done in November l995. Similarly wages given in May 1996 were for work done in January 1996. The current problem relates to wages for the period March 1996 to September 1997 which, on various grounds, the company refuses to pay.

March 1996 and part of May 1996 were times of no production because of intermittent work stoppage due to workers’ anger with the then ad hoc committees. There were resultant leadership changes. Workers did report for duty in April, part of May, and June to August. Lack of raw material remained a serious problem. In this period the management made statements that they had no cash to disburse. In July a date was announced, hopes were raised but no wages were paid.

According to the current ad hoc committee, in August 1996, production upto 200 tons was ready, with only 5 tons or so lacking. But the management contends that the shortfall was actually of 50 tons. With the management refusing to pay six month due wages, on the grounds of this shortage, the workers committee decided to stop despatch of goods at the beginning of September 1996. In retaliation, the management got the electricity connection cut so that no production could take place anyway. This stalemate lasted from September 1996 to January 1997.

Work was resumed in January 1997 after a settlement was reached between the ad hoc committee and the management via an interim memorandum of understanding. Instead of wages, this settlement announced “advance payment” for the next four months. About Rs.8000/-was given to each worker as advance. This was cold comfort to workers as the management announced that losses of the company from September to January would be `recovered’ from workers’ back wages and that this `recovery’ would continue till the loss was compensated. The recovery was thus to be effected from wages that had not been paid in the first place and from allowances and benefits that had not been paid for years. For workers, it meant that there was no hope of subsequent wages either. For the management, the issue of wages seemed to be taken care of.

Thus, barring the advance, no wages were paid throughout 1997 even though the workers reported for duty. (In fact a management notice of 3 July 1997 takes cognisance of the good work being done by the workers). On 6th June l997 another agreement was negotiated demanding a minimum 100 hours worth of production before wages would be paid. As noted above, this was invalidated by the DLC. Matters reached a stalemate as the management’s proposals continued to revolve around this agreement. In August the company tried to give another Rs.1000/- as advance, but the workers refused and demanded their back wages.

Meanwhile from 24th July to end of August 1997, the management illegally terminated the jobs of about 100 workers. The mandatory enquiry into the charges against them was not conducted. The dismissal notices cite “serious misconduct” and state that “since the atmosphere in and around the factories is totally surcharged it is not possible to conduct any enquiry against you…you are dismissed with immediate effect.” Through this tactic it appears that the management has simultaneously got rid of the more vocal workers and created an atmosphere of insecurity to pressurise the rest of them.

The Management

“Management advises all workmen….to accord top most priority, over their own payments, to inputs and to outside commitments to suppliers and bankers… You are however free to continue your present stand and jeopardise your own jobs.”

Notice to workers, signed by the entire top management, 28 October 1996

The nature of the agreements signed by the management and the unions, and unwillingly borne by the workers, lies at the centre of the problem for the past two years (see Box-2). It is clear that under the norm of wages linked to specific production targets, there is the potential situation of production shortfalls due to external factors. And the responsibility for external factors has been shifted onto the workers.

This has meant that the workers spend months without wages. It becomes possible for a permanent worker with 20 years of service behind him to not even get the statutory minimum wages. This situation is sometimes explained by the management, and even by the Deputy Labour Commissioner, in terms of “no work-no pay”. But the truth is that the workers have been reporting for work and producing as much as external conditions allow. Thus a recent production report signed by a supervisor shows in an 8 hour shift, most workers have put in 2 hours of work and for the remaining 6 hours there was “lack of material”. This is a situation more akin to “no production targets-no pay”.

Another attempt to shift responsibility for external factors onto the workers is evident from the interim memo of understanding of January l997, according to which it was agreed that workers would be paid in terms of despatch. While `production’ refers to the goods produced, `despatch’ refers to goods actually taken out of the factory for sale. Thus it is possible that only a part of the production is despatched in a given period of time. According to the agreement 17% of the despatch value was to be distributed among the workers. This distances wages from the actual amount of work put in by the workers. The agreement went even further than linking wage payment to production targets and sought to link wage payment to the ability of the company to sell its goods.

Wages have not been paid not only to workers but also to staff members. According to workers, staff salaries have not been paid for 19 months. The situation is not very clear, but salaries have definitely not been paid since September l996. In a letter to the Deputy Commissioner (17 October 1996), the management has offered this explanation for its conduct: “We do not wish to believe that the staff members have instigated workmen for negative activities… However, there appears to be no inclination on their part to make efforts to increase productivity or to guide workmen away from negative activities….and if assuming they are inclined to do this they are not effective at all”. These reasons are patently absurd not to mention illegal. For example, a telephone operator’s duty is not to persuade protesting workers. Nor can the company in such an arbitrary fashion thus deny wages to the staff for not being “effective” in curbing worker protest.

Administrative Response

According to the Deputy Commissioner (D.C) the Jhalani Tools issue deserves consideration on humanitarian grounds. He believes that the Jhalani family want to make money by selling property and wants “to get out of Faridabad”. He states that the company would not be allowed to sell any immovable property without paying the workers’ dues. However the D.C. sees no point in dealing with the middle level management and is waiting for the senior Vice President (who was in Germany at the time of the interview) to return to Faridabad.

The chief labour officer dealing with this issue in Faridabad is the Deputy Labour Commissioner. According to him such a problem can be dealt with in two ways. First, there is the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, under which a company can be fined for not paying wages to its workers. However, this Act applies only to those companies whose workers earn less than Rs.1600 per month and the Jhalani workers do not fall into this category. (On the other hand the Jhalani Tools workers point out the case of another company, Hitkari Potteries, that was `challaned’ for non-payment despite its workers earning more than Rs.1600 a month. This is confirmed at the DLC’s office and provides a clear instance of differential application of the law).

A second possibility is for the workers to formally make a `dispute’ of the matter and approach a labour court under the Industrial Disputes Act. The DLC says he cannot help in this matter since the contesting versions given by different parties necessitate the gathering of proper evidence, which only a court can do.

The bottomline in every statement of various officials involved is that the workers must move the labour court. They even give off-the-record assurances that the court verdict would certainly be in the workers’ favour. An unavoidable question arises. Why has the Jhalani management, who is said to be sure to lose in a labour court, not faced any punitive action from the labour department (except challans from the Provident Fund department) for all of 19 months? The workers disbelieve such assurances and understand them as the bureaucracy’s attempts to avoid having to deal with their case. This is not surprising since over the last few months these authorities have sent the workers to seek help from sources as diverse as the General Manager of the District Industrial Centre, Faridabad, and the local Grievance Committee constituted by the town’s eminent persons.

While officials ascribe the reluctance of workers to move court to their illiteracy and ignorance, workers themselves point out the countless examples of litigation that they have observed around them in Faridabad. The average worker cannot afford the time, money and energy that he must invest, from the labour court in Faridabad, to the High Court in Chandigarh to Supreme Court in New Delhi. Workers pointed out the case of the East India Cotton Company in Faridabad as an example of the near irrelevance of the legal machinery to their cause. The Jute Mills of this company were closed in 1983. Despite a prolonged court case the 900 workers retrenched at that time have still not managed to retrieve their due wages and gratuity in 1997. In August this year, they went back to sitting in demonstration outside company gates.

Conclusion

“…ration shops do not give us food on credit any more…electricity connections are getting cut…children’s education is in jeopardy…our daughters are of marriageable age…please do get our husbands their wages or we will be forced to commit suicide.”

letter to D.C signed ‘wives of workers of Jhalani Tools’, August 1997

Over a long period of time the Jhalani Tools management has deprived its 2000 workers of their wages and other rightful dues for no fault of theirs. In a vicious cycle, the management first created (and allowed to exist) such conditions that work could not efficiently take place. Then, the workers were denied remuneration on the grounds that no work had taken place. And when the workers protested against this injustice, remuneration was further cut in terms of fines and `recovery’. Moreover, they have had to face arbitrary dismissals, without any right of reply, from their 20 years of service.

In such a context many workers are being forced to seek new sources of livelihood, however ad hoc and insecure these may be, and are unable to pursue the matter of their dues any further. It is possible that some would accept a pittance from the management and in return forsake their rights to much larger dues. Thus, while the management has already laid off its workers without giving the situation its correct name (see Box on page 8), it is further, effectively creating a situation of retrenchment without having to bear the responsibility of calling it retrenchment.

Today, the fear of the workers is that the management does not wish to run the company any more but is not openly saying so. Jhalani Tool’s background of sickness in the 1980s and, even today, the management’s constant references to paucity of funds for paying wages, and to a backlog of problems, make workers apprehend that the management would prefer to close down the company and is trying to extract all that it can from various sources, before closure. The workers dues provide a large number of such sources to the management.

Many instances discussed in this report support such an argument. First, it is not just workers’ monthly wages that are in dispute. The crores of rupees involved in unpaid Provident Fund, E.S.I, gratuity etc. take this issue far beyond the realm of controversial agreements and disputes over work done or not done. Second, arbitrary non-payment of staff salaries also adds to the suspicion that the management is fomenting problems with the workers, to not only save on their dues, but also to appropriate money from other sources. Another pointer is the management’s attempts to sell the third plant which was closed in 1984. Questions are particularly raised about the closure of this plant, when of the three plants, it was in best running condition. The workers have petitioned the Deputy Commissioner to prevent this eventuality since, according to them, this would foreclose any possibility of third plant workers getting their wages and gratuity. Finally, even the Deputy Commissioner’s reading of the situation is the same. He asserts that the owners want to close the plant, sell and withdraw from Faridabad.

As things stand today the Jhalani Tools workers find themselves in a beleaguered state. Yet another ad hoc committee has been formed recently which is waiting for the management to initiate a fresh round of negotiations. The administrative machinery claims not to be able to respond to their problem and pushes them towards court. And courts provide an expensive, time consuming option that seems to be no option at all. For Jhalani Tools workers, will a backlog of unpaid wages, an absence of Provident Fund or gratuity to on and prolonged litigation with no guarantee of results, ever compensate for a lifetime of labour?

BOX-1

Saving on the Workers’ Bill

“The gain of the company is our collective gain. In its realisation some delay may take place. But it is an unbreakable law that when we gain from something [i.e. the company], or may gain from it sometime in the future, then it is essential that we have reverence and gratitude towards it”.

Translation of a Hindi notice to workers
sd/- Y.C. Jhalani and P.C. Jhalani, 27 December 1996

Non-payment of wages: Wages have not be paid to 2183 workers between March 1996 and September l997. According to the workers their salary ranges from Rs.2800/- to Rs.3200/-. Taking Rs.3000/- as a rough average the amount gained by the company at the workers’ expense adds up to 12 crore 44 lakhs and 31 thousand rupees.

Non-payment of bonus: 2183 workers have not been bonus for 2 years. At about Rs.800/- per worker, per month, this amount is 34 lakhs 92 thousand rupees.

Non-payment of Leave Transport Allowance : LTA is Rs.1500 per worker per year and has not been paid for 3 years. This works out to 98 lakhs 23 thousand rupees saved by the company.

The loss to each worker on account of the above three categories amounts to approximately Rs.60,000. However, the workers have also been denied other dues, of a qualitatively different nature.

Non-payment of ESI dues: The workers have complained to the Regional Director, Employees State Insurance Corporation that despite having ESI cards they get no medical facilities at ESI hospitals for 3 years now. “On being asked the officials say that the company has not deposited dues”.

Non-payment of P.F.: The current union calculates that Provident Fund amounts have not been deposited since May 1994. P.F dues are also missing for 5 years in the mid-eighties. (This is partially confirmed by the company’s annual report for 1995-96). According to Labour Department officials, challans have been issued against Jhalani Tools in this regard.

Non-payment of Gratuity: Workers allege that the company has not paid service gratuity due to them for many years. This too has been confirmed by Labour Department officials.

BOX-2

Relevant Legal Provisions

Minimum Wages Act, 1948: Under Section 25, “any contract or agreement whereby an employee either relinquishes / reduces his rights to a minimum rate of wages, or any privilege or concession accruing to him under this Act, shall be null and void in so far as it purports to reduce the minimum rate of wages fixed under this act”.

Indian Contract Act, 1872: Under Section 23 ,”the considerations of or object of an agreement is lawful, unless it is of such a nature that if permitted it would defeat the provisions of any law or the court considers it opposed to public policy”

Industrial Disputes Act, 1947: Under Section 2 (kkk), ‘lay off’ is a failure, refusal or inability of the employer on account of shortage of coal, power or raw material, or the accumulation of stock, or breakdown of machinery, or for any other reason, to give employment to the workmen.

Under Section 25-M lay off is prohibited:

sub-section (1) no workman in an establishment employing 100 or more workers are to be laid off except with prior permission of the government, unless lay off is due to shortage of power or natural calamity.

sub-section (2) a copy of the application for permission is to be served on the workmen.

sub-section (8) lay off without adequate permission is illegal and workmen are entitled to all benefits as if they had not been laid off.

Section 25-C entitles workmen who have been laid off (with adequate permission) to 50% of the total of their basic wages and dearness allowance.

Further, under the Provident Fund Act, (Section 14, Section 14A, Section 14 AB) non-payment of Provident Fund deposits and under the Employees State Insurance Act, (Section 85) non-payment of P.F. and ESI contributions are punishable offences. Criminal cases can be instituted, responsible persons arrested and prosecuted to ensure compliance. Payment of Bonus Act (Section 28) similarly makes the non-payment of Bonus an offence.

* Dedicated to the Memoirs of Shankar Guha Niyogi

* FMS – October 1991

On 28th of September 1991, the central figure of the Chattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh – Shankar Guha Niyogi – was killed through gunshot. With the explicit intention to quell the workers’ movement in the Bhilai area he was shot dead at three to four o’clock in the morning, in his house, asleep. This murder took the workers’ movement, which had been influenced by Niyogi during the last 15 years, to an important turn on its way. While the account of these 15 years is, above all, of utmost significance for the Bhilai area, its importance is true for the workers’ movement as a whole. Following we try to give a wider account.
The setting-up of the Bhilai steel plant forms an important link in the collaboration between Russian and Indian capitalists. Manufacturing hundreds of thousand tons of steel, the factory requires an immense supply of raw material. About eighty to ninety kilometres from Bhilai are the iron ore mines of Dalli Rajhara, source of the main raw material. In these mines about 12,000 male and female workers hired through contractor are engaged in bone-breaking work for 5 Rs a day. In 1977 these workers started a strike for bonus payment under the joint leadership of INTUC and AITUC. Seeing that the strike increased in might, the INTUC-AITUC leadership announced the end of the dispute, saying that the bonus has always been an exclusive entitlement of the permanent work-force alone and that the workers hired through contractors have no right to it. The striking workers reacted by chasing the INTUC-AITUC leaders away. They formed a strike committee and continued the struggle. Finally they chose the recently released Shankar Guha Niyogi as their strike leader – Niyogi had been accused of being a Naxalite and put into jail during Emergency. The strike carried on.
In 1977 the Janata Party Government – in an attempt to break this strike – managed to arrest Niyogi in a swift-raid, but the police unit did not manage to break through the subsequent encirclement formed by ten thousand workers. Under the pretext of freeing the trapped police unit a huge deployment of police started shooting on the assembled workers. The shooting continued throughout a day-long operation, killing eleven male and female workers. Even after the killings and the following wave of state repression the workers did not budge. After four month the strike forced the government to give in and the Bhilai Steel management had to offer a deal to the striking contract workers. In this way the Chattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh obtained its concrete foundation and Shankar Guha Niyogi came to the fore as its central figure.
The 1977 incidents of the Bhilai iron ore mining area Dalli Rajhara and the person of Shankar Guha Niyogi became of importance for the manoeuvres of the Indian political landscape – the Indian state being situated between the capitalist blocs of America and Russia. The CPI, for example, presented Niyogi as an agent of the CIA. The liberal and patriotic factions of capital started to get excited by Niyogi’s private life and by what they portrayed as his reformist efforts. For the section supporting ‘national capital’ – under the cloak of Naxalism – Niyogi became a bone in their throat, which they were neither able to swallow, nor to spit out. In Madhya Pradesh Niyogi was made into a part-taker in the in-fights between factions within the Congress Party and in the regional capitalist election politics. In the current elections he was a member of the Indira cabinet and he supported openly the Congress candidate for the Kanker (Chattisgarh) regional constituency, Arvind Netam, and the Janata Party candidate from Bhopal, Svami Agnivesh… but we think that the important fact remains that Niyogi has played a central role in starting a continuing workers’ struggle in the Bhilai area.

In 1977 the contract workers in the mining areas of Dalli Rajhara had been paid 5 Rs per day. Today they get 80 Rs daily wage. Since 1977 they are paid stand-by wages – before that they used to be sent back home unpaid once there was no work available. The workers were successful in halting a major redundancy drive, attempted by the management through mechanisation. Although only few people are able to get permanent job, the contract workers managed to enforce gratuity bonus (service) and 7 days casual and 5 days paid annual leave – a certain degree of job security. The workers fought a long and hard battle for this. In 1981 the struggle for job security and against mechanisation turned into a strike – Niyogi and Sahdev Sahu were arrested. During the long strike each demonstration of the workers in Dalli Rajhara got lathi-charged by the police and each following day the strikers returned and demonstrated in front of the main administration of Durga district. Nevertheless, over time mechanisation increased and numbers of workers fell due to, among other reasons, a stop in hiring – both diminished the power of the Dalli Rajhara contract workers. In the meantime Niyogi made a noteworthy active effort to foster the emergence of workers’ movements in the factories neighbouring the Byhilai Steel plant. The successful outcome of the three-month long struggle of contract workers at ACC Cement factory in July 1990 was the first gain of Niyogi’s union in this area.

According to the enforced contract at ACC Cement the contract workers were entitled to 20 days guaranteed work per month, provident fund, paid and casual leave, medical treatment and school education for children paid for by the company management. This agreement had an immediate effect on the workers in Bhilai industrial area. Only very few workers employed in the 105 factories of the area were permanent. The management in the area would not even stick to the capitalist labour laws. In the majority of the factories there were recognised unions affiliated to the two central trade union organisations, but instead of working in the interest of the workers they rendered their service to the management. Motivated by the success at ACC Cement tens of thousand workers started to get organised towards this new direction. A workers’ movement erupted in the area demanding higher wages, better working-conditions and 20 per cent bonus. In order to change the situation and calm things down the government tried to detain the general assembly of Niyogi’s union in Bhilai.
Despite the management’s unity, alertness and open intimidations a strike started under the lead of Niyogi’s union in the four Simplex factories – Bhilai’s biggest industrial complex. After attempts of bribery, threats, framing and arrests of 800 workers by the police did not prove successful in stopping the movement, the government came forward with an ancient legal case against Shankar Guha Niyogi and arrested him on 4th of February 1991. After two month he had to be released on bail. The workers’ struggle expanded and gained in strength. On 25th of June 1991 the demonstration of Chattisgarh Distilleries workers was attacked by police with lathis and gunshots – 150 workers were injured, 107 workers were arrested. In response to this attack workers in 1,000 factories of the area stooped work an demonstrations started in Dalli Rajhara and other places. Seeing that they could not control the workers the government tried to ban Shankar Guha Niyogi from the area of Bilaspur-Raypur-Durga-Rajanandgaon-Bastar – the High Court (only) officially put a halt to this ban. At the beginning of September 1991 hundreds of workers followed Niyogi to Dehli and protested in numerous places.
To keep the struggles in Bhilai Steel Plant area running, the support of the Dalli Rajhara mining workers 80 kilometres away played an important role. The Shahid Hospital in Dalli Rajhara – founded and run by the mining workers in memory of the victims of the 1977 police-attack – gave treatment to those Bhilai workers injured by goons and police during the dispute. Once a week a doctor from Shahid Hospital would go to the bastis of the striking workers for medical treatment. Despite having to be cautious given the running bail-cases, Niyogi’s union kept on supporting the striking workers with rice-dal and financial support. After ten months of strike a worker from one of the factories said in his own words: “This is a union of a different kind.”

To put it brief: in this situation, where many attempts to get workers back under control had failed, certain capitalist factions decided to have Niyogi murdered. In the current situation it is necessary to have a look at the weaknesses of the workers’ movement under Niyogi’s leadership, too. The importance of the permanent workers employed in both the mines and in Bhilai Steel plant has been neglected: this is to a significant extent due to Niyogi’s ‘ideology’. At times ‘tactics’ can be important, but in the attempt to ‘forge a unity at all costs’ the importance of individuals-particularities can grow in result. The way that Niyogi has operated in the area contributed to this tendency. In 1981 the workers hailed the Bharatiya Janata Party after the party gave some speeches against the arrest of Niyogi, after that the workers applauded the Janata Dal, they asked to vote for the Congress candidate, they praised Mohandas Karmchand Gandhi… this did not contribute to the development of a revolutionary workers’ movement. Once in this position it is not too difficult to turn workers into pawns for the various capitalist groupings. Today the Chattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh is pretty much in a similar situation to 1981, after Niyogi’s arrest. At that time a striking worker said: “Shankar Guha Niyogi is our eye, without him we are blind,” a meaningful comment then and still. Currently the the workers’ movement in Bhilai-Dalli stands at crossroads, the active people within the movement are confronted with a decisive moment. The swamp of liberal capitalists, the whirlpool of militant national-capitalists or revolutionary workers’ movement: the time has come to chose. The murder of Niyogi has made matters urgent.

[The movement in Chattigarh continued after Niyogi's death. The strike for better conditions continued till July 1992, attacks from state and companies increased, various parties tried to jump on the movement and at the same time tried to prevent a called for general strike, 800 workers were kicked out of Chattisgarh Distilleries in 24th of January 1992 by mass police force. In mid-June workers started rail-road blocks, e.g. the Calcutta-Bombay lines, In July 1992 police opened fire on a protest of 5,000 male-female workers, killing 16 people. A curfew was imposed in the area]

http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=M02JB6WZmKkgF5BNPH1tJmFN1G6j6sX2GPJbFmgf6kPpJZyLpylr!1896127874!1380883283?docId=98203572

[EPW Files]

* Police Firing on Striking Workers

EPW no.25, 1998

Striking workers of a textile mill were fired upon by the police, workers’ houses and property destroyed and residents of the colony beaten up. What led to this brutal attack?

ON February 19, a contingent of the Haryana police fired upon protesting workers of the Pashupati Spinning and Weaving Mill at Dharuhera, Rewari district, Haryana. Four workers were killed in the firing and five others received bullet injures. The workers then blocked National Highway 8 (on which the factory is situated) through the night. In order to remove them the police carried out a lathi-charge on the morning of February 20. In the course of this operation, they entered workers’ houses, destroyed household goods, smashed doors and windows,and beat up the residents, including women and others who were not associated with the mill. Twenty-one people were seriously injured in the process, and many others received minor injuries.

The Pashupati Spinning and Weaving Mill is part of a nationwide group of 50 companies, controlled by the Jain Shudh Group. It is a public limited concern, in commercial operation since 1981. It had a turnover of Rs 103 crore in 1997. The Mill is part of the Dharuhera Industrial area about 20 km away from the district headquarters at Rewari, and about 60 km from Delhi. The highway in front of the factory is the main trunk route between Delhi and Jaipur. There are four plants in the Mill, which operate on 3 shifts – A, B and C, each of eight hours duration, starting at 8 am, 4 pm, and 12 midnight respectively. In all, there are 3,000 workers in the factory. There are very few women workers. Most of the workers are migrants from eastern UP and Bihar and live in rented tenements owned by local residents next to the factory or in the nearby Kapdiwas village. About 200 labour quarters are provided by the management behind the factory. In the factory, workers are divided into unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled categories. While the nature of jobs vary, there is comparatively little variation in the wages received by them. These amount to about Rs 2,200 per month, for skilled workers while those in the semi and unskilled categories get somewhat less. None of the workers get proper appointment letters or proof of employment. Nor do they have attendance cards or leave cards guaranteed to them by the Factory Act (1948). The management therefore conveniently shifts permanent workers who go on legitimate leave for a short period into the temporary category when they return. There are at least 1,000 temporary workers in the factory at any given time. Many remain in this capacity even after working for several years. Such action by the management is violative of the right of the worker to be considered to be in continuous service if he goes on legitimate leave (under Section 25 B of the Industrial Disputes Act) and thus get their due wages. While the management claims that Provident Fund is being deducted from the salaries of the workers, no records to this effect have been maintained for a number of years. Some of the workers have not been covered under the Employees State Insurance (ESI) scheme and cannot avail the benefits of the ESI dispensary at Dharuhera. Non-payment of PF deposits and not giving ESI benefits are offences punishable under S 14, 14 A and 14 A-B of the PF Act and S 85 of the ESI Act. Compliance to these norms can be enforced by the labour court.

Union-building efforts had been started in 1987 under the Haryana-based trade union, Lok Hit Mazdoor Sangathan and its leader Sukhbir Singh Arya. This was smashed soon afterwards by the general manager, J S Marattha. The Lok Hit Mazdoor Sangathan, however, remains the official union in the factory. In October 1997, after a conciliation process, the management arrived at a 3-year wage settlement with this union before the deputy labour commissioner (DLC) at Gurgaon. The issues raised by workers were annual increment, issue of attendance cards, leave cards, maintenance of PF records and covering all workers under the ESI scheme apart from appropriate wage revision. None of the general demands were addressed by the settlement, and the wage revision too was an inadequate one. The DLC was guilty of not ensuring that the settlement was done with a union that genuinely represented the workers. Workers were not satisfied with the limited settlement. Subsequently another union, the AllIndia Textile
Mazdoor Janta Union (AITMJU), affiliated to the ANURAG Federation and headed by K K Shukla, started organising the workers around the same issues raised in the settlement. The workers under the new union also demanded that though inadequate, the conditions of the earlier settlement be implemented immediately. The agitation intensified in January 1998, and large meetings of the workers were held. The dispute between the workers, the new union and the management at the DLC’s court continued. The management on the other hand claimed that the settlement made in October had stated that no fresh demands would be made for three years, so the demands for PF records, employment proof, etc, were illegitimate. It also failed to implement the existing settlement. In February, workers launched a go-slow agitation over the same issues. The management then arbitrarily suspended one of the most active and articulate protesting workers on the grounds of deliberately preventing production and inciting workers. This amounts to an ‘unfair labour practice’ punishable under S 25 U of the Industrial Disputes Act.

Whatever may be the case the management had kept the police informed and demanded police assistance to put a stop to union activity from January onwards. The police were called during each of the meetings of the union. In February, the management, determined to break the union and to bring ‘indisciplined’ workers to heel, called upon the SP and the DC to give them extra policemen to deal with the go-slow agitation, which had been leading to loss of production and profits for the management. Industrial disputes do not fall under the jurisdiction of the district police. However this was not the reason given by the administration’s inability to aid the management in early February. It was said that the police were required for conducting the forthcoming national elections and would be able to assist only afterwards. And on February 19 therefore, the police served the ends of the Pashupati management and fired upon the workers.

At about 5.45 pm on February 19 (about a week after the go-slow agitation had been launched) soon after the second shift (B shift) workers had started work, most of them were ordered to go outside the factory by an enraged management, on the ground that if they were not interested in carrying out production work then they should leave the premises.
The management was assisted in carrying out this illegal lock-out by its own goons and policemen of the Dharuhera P S. The lathi-wielding police and goons numbering about 50 in all, roughly pushed workers out. About 200 workers were kept inside. As second shift workers were thrown out, other workers came out of their houses in the vicinity of the factory and joined them. All of them together demanded that the workers still confined inside by police and management should be allowed to come out. The police, having helped the management in throwing out workers, stationed themselves inside the factory gates. Instead of complying with the workers’ demand for the release of their fellows they ordered the 500-strong crowd of workers to vacate the area outside the factory. The SHO called the SP Rao Sohan Lal and SDM Roop Singh. They reached at about 7 pm. Tear-gassing was started by the SDM’s orders. According to the police, about 50 tear-gas shells were fired. However workers insist that tear-gassing lasted for a very short while. The police, under the SDM’s instructions, started firing even as the tear-gas shells were exploding. Approximately 50 rounds were fired. No warning of firing was heard. According to some of the injured, firing occurred in spurts. This is borne out by the accounts of two workers who have bullet wounds. Thinking that the firing had stopped, they went forward to help a fellow worker Pramod, when they themselves were shot. Two workers, Pankaj and Sardaru Singh, died on the spot, while Pramod and Vinod were seriously injured, and later died. Some of the workers also sustained injuries from country weapons fired by goons of the management working in concert with the police. The firing stopped at about 8.30 pm. The workers locked inside were allowed to leave the factory only at night. Many workers then blocked the highway in front of the factory and sat there guarding the two dead bodies till the morning. Reinforcements of police started arriving from 4 am on February 20 from the neighbouring districts of Mahendragarh, Faridabad and Gurgaon to clear the highway, under the orders of the DC. Over 200 policemen removed the protesting workers from the highway by lathi-charging them. What was described by the DC as a ‘mild lathi-charge’ led to several workers sustaining severe and multiple fractures. As workers ran off to safety into the nearby Lal Singh and Roshan Lal colonies, the police followed them. Long after their objective of clearing the highway had been achieved, the police continued to break down doors, window grills and locks, and even thrashed sleeping women, children and others not associated with the Mill. When our team went to Dharuhera on February 22, we saw broken doors hanging on hinges and bent and twisted window grills. After this assault, over 150 workers were rounded up and taken for ‘questioning’ to the police station. Eighty-six of them were brought back to Dharuhera at about 2 am on February 22, after pressure was exerted by workers of nearby factories, as they were found to be ‘innocent’. Seventy-one workers were found to be ‘guilty’ and arrested. Out of these 33 were arrested for the incident on the 19th (FIR No 100/98, Dharuhera P S) and sent to Rohtak jail, and 38 were arrested for the incident on February 20 (FIR No 101/ 98) and sent to the jail at Bhiwani. They were arrested under Sections 148, 149, 307,436, 341, 332, 353, 186, 283,506,450 of the IPC (for rioting, unlawful assembly, attempt to murder, arson, wrongful restraint, injuring and obtructing public servants, obstructing roads, trespassing and criminal intimidation). Those arrested for the incident on the 19th were also charged under S 25, 54, 61 Arms Act, solely on the basis of a police claim of having recovered a bullet casing of a country weapon from the spot. In fact (as mentioned earlier), it was the goons of the management who were wielding and firing country guns at the workers.

It is not clearon what grounds some workers were identified as guilty and others treated as innocent. The workers or their union were not given list of those picked up and arrested. This aggravated the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty as workers were unaware of the whereabouts of their fellows. In addition, after the lathi-charge on the 20th, the workers who used to occupy the few labour quarters provided by the factory were also forced to vacate by the management, and their property thrown out. Mostly migrants, some of the injured workers had no families at Dharuhera nor any alternative support system, and were dependent on their co-workers for medicines and money. Of those lying injured in the hospitals, some workers had families living near the factory, but were not aware of the condition of their families.

OFFICIAL STORIES

The police account states that they had gone to the factory on February 19 in response to an earlier complaint by the management. The management had accused some workers of breaking machinery and assaulting a supervisor. The police say that the workers voluntarily walked out in protest against the suspension of their colleagues and started throwing stones, after which they shut the factory gates in order to protect the machinery and the remaining workers inside. After appropriately warning the workers, the police fired from inside the gates. However, the police and the DC say that this was directed at the air, and not at the workers. Since workers were standing on roofs of nearby houses and trees in front of the factory, they got hit and some got killed. Three policemen were injured but none seriously. It is important to note here that there are no buildings in front of the factory gates, and the nearest houses are low roofed tenements located at a considerable distance on one side of the factory walls. The trees in front of the factory are of the tall, smooth-trunk variety, with very few branches. The workers continued to pelt stones even as some of them were getting injured and killed. According to the DC, they would break up into groups, collect stones, re-group to throw stones at the police, ‘like guerillas’. Although she was not herself present at the time, she felt that the response of the police was justified under such fierce resistance. The DC’s explanation for the attack on people on the morning of February 20 is that the workers who had been blocking the highway were given shelter by the residents in the colonies. Many of these residents were also fellow workers and guilty of stone- throwing the previous evening. According to her, women and non-workers had to be beaten to catch the ‘guilty’ workers. The workers had clung to the window grills, and had to be prised apart from them by the police, causing the grills to get bent and twisted. While maintaining that they had summoned the police because the workers had walked out voluntarily and started throwing stones at the factory, the management stated that the entire incident took place outside the factory gates, which allows them to disclaim all responsibility.

Treatment of those injured in the police firing and assault, a legal right of the injured was completely denied to the victims at Dharuhera. On February 19 night, five of the more seriously injured workers were brought by other workers and local residents to the Rewari Civil Hospital. One of them 20-year old Pramod Kumar, was referred from there to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, where he died. Another, Vinod died soon after he was taken to Gurgaon Civil Hospital. The remaining four in Rewari Hospital had not even been x-rayed till February 21, and their bullet wounds had merely been sown over. On February 21, three of them were sent to the government hospital at Bawal, about 25 km away, to be x-rayed. Most of the expense for this had to be borne by the workers themselves. Even at the government hospital every x-ray exposure costs Rs 60, instead of which the doctor at Bawal asked for Rs 110 each. The DC finally intervened on February 22 and two workers got x-rays through the Red Cross. Twenty workers had been admitted to Rewari Hospital on February 20, all with injuries sustained in the lathi-charge. Again, they were brought in by the co-workers and not by the police. One of the patients who had been sleeping in his room when the police raided,
said the police repeatedly tried to hit him on the head. He managed to fend the blows off with his arms and hands, which bore the marks of severe beating. The DC has persuaded the management to declare compensation of Rs I lakh to the families of the dead; Rs 20,000 for seriously injured and Rs 10,000 for simple injuries. The DC was trying unsuccesfully to get the management to give at least part of the money as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to the workers on February 22 itself so that they could use it for their treatment. The management is clear that this is not ‘compensation’ since they bear no responsibility for the firing, but merely an act of largesse. The union has demanded Rs 5 lakh per deceased victim, which was refused by the management. No compensation has been declared by the state, in clear violation of the right of citizens to compensation when the state kills and injuries in blatantly unjustified firing.

The firing at the Pashupati Mill shows the way in which the law and order machinery was used to serve the interests of the Jain group. While The SP and SDM gave the actual order for firing, knowing well that the police were being used as a private army of the management, while the DC justified the firing and the lathi-charge. However, now that the police have served their purpose, the management is trying to distance itself from the firing and lay the entire blame on the police and the workers.
The NHRC is currently conducting an inquiry into this case. The agitation of the workers is now temporarily stalled. The same policemen continue to operate at the Dharuhera P S. Workers with fractured limbs and injured heads have used up savings to get themselves treated at private hospitals and some have gone back home. Ironically, through this one-sided intervention of the state, it is workers who were denied their rights, thrown out of the factory, fired upon, beaten up and are now in jail under grave charges punishable with terms up to life imprisonment.

A joint action committee (JAC) of representatives of workers and unions of different factories as well as 10 representatives of the AITMJU was set up on February 21 and a large demonstration of workers numbering between 5,000-10,000 was held. It demanded arrest of the GM, payment of due compensation and meeting all earlier demands of workers. The GM was arrested to humour the workers, under a minor charge (S 216, IPC harbouring criminals) for apparently giving shelter to the goons who he had engaged to break the union. He is out on bail. Through continuous meetings before the DLC between February 27 and March 6, a temporary agreement was reached between the management and the union regarding compensation. It finally agreed to a compensation of Rs 1.75 lakh for death. Moreover it promised to extend ESI facilities to all workers and also provide a job for one member of the family of each worker killed. The JAC meanwhile held another large public demonstration on March 5, and continues to push ahead with its demands. In the firing at Pashupati Mill both the state and the management stand completely exposed by the management agreeing to pay compensation for firing actually executed by the police. Instead of ceding the workers’ demands earlier, or even negotiating with workers the management decided to end the workers’ agitation by declaring an illegal lock-out without any prior notice. This led to the police firing. The brutal fact remains finally that the management agreed to a few of the reasonable and legitimate demands of the workers only after four workers were killed. Several demands have still not been agreed to.
[This is a slightly condensed version of a report on the incident. The People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) which sent a five-member fact finding team to Dharuhera and Rewari on February 22. The team met the factory workers, Navraj Sandhu, the deputy commissioner at Rewari, Ram Kumar, the SHO of the Dharuhera PS and Ramesh Jain of the Pashupati Mills management at Delhi.]

* Self-Activity of Wage Workers

Theories and practices of representation & delegation are a stumbling block in the self-activity of wage-workers. They hinder wage-workers’ resistances, refusals and steps of change. What follows is a part of a larger critique of representation & delegation that we are engaged in. We invite you to join us in this attempt.

CONTENTS

*** Lead-ry
*** Routine lead-ry
*** Lead-ry – Department of conflict management
*** Self-activities of wage-workers
*** Activities of a fringe left
*** A critique of a fringe left
*** A preliminary sum-up
*** Self-activity of wage-workers against Politics of Closure

KK/ Collectivities, April, 1998 Majdoor Library, Autopin Jhuggi, N.I.T. Faridabad, 121001, India

*** Lead-ry

For over four years now we have encountered numerous arguments and counter-arguments in conversations amongst wage-workers on the role of leaders in routine factory life. The backdrop to these conversations has been the unfolding of events in factories where workers find themselves trapped. What is attempted here is a systematization of numerous experiences and observations to obtain a better understanding of shop-floor life in order to confront it more effectively.

“On the shopfloor we are at all times in direct antagonism with the supervisor/ foreman. This antagonism is because of the supervisor’s constant attempt to maintain work flow.”

“Supervisors constantly keep their eyes on us. They threaten us with charges, threets & suspension, placate us with overtime & advance payments and use outright deceptions to keep us in check.”

“Supervisors constantly nag us to fulfill production quotas and maintain quality. They perpetually hassle us to ensure a minimal rejection of products. Raw material utilization is another never-ending bone of contention.”

“We never tell supervisors what is in our hearts. No supervisors can know what we are thinking and planning. They are actually in constant fear of us.”

“Routinely we engage in slowdowns, quality slackening, wastage, breakage and clogging. Breakage and clogging are what we all do, all the time – but never talk about it, even with each other. We never even voice our appreciation or acknowledgment of what someone has done … its an open secret.”

“Whenever the discontent on the shopfloor becomes very sharp and the atmosphere surcharged, supervisors lose their voice.”

*** Routine Lead-ry

“Leaders are from amongst us. We have an ambivalent relationship with them.”

“Because they are from amongst us, leaders know a lot about us, about our inclinations and our thoughts. Leaders do not work themselves. They tell us to ensure that production does not fall and promise to take care of the rest as they claim to be our watchdogs (pahredar).”

“Leaders have financial clout. This is not just from union dues & other collections. A lot of money comes from cuts & commissions in the purchase of uniforms, shoes, festival sweets, festival gifts like blankets, almirahs, suitcases, watches and kitchenware. Cuts from canteen contractors and scrap-dealers. Lumpsums from managements for long term agreements. Control of cooperative societies and welfare funds.”

“Contenders for leadership spend a lot of money during elections (in the factory). Because leadership means financial clout.”

“Being a leader entails no work in the factory and much money. This is enough to sway a lot of workers.”

On small benefit networks

“Leaders, ex-leaders and potential leaders create and maintain intricate networks spread throughout the factory through incentives like advances, loans, lighter jobs, preferable shifts, employment to kith & kin, gate passes, tours, better food from the canteen without any payment, grants from welfare, first preference.” Networking by leaders also uses caste and regional identities.

“Leaders and ex-leaders are often found ensconced in the offices of the personnel manager or some other official. Persons with close links to this or that managerial faction can provide facilities to their close followers (laguea-bhaguea). Leaders and their camp-followers makeup ten to fifteen percent of the factory’s workers.”

“Those who constitute the networks are articulate in various ways from muscle power to slippery tongues.”

“These networks which are constituted on the basis of material incentives and favours are very intricate. They make a “tantra” and “jaal” (apparatus and mesh) to keep constant tabs on, as well as affect the weather and temperature on the shopfloor.”

“Those who constitute the networks are conduits for the circulation of rumours, baits, airy-fairy promises, and even lies. These networks make constant efforts to justify and valorize leaders and their powerful social & political links.”

“Leaders are basically middle-persons. And like all middle-persons they sometimes get small things done for us on an individual basis.”

“We have everyday fears of disciplinary actions, chargesheets, suspensions and physical attacks. Leaders’ networks routinely highlight, heighten and exaggerate these fears to keep us pacified.”

During shopfloor confrontations

“Supervisors run away from the shopfloor whenever worker discontent grows and workers take an openly confrontationist stance. In such cases management refuses to talk to workers directly. It sends leaders to the shopfloor.”

“Most of us weigh the situation again and again, and hesitatingly take steps back and forth on contentious issues. Leaders’ networks try to pacify us by exaggerating our fears. Meanwhile, the networks of ex-leaders and potential leaders try and instigate us to an openly confrontationist stance in an attempt to establish their leaderships.”

“Leaders’ pet rant to pacify us is that ‘you start the work, we’ll take care of the matter’. When workers refuse to listen and open confrontation continues, selective suspensions and dismissals begin.”

“In such situations, suspensions and dismissals force workers to talk to the leaders. The leaders then scold workers for having taken steps without their advice. They present the suspensions and dismissals as a consequence of not heeding them.”

“The issues of contention are effectively sidelined by the leaders. They shift the focus to suspensions and dismissals.”

“Routinely, when workers demand small relief on individual or group basis, the management does not act. When leaders say the same thing, the management acts. This increases the power of the leaders.”

Some conclusions

“We used to give union dues on the understanding that we would get benefits in exchange. Wages will increase and our jobs will be safe. But during the past twenty years things have been just the opposite.”

“For twenty-eight years I have been witnessing a reduction in the number of workers and an increase in production.”

“Earlier we used to give union dues but now the management deducts union dues from our salary.”

“Trapped by one assurance or another, we contribute union dues. It is only later that we find that all these assurances were hollow.”

*** Lead-ry: Department of conflict management

Lead-ry is an art and a science, mastered only by a few, and used to sit on our heads. It requires:

· Sharp skills in discontent measurement and the ability to arrive at swift quantitative solutions i.e. ‘at what’ and ‘at how much’ will the workers accept the disagreeable. This involves a wide spectrum of activities ranging from passing on sums of money to slapping a supervisor’s face.
· Highly developed rhetorical skills, which are used to sway, to create prejudice and to convince.
· Organising skills, which are used to build and sustain well-oiled networks at minimal cost. These skills involve astute psychological reading of individuals and groups of individuals. They also require a down to earth grasp of identity politics and maneuvers.

Managements’ regime of work, productivity and discipline is routinely confronted and opposed by wage-workers. Routine activity of lead-ry is to coax, cajole and threaten wage-workers into accepting these regimes. Lead-ry routinely negotiates agreements with management and attempts to implement them by overcoming wage-workers’ opposition. “Whenever a new machine or fixture is brought workers refuse to work on them. Leaders are the main instruments to implement these changes. Placation, suspension and fear are used by leaders for this.”

The main activity of lead-ry is to actively discourage the routine self-activity of wage-workers. Individually and in small groups, workers are always taking steps on their own that disrupt the work-routine. These seemingly minor irritants are a major threat to production and discipline. Leaders and their networks, i.e. lead-ry, is constantly engaged in hindering, devaluing and hijacking the self-activity of wage-workers.

To put it bluntly: higher management makes strategies, leaders & personnel managers act as tacticians, and supervisors & leaders’ networks execute these strategies.

*** Self-activities of wage-workers

Perhaps not universal, it is still true that most people have the capacity as well as the ability to act and participate as “NOT AS UNEQUALS” in small informal groups. The layering of experience, the excitement and the unpredictability associated with what takes place each day is not because we participate as ‘equals’. Instead, it is because each of us carries our individuality and is able to express it freely in such groups. This participation as “NOT AS UNEQUALS” is spread over various facets of life and an individual is often a participant in more than one informal group at most times. The wider implications of these informal groups of “NOT AS UNEQUALS” stand out clearly when we look at their play in some detail in institutional structures, whether factories, offices, banks or the media.

The moment of entry into a factory is the moment of entry into the disciplinary grid of work & productivity, as well as a jungle of informal groups. Strict entry schedules set up by managements are transformed into stretchable entry times. The act of punching-in is often put into disarray by proxy-punching or transformed by kicks that literalize the machine into a punching bag. ‘Entry time’ is made distinct from ‘commencement of work’ by long handshakes – backslaps – chitchat. It is often that work commences after 9 o’clock tea in an 8 A.M. shift. Management strategies like changing the placement of the ‘punch-in’ from factory gate to departments, the imposition of fines, like a fifteen minute wage-cut for being late by one minute, are visible signs of managerial desperation.

Proxy-punching in the Goodyear Tyre factory has forced the management to issue identity cards containing computer floppies, even though it has meant an increase in cost. Workers’ kicks in the Bata Shoe factory repeatedly dysfunctionalized the punching machine and forced the management to appoint an attendance clerk to go to each department and mark workers’ attendance.

Using lead-ry networks, management conducts time studies to work out grids of intensification. These are the periods when the wink of an eye and the utterance of a phrase put into practice well thought-out schemes involving co-ordinated steps by small affinity groups of seven-eight workers. And, whether they are premised on time studies or on agreements with leaders, the biggest stumbling block to increases in the workload are the informal groups of workers.

Keeping the immediate supervisor in check is a task that all workers have to take up. It is a very common sight to find five-six workers heckling a supervisor when s/he is trying to boss over some worker. Immediate supervisors are often nervous, tense and anxious despite the brave face they put up. In a hand tools factory, a supervisor who bullied and humiliated workers was lucky to survive. On a cold winter night shift, the machines lay idle because of shortage of material and the supervisor went to sleep in his cabin with a coal fire to keep him warm. Workers slept on as a factory ghost locked the supervisor’s cabin door. It was the routine round of security personnel that led to the breaking open of the door and the saving of the supervisor’s life.

Helping one-another does not remain confined to affairs dealing with the company. Discussions of events in one-another’s residential locality, schools, hospitals, etc. are very common amongst groups of workers during breaks which are often extended, to the constant chagrin of managements. Intricate inter-linking amongst workers coagulates them into entities where a member is never alone. This plays a major role in keeping the bossism of management or the goonery of lead-ry in check, whether in the factory, on the road or in residential localities. Anyone mistaking an individual to be only an individual is immediately shown the real side of things. In fact, the affinity groups in factories are a continuation of affinity groups at large in society.

Innumerable actions, immense diversity and an extremely high unpredictability of affinity groups keep management and leaders in check. A phrase often floating in management-lead-ry negotiations is “Will the workers accept this?” Rules and regulations are easily made. Agreements can easily be signed. Workers not accepting or fulfilling given production targets can have their services terminated. Given the universal co-option of unions and leaders by managements, there seems to be nothing stopping managements from doing what they want. Then, why the ever-present, ever-troubling question “Will the workers accept this?”

In a factory manufacturing wires, management stream-rolled workers from one job to another. Anyone saying ‘NO’ was shown the gate. The coolness and quietness with which small groups of workers accepted this and interchanged operations, from acid to water to oil back to water, oil and acid, only infuriated the management when they discovered that ninety tonnes of wire was sent back by a consignee as being defective. Arbitrary job changes came to an abrupt end. To counter the delay in wage-payment, a handful of workers working for a contractor in a textile factory simply went to the canteen and sat there. The workers’ silence in response to the haranguing of the chief executive completely unnerved the management.

A management of a tractor factory increased production quotas using agreements with the union. Workers operating computerised machines responded by changing around the tapes that governed work sequences. The management had to very quickly replace the machines.

Anyone blowing the whistle is shown his or her place. In a hand tool-manufacturing factory, new machinery even further cut down the time between two operations. In order to obtain some breathing space, two cranes were made to move from opposite sides, clash and cause a breakdown. A maintenance worker complained to the management. One day, cranes were in operation but were said to be not working. The maintenance worker was called for repair. He climbed a crane and when he was checking it, the other crane began moving towards his crane. His shouts for mercy braked the other crane, but they proved to be a brake for management schemes as well.

And then, things like not greeting a boss. The management of a factory stopped overtime payments to pay clerks. The five pay clerks responded to this loss of dues by moving like automatons whenever they came across their boss. The silence of the clerks got on his nerves and the management had a nervous breakdown. Overtime dues were restarted.

It is these constant innumerable, insidious, unpredictable activities by small groups of workers that underlie the stress that managements give to representation – articulation – long term agreements. Representation – articulation – unity – long-term agreements versus wage-workers’ silences – mumbling – incoherence – constantly nagging non-unitary demands are expressions of the functioning of a large number of small informal groups in an institution. They are the signs of expressions of the individualities of workers.

In a factory, workers in small groups would often go to the general manager to put up their grievances or seek relief. The harassed manager met this self-expression of workers by posting a guard in front of his office and issuing explicit instructions that workers would not to be allowed to enter his office in groups and only one worker would be allowed to go in along with a leader. In this way, not only was his paternal mask shattered but also the upkeep of his position demanded new costs. Management responds to the adamancy of these small groups of workers by harping on the threat to harmonious industrial relations. Lead-ry denounces the actions and demands of these small groups as a selfishness that poses a threat to workers’ unity.

Sixteen hot chamber workers in a factory left their place of work on a hot summer day complaining of excessive heat. Operations involving five hundred workers came to a standstill. Hot chamber workers had been demanding relief during summers through a lowering of temperature, but the management was not willing to agree, as this would lessen the pace of drying and therefore slow down the chain of work. Assurances had been aplenty and many a long-term agreement had completed its tenure. This step of the hot chamber workers was met by the leaders with such epithets: “All these years they did not feel the heat, it is only today that they have acquired this delicacy. They want to spoil our relation with the management. Wheat advance is around the corner – now the management will refuse to give it. They only look at themselves. Their selfishness is harming all the other workers. The management listens to us because we represent you. But if small groups do not listen to us and take steps on their own, then why will the management talk to us? It is only our unity that is holding back the management, otherwise it will do whatever it wants. These hot chamber workers are harming our unity, and if tomorrow the management takes action against anyone we will not be responsible.”

In the Escorts Yamaha motorcycle manufacturing factory, disenchantment with and denunciation of leaders was similar to innumerable other places. In a confrontation with the management, 300 workers on the assembly line refused to have anything to do with leaders and jammed the assembly line on their own. Leaders denounced these workers and reciprocated by saying that they would not intervene on their behalf – this would teach them a lesson. Workers in other departments did not lay down their tools in sympathy with the assembly line workers. Instead, what was observed was that management and leaders were conspiring for a lockout/strike to launch a major attack on the workers. There are two thousand five hundred workers in the factory. All the workers side-stepped the leaders and decided to continue production in other departments while the assembly line workers would keep the line jammed. Meanwhile, money would be collected department-wise to compensate their financial loss. As the assembly of a motorcycle per two minutes stood still, management and leaders bid their time, confident that the past would repeat itself and workers would have to accept the mediation of leaders. A week after the jam, overtime payments of the previous month were made. One hundred rupees was contributed by each worker, and collected in a rota department-wise. It was decided that a like amount would be contributed when monthly wages were to be paid. This step of the workers unnerved the management as well as the lead-ry. Leaders on their own started holding talks with the management and an ex-partie agreement fulfilling the assembly line workers’ demands was made to get the assembly line moving.

Refusals

Self-activities of wage-workers also encompass layers and layers of routine refusals. A few such refusals are:

“Never make a complaint against a co-worker to a supervisor or to a manager.”
“Never to give evidence in favour of management against a co-worker.”
“Not to get entangled in competition. To give more production in competition with co-workers is unacceptable.”
“Refuse to be carried away by managerial appreciation & recognition to give more production.”
“Even the shadow of money is unacceptable in inter-personal relations.”

Seismic lead-ry

It is not un-often that competitiveness in the market demands sharp rise in productivity. This entails a major attack on wage-workers. Major attack means large-scale retrenchment, big increase in work intensity, sharp cuts in wages besides other cost cutting and efficiency drives.

In these conditions managements plan new strategies and lead-ry adopts new tactics. The unfolding of events is very intricate. To discern the intricate web of strategy and tactics we take as an illustration the unfolding of events in Gedore Hand Tools, Faridabad in 1982-1984 of which we have a first hand experience.

Background Gedore Hand Tools, headquartered in Germany, had three plants in Faridabad exploiting 3500 wage-workers. U.S.A was a major market for its produce. Hand tools enterprises located in China and South Korea were Gedore’s market competitors. Shrinkage of production in the auto and engineering industries in the early 1980s sharpened the competition in the hand tools market. In this scenario, in order to maintain its competitiveness, Gedore management planned a major intensification of work through automation and large-scale retrenchment. For installation of an automatic plating plant Gedore management took a loan of Rs. 2.5 crores (~ $2.5 millions) from the Industrial Development Bank of India, a government of India enterprise.

The unfolding of events

In the beginning of 1982 incidents of chargesheeting, suspensions, transfers from one department to another, shifting workers from one job to another, wage-delays, downgradation in canteen quality, insistence on quality in production, strictness about production targets, time strictness, no rest during shift hours etc. increased noticeably.
In a gate meeting on June 7, 1982 union leaders spoke at length about capitalism, global crisis, company in crisis, and then asked the workers to make sacrifices in the larger interest. They put forward three alternatives to choose from:
- 25% reduction in wages.
- Go on special leave for six months at half wages.
- Retrenchment of 600 workers.
Workers rejected outright all these options put forth by the leaders. At this rejection, managements’ escalated their strong-arm tactics and instigation. Leaders and ex-leaders oiled their networks and accelerated mobilisations around caste and regional identities.

Workers disenchantment with leaders increased rapidly. Their self-activity became more pronounced. Large number of workers stopped paying union dues, attending union meetings, side-stepping leaders in day to day activity and began to deal directly with management individually and in small groups. Graffiti inside the plants increased. A group of workers belonging to, or influenced by, the fringe left posed inconvenient questions in a signed handbill on June 12, 1982. The handbill read “… management says that it does not have money even to buy raw materials – then where are the crores of rupees (millions of dollars) for automation coming from? Is it not because of automation that 600 workers are being told to resign? Soon, will you not talk of the need to retrench a thousand workers? Instead of struggling against it, haven’t union leaders become advocates of the management?”

The confidence of the leaders was shaken. Management was put on the defensive. Uneasy questions in the workers’ minds became points of widespread discussion. The tactic deployed by leaders and management – of announcing their attack in the gate meeting – had turned out to be a blunder. For damage control, the leaders adopted silence and the management took steps – show cause and advice l etters were issued to the signatories of the handbill. Through a circular, management warned workers to beware of disruptive forces. It said that automation was for the health of the workers. The management claimed that it had never had any intention of retrenching workers who would be made surplus by automation. If the management had wanted, it could have retrenched half the workers as it had been paying full wages to idle workers for one and half years. The circular ended with a rhetorical flourish: “Increase production OR perish!” A twisted version of the management slogan: “Increase production AND perish!” became popular amongst the workers.

The sequence of events at this point is as follows : there are prolonged delays in the payment of wages, machinery for automation reaches the plants, leaders maintain a strict silence, and ex-leaders attempt to form a rival union. There are physical attacks, by leaders and their network, on workers who still try to focus discussion on the looming retrenchment. To silence these voices, management uses suspensions. Besides the delay in wages, the issue of the annual bonus is used as another diversionary entanglement. Further on, the management goes for work suspension at half wages for three days and says that this may continue for quite some time.

Leaders complement these steps taken by the management for an open confrontation by ordering a tool down strike on February 12, 1983. Fiery speeches at gate meetings became a regular feature. Dissenting workers who have been trying to focus attention on looming retrenchment are denounced as disruptive elements and attacked. On February 21, 1983 leaders announce at a gate meeting that they have reached an agreement with the management. In the agreement it is agreed that no further work suspensions would take place but wages of January’83 would be paid in January’84. The workers reject this agreement. The management then tries, unsuccessfully, to instigate violent confrontations amongst workers through ex-leaders.

The same agreement is again put for approval at the gate meeting of February 28, 1983 after a number of thundering speeches challenging the management to lockout the factory if it wanted. The workers again reject the agreement. After the second rejection, the leaders announce that the way now is to go for an ‘open struggle’. A meeting of factory delegates (who had been elected in 1980) and other militant workers is called and suggestions asked for. Leaders then reject the suggestion for demonstrations on the plea that the conflict was with the Gedore management and not with the government. However, as soon as t he question of steps against the management comes into focus, the leaders somersault and announce a demonstration & a sit-down at the district administration chief’s office to be organised on Mar, 21.

On March 20, leaders call another gate meeting. Besides members of their network in the three plants, leaders bring their supporters from other factories and spread them out strategically. The same agreement is announced yet again. It is immediately hailed by the strategically placed supporters! And before the workers can react, leaders and their henchmen jump the factory gate and rush in to the plant to switch on the machines. The leaders had here used a time tested and most effective strategy. By switching on machines and restarting the plants, the workers would now be split into confronting groups, where one section would demand a continuation of the tool down strike while the other would be in favour of resuming work. This clash amongst the workers, and the concomitant unfolding of violence, would then facilitate large-scale retrenchment.

But in this case this strategy failed miserably. Enraged, the 3500 workers rush into the plant, shut down the machines and then beat up the leaders who are forced to run away. The President of the union who was also beaten and had to turn tail, had been the president of the union for ten years and was also the President of CITU, Faridabad district unit of the central trade union of Communist Party of India (Marxist). Production does not resume. There is now massive police deployment. Leaders again try to start the machines at night. They are again forced to retreat. Tool down continues.

Some workers belonging to the fringe left call a general body meeting on 23rd March, the weekly rest day. All the workers attend it. A committee proposed by militant, articulate workers and ex-leaders to obtain the resignation of leaders is not opposed. In view of the mounting discontent of workers, the leaders have to resign. After the resignations, the struggle committee, however, does not materialize and the ex-leaders take over. Tool down continues till April 14, 1983. The workers reluctantly accept the agreement that they had rejected earlier.
Stalemate. The issue of retrenchment has got bogged down.

The cycle of shopfloor instigation and wage-delays reemerges as a part of renewed attempts to retrench workers. Police are now posted inside one of the plants. Mobilisations being made on the basis of region and caste come to the fore. There is now a delay in the payment of wages to supervisory and clerical staff.
The management obtains government approval for retrenchment of 300 workers. Leaders hide the list and deny that there is any retrenchment on the cards. They start talking about a new long-term agreement and preparation of a demand charter for it.

At this juncture, management steps up attempts at violent confrontations amongst workers. Old leaders form a committee with the claim that they will negotiate a good agreement with the management. Mobilisation by the two lead-ry networks on the basis of caste, region and plant identity became frantic. The management flames the fire by locking out the third Gedore plant in February 1984. Enraged workers attack the existing leaders and the committee of old leaders uses this opportunity to take over leadership. Lockout in the third plant is lifted.
The finishing off And then began joint action by the management, leaders, police, state administration and the media, to retrench workers in Gedore Hand Tools. A gang of 15 to 20 leaders and their musclemen freely roam the three plants. They pick workers from their machines, take them to the plant time-office and force them, through physical violence and threats, to sign resignation letters. In this way, up to 50 workers are forced to resign in a single day. Workers coming to factory for work and those leaving after shift hours are attacked on the roads and forced to resign. Workers are threatened at their homes and forced to resign. Workers who had lodged complaints with the police find that the police have framed cases against them. Government administration merely files away the complaints made at the District Administration office. Newspapers do not print any news of these events. Not even letters about a fellow worker who committed suicide on the rail tracks after he was forced to resign.

In these circumstances hundreds of workers sought shelter in their villages for months. And the environment at Gedore? Armed police in tents inside the factory, armed police in trucks making rounds of the three plants.
This is how the stalemate was broken and retrenchment implemented. Even then, it took one more year to retrench 1500 workers out of the 3500 in Gedore Hand Tools, Faridabad.

Fallout

The inability of the management, lead-ry and state administration to entrap wage-workers in time tested snares, forced them to divest themselves of their constitutional garbs as well as leader militancy. They had to resort to brute force to implement their policies. This repression, however, could not bring with it the myth of “glorious defeat” with its martyrs and heroes as well as the attendant mortgaging of wage-workers’ critical evaluation.

But not getting trapped was not sufficient for the workers and they were disabled by the methodical repression of the management. This could happen, fundamentally, because management repression did not create sufficient ripples and repercussions amongst other wage-workers. Workers’ self-activities had remained disjointed, unlinked and uncoordinated even within the enterprise. A dynamic expansion of wage-workers’ self-activities is critical for linking wage-workers of one enterprise with those of other enterprises. But the unfolding of workers’ self-activity was impeded by their not questioning of representation & delegation.
Seismic lead-ry – at a higher level The frequency of extensive area-wide, region-wide, nation-wide attacks on wage-workers, compressed in ever-shortening periods of time is increasing. The attacks entail huge wage-cuts, enormous increase in work-load and mass scale retrenchments. And they are implemented, primarily, in two ways.

One: through instigation to mass violence by playing the politics of identity, and
Two: through the foisting of credible, militant leaders.
In Indonesia, 1997-98, through the massive attacks on wage-workers, one can see these strategies being played out:
I. Media highlighted riots between ‘ethnic Indonesians’ and ‘migrant Chinese’;
II. “Confirmed reports say that the US has been pressuring Jakarta to release one of the top political dissenters from imprisonment. ‘The US move is to enable Jakarta to cool the rising temperature down to some extent’, say sources”. [HT, Delhi 29 March 1998]

*** Activities of a fringe left

The fringe left that was a participant in the events in Gedore Hand Tools in 1982-84 existed around a monthly workers newspaper. Some workers of Gedore were members of this fringe left and we have emerged from this background.The activities of this fringe left had been geared:
- to unmask the collaboration of leaders with managements.
- to keep in focus the issues that managements and leaders seek to hide.
- to unmask formal and phoney steps like one-day token strikes, token demonstrations and formal mass meetings that are organised by leaders.
- to create and establish an effective alternate leadership to be constituted by militant, credible leaders from amongst the workers.
- to unify workers around this alternate leadership.
- to launch organised, conscious struggles under this alternate leadership.
- to push for demonstrations, mass meetings & strikes.

*** A critique of a fringe left

The process of unmasking management-leader collaborations brought into focus contentious issues that management and leaders seek to hide. This centre-staging of otherwise hidden agendas helped unleash the self-activity of wage-workers. Management notices and leaders rhetoric, demand charters and agreements, all came under constant scrutiny by wage-workers. “What to do?” and “How to do? ” became topics of routine discussion. Routine self-activity of workers as individuals and in small groups increased.

The medium of circulation of information around these activities was through a regular monthly newspaper, frequent handbills, wall-letters and conversations. These simple acts created considerable hurdles in the implementation of the retrenchment policy at Gedore Tools.

But it is the alternative proposed by fringe left that is problematic, in fact, fatal. The mobilisation of wage-workers envisaged by the fringe left, in fact, is premised on the erasure of the self expressions and self-activities of wage-workers at large.

The problem of militant and credible leaders

In the latter half of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century, fierce polemics raged on the question of real and phoney representations/ representatives of the interests of wage-workers. The polemics spanned ideology, strategy and tactics. ‘Reform or Revolution’ was often the high point of the debate. The reality that has unfolded since has, however, made the very premises of this debate redundant. Towards the last quarter of the 19th century, requirements of production enterprises for accumulated labour reached such dimensions that individual ownership of production enterprises became unfeasible. to to as the major source of funding for production enterprises are what has unfolded in these one hundred years. Individuals as owners/ part owners of production enterprises have increasingly become insignificant. Acts forcing bankruptcies of individual owners have lost their cutting edge. Enterprises have acquired institutional forms. With enterprises becoming monoliths of massive amounts of accumulated labour, head-on collisions of living labour with these institutional monsters are counter productive for living labour, whether in the form of an individual wage-worker, a group of wage-workers or a mass of wage-workers. And, working for head-on collisions is the raison d’etre of the fringe left.

In this scenario, the blurred boundaries between phoney, formal and real struggles have melted, become indistinguishable, giving way to a continuum. Formal-token, phoney-instigated-provoked, militant struggles, despite some differences of form, have in essence become indistinguishable. It is through repeated experiences that large numbers of wage-workers have learnt that these are harmful for them. It is this that underlies the unwillingness of workers to struggle – the word ‘struggle’ is here being used in the sense of the dominant meaning s that it has come to have. And it is this that underlies the fringe left’s activities to ‘agitate workers’ in order to overcome what it decries as the apathy and passivity of wage-workers. It is in this context that the fringe left creates the polemics of militant & credible leaders.

In general, the alternate leadership, the militant & credible leaders for whose creation the fringe left is geared, is a fringe phenomenon like itself. It is only in the event of major attacks on wage-workers that the alternate leadership of militant & credible leaders can and often does acquire leverage amongst large numbers of workers. And it is only then that the ‘dead-endness’ of militancy, and the fact that it actually causes serious damage, becomes obvious.

Unity and unifocality are the mantras of state and proto-state apparatuses. Even those fringe left groups that are explicitly anti-state have as their axis activities that are geared to unity and unifocal forms. This is what makes even such fringe left groups proto-states.

In fact, it must be stated that it is very doubtful if representation was at any time in the interest of wage-workers. A hundred years compel us to engage in a critical retrospective analysis. With all that wage-workers have experienced in this time, history proves that any and every representation is counter-productive for wage-workers.

Demonstrations, mass meetings and strikes are all events premised on unity and unifocality, and implicit in them are both representation and delegation. The logic for these events is that these are shows of strength and thus in the interest of wage-workers. Facts, however, point to the contrary.
Demonstrations Demonstrations involve an elaborate plan of date, time, route, destination, pace, slogans, demands, those to lead, those to maintain order, those to address and those to talk ‘on behalf’. Organisational infrastructure is a prerequisite for a demonstration. Ninety-five percent of wage-workers cannot organise demonstrations themselves, they can only join in as followers. For a worker to become a part of a demonstration, the worker has to in effect erase any idea of self-activity and self-expression, or, has to deceive him or herself by parroting the pre-written script as self-expression.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations are means and occasions for displaying the strength of organisations and leaders. The index of strength is numbers and the index of militancy is the number & intensity of skirmishes with the police, which range from charges by mounted police, water cannon charges, tear gas shelling, arrests, and firing. The success of a demonstration is measured by the grandiosity of the spectacle it provides to the media. What are erased are the injuries and the long court cases inflicted on wage-workers. Those who are killed are made into martyrs and transformed into icons to shackle any criticism or questioning. Workers, by and large, are aware that demonstrations make them easy targets for police attacks besides gagging their self-expression. This is evident from the distance that workers maintain from demonstrations. In fact demonstrations often have to be organised during shift hours with the connivance of managements.

Mass Meetings

Mass meetings Most frequently, mass meetings that wage-workers have to encounter are gate meetings at the factory and office. Gate meetings are held by leaders. The rule is that only leaders will speak in the gate meetings. The logic put forward is that any other vocalization will show disunity amongst workers to the management and weaken bargaining power. To see to it that the rule is implemented, lead-ry musclemen are strategically placed in gate meetings in order to summarily deal with any worker who tries to speak. Recognition of a new leadership hap pens with the successful holding of a gate meeting, because holding a gate meeting constitutes a challenge to the existing leadership.

The most encountered mass meetings, i.e. gate-meetings, exclude wage-workers self-expression both by logic and force. The fringe left often called for general body meetings (GBM) away from the factory premises in order to overcome the prohibition of any expression of dissent at gate-meetings. However, an elaborate organisational apparatus is also a prerequisite for holding general body meetings. These are occasions that require venues, agendas, stages, stage-managers, order keepers and elaborate time management. By their very nature, general body meetings are arenas for fights between leaders, ex-leaders and potential leaders with their lists of articulate speakers and cheer groups.

General body meetings demand from wage-workers time bound (two to three minutes) coherent presentations on specific agenda. These presentations have to be speeches to audiences of hundreds or thousands. This demand on the workers by itself excludes most workers from expressing themselves in general body meetings. Those who are not thus excluded have to filter through the lists of speakers of contending lead-ry networks. Workers have seen through general body meetings for what they are. Now the norm is that out of a thousand workers, approximately 150 will attend them.

There are other kinds of mass meetings that play on higher scales of representation. An illustrative example: From 1977 to 1979 in Faridabad, there were sporadic multi-nodal outbursts of workers discontent in hundreds of factories. In October 1979 unions jointly called a mass meeting. Around 100,000 workers assembled and the atmosphere was very charged. The huge number of workers spilled out of the meeting ground and road and rail traffic was forced to halt. Well-prepared police and paramilitary forces then began indiscriminate firing. Factories functioned normally from the next day. This incident ensured a smoother functioning in the industrial b elt for the next few years. And a martyrs’ column was duly erected.

Strikes

This fringe left’s activity regarding strikes was on two planes. One – phoney strikes called by leaders for the implementation of management policies and formal strikes to make their presence felt, were denounced. Two – The call was given for real strikes, and for militancy in real strikes.

Denunciation of phoney and formal strikes opens greater possibilities for workers self-activity as questions regarding what to do, what not to do, how to do, how not to do are unleashed. However, calling for real, militant strikes has disastrous consequences for wage-workers.

Vis-a-vis management, work stoppage at either factory or larger levels is no longer a powerful weapon of wage-workers. On the contrary, lockouts by managements and strikes by leaders are powerful instruments used to launch major attacks on wage-workers. In the last twenty years we have not come across any strikes, anywhere in the world, that have not resulted in large-scale wage cuts, retrenchments, work intensification or closures.

A few illustrative examples:

Bombay Textile Strike of 1982-83 in 60 textile mills. 250,000 workers unified under a militant leadership on a charter of demands. Management policy was to retrench 90,000 workers and close down old mills & sell the premium land. Under normal circumstances, such large-scale retrenchment would have taken more than ten years. Through the strike, however, this policy was implemented in one year.
East India Cotton Mills, Faridabad, 1979. Automation was to be implemented. Management needed to retrench 3000 out of 6000 workers. A strike was called by the union for a one-percent increase in bonus. Militant strike, and a lot of violence. Three thousand workers dismissed. Lakhani Shoes, Faridabad, 1983,1988,1996. Three major strikes by three different unions. Each time there is violence and militancy. Each time all workers are dismissed. Lakhani Shoes has registered a very fast growth rate in output. Number of factories of the company has increased from 3 in 1983 to 22 in 1997.

Requirements of a strike

The requirements of a strike are factory-wide issues and an elaborate organisational structure. Also, mobilisation of workers through persuasions, deceptions, hopes and threats. The activity of fringe groups during strikes that are not organised by them is geared to make the strikes increasingly militant. In factories where they have a physical presence and they are able to get an echo they may be able to take over the leadership of the strike by forming struggle committees of militant workers. What are the courses open to these struggle committees?
Prolongation of the strike does not help. Rather, the longer the strike is stretched, the weaker becomes the strength of the workers vis-a-vis management. Such being the reality, struggle committees are forced to resort to:
· Direct confrontations with state administration to pressurize the state-apparatus to act on the management. The steps are big and volatile, be they demonstrations, mass meetings, road jams and railway stoppage. These steps provide easy and visible targets to repressive organs of the state-apparatus. Given past experience, workers rarely follow those advocating these steps.
· Mobilisation of media, artists, stars, influential persons, other representatives, parliamentarians, grass-root activists to persuade state administrations to act on management.
Wage-workers are initially hopeful spectators to these performances and then slowly disperse as disenchantment sets in.
Both these action-courses lead to an immobilization and dispersion of workers and ensure an implementation of management policy.
Unified militant struggles, whether in the form of demonstrations, mass meetings or strikes, are akin to military operations with their generals, captains, sergeants and, of course, foot soldiers. Organisations linked to the management or organisations that are proto-states are alone capable of running such operations.

*** A Preliminary Sum-up

In general, when wage-workers resistances, refusals and steps of change are discussed, the imagery that crop up is that of mass demonstrations, mass meetings, strikes, pitched battles, insurrections. The corollaries to these are the non-mundane qualities of heroism, sacrifice, bravery, martyrdom, courage, wisdom, articulation, discipline and unity. By these very definitions, the self-activities of most wage-workers are excluded. This imagery inherently posits a spectacular arena for lead-ry to deprive the wage-workers of their voices. More painful still is that big, mass, spectacular movements make easy targets of wage-workers for managerial apparatuses to control, manage and, if necessary, crush.

Big implies mobilisation on a mass scale. Conducting and directing committees are intrinsic to such events. Seemingly a large number of people become active, but actually it is representatives and leaders who think, decide and issue orders whereas numbers at large have to march to the tunes trumpeted. Mobilisations by representatives are for representatives. Defeats are camouflaged as victories in order to legitimize the re-creations of these representational forms. Repeated experiences with ‘big’ have led wage-workers at large to keep aloof from them. This is often characterized as passivity and apathy of wage-workers.

When wage-workers daily routine oppositions become too much for a management or when a management has to go in for a major restructuring, retrenchment, wage-cut or intensification, it often resorts to spectacular work stoppage. Since production enterprise is no longer the private property of individuals (i.e. capitalist), prolonged stoppage of production is no longer a question of life and death for a management as it was for a capitalist. When necessary, managements resort to strikes, lockouts, work suspensions, suspension of operations by creating big factory-wide, area-wide issues with the help of representatives.With strikes becoming the weapon of managements, those attempting to genuinely represent wage-workers’ interests are crushed. Furthermore, individuals have become so insignificant vis-a-vis institutional structures that commitments or personalities hardly make any difference.

For all of us self-activity of wage-workers is of paramount importance. It is this area that we want to open out for discussion and debate. As wage-workers we know that all of us, everyday and at everyplace, have to contend with oppressive and exploitative conditions around us. Individually and in small groups we take steps on our own. In small groups, we interact with each other ‘not as unequals’ ensuring the self-expression and self-activity of each one of us. Confining ourselves to workplace experiences we can say that each one of us has an affinity group of half a dozen or so amongst whom all participate ‘not as unequals’. In these affinity groups a lot of premeditation and co-ordination takes place. The activities of affinity groups span from mutual help to routine resistances against productivity and discipline, along with refusals and steps of change that question and challenge hierarchy, competition, money relations and wage slavery. The problems as we see them are:

I. The importance of self-activity as reflected in these steps taken by affinity groups is denied. The steps by themselves are small and thus belittled. When they are talked about, they are derisively characterized as insignificant workplace skirmishes, or merely survival calisthenics.

II. Constant attempts are made by managements to suppress these self-activities through representation.

III. Wage-workers often do not give much importance to their self activity because of the invisibility of the social effects of the small steps engendered by their self-activities.

IV. There is a tremendous lack of linkages between affinity groups (which can only be horizontal and multi-nodal). This lack makes wage-workers vulnerable to getting coagulated into a mass whenever wider level issues are forced or arise. This coagulation if not created by representatives (which is ofttn the case), then in itself engenders representation.

V. More importantly, co-ordination between affinity groups is hampered by a lack of discussion on experiences of affinity groups.

Lest we be misunderstood, we would like to make it clear that we are not for small steps per se but our concern, rather, is for self-activity. Self-activity in terms of routine resistances, refusals and steps of change by wage-workers at large on a sustained, extended and expansive scale, encompassing a multifaceted global reality.

*** SELF-ACTIVITY OF WAGE-WORKERS AGAINST POLITICS OF CLOSURE DEFINING CLOSURE

A viable enterprise means that enough surplus is being extracted and realised in order to be appropriated as taxes, interest payments, cuts & commissions, managerial life-style and dividends. For financial institutions, management & state apparatus, a company becomes non-viable & sick when the extracted and realised surplus is not sufficient to meet the existing levels of taxes, interest rates, cuts & commissions, managerial life-style and dividends.

It is not uncommon to find that state apparatuses, financial institutions and management are sometimes forced to reduce their amounts of surplus appropriation to keep an enterprise running. But the overriding tendency, of course, remains one of perpetually increasing the amounts that are appropriated, resulting in increasing “sickness” and “unviability”. The dominant propaganda and media, however, all the while speaks of “sickness” and “closure” in terms of either mismanagement or lack of profitability (i.e. inability to pay dividends). This screens the fact that the major portion of extraction from wage-workers is appropriated as taxes, interest payments, cuts & commissions and managerial lifestyle.

POLITICS OF CLOSURE

The common interests of management, financial institutions and state apparatus dictate the survival, running and growth of an enterprise. In their common interest, they collaborate to increase intensity of work & workload, decrease wages, retrench workers and create techniques to counter wage-workers’ self-activity.

Despite all the cunning and guile, force and deception used to keep an enterprise viable, when an enterprise “becomes unviable”, then it is in the management’s interest to swindle as much as it possibly can of the company’s assets. When a goose no longer lays golden eggs, wisdom advises – ‘Cut and Eat the Goose’.
There is a well-tried out management method to grab as much as is possible of wage-workers’ legal dues before the closure of a factory. Along with the months of outstanding wages, years of provident funds/ pension funds, gratuity/ retirement benefits, years of bonus and leave travel allowances, etc. are also not paid. Company properties are then sold off with the management taking large cuts & commissions. This has been a routine exercise in a large number of factories which have been closed in Faridabad and other places. The dominant schema is:
When a factory “becomes sick”, and closure has been decided, management – through union leaders – instigates strikes, and/or violent incidents to create conditions for lockouts. This facilitates the dispersal of workers. In these situations, management stops coming to the factory and wage workers are channelised into long drawn out civil and criminal court cases – fifteen years is very common. During all this, closure is very actively camouflaged. In the rare cases where the court cases are finally decided in favour of the workers, and the workers are at hand to take their legal dues, there is no property in the company’s name to pay. Banks’ and state apparatuses’ dues (taxes and other bills) gulp most of the little that remains.

A BREACH IN THE POLITICS OF CLOSURE

This is the scenario that is being tried out in Jhalani Tools Limited, Faridabad. But the wage-workers in Jhalani Tools are actively countering this management-leaders-state administration schema to gobble-up workers dues through various modes of self-activity. These steps of self-activity, in our opinion, have wider ramifications for wage-workers. Management of Jhalani Tools stopped paying wages to workers from Mar’96. The past experiences of wage-workers in Faridabad and specifically in Jhalani Tools, have thoroughly discredited leaders amongst wage-workers. Through silence and passivity, the 2,000 workers countered leaders’ and management’s methods of instigation around tangential issues. No heed was paid to grand agreements, identity politics, change of union affiliation, change of leaders, provocation by transfers, instigation to violence etc. Four groups of leaders have come (have been brought) and gone, banging their heads against this wall of ‘dull and dumb’ silence.

With mounting legal dues and increasing hardships, workers had hesitatingly started looking for alternative courses of action. Initially a small group of workers in Sept.’96 had on their own demanded back wages from the state labour department officers. Slowly, in affinity groups of 5-8, workers complaints to the state officials increased. And very soon the working of the labour department and district administration was almost jammed when 300 small groups of workers separately started approaching the officers. Legal obligations of separate dates and hearings were done away with, but then talking to hundreds of workers at the same time was another impossibility. Like the management, the district officials desperately tried to foist leaders on workers, but failed. Faced by this stubborn refusal to accept anyone as leaders, district officials then tried their best toinstigate workers to violence. They failed again.

Another facet of this incident is that collecting a crowd by giving a single date to 300 affinity groups facilitates the spread and legitimization of the ageless rhetoric of unity and delegation (for negotiation with management and administration). This was attempted by the district administration. But an interesting metaphor to counter this arose from within the crowd outside the administration office. A worker responded to the call for “unity and delegation” by calling out that – “Bees united in a hive can easily be smoked off and their honey taken away. But if affinity groups of bees swarm about, no one dares to touch their honey”.

Then the management tried to create leaders and instigate strikes through summary dismissals of workers. But even when the number of dismissals reached a hundred, the workers neither made leaders nor took to violence.

With this stepping up of pressure by management, leaders and state officials, the workers of Jhalani Tools in August’97 started taking very simple steps to take their predicament to more than 300,000 co-workers in Faridabad & Delhi. Overcoming hesitation, fear & shame, some workers in small groups of 8-10 started standing along various roads during morning and evening shift hours with hand written placards. This was done to engage in discussions with workers of other factories without any intermediaries. They have been doing this daily since Aug’97.
On the placards is written:

“We are from the 2000 workers who have not been paid their wages for (so many) months”;
“What is to be done when management does not pay wages?”;
“We have changed leaders four times and union flags three times, but each time it has been from the frying pan into the fire”;
“We have made many complaints to govt. officials and ministers but conditions have gone from bad to worse”;
“Metal Box, Delta Tools, Electronics Ltd. and now Jhalani Tools workers. Whose turn tomorrow?”; etc.

Everyday they space themselves along a different road. Along each route that they stand on, workers from hundreds of factories pass by. The response of workers at large has been tremendous. Dispersed, multi-nodal conversations without intermediaries are emerging about the urgent need for new modes of self-activity of workers. Over this period of eleven months, more than 200,000 workers have read these placards and thousands of workers have stopped to have extensive conversations with them. In almost all factories of Faridabad (and large number of factories & offices in Delhi) questions posed by these workers are being debated.

What is being discussed by an ever-increasing number of wage-workers is how to act on their own strength against the triumvirate of state, management and representatives. It is a constant process of conversation, argument and counter-argument as to the ‘Whats’ and ‘Hows’ of steps of self-activity. There is awareness that the charted out paths and networks of representatives, leaders and their organisations are all geared to subvert this process.

Management, leaders and state officials are finding it difficult to instill fear in workers at large as they can find no appropriate targets for their terror tactics. More difficult than the small numbers of workers on the roads, is the problem that the straight and silent faces of workers are posing for the bosses. An additional difficulty for the bosses is the workers’ refusal to go to court despite all the advice that the specialists have been doling out wholesale.
More and deeper discussions have been taking place amongst Jhalani Tool factory workers. These have found visible expression in forms like wall letters and graffiti, but a truly significant fallout has been that workers have innumerable and extended conversations within and outside the factory premises and with co-workers as well as workers from all other factories. From being a problem of one fac tory, it has now become a problem of all workers.

To counter the increasing self-activity of wage-workers, the provincial government organised elections, in Oct’ 97 in order to establish a new leadership in the factory. From Dec’ 97 the management started paying wages. However, these steps failed to put a brake on the workers’ self-activity. Neither the issue of back wages & other dues could be side tracked, nor could the management sell the IIIrd plant of the factory, nor could it make leadership credible amongst workers.
In this situation, in Apr’ 98, the management resorted to massive wage-cuts in order to instigate workers. Failing again, the management then created an atmosphere of fear & violence and threw out the elected leaders – replacing them with its hand picked works committee in the first week of June’98. This hand picked committee has resorted to direct physical attack and identity politics. But the continuous rise in workers’ self-activity has put a hold on this.
Small groups of workers with placards standing on the roads have increased and are increasing in number and so are the workers in conversations with them. Thereby not only creating problems for Jhalani Tools management, which has not been able to close the factory, but also for managements of thousands of factories.

KK / Collectivities, June, 1998. Majdoor Library, Autopin Jhuggi, N.I.T. Faridabad, 121001, India

Gurgaon Workers News #34 - January 2011

English Language edition of the class struggle newspaper produced in Gurgaon, in Haryana, India. The paper contains workers' enquiry and testimonials, collective action reports, theory and analysis.

Gurgaon in Haryana is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development.

At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region.

If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via:

www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com
gurgaon_workers_news[at]yahoo.co.uk

Another voice against the day: A young worker's story

We met a 20 years old worker who lives and works in Manesar, near Gurgaon. It is his individual story, but it is at the same time the story of a dominant part of global working class today: the migration between village and town, the wandering between different jobs and sectors, the dissolution of old social structures, the necessity to form new ones. Their existence bridges the knowledge of agricultural work, the knowledge about the misery of village life, the skills of modern industry and industrial struggle, the anger towards the urban betrayal. Seen on its collective and antagonistic background their story smashes all antiquated, but re-animated concepts of the ‘peasant-workers alliance’ – a concept, which essentially upholds the ‘mediating and allying role’ of the ‘left-wing of bourgeoisie’. Any attempts of professional and institutional trade unionism will fail their meandering workforce shifting between textile, automobile, printing or whatever production. In the face of their social experience, any claim that workers’ consciousness is necessarily reduced to the ‘economic dimension’ will be doomed to wither in the shadow of irrelevance. So far the temporary falling-back into the village might have prevented a mass confrontation with the real-existing conditions in the urban world: a settled existence as an urban wage worker is utopian and nightmarish at the same time. The ‘falling back’ becomes untenable, so does the ‘leap ahead’ into the urban whirlpool. The whirl’s centre is formed of mainly temporary employment in core industries, connected to both, global production-chains and the large fringes of slum economy. The centrifugal forces are growing and hardly allow a settled existence. The new desires and collectivity emerge from the central point and are washed into the periphery. Only if future working class movements are able to keep the social connection between urban industrial centres and periphery will they be able to express a communist tendency. The current social connection is on the shoulders of the migrating workers. The Pearl River generation of migrating workers has become the pendulum of global capital. Their pushs-and-pulls between southern hinterland and global workbench and the rushes of northern austerity crisis will have to crack the systemic borderline of under/development and reiterate the necessity to make the step beyond.

Twenty years old worker
(FMS New Series No. 268)

I get up at five o’clock in the morning, in the middle of sleep…

Since I was 12 or 13 years old, I always got up at five in morning to milk the cows. We had two cows. Then I went three and a half kilometres on my bicycle to deliver the milk to a place outside of our village. Back at home, I would eat and then go and graze the cattle. After having washed and returned the cows, I went to school at about ten o’clock. My parents fought a lot with each other. Since I was in seventh class, my father stopped sending money to us. We lived in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. My father worked in Pehowa, Haryana, painting and plastering houses. For one month, I worked as a helper for the manager of a brick kiln. But selling milk was our profession. When my father did not send any money during all of 2004, I left school. Everyone said, “How long will you survive by grassing cattle, go and learn some work…”

In 2005, I arrived in Gurgaon. I stayed with the son of a relative. I was 15 years old then. For ten days, I had to sit idle. I learned how to make rotis and started to make food for those who went to work at four in the morning. I found my first job in N.K. Rubber factory in Nakhrola. The personnel manager interviewed me. The contractor said that I was still young, but that it would work out. The workers -who had come from Orissa to find a job – filled out my job card, stating that I was 18 years old.

I had to get up at half past four in the morning. I prepared food. Then I went one kilometer on foot. I began work in the factory at eight o’clock. They ran two 12hour shifts. We manufactured soles for shoes. It was assembly line work. You had to stand upright for 12 hours, only half an hour meal break. I hardly managed to keep up. The supervisor got angry. My feet would swell up from all the standing.

During nightshift, you get very tired. I snuck away to get some sleep. The supervisor screamed and the guard went to find and wake me up. Although I had already worked six hours at that point, they cut 12 hours from my wages. I had difficulties sleeping during the day. During the nightshift week, I used to get so very tired by Wednesdays… Now on nightshift week, I often take Wednesday off.

There are six people now sharing the room. From my first wages, I used 1,000 rupees to pay the food bill. With 250 rupees, I bought a thin mat and blanket. With 300 rupees, a gas cooker and some cooking utensils. Then I went to get a different room in Nakhrola. With another one of the guys, I paid 700 rupees rent. The guy left and I spent two months on my own.

The winter began. You leave at half past seven in the morning and return at eight o’clock at night. For fifteen days, you do not see the sun. A thin mat, a blanket, a sheet – I had no proper bed, I slept on the floor. I also had no sweater, so I slept with my jacket on… I could not get any sleep at night. When the morning came…I can still remember how cold it was during winter in 2005. In the factory, it smelled really bad, but it was warm…There, sleep came very easily.

I had been working at N.K. Rubber for four months when the message of the death of my grandmother arrived. I went back to the village. Cutting wheat, thrashing wheat, storing the straw. Cutting arhar, digging out garlic, cutting coriander. Preparing the paddy field, preparing the rice plants and planting them. Go and fetch the cows for grazing, grazing them. At home, there was a lot of difficulty because of the heavy burden of all the work. But if you don’t do it, what will you eat? Suffering at home continued. There was a lot of fighting between my uncle and my father. Because my mother had been staying in the village, we got hold of three bighas of land during the re-distribution.

My earliest memories are from Pehowa in Haryana. They sent my older sisters to a government school and me to a private school. After a year, my sisters returned to the village to stay with my mother. I stayed back with my father. After having prepared food in the morning, my father went to work and I went to school. One day on the playing field, a kid threw a stone and it hit my head. I bled a lot, but there wasn’t anyone to put a bandage on, so I kept my head in some cloth. When my father came from work at eight o’clock, he bandaged my head. I was very sad. I was alone. I missed my mother and my older sisters. My father went back to the village. I had my exam coming up. He had left me in Pehowa, so the neighbors gave me food. I developed a fever – now I think it was because of the stress. I was good at math. My father wanted me to keep on studying in Pehowa. I would go back to the village during holidays. It was a private school so, the holidays were very short. After the marriage of my two older sisters, my mother was left only with my younger sister. I went back to the village and my mother would not let me go back…

When I arrived at Gurgaon the second time, I started again working at N.K. Rubber – this time in the packing department, where I stayed for four months. I also went to Perfecti factory, but nothing came out of it. In order to learn how to run CNC machines, I started at Moog Automotive for a low wage. The supervisor was a cousin of mine. I stopped after twelve days. There was too much quarreling because the cousin kept on screaming at me. I went back to the village. In 2006, I spent the whole winter in the village. Then I went back to Gurgaon. It took 15 days to find a job. I spent a lot of time running around IMT Manesar. I had job interviews at many places.

They hired me at Vishal Retail factory (Plot 16-17, Sector 5). They hired me as a press man – it was the first time that I worked at a steam press. I became a record keeper and then a small supervisor. I learned how to sew. Wages were delayed. The first day after the supposed pay-day, workers stopped working for a while. The next day workers stopped working at eleven o’clock. The general manager said that wages would arrive at three o’clock. Workers started working. The wages did not arrive. Workers stopped again. At eight o’clock at night, people were finally paid. I worked there for a year. Then the factory closed. The contractor disappeared. One year of contributions to the PF lost…

I was ill for 15 days. I had chicken pox. I did not eat, I could not walk, neither sleep. Because he was afraid of infection, one of the roommates left. I was upset about that. I used to cook for him. The other roommate took 15 days off. He cooked food, prepared the medicine, and washed the clothes.

After Vishal retail had closed down, I started at Orient Craft (Plot 15, Sector 5) as a tailor. You had to work from half past nine in the morning till one o’clock at night every day. On Sundays, they made you work from half past nine in the morning till four o’clock the next morning. They paid double for overtime. They sacked me because I took a Sunday off. They said that data was lost on the computer. I had to go to the office again and again to get my outstanding wages. After twelve days working at Orient Craft, I worked seven days at Gulati Export (Sector 4).

Then I started at STI Zenho (161, Sector 40). The company manufactures break pipes for Maruti, Suzuki, and Honda cars. I learned how to operate a bending machine. Most of the supervisors there were women. The behavior of our supervisor was not good. You had to ask in order to go to the toilet. Even after having finished the target, you had to keep the machines running, making extra-pieces. You were not supposed to make pieces which would be ‘rejected’. You were supposed to work eight hours daily overtime. For two or three days, I was concerned with the fact that a woman was my supervisor, then I got used to it. You are forced to work, so you have to listen. After seven months, I took holiday and returned to the village. My sister was ill. At the time of return, I also got news about the work accident of my supervisor cousin. He was kept in the Delhi Jay Prakash Trauma center, got a blood infusion and had to stay for fifteen days. He then had to be looked after by relatives for another ten to fifteen days. After all this, I started again at STI Zenho. After five months, they gave me an enforced ‘break’.

I started at AG Industries (Plot 8, Sector 3). About 100 permanent workers work on three shifts and another 500 workers hired through contractors work on two 12 hour shifts. They manufacture fiber side-covers for Hero Honda motorcycles. The permanent workers wanted to establish a union. So, in January-February 2010, the company kicked out eighteen of them. On March 20th, all workers gathered and stopped working. The police came in two bus loads, they entered the factory, started beating us with lathis and kicked the workers out. One had his hand broken, several others had bleeding heads. At six in the morning, some workers went back inside and started working. The managers also worked. Workers were brought in Hero Honda buses from Gurgaon, from Dharuhera and also from Ghaziabad. New people were hired at the gate. On March 26th, the unions had a demonstration in Gurgaon, with ten thousand people, with speeches. Then again, nothing. After signing the ‘good conduct conditions’, the permanent workers went back inside on the 2nd and 3rd of April, leaving the eighteen other workers outside. After four months of working there, I had an argument with the supervisor. I left the job and went back to the village.

When I told them that I would go back to Gurgaon, my mother and sister cried. I stayed for three more days. When I left, I didn’t tell them. I borrowed money for the travel from a friend. I looked for a job for eight days. I started at Kumar printers (24 Sector 5). Two 12 hour shifts. At every machine, at every corner cameras. There are 50 permanents and 225 workers hired through two different contractors. They do industrial printing. During the Commonwealth Games trouble, 50 to 60 workers left because they were afraid of being harassed by the police. Due to the lack of workers, the remaining workers had to work from eight in the morning till one at night. They also brought 30 workers from Bhiwadi in a bus every day. I haven’t fixed a date yet, but I will go back to the village…

A Glimpse Across the Border: Automobile Workers’ Report from Tata Motors Supplier in Uttarakhand

We translated and summarised an article about the conditions in the factory of a Tata Motors supplier based in the state of Uttarakhand. The article was published in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary journal Nagrik, issue 23, 1 – 15 December 2010. Tata Motors claims to represent the ‘new people’s car’-industry, with cheap cars like the Nano. ‘People’s Cars’ are built with workers’ blood. The state of Uttarakhand attracts investment by massive tax benefits. A fair share of factories has been re-located from other states towards this northern state. SIDCUL, the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttaranchal [Uttarakhand] has established seven industrial estates which, according to the SIDCUL website provide a “Peaceful and Secure Industrial Environment”. Read about the war behind the peace yourself…

The mutilating factory – Rojitasha Company

http://www.sidcul.com/sidculweb/home.aspx

http://www.tatamotors.com/nag

sptripathi@sidcul.com

Rojitasha is a supplier for Tata Motors. The factory is situated in Sidkul, Sector 11, an industrial area in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand. Metal chassis for Tata’s mini truck ‘Chota Hathi” are produced here. The factory used to produce in Poona and has been re-located to Pantnagar, an industrial area of the Sidkul. The factory employs 500 workers out of which 50 are permanent, the rest hired through contractor. The company established the factory as part of the Engineering Industry agreement, but nevertheless openly makes use of the contract system. Apart form this work-force there are about 150 staff employed at Rojitasha. Formal owners are S.D. Gange and R.D. Gange. Tushar Kumble is the plant manager and Pradeep Barik is the production manager. The company manufactures metal bodies for 750 mini trucks a day, using sheet metal and form-giving machinery.

Open violation of health and safety standards and measures

The workers in the area call the Rojitasha factory the ‘scrubby factory’. In the inner yard of the factory scrub and bushes grow, the imported sheet metal for the chassis is also kept in the undergrowth, next to all kinds of rubbish and dirt. In the factory the sheet metal is cut, bent and welded. The noise pollution is extreme. A lot of metal dust and gas from the welding is in the air. Despite the accidents and the dangers neither masks, nor helmets, nor safety glasses, nor ear plugs are handed out to the workers. The factory is therefore also known as the ‘mutilating factory’. The workers are afraid of permanent damage to eyes, lungs, … to their body.

The company runs on two 12-hours shifts, overtime is paid at single rate. The workers receive 247.50 Rs per 12-hours shift. The legal minimum wage for an 8-hours shift is 165 Rs, and it is a crime to force people work longer than these 8 hours. If required the workers are also made to stay 24 hours or 36 hours on stretch. The long working-hours tire the workers out, more accidents happen, more hands get cut, most accidents happen in the 11th and 12th hour of the shift. Everyday workers are hurt, three to four workers become permanently disabled each month. The management and contractors give private treatment to these workers, they try to emotionally blackmail the workers or promise them compensation and permanent employment in the company – in order to prevent the workers from taking legal steps against the company. When things have cooled down these workers are kicked out of the company. Because the workers hired through contractors are not on record they can hardly prove that they have been employed at Rojitasha.

We tell the story of the worker Vikas from Visalpur, who started working at Rojitasha on 27th of September 2010. The worker’s parents are ill, they are not able to do hard work. Vikas’s wife only sometimes finds work on other people’s fields in the villages. He is the oldest of six siblings, so when he was 20 years he left the village to look for a job in factories like Rojitasha. On 16th of November at 3 am in the Rojitasha factory the worker’s hand gets into the metal cutter. Five fingers of his left hand are severed. The contractor first sends him to the private Shubham Surgical Centre in Rudrapur, then to a private nursing home. The worker also goes to a hospital, but his fingers are lost. The contractor puts pressure on Vikas, so that the story cools down and Vikas will meet the same sad fate like the other workers. Rojitasha did not contribute neither to PF nor ESI, neither did the contractor. If Vikas had been registered with the ESI, as according to law, he would now get a pension. Vikas was not aware that the care and compensation after a work accident was not a merciful act of management towards the worker, but a right of the worker which as been fought for.

Apart from that there are only six toilets for 500 workers, out of which two toilets are not usable. According to law one toilet has to be provided for 20 workers. Workers say that they have never seen so dirty toilets before. There is only one tap with drinking water for 500 workers. The food in the canteen is very expensive, about 35 Rs per meal. Wages are paid late, instead of the 7th of the month they are paid between the 15th and the 22nd.

Every second month workers go on sudden strike because of delayed wages. Only if wages are paid or the management assures that wages will be paid soon, the workers would start working again. In October 2010 workers stopped work for four to five hours and only started again once wages were paid. In November, when the question of bonus payment came up, all workers stopped work and gathered at the gate. The supervisors, contractors and managers threatened and scared the workers, the workers then went inside to work. The manager threatened that if he would be made to pay for ESI, PF, company bus etc., he would close and shift the factory. During the night of the 23rd of November the management illegally removed a welding machine, shifted and kicked out 21 workers hired through contractor.

Wildcat Strike at Honda HMSI in Gurgaon, Manesar

A report of a wildcat strike at Honda in Gurgaon, India in December 2010.

On 17th of December 2010 a security personnel at Honda factory misbehaved with a temporary worker. In response temporary workers – not represented by the union – went on a wildcat strike, which brought production to a halt. The temporary workers raised demands concerning their precarious work-contract. The established union asked them to get back to work and promised that things will be taken care of. The strike continued for 24 hours, the security personnel had to apologise in front of the workers. Since the police attack on Honda HMSI workers and the registration of the Honda union in 2005 there have been several incidents of wildcat action. Most of these actions originate in the discontent of the casual and temporary workforce. Their situation has not improved since the establishment of the union, the material divisions between permanent and temporary workforce in terms of wages and conditions have widened since 2005. When they go on wildcat action the union leadership speaks of ‘instigation by pro-management forces’.

Honda Struggle 2005:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no7/#fn4

Wildcat Strike 2007:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no913/#fn5

Working Conditions 2010:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-930/#fn2

Working Conditions 2010:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-932/#fn1

According to some friends who visited the factory during the strike:
“On 17th of December 2010 at around 1 pm a temporary worker, who had been employed at the plant for a while was asked by his supervisor to perform duties outside the factory. He reported to the supervisor that he has not been issued a company ID, which is required when entering the premises individually. He was nevertheless sent outside. When the security personnel found out he swore at the worker and made him perform exercise as a form of punishment. The worker was upset and complained to his work-mates. They stopped working. The work stoppage spread to the other part of the plant. Finally the whole production came to a halt. The workers went to the union office, the representatives told them to wait for the union president who would come back at 5 pm. When he arrived he listened and told workers to go back to work. He promised them that the security guard would be suspended. The workers replied that they also demanded that the temporary workers were not given a break of employment after one year – the company resorts to these breaks in oder to avoid to have to give them permanent employment. The president asked workers to return to work. The permanent workers tried to resume work, but the temporary workers prevented them from doing so. During the night union representatives said that management spread the word that they would engage in a lock-out if work would not restart next day. This increased the division between permanent and temporary workers. Of the arriving early shift only the permanent workers were allowed to enter the factory. The security guard were made to apologize in front of the workers, but the other issues (break of employment) were ‘taken care of’, as said by the union representatives. To outsiders the union president said that apart from the issue of misbehaviour by security personnel there was no ‘other issue’. The company organised extra buses to get the workers back home. The next day, on the 19th of December the factory was closed for an early weekend. The temporary workers left with a general feeling of anger.”

We met a canteen worker some days after the strike. He said:
“After the incident with the security guard small groups wandered around the premises. When the second shift arrived at 2 pm, all workers gathered and encircled the management building to shout slogans. At that point the permanent workers were still with the casual and temp workers. Only after the security guard apologized and the temp workers still maintained their demand concerning the enforced break of employment, the permanent workers left the action. There were no leaders among the temporary workers – but the fact that there will be union elections at the end of January and the fact that there is an opposition within the union will have played a role. The numbers of workers on the premises came down. At the end about 250 workers stayed in the canteen over night. The management did not try to intervene, but there were about 150 police on the factory premises. Some managers say that the action has caused a loss of 7 crore Rs.”

According to the media:
“The workers at Honda Motorcycles & Scooters India (HMSI) plant in IMT Manesar, called off their strike following the suspension of one of the security personnel. The end came about only after Haryana labour department officials and leaders of the HMSI Workers Union intervened. The HMSI management suspended the services of the guard. They also advanced the Sunday weekly off to Saturday, to soothe tempers. According to the workers, the security guard insulted one of the casual workers by asking him to hold his ears as punishment for trying to enter the factory without his identity card, which he forgot to bring. In a written statement, the HMSI termed the affair a ‘small incident of indiscipline between security personnel and casual workers’. Senior HMSI official Harbhajan Singh said the workers had been instigated by a group of trade union members. Workers sources, said there was still uncertainty and the production shutdown has resulted in a loss of about 5000 units since yesterday. The workers claimed that about 2,500 casual labourers went on a flash strike. Singh said the guard was suspended from work pending investigations and labour leaders had addressed workers on Saturday to bring the situation under control. With two groups of trade unions operating, there was a chance for ‘trivial issues’ being blown out of proportion, Singh said. The Manesar factory produces 1.6 million two-wheelers per annum with a daily production of 5,500 units. The company is building another R500-crore plant at Tapukara in Rajasthan with a capacity of 600,000 per annum. Last year HMSI suffered a loss of over Rs. 300 crore after workers went on a go-slow strike that had resulted in production dipping by over 50 per cent for nearly three months. The strike, which the company says was a minor incident, happened a day after Honda announced it will sell off its 26 per cent stake in world’s largest two-wheeler company, Hero Honda Motors Ltd. It symbolised the Japanese firm’s problems in managing industrial relations in India.”

Sad End of the Viva Global Dispute: Dead End of Institutional Trade Union Struggle?

We have documented reports about the dispute at the garments export factory Viva Global before – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.32

The struggle has been lost in an objective sense: the workers engaged in the trade union lead dispute are now unemployed and the factory has been closed. The buyer ‘Marks&Spencer’, which has been in the focus of the media campaign and petitions, denies that it has received goods from Viva Global during the months before the dispute. The struggle has been lost despite the fact that it has been ‘promoted’ by international media campaigns and activities.

The local revolutionary left target the ‘easily identifiable weak spots’ when criticising the organisation behind the strike: the union is part of a NGO-set-up, which, through mediation, is funded by the US-based Ford-foundation. The resources have been used to recruit ‘organisers’ among students and workers and to ‘drive for union registration’. We think that the criticism should go a step further and raise the question of how ‘victorious’ struggles are imaginable in a globally squeezed and structurally weak industry like the garment sector. It will not be enough to replace the ‘NGO’-union with a ‘revolutionary’-union and the ‘paid organisers’ with ‘professional cadres’. From the IWW strikes in the US at the threshold of the 19th to the 20th century to the garment workers riots in Bangladesh today: the strikes in the textile industry have always involved a level of mass violence if they did not manage to spread beyond their ‘structurally weak foundation’ – it is relatively easy to shut and re-open a garment factory.

We have no practical alternative on offer, but to learn from the ‘many defeats’ of individual struggles for union recognition in the garment sector of Delhi’s industrial areas and the few example of very short, but temporary successful ‘direct action’ of workers, mainly during the time when new orders came in or when shipping dates had to be met. You will find many examples in previous issues. It requires deep understanding of daily factory reality and global industrial structures in order to find the form of struggle appropriate to the specific material conditions. Only based on the insight of the ‘immediate production process’, forms of organisation can be determined which allow the workers the highest degree of control over their struggle. Many ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘well meaning people’ lack this knowledge. ‘The registered union’ is their external way to relate to workers’ reality, a way which reserves a role for them as middle-class people: spokesperson, legal advisors, negotiators, agitators. If they refuse to reflect their social position and consequently present ‘the trade union’ as the ‘organic workers’ organisation’ and ‘all-time solution’, they create traps for the workers and unnecessary limitations to future movements. The following report is by a worker employed at Viva Global. In the case that it is not accurate, please get in touch.

Viva Global Worker
(413 Udyog Vihar Phase 3)
About 30 of us were hired through contractor in March 2010, we were working on piece rate. On 25th of August 2010 we were stopped at the gate and asked to request the outstanding final wages from the contractor. The wages for August – around 125,000 Rs – we have still not received, it is now the 26th of October. The company says that it won’t pay wages, because we went on strike, which has caused the break-up with the buyer [Marks&Spencer]. They say that, but it was the company management itself which had kicked us out. The dispute had involved 100 permanent workers who had been hired by the company directly. From 23rd August onwards 100 permanent workers staged a protest sit-in in front of the company, while 40 permanent workers were working inside. Now that there is a case running with the labour department, the protest has been called off. Those 40 workers who had remained inside were given their final wages on 1st of October. Out of the 100 workers who had been involved with the union 35 workers took an extra of 10,000 Rs as a final payment. 30 women workers and 35 male workers are still with the union. The production department has been closed. Some office employees are still working.

Glossary

Updated version of the Glossary: things that you always wanted to know, but could never be bothered to google. Now even in alphabetical order.

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

AITUC
The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) is the oldest trade union federation in India and one of the five largest. It was founded in 1919 and until 1945, when unions became organised along party lines, it was the central trade union organisation in India. Since then it has been affiliated with the Communist Party of India.

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

CITU
Centre of Indian Trade Unions, a national central trade union federation in India. Politically attached to CPI(M), Communist Party of India (Marxist). Founded in 1970, membership of 2.8 million.

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

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

Crore
1 Crore = 10,000,000
1 Lakh = 100,000

DA (Dearness Allowance):
An inflation compensation. Each three to six months the state government checks the general price development and accordingly pays an allowance on top of wages.

DC
Deputy Commissioner, Head of the District Administration.

ESI (Employee’s State Insurance):
Introduced in 1948, meant to secure employee in case of illness, long-term sickness, industrial accidents and to provide medical facilities (ESI Hospitals) to insured people. Officially the law is applicable to factories employing 10 or more people. Employers have to contribute 4.75 percent of the wage paid to the worker, the employee 1.75 percent of their wage. Officially casual workers or workers hired through contractors who work in the factory (even if it is for construction, maintenance or cleaning work on the premises) are entitled to ESI, as well. Self-employment is often used to undermine ESI payment.

Exchange Rate:
1 US-Dollar = 43 Rs (July 2008)
1 Euro = 68 Rs (July 2008)

HSIIDC
Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation

ITI
Industrial training, e.g. as electrician or mechanic. Two years of (technical school), one year of apprentice-ship in a company. During the two years at school the young workers receive no money, but they have to pay school fees. A lot of the bigger companies ask for ITI qualification.

Jhuggi
Slum Hut

Lakh
see Crore

Lay off
Lay off in the Indian context means that workers have to mark attendance, but they actually do not work and receive only half of the wage.

Minimum Wage:
Official minimum wage in Haryana in June 2007 is 3,510 Rs per month for an unskilled worker, based on an 8-hour day and 4 days off per month. But hardly any workers get this wage.

Panchayat
A locally elected village administrative body in charge of village-level issues.

PF (Employee’s Provident Fund):
Introduced in 1952, meant to provide a pension to workers. Officially applicable to all companies employing more than 20 people. Official retirement age is 58 years. Given that most of the casual workers belong to the regular workforce of a factory, they are entitled to the Provident Fund, as well. So are workers employed by contractors. If workers receive neither PF nor ESI they also do not show up in the official documents, meaning that officially they do not exist.

Ration Card
Officially the so called ‘governmental fair price shops’ are shops were ‘officially poor’ people can buy basic items (wheat, rice, kerosene etc.) for fixed and allegedly lower prices. In order to be able to buy in the shops you need a ration card. The ration card is also necessary as a proof of residency, but in order to obtain the ration card you have to proof your residency. Catch 22. Local politics use the ration depots and cards as a power tool that reaches far into the working class communities. Depot holders’ jobs are normally in the hands of local political leaders. In return they receive this privileged position, which often enable them to make money on the side.

SP
Superintendent of Police, Head of the District Police.

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

Trainees
In general trainees work as normal production workers, they might have a six-month up to two-year contract. Depending on the company they are promised permanent employment after passing the trainee period. Their wages are often only slightly higher than those of workers hired through contractors.

VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme):
Often a rather involuntary scheme to get rid of permanent workers. Particularly the VRS at Maruti in Gurgaon made this clear, when 35 year olds were sent in early retirement.

Wages and Prices:
When we hear that a cleaner in a call centre in Gurgaon, an industrial worker in Faridabad or a rikshaw-driver in Delhi earns 2,000 Rs for a 70 hour week, which is about the average normal worker’s wage, we have to bear in mind that they often came from West Bengal, Bihar or other remote place in order to get this job. In order to put 2,000 Rs into a daily context here are some prices of goods and services – based on Summer 2006 prices. Inflation levels have been high since then. Fort more recent prices see:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-928/

Housing:
- Monthly rent for a plastic-tarpaulin hut shared by two people in Gurgaon: 800 Rs
- Monthly rent for a small room in Gurgaon (without kitchen), toilet and bathroom shared by five families: 1,300 Rs
- Monthly rent for a small room in a new building in central Gurgaon, single toilet and bathroom: 4,500 Rs to 8,000 Rs

Food:
- Half a kilo red lentils on the local market: 25 Rs
- Kilo rice on local market: 14 Rs
- 1 Kilo Onions and 1 Kilo carrots on local market: 25 to 30 Rs
- McChicken: 40 Rs
- Bottle (0,7l) of beer at Haryana Wine and Beer shop: 50 to 70 Rs
- Cigarettes (10), cheapest local brand: 25 Rs
- Starbucks Coffee (Latte Medium) in Shopping Mall: 59 Rs

Utensils:
- Faulty shirt on Faridabad local market: 40 Rs
- Single gas cooker plus new 2 litre gas cylinder: 720 Rs
- Re-fill gas (2 litres – once every month and a half): 100Rs
- Second-hand bicycle: 600 to 1,000 Rs
- Two simple steel pots: 250 Rs

Transport and Communication:
- Bus ticket to nearest bigger bus stop in South Delhi: 14 Rs
- Daily Newspaper: 3 Rs
- One hour internet in a cafe: 20 Rs
- Cinema (new) ticket Saturday night: 160 Rs
- Single entry for swimming pool: 100 Rs
- One litre Diesel: 30 Rs
- Driving license in Haryana: 2,000 to 2,500 Rs
- Start package pre-paid mobile phone (without the phone) 300 Rs
- Phone call to other mobile phones: 1 Rs
- One month mobile phone flat rate: 1,500 Rs

Luxuries:
- Minimum dowry poor workers have to pay for the marriage of their daughter: about 30,000 Rs (80,000 Rs more likely)
- Money given to poor labourers for their kidney: about 40,000 Rs
- Compaq Laptop: 50,000 Rs
- Flight Delhi to London: 28,000 Rs
- Cheapest Hero Honda motorbike (150 cc): around 40,000 Rs
- Ford Fiesta: 587,000 Rs
- Four hours on Gurgaon golf course: 800 Rs (info from golf course worker earning 2,400 Rs monthly)
- Two-Bedroom Apartment in Gurgaon: 10,000,000 to 50,000,000 Rs

Workers hired through contractors
Similar to temporary workers, meaning that they work (often for long periods) in one company but are officially employed by a contractor from whom they also receive their wages. Are supposed to be made permanent after 240 days of continuous employment in the company, according to the law. A lot of companies only have a licence for employing workers in auxiliary departments, such as canteen or cleaning.

Gurgaon Workers News #35 - February 2011

Gurgaon workers newsletter issue 35, with news, reports and analysis from India's special exploitation zone.

After the Wildcat: Another Report by Honda HMSI Worker

Detailed additional information, including participants' reports about the wildcat strike of Honda workers in Gurgaon, India in December 2010.

The short wildcat strike at Honda HMSI on 17th of December 2010 has to be seen on the background of growing anger of a casualised workforce in the main industries of the global south. Be it temporary workers at Hyundai in South Korea, Honda supplying workers in China or Nokia workers in Chennai, in the shade of a minoritarian ‘permanent’ work-force – which bourgeois media focuses on when reporting about gains of development – the unrest increases. We first document additional information on the strike based on Honda HMSI temporary workers reports; we then have a short look at recent international conflicts which bear an systemic semblance to the Honda Gurgaon strike and conclude with some preliminary thoughts on ‘What could be done?’ on an immediate and local level.

The Wildcat Strike at Honda HMSI in Gurgaon

After publishing a first general report in the last issue of GWN we spoke to workers hired through contractor employed at Honda who took part in the strike. The report is being circulated in the January/February issue of Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar.

HMSI Worker

(Plot 1, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)

On Friday 17th of December, after having worked for about two hours, the A-shift workers at the scooter line suddenly stopped work, they went in groups to the other departments of the factory, where they were joint by the rest of the workers. The arriving B-shift joined them, they did not start working. At 11:30 pm management suddenly announced that the weekly day off would be shifted from Sunday to Saturday – the following day. The A-shift workers, who arrived ay 5:30 – 6 am at the bus stops waited in vain for the company buses, they then found out by phoning work-mates and supervisors that the day would be off. On 19th of December the A-shift resumed production, the factory then ran continuously till 27th of December, the time between 27th of December and 2nd of January is the annual maintenance time off… On Friday, the 17th of December, a worker hired through contractor told his work-mates that he had been mistreated by a security guard. The workers immediately stopped working. Permanent workers, casual workers and workers hired through contractor were together in this… The strike spread from the scooter line to the motorcycle lines to the weld- and machine shop to the PI department… the entire work-force was involved. Both A and B-shift workers joined. It was the first time since 2005 that the entire work-force would be in action together, 1,800 permanent and 6,500 workers hired through contractor together. Under the impact of wildcat action of 8,000 workers the management was shaken. “Keep calm, the union president is currently not here, he will be coming at 5 pm”, the workers were told. The main manager for plant security apologised in front of the workers and told them that the security guard would be kicked out. A senior member of management said that he has come all the way from Jaipur to sort out the issue. Workers showed their anger: “We don’t want your apologies, bring the security guard, he should apologise. And you could have come from Japan instead from Jaipur, we don’t care. We want that you stop the clearance.” 1 At 3:15 pm the busses of the A-shift left the plant and quite a few permanent workers left the factory. At 4:30 to 5 pm the union president arrived and said that everything will be arranged in favour of the workers, but that they should go back to work. The permanent workers retreated, but the workers hired through contractor catcalled the union president and accused him to have done nothing about the ill-treatment and discrimination of workers hired through contractors. Had the workers started the wildcat shouting “Down with management, long live the union”, these workers shouted some hours later “Down with management, down with the union”. The rumours spread that management would resort to a lock-out, which caused the permanent workers to withdraw further, but which did not result in controlling the workers hired through contractor. The union president requested several times to resume work, the workers ignored the requests and the union president left the scene angry. The B-shift did not start working – without the workers hired through contractors production could not have been started. The company then announced that Saturday would be off. After A-shift did not arrive at the factory and after 150 to 200 police turned up, workers left the factory on Saturday at 11:30 am. The shaken management did not put up any notice in reaction to the strike. The company did not undertake any open repression apart from suspending a permanent worker, accusing him of instigation. There is talk about 170 workers hired through contractors having been put on a list in order to kick them out ‘secretly’. When workers were assembled together it was mentioned several times that a similar strike had happened in 2004. Back then a group of five workers hired through contractors had been sent to negotiate with management, they left in a company car and disappeared from the scene without workers knowing what had happened to them. It was also said that this time workers should be careful not to expose themselves.”

We want to give some additional information concerning the general background of the strike and encourage you to read the reports from Honda HMSI predating the dispute. In these reports the general day-to-day divide between permanent and temporary workforce becomes clear.

The permanent workers earn up to 31,000 Rs per month, while temporary workers earn around 6,500 Rs. The wage divide has been growing since the establishment of the union in 2005, so has the relative numbers of temporary workers and their work-load. Permanent workers are mainly employed in supervising positions and departments like maintenance, welding, machine shop, final quality check. The line-leaders are permanent workers who have been employed for a minimum of two years and who underwent extra-training. Each of the three main assembly lines is segmented into three-four zones, line-leaders are in charge of these zones where between 25 and 60 workers work. The assembly lines themselves are spacially separated in two main halls. Below the ‘line leader’ there is a supervisor, who normally reports for 8 to 10 workers, The supervisor tends to be a worker hired through contractor himself. A temporary worker reported that while a permanent ‘line leader’ initially supported the strike, the temporary worker himself was rather anxious to be seen taking ‘actively part’, because his supervisor was standing close by – who was a temporary worker, too.

In general temporary workers did not show too much fear, despite the fact that one of the managers present during the dispute was the manager who runs the ‘tests’ of temporary workers. The test is the only chance for temporary workers to become a casual company worker. The next test will be in February 2011 – allegedly around 1,200 temporary workers will take part and 80 will have the ‘chance’ to become a casual worker. The test contains – apart from general questions of production details, such as colour of electrical connection used for this or that vehicle part – the name of the Japanese capital or the Indian Minister for Industry. During the last years less than 80 temporary workers were are made ‘company casual’. The fact that this year the number increased is – according to rumours – due to the opening of the second Honda HMSI plant in nearby Bhiwadi, which is approximately 40km from the existing plant and approximately 90km from Delhi.. Production there is supposed to start in April. According to other sources no workers are transferred from Manesar plant to Bhiwadi, only some middle managers are shifted. Officially there is no ‘production’ shift planned, the capacities in Bhiwadi are additional to those in Manesar.

We finally want to say a few words about the question whether the coming union election played a major role in the dispute – as stated by a Honda manager. The fact that the suspended permanent worker belongs to the oppositional AITUC faction indicates that the ‘faction’ struggle has some influence. The AITUC faction is the original union faction, which fought for recognition in 2005. The current leading faction – which took over two years ago – is portrayed as a ‘management friendly’ faction of mainly ‘local workers’. The current union leadership put up a notice immediately after the strike saying that they regard the dispute as trivial – which was a blunt sign for management that they would not oppose a suspension. The management in due course suspended the permanent worker on 20th of December.

When using phrases like ‘management friendly faction’ etc. we would ask you to bear in mind that during the wildcat strike of temporary workers in October 2006 [http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no7/#fn43], the now opposition AITUC faction was the leading union body and they denounced the strike as ‘instigated and anti-union’, as much as the current leadership denounced the December 2010 strike. The conditions of temporary workers has not only declined since the last two years of ‘new union leadership’, the wage gap and work load started to increase before that. The temporary workers demonstrate that they are more than mere pawns of this faction or the other. Historical experiences, e.g. during the 1980s restructuring period in nearby Faridabad, show that the last straw of management, when having to deal with mass-level of unrest, is to turn it into a representative/factional struggle. If necessary they are happy to accept a ‘management hostile’ faction, too, as long as they have at least someone to talk to.

The International Character of the Dispute

In the Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar issue distributed in Delhi industrial areas in January/February 2011 we concluded the report – see translation above – with an example of the recent strike of automobile workers at Denso in China. Facing management and state repression these workers had refused to put forward ‘delegates’ for negotiations and instead confronted management with anonymously written demand letters. Here we don’t want to go deeper into the question of ‘potentials and limitations’ of ‘anonymous struggle’, but rather stress the point that the Honda HMSI dispute has a wider international background. We picked three examples of recent struggles of a casualised workforce; a workforce outside of the ‘recognised’ employment and union status, but right at the core of the new global workbench which emerged after the mass-relocation of industry and casualisation of work-force during the 1990s.

Hyundai/South Korea

The wildcat strike of temporary workers at Hyundai in Ulsan (South Korea), began on 15th of November 2010. Around 570 out of 2,000 temp workers stopped assembly lines, demanding permanent contracts – according to Korean law they would have to be made permanent after two years of employment. They occupied a factory department which links the automatised storage halls and assembly lines of the factory. They resisted police attacks and harsh conditions – but by 6th of December technicians managed to bypass the occupied part of the factory, numbers of occupiers came down to 260 by that time. On 9th of December they evicted the building. During the dispute they received no solidarity from permanent workers unions: three days after occupation 600 permanent workers and middle management organised protest against strikers. In a formal spectacle FKTU union asked members whether to join the strike, but 77 per cent members voted against joined action.

Honda/China

The morning of 17th of May 2010 workers in the automatic transmission department halted the assembly line by pushing the red stop button, normally used for emergency shutdowns over quality problems. The company offered various raises in bonuses and subsidies for different groups of workers, but the workers insisted on a general raise in the base wage. The company fired two workers who had initially stopped the line. The harsh reactions of management galvanized the workers.
On 24th of May, the strike became indefinite, soon affecting Honda’s main assembly plants in Guangzhou and in Wuhan in central China. Both factories had to stop production on 26th and 27th of May. The local government, along with the union and management, took a more and more aggressive stance, resulting in the mobilization of a group of about 100 thugs clad in union uniforms, who confronted the workers physically.

http://www.labornotes.org/2010/12/auto-worker-strikes-china-what-did-the...

http://chinastrikes.crowdmap.com/

Honda/Mexico

Since December 2010, after sacking of an active worker, struggle at the Honda plant in El Salto, Jalisco intensified. Twenty-one hundred workers on two shifts assemble 5,000 trucks a month, most of them exported to the United States. Since 2009 workers have been resisting and have held several work stoppages to demand that management modify its demands and its attitude. In every case management has responded with repression and firings of the workers it saw as leader. Management maintains a “protection union,” the CTM (Central de Trabajadores de Mexico, the largest official union in the country). The atmosphere at Honda is one of constant hostility and contempt for the dignity of the workers on the part of the foremen. Meanwhile, Honda’s logo reads “The Power of Dreams.” This charro union, as Mexicans call unions that serve the employers, plays the role of formally complying with Mexican law, but in reality it is an instrument that management uses to keep salaries the lowest of all assembly plants in the country. The daily wage is $10-$12.30 per day.

What Could be Done?

There are a few things which any small group of workers/activists can do. Situations like on 17th of December will emerge again and again, question will be whether workers a) will be able to enforce their demands because they actually hit the company; b) they manage to avoid giving management opportunity for open repression as far as possible c) develop stronger organisational links within and beyond the Honda factory as a result of the dispute. We can do out bit to help, which could mean:

* keeping in touch with workers directly – not only their official representatives – in order to follow general developments in the factory (individual repression etc.)…
* finding out whether the information of the 24 hours strike has spread to workers in the surrounding/supplying industry and through which means (through room-mates, security guards, actual production-stops, by seeing police etc.); this would tell us something about to which extend workers can rely on ‘organic forms of industrial and proletarian communication’ and how we can intensify it…
* analyzing current economic situation and production system at Honda with workers, if possible by facilitating regular meetings between Honda workers and workers in the nearby supplying industry (see reports of automobile workers in this issue)…
* arguing for both, need for avoiding traps (‘faction union struggle’, ‘making delegates’, unnecessary physical confrontations, lock-outs, left isolated during factory occupation etc.) and the necessity of extension of future struggles,
* making sure that these positions find a voice and practical support in future struggles…
* looking for acquaintances among workers in the new Honda plant as quickly as possible and inform new workers about experiences of struggles at Manesar plant since early 2000s…
* encouraging flow of information between workers in similar situations on local, regional (Chennai etc.), international level…

  • 1. Management kicks out workers hired through contractors once they have completed a year of employment and often re-hire them two weeks later. They do this in order to prevent the workers gaining legal right to permanent status.

Death of a Worker: Work Kills at Modelama Textile Factory

In a report on the death at work of a textile factory worker and subsequent strike in Gurgaon, India.

The following report about the sad death of a garment worker at Modelama factory in Gurgaon was sent by a friend of Gurgaon workers news.

Since then the death of a worker seems to turn into a back-and-forth between different interest groups about the question of compensation. A former MP from Maharashtra, who belongs to the same village as the worker, took a middle-man role.

<blockquote> “At around 3am on the morning of 16th January or, the 15th night’s overtime, 17 and-a-half hours into continuous sewing and stitching for the 21hour shift, sitting on his iron stool, Md. Rabban, died instantly of electrocution through one of the live wires protruding out of the production line in the garment factory, Modelama Exports in Plot no.105-106, Phase 1, Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon.

Md. Rabban, who had been working, sampling, stitching, sewing, washing, ironing and producing clothes for Modelama, for the past more than 7 years and in the 105 unit since its production started three and-half years back, hailed from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, and was paid the measly minimum wage of Rs.4200 (after the cuts for ESI, PF, and the ‘breaks’, from Rs. 4800). As usual, on 15 January also, Rabban reached in the morning 9.30 am shift to start his day on the production line to work till 6.30am the next day, to resume work again at 9.30am. There were two breaks of half-hour each at 1.30-2pm, and then again at 6.30-7 (which workers pay for themselves, and for which wage is deducted from the workers themselves), a dinner break from 8.30-9.30pm (tasteless stale food in the canteen, for which the company pays a mere Rs.20), and then a next chai break at 2.30-3am. Ten minutes later into resuming work, at around 3.10am, in the overtime and already 17 hours into work, one of the live wires protruding out in front of his machine, electrocuted Rabban as his hand was caught in between the line. A number of complaints were regularly made about the safety conditions and specially about the leak in the current in the electric machines in the production line, and nothing as would cost the company was done about it. The usual thing that does get done in such situations by the management is the ‘management’ of the body, i.e. to wipe it out of sight, as workers recall earlier incidents of the sweeper in the morning sweeping out litres of blood on occasions of the death of workers due to over-work, clash with management etc. However, before any such ‘cleansing’ attempt, the around 80 workers in the production line who witnessed the incident, made an uproar, and tried to help their saathi/work-mate. There was a cry for immediately taking Rabban to the hospital, and because the company had neither doctors nor an ambulance for such (frequently occuring) situation, and was also unwilling to spare its own cars, the workers offered to take him themselves to the hospital in a hired car in front of the company and were pooling in the Rs.1500 required for the transport. Sensing the workers reaction, the management (the supervisor and other staff) shut production immediately, took possession of the body, and took him to the hospital where he was declared brought dead, and then to the morgue after post-mortem, and with an rapidity which only came later, also took the body to the Nizamuddin cemetry and buried him. The police was informed and an F.I.R registered under Sec.304-A which declared it a freak ‘accident’.

Meanwhile the workers of the production line, were joined by those coming in for the morning shift, and anger erupted outside the closed gates of the factory, with over a thousand workers pelting stones and breaking the sleek glass front of the company. The low pay, the single overtime, the non-payment of back wages, the no-offs strictness, the continued and regular harassment in the form of abuse and even slaps and beatings, the strong surveillance in the from of finger-print/biometric entry and the CCTV cameras at every nook and line with the suspicion of workers-as-thieves while clearly it is the other way round, all took form in this solidarity action. Workers of other companies in the area going for their morning shifts also joined in to express their solidarity and anger. Police was employed to control the anger, and disperse the angry workers who demanded justice for Rabban.

The company however came out much later, and made an oral statement about the promised payment of Rs. 1lakh to the family of the deceased. And by around 2pm on the 16th, the spontaneous wave of anger was stifled with the threat of police, targetting-and-possible-suspension and management-through-the-family. The next day’s newspapers reported in an insignificant column, an accident in the Modelama company which was resolved. Work remained suspended on the 16th. /on the 17th morning, when workers got back to the company, after some initial tension at the gates, work was resumed. however soon after, in many departments, many workers again took up the previous day’s incident and its sham resolution in a general uproar, which the management stifled with selective representation of some workers, and a promised 50-50 joint-fund of workers and the company’s contribution which will be paid to the family of Rabban. That it was a direct case of negligence of the company was skirted and work was resumed again, not after a fire broke out (it was unclear how, or by whom) in one of the departments which took some time to be doused.

The Modelama Exports unit situated in plot 105-106 in Phase 1, has around 4500 workers, and it is one of its several units in operation in Haryana, Delhi and Chennai. (Plot nos. 105, 106, 184, 200, 201, 204 in Udyog Vihar, Phase-I, 660 in Phase-II, plot nos. 5, 7, 18, 89 in IMT Manesar, one each in Sonipat and Rewari, two- B-33 and B-57 in Okhla Phase-I, and one in Chennai). Selling “the mystifying aura of fashion”, it is a big name in the ready-made garment industry besides expanding into home furnishing, jewellery, energy and real estate. Its chairman, Lalit Gulati was the president of the owners’s association, Apparel Exporters and Manufacturers’ Association. Its production units cover 400,000 sq. feet area, and has a production capacity of 6 million garments per year and a turn over of US $ 60 million. Its ‘vision’ statement says that it seeks to maintain a balance between “ethical values and corporate objectives” and that it “takes pride in the human resource” that it has. It counts its buyers from the US, UK, Canada, Europe and Australia, among them being big corporate players like Gap, Banana Republic, Marks &Spencer, Abercrombie &Fitch, and Country Road. Its main buyer, Gap is a leading member of the ‘Ethical Trading Initiative’ body of Companies, NGOs and trade unions, which ‘promotes ethical trading’ and ’3rd party auditing’ (an industry which recent estimates show has grown to a staggering US $50billion!) and is supposed to have been specifically ‘monitoring’ the 105 unit for ‘workers rights violation’ with a number of complaints earlier. It is another classic case of the exploiter making the rules of violation and monitoring. </blockquote>

From Supply-Chains to Radical-Chains: Reports from Automobile Workers

While workers in the global north are with their backs to the wall of crisis – see current dispute at FIAT Mirafiori – the automobile workers in the global south suffer for a pathetic ‘boom’.

We document 17 short reports from automobile workers, employed up and down the supply-chain: from work-shops with a couple of machines and half a dozen (child) labourers to the first-tier suppliers and the assembly plants employing thousands. In the Delhi region the supply-chain is stretched out over a hundred or more kilometres, the current effort to turn the country-road between Faridabad and Gurgaon into a six-lane highway has to be interpreted in terms of automobile crisis: the slow traffic impacts on the production process as much as on the use(less) value of the final product, with average car travel speed often hardly exceeding the velocity of a cycle or bullock cart. The current petrol price hikes add financial pressure.

Due to the fact that the supply-chain is formally divided up into different company units, the internal contradictions within the industry surface as ‘different private interests’. The main automobile companies try to outsource not only stock and certain production steps, but also the financial risks. Component producing suppliers complain about financial squeeze: there is increasing price pressure from both sides (steel and rubber prices are increasing and final assembling companies asking for lower prices) and the current hike in interest rates as part of ‘anti-inflationary measures’ make investments in capacity expansion more costly. Final assembling companies ‘take informal credit’ from suppliers by paying for parts, not in advance, but with increasing delay of up to 180 days. The final assembling plants are compelled to increase capacities and to run the capital-intensive plants 24 hours, while the rest of the supply-chain is dragged deeper into the squeeze.

The wildcat strike at central assembly plant of Honda HMSI on 17th of December has demonstrated that ‘labour costs’ are not a mere figure in the overall calculation, but an angry soul in a heartless machinery – see report in this issue of GurgaonWorkersNews. Any revolutionary effort will depend on turning the supply-chain into the radical chains, which we will have to lose: re-composing working class from the assembling centres to the labour intensive peripheries.

The following reports have been gathered and re-distributed with Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar in November/December 2010.

Boxer India Worker

(Milhard Colony, New Town Station, Faridabad)
The workshop employs nine workers. Wages are 3,000 to 3,500 Rs for helpers. Overtime is paid at single rate.

Karma Engineering Worker

(Sector 22, next to Rachna Cinema)
The workshop employs 25 people. They produce car parts on 12-hours shifts. There is no weekly day off. The helpers get 3,000 Rs and the machine operators get 4,000 Rs to 4,200 Rs.

Hanu Industries Worker

(Plot 152, Hridaykund Colony, Mujesar)
The 20 workers get between 3,000 and 4,000 Rs per month. The work-shop runs on two-12-hours shifts. There are two rubber mixing rollers, nine extruder machines, a boiler, three moulds and a generator. For production rubber and carbon is used, the air pollution is bad. Workers get ESI and bonus is given.

Akma Auto Worker

(Barkhal Gaon, Sector 49)
Around 150 workers are employed to manufacture axles for motorcycles. A lot of children between 12 and 14 years are employed. They receive 1,000 to 1,200 Rs per month, the older workers get 2,500 to 3,000 Rs. No ESI, no PF.

Varun Precision Components Worker

(Plot 220, Sector 59, Faridabad)
We work on two 12-hours shifts, we produce parts for Hero Honda two-wheeler gear. The parts we produce are sent to Shivam Autotech, from there they go to Hero Honda. The 40 workers hired through two different contractors get 4,200 Rs for 30 days of 12-hours shifts. The permanent helpers get 4,200 to 4,400 Rs for 26 days, the operators get 7,000 to 8,000 Rs. There are no toilets, you have to go to the railway lines nearby. The drinking water is outside of the factory in a barrel. If there is an accident, they don’t fill in the accident form. If you take a day off, they cut two days from your wages. There is swearing and slapping from ‘superiors’.

India Forging Worker

(Plot 28, Sector 6, Faridabad)
There are more than 1,000 workers employed on two 12 hours shifts. We manufacture axles and hubs for Maruti Suzuki and various tractor parts. Only the 50 people of the middle management and administration are permanent. There are 50 company casual workers, who are employed since years – they are neither kicked out, nor made permanent. Only those 100 workers get ESI and PF. The helpers hired through contractor get 3,000 Rs to 3,500 Rs, the operators get 4,500 Rs to 5,000 Rs. Around 500 workers work on piece rate system. There is metal scrap laying around everywhere in the factory – but you won’t get gloves or safety boots. If you hurt yourself you won’t find bandage in the company, you have to get private treatment. There used to be a canteen, but now there’s not. Even if you have to work 36-hours on stretch there is hassle to get extra money for food. You have to write down overtime and pieces worked, otherwise 500 to 600 Rs get embezzled.

SPM Auto Worker

(Sector 59, next to JCB)
Around 200 workers manufacture axles and gears for Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki and export on two 12-hours shifts. They are often forced to work 36 hours on stretch – the gates are locked and the helpers are given 20 Rs for food. The helpers get 5,200 Rs for 30 days of 12-hours shifts. It is heavy work, a lot of accidents, people have to pay for treatment themselves. The toilets are defunct since years, you have to go outside, but you are supposed to be back within 5 minutes.

Oswal Diecaster Worker

(Plot 48, Industrial Area, Faridabad)
The 1,500 workers hired through contractor did not receive the obligatory annual bonus. In the diecasting department workers manufacture parts for TVS, Hero Honda and others. Workers do not get days off, even when ill. They are told: Take some pills and work.

JNS Industries Worker

(Plot 4, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
The printing department runs on two 12-hour shifts, the other departments on 8-hours shifts. We manufacture metres, starting keys and other parts for Hero Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Bajaj, Maruti Suzuki and Mahindra. It is a big factory, the women workers are transported to and back from the plant in 19 buses. They work only day-shifts. Most of the workers are hired through contractors. The wages of permanent workers and staff are delayed, their July and August wages were paid on 15th of September. The manager of the printing department swears a lot and slaps people. During meal breaks machines continue running, people have to take their break in turns. The food is of low quality. BUT on 18th and 19th of October the food was really good: there was butter with the bread, Coriander leaves and tomatoes in the vegetables. The big shots from Japan came for a visit! The whole factory was clean and even defunct machines were run for show…

E.R. Automotives Worker

(Plot 184, Sector 4, IMT Manesar)
500 workers are employed on 12-hours shifts. We manufacture gears for the Sonalika tractor, the sheet-pipe for Hero Honda Motorcycles and hydraulic bolts for export to England. People work everyday, though only 8-hours shifts on Sundays. Overtime is paid at single rate. When we are forced to stay longer, they give you 50 Rs extra for food for a continuous 36-hours shift. There are 50 to 60 permanent workers and 450 workers hired through three different contractors. The company did not pay the obligatory inflation compensation (July) of 134 Rs. Drinking water is a big problem. The toilets are dirty.

Pacman Worker

(Plot 28-29, Sector 7, IMT Manesar)
The factory runs on two 12-hours shifts, the main work is injection moulding. Machines runs through the meal breaks, day and night, all days through the month. Overtime is paid single rate, though shown is double rate. We manufacture parts for Honda, and through the company ‘Sandhar Locking Devices’, we also produce for Hero Honda. They cut wages in the name of PF, but when you send the PF form after leaving the job the PF office sends it back saying that no money has been paid into the PF account.

Endurance Technology Worker

(Plot 400, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)
There are more than 1,000 workers employed through three different contractors, manufacturing parts for Honda, Suzuki, Mico and Bosch. Last year, permanent workers gave 1,000 Rs each and workers hired through contractor gave 599 Rs each as contribution for a union. The union was formed. The wages of permanent workers increased by 3,600 Rs and they received a canteen voucher of 17 Rs, instead of 11 Rs. The workers hired through contractor received only safety boots. After establishment of the union the company increased production by increase of line-speed. The speed-up falls on the shoulders of workers hired through contractor. The 150 permanents rather make work, they work less themselves.

http://www.endurancegroup.com/plant-address.htm

Hero Motors Worker

(Plot 61, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
Two 12-hour shifts, work on power-presses and MIC welding. The power-press operators get 4,500 Rs, overtime is paid single. The work pressure is high. The company was previously called Repro Auto, workers used to be paid bonuses, there used to be a weekly holiday and if you had to work longer than 12 hours you used to receive 30 Rs extra for food. With the change of the company name all this has been stopped.

Talbros Worker

(Plot 51, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 80 permanents and more than 400 workers hired through four different contractors. Permanents get double rate overtime payment, the rest single. Money is cut for ESI and PF, but no money paid when you leave the job.

Track Components Worker

(Plot 21, Sector 7, IMT Mensar)
During the Common Wealth Games the pressure to provide ‘Proof of ID’ increased. The workers would have needed at least fifteen days to go back to the village in order to get the required documents. This would have meant that the factory had to be closed during their absence. In order to stop workers from ‘escaping’ the security regime during the Common Wealth Games, companies found all kind of by-passes: deals with the police that a ‘Company ID’ would do etc.. In the power press department an ‘official’ takes ‘credit’ from workers for a financial scheme, but the money gets embezzled. The company always ‘demands’ that the health and safety devices at the power presses should be used, but they actually do not install these devices. There is always the danger of cutting your hand. They used to give you 20 Rs extra for food if you had to work longer than 10.5 hours, but they have stopped this. There are less workers nowadays, therefore people are made to work longer, most of the time 14 hours, sometimes 17 to 19 hours on stretch. You would stop at 2 am at night, sleep in the factory and start again at 7 am. There is no stock of material, the machines keep on running, even on Sundays.

Munjal Showa Worker

(Plot 26, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are three shifts, employed are 15 permanents, 400 trainees, 400 casuals and 1,000 workers hired through three different contractors. We manufacture shockers for Hero Honda, Yamaha and Honda two-wheelers. The trainees are given a break after one year, then re-hired as trainee. They are not made permanent, even after five years they say: if you want a permanent job, look somewhere else. The casuals are given a break after six months and then re-hired. For overtime, the trainees get 35 Rs per hour, the casuals 20 and the workers hired through contractor 40 Rs. They make you work longer by locking the gates. The workers hired through contractor are afraid that if they refuse overtime, they are made ‘casual workers’. The trainees and workers hired through contractor work 150 to 200 hours overtime per month, the casuals 60 to 70 hours. You have to stand upright all the time, no time to go to the toilet, no ‘reliever’, who would do your job while you are away. After working 16 hours constantly on the line, on 27th of November a worker at the rear-shocker line collapsed. Only the 15 permanent workers receive ESI cards. The obligatory annual bonus is also only paid to the 15 permanent workers.

Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India

(plot 1, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
In October 2010 the company announced that till January 2011 the B-shift would have to work overtime each Monday till 1:30 am. Management cut 475 Rs from August wages of the workers hired through contractor and 2,500 Rs from permanent workers for not meeting the fixed production target. We could not meet the target, because production stopped frequently due to lack of parts. The company busses have become a ground of bitterness between permanent and temporary workers. The temp workers are made to stand up and leave the seat to a permanent workers, sometime they are made to get off the bus, they are ‘fined’ 200 to 400 Rs or threatened to ‘have them kicked out from the company’. The temp workers have to do the heavier work, they receive much lower wages, have to endure all kinds of mistreatment from the ‘permanent’ team leaders. The two-tier division exists even during Divali: the permanent workers received one kilo dried fruit each, while workers hired through contractor received only half a kilo.

Mobile Phone Factory Maxx in Haridvar, Sahadarabad – Struggle for Regular Meal Break

Indian electronics workers strike for a meal break.

The Maxx Mobile company is situated in Haridvar, Sahadarabad. The factory produces mobile phones and their batteries. The company breaks the labour law, it does not provide a lunch break during the 8.5 hours shift. On 27th of November workers acted against this. All workers left their work and assembled at the gate. Workers demanded that the lunch break should be included into the working-day. The management refused to accept the demand. The workers started a protest sit-in at the gate. On 28th of November the company was shut for the regular Sunday day off. On 29th of November the workers continued their strike. A representative of the workers went to the labour department. The representative was assured by the officials that the demand would be met by the 7th of December – and he was sent back. In this way the labour department ‘dealt’ with the transgression of the labour law. In order to spread fear amongst the workers the management has locked-out all workers hired through contractor. All workers now wait for the 7th of December. To hope for the labour department to sort things out will be a self-betrayal and will end in workers’ passivity.

Step Across the Border: Lakhani Workers in Faridabad and in Uttaranchal

Reports from Indian garment workers on their conditions, February 2011.

We translated reports from Lakhani workers in Faridabad and Uttaranchal – a state further north of Delhi/Haryana. Lakhani is a major company engaged in garments, plastic and rubber manufacturing – from sandals, shoes (AllStars, Puma, Adidas) to car parts. Lakhani has recently opened factories in Uttaranchal, in addition to the long-time established and often conflict ridden factories in Faridabad. In some cases a division of labour and mutual dependency has been created between the two industrial centres. The reports from Uttranchal are translated from the Marxist-Leninist journal Nagrik.

Lakhani Apparels Worker

(Plot 136-b, Sector 24, Faridabad)
After July wages had not been paid by 20th of August workers stopped working. After four hours the production manager said that wages will arrive tomorrow, so people should go back to work. We started working… the July wages were paid on 2nd to 5th of September, but the August wages were not paid. Now 350 workers are left, about 400 to 500 workers have left the job. We manufacture garments, amongst others for Motherhood and Global. Up until July there was a lot of work. The daily working-times were from 9:30 am till 1 am, they often made you work till 4 am. They give you vouchers for the canteen, but the food is of low quality and won’t fill your stomach. When they force you to work Sundays, it is shown as worked on saturdays. Those workers directly hired by the company get the minimum wage. The other workers work on piece rate and/or a paid by one of the four contractors: 3,000 to 3,500 Rs per month, no ESI, no PF. The permanents are supposed to get PF, but when they leave the job they find that no money has been put into the fund. Once the buyers come, the factory is clean and workers get masks and so on.

Lakhani Footwear (Adidas, All Star)

(Plot 130, Sector 24, Faridabad)
There is one line manufacturing for Adidas, one for AllStar and two for Lakhani Shoes. At the Adidas line 500 pairs of shoes are manufactured per shift, once a representative of Adidas arrives the number is reduced to 250 pairs – they want to show how much they care for quality. The same happens at the AllStar line: normally 800 pairs, during visits 400 pairs. At the Lakhani line things are different, one line churns out 2,400 pairs per shift. While there are stools to sit at the Adidas and AllStar line, there aren’t any at Lakhani line. No time for toilet, the feet swell up. Once a representative of the buyers comes, management hands out ear plugs, masks, aprons, gloves etc., but they take it back once the visitor has left. The lines are right next to each other, but the buyer’s representatives won’t even look at the Lakhani line. When the inflation compensation of 134 Rs had to be paid according to law, they immediately increased the price for tea in the canteen, from 2 to 3 Rs. Money is cut for ESI and PF, but the 1,400 casual workers don’t get an ESI card.

Lakhani India Worker (Puma)

(Plot 265, Sector 24, Faridabad)
We worked 150 to 200 hours overtime in May, we received the payment as late as October. June and July over-time was not paid – no money. They say that overtime is paid one and a half-rate, but actually people get only 25 or 27 Rs per hour. For three months there were less orders, there was less work here. Now work has started again, amongst others for Puma. The company demands over-time from us, but we say that they should pay the outstanding wages first – we refuse to work overtime. They also did not pay the July inflation compensation of 134 Rs. In this factory 1,500 male and 1,500 female workers manufacture sandals and shoes.

Lakhani Factory -, Haridva Sidkul, Uttranchal

(from: Nagrik, 16 – 31 December 2010)
The Lakhani Vardan Group runs three factories in Haridvar Sidkul, Sector 4, Plot 20, 21, and 22. The first plant runs under the name of Lakhani India Ltd. In this plant shoes are manufactured, amongst others, for Puma, Canvass and Woodland . The second plant runs under the name of Lakhani Auto Privat Ltd. In this factory soles for shoes are manufactured. The third plant runs under the name of Lakhani Detergent and Soap. The Lakhani Vardan Group has started production in Haridvar in 2005. The following report concerns the Lakhani Auto factory.
The hall is 130 feet long and 120 feet wide. Currently they use three lines (conveyor belts), one chiller machine, three – four different kinds of grinders, in total about 22 to 24 machines. various chemicals are used for raw materials to produce the layer, the mid and the sole – and to glue them together. The material comes from Lakhani’s main plant in Faridabad. As a first work-step the layer and the mid are roughened with the buffing machine and the sole is worked with a hand-grinder. The chemicals 5050 / 6316 RC, Hardener ARF, 948/24 B, P-300 are used to clean and roughly glue the different layers, which are then put on the conveyor belt. On the lines the three layer, mid and sole are put together and proceed to the heater, the press and the chiller. Around 50 workers are employed for this stage of production. The finished pieces are then put into size-frames and the outlines are marked. The soles then process to the side-grinding machine, the quality check and the packing station, where a pair of soles is put into a plastic bag. Around 15 to 20 workers perform this work-step. At the three lines workers manufacture between 1,400 and 1,700 pair of soles per day, the final side grinding machine has a capacity of 1,500 soles per day. The production costs for these soles are about 125 Rs per paid, the 5 Rs wage costs are included. Lakhani India Ltd. pays about 150 Rs per pair.
For a six-days week the workers receive a monthly wage of 3,632 Rs plus 300 Rs incentive bonus. Out of the 70 workers working in the plant no worker is employed as an operator, all are employed and paid as helpers, although actually they operate machines. The main problem for the workers is the fact that the chemicals stick to the hands and clothes of the line workers. The clothes are destroyed and workers develop allergies. The gases trouble lungs and eyes. The halls are filled with rubber dust, floating in the air like fog. The company issues no masks. If people complain they are threatened with dismissal, some workers who talked about these problems were forced to sign their ‘own’ notice letter. The wages tend to be paid delayed. Because of this workers have engaged in sudden stoppage of work several times.
The sole production has started this year in April. Before that Lakhani had produced auto parts in this plant, but the production has been shifted to Faridabad. Only 25 to 30 workers in the plant have worked there for more than six month, about 15 to 20 for four months and the rest for less time. Most workers are from Bijnour and Shahjahanpur. The workers are not issued the obligatory company documents (work contract, company ID) or ESI cards. Although half of the workforce are women, the management does not provide the obligatory facilities (separate restroom, toilets, health care, creche for children). The canteen is only called canteen, no food is provided, it is only a place to sit. There is a guest house provided for management.

The Empire’s New Clothes: Reports from Textile Workers

Reports from textile workers in India in February 2011.

While automobile workers fight mainly within/against the ‘flow’ of a vast production system, garment workers fight with the ‘rushes’ of the market in a more mobile and less ‘mutually integrated’ industry – the form of struggle reflect these conditions.

While struggles in the automobile sector tend to have a higher degree of ‘coordination’, the structure of garment industry forces workers to ‘grasp the instantaneous chance of irruption’. The industrial relations are characterised by enormous pressure on global prices, sudden income of orders followed by slack period, dead-lines which require to make workers work 16 hours or more in order to be met. The big industry can rely on patriarchal family structures, small workshop industry and village systems to produce the necessary skilled tailors – the industry has little costs for training, but the workforce comes with it a certain professional pride. Major companies like Modelama try to undermine the bargaining position by ‘chain systems’ and ‘one-week-free-training’ offers…

Modelama Worker (GAP, Old Navy)

(105, Udyog Vihar Phase 1, Gurgaon)
We have started working yesterday, on 27th of November 2010 at 9 am. Some of the guys are still working now, 28th of November at 4 pm, they will go home at 8 pm… It is ‘urgent shipment’ time and the master said at about 1:30 am last night that ‘crores of Rupees could be lost’. Since three months, after the arrival of a ‘Madam’ [female manager?], the physical and mental torture has eased a bit, but it is still quite a lot. On 27th of November seven women workers were verbally abused nastily and they were kicked out from the factory. On the same day an ‘incharge’ beat a master and swore at a ‘piece leader’ and slapped him. The factory employs 500 female workers, they have to work on Sundays, too. The guys on piece rate work very fast, the company asks the same output from the workers on monthly wages. There is a chain system (several workers work on one piece of garment in division of labour) even for the piece rate workers. Instead of full piece rate (payment for one piece which is the same for all workers), they have part rate (people are paid different rates, e.g. for sewing a collar, a sleeves etc.), which makes it more difficult for workers to link up for higher rates. Management doesn’t count – and pay – all garments you have produced and they pay less than the previously fixed rate. Modelama offers ‘one week of free training’ to new workers every month, with the ‘possibility of later employment’.

Edigear International Worker (Adidas, Reebok, Puma)

(Plot 150 and 189, Sector 4 and Plot 235, Sector 6, IMT Manesar)
We manufacture garments for Adidas, Reebok and Puma. On plot 150 around 300 permanent and 650 workers hired through contractor tailor jackets, track suits and T-Shirts. We work 150 to 180 hours overtime per month. The pay slip shows only 50 hours. Between 22nd of November and 27th of November we worked three days from 9:30 am in the morning till next day 5 am. The same happens on plot 189. On plot 253 around 500 workers do leather work. They used to pay 50 Rs extra when you had to work till next morning 5 am, this has been reduced to 40 Rs. There is a ‘complain box’ near the toilets, a lot of people complained about the 10 Rs cut and put their complain flyer in the box, but nothing happened. The representatives of the buyers arrive once a month, then all three factories are nice and clean.

Kalamkari Worker

(383, Udyog Vihar Phase 2, Gurgaon)
If you arrive five minutes late, they send you back home unpaid. They cut money for ESI and PF from your wages, but even after years of employment you won’t get an ESI card. In the personnel department they always tell you: no time. I was ill and got a holiday application signed by the department manager – in the personnel department they threw the application away and said that there is only one and a half day holiday per month. When they hire you you have to sign 15 papers, but you they won’t give you any document as proof of employment. They say that shift times are from 9 am till 5:30 pm, but actually you work till 9 pm, often till 2 am.

Jyoti Apparels

(158, Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
In the sewing department workers work 120 to 150 hours overtime per month, in the finishing department 200 hours. Paid single rate. Only 25 out of 350 workers get ESI and PF. Currently there is a lack of tailors, so the bosses don’t bother us too much.

Ventage Workers

(Plot 5, Sector 7, IMT Manesar)
The twelve women workers doing thread-cutting get 4,000 to 4,300 Rs for a month of 9 to 10-hours days. The 90 male workers douing stitching work either by hand or by computer work 12-hours shifts. They get 4,800 Rs to 5,200 Rs. Wages are paid delayed, there is no ESI and no PF.

Mac Export Worker

(Plot 143, Udyog Vihar Phase I, Gurgaon)
The helpers are paid 3,600 to 3,800 Rs, no ESI or PF is given. Working-times are from 8 am, to 10 pm. The managers swear at workers, sometimes slap workers.

Chelsea Mills / GAP Worker

(Plot 360, Udyog Vihar Phase IV, Gurgaon)
Shift starts at 9 am and finishes at 9 pm, overtime is paid single rate. Workers get the minimum wage, but it is paid delayed. If you arrive half an hour late they cut 4 hours from your wage. Out of 450 workers only 100 get ESI and PF. GAP is the main buyer of this factory.

S and B Worker

(Plot 669, Udyog Vihar Phase V, Gurgaon)
There are 150 workers employed, out of which only 30 get ESI and PF. We work 70 to 80 hours overtime per month, one to two daily wages get embezzled from overtime.

Bharat Enterprises Worker

(Plot 189, Udyog Vihar Phase I, Gurgaon)
There are 60 permanent and 150 workers hired through contractors manufacturing leather jackets. The helpers are paid 3,300 to 3,500 Rs, the operators 4,000 Rs.

MIC Filter Worker

(Plot 88, Udyog Vihar Phase I, Gurgaon)
There are 500 workers employed in the factory, working 12 hours shifts. The security guards have not received their August and September wages (26th of October). They are employed through Asmat Security.

Eastern Medikit Worker

(Plot 195 – 205, Udyog Vihar Phase I, and Plot 292, Phase II, Gurgaon)
Wages for casual workers are delayed. Over-time payment is less than single rate, between 11 and 16 Rs an hour. September overtime has not been paid yet (26th of October 2010). Without bribe neither permanent nor casual workers get their PF money.

Turn a Blind Tired Eye: Security Guards from Gurgaon

A report on the security industry and conditions for security workers in Gurgaon, India in February 2011.

There are tens of thousand security guards employed in Gurgaon. There is security technology and architecture, there is a system of supervision, but the system is fragile in its inner self.

The watching eye is tired, turning watchtowers and CCTV circuits into an eternal void. Those who are supposed to supervise and secure are too precarious to care.

<blockquote> “We are watch men. Our job is to watch the factory burn. It is not our job to douse the fire. Our job is to guard the ashes, once the factory has burnt down. If someone asks about the whereabouts of the company, we have to provide information: this is where the factory used to stand, it has gone to ashes. This is our job, nothing more. It is our job to guard the factory, not to save it. We don’t manage to save ourselves, how are we supposed to save the factory”
(Conversation with a security guard) </blockquote>

Balaji Security Worker

(Branch Office, Kapashera)
We work 12-hours shifts, no weekly day off. For 30 days of 12 hours shifts we get 5,000 Rs. They take 500 Rs from you even before they hire you. Then they cut 2,000 Rs from your first wage for the uniform. Even if you have stood upright during the 12-hour day-shift all the time, if they catch you sitting down during night-shift they cut 200 Rs from your wage. If the guard from the other shift is ill or off, you have to work 36-hours on stretch – they might give you 30 Rs extra for food then. No ESI, no PF. It feels bad to search the pockets of the factory workers when they leave the factory.

Scientific Management Services (SSS) Worker

(U-28, DLF Phase 3, Gurgaon)
For 30 days of 12-hours shift we are supposed to get 6,100 Rs, but only 5,200 Rs are paid. They first said that 650 Rs are cut for uniform and boots, but then they cut 100 Rs every month extra. They cut money for ESI and PF, but neither is given.

Massive Security Workers

(Branch Office, Manesar – Main Office Nehru Place)
Even if you have to work 36-hours on stretch they won’t give you extra money for food. For 30 days of 12 hours shift they pay 5,000 Rs.

Om Security Worker

(Satvari, Chattarpur, Delhi Office)
They pay 5,000 Rs for 30 days of 12 hours shifts and wages are delayed. No ESI, no PF.

Gurgaon Workers News #36 - March 2011

Gurgaon workers newsletter issue 36, with news, reports and analysis from India's special exploitation zone.

Tunis, Algiers, Cairo, …Shahajanpur? – The Social Significance of an ‘Accident’

There is no lack of triggers, there is no lack of social explosives…

Rising ‘graduate unemployment’, massive hike in food prices, increasing signs of capitalist decadence in the form of rapidly aggravating ‘inequality’ and its symbolisation in a rich new oligarchy with strong links to the political class (corruption)… if these were the basic ingredients of the popular uprisings in North Africa, we find the same social explosives here in India. Both regions also share similar rhythms of debt crisis, (IMF) credit regimes and popular discontent: 1974 (“Bihar Movement”), 1981 (IMF loan and re-structuring), 1991 (external debt crisis). The rhythm becomes global. Desperation and anger of the youth spreads from the ‘illegal’ vegetable markets of Tunis, to the Parisian banlieus, to the textile industrial suburbs of Mahalla… across this world of widening contradictions between what is and what could be. The Shahajanpur accident – see below – could have been a sad trigger, there are hundreds of triggers every day. If we had to name the two main social aspects distinguishing the current social situation in India from the conditions in Egypt or Tunisia we would come up with:

a) a still more dynamic tri-angle relation between temporary village fall-back, rural industry / seasonal labour and scattered attracting/ejecting industrial boom regions; the rural-urban-rural migration, the back-and-forth between short stays in the village and another round of job hunts still expresses and diffuses the vast amount of social unrest – see report of village visit in this issue of GurgaonWorkersNews; the fact that labour migration from North Africa to the Euro-zone has become more difficult, crisis and all, has contributed to the explosion;

b) a still more dynamic economic and political middlemen culture; this culture reaches from modern ‘democratic’ and legal mediation of industrial disputes, to frequent usage of paid thugs to quell workers’ discontent; the local state in form of the modern ‘village council’ combined with ‘old’ forms of caste dominance and micro-credit liquidity; the state in form of middlemen in each slum and ‘state run ration shops’ (subsidised food shops); a vast ‘entrepreneurial’ and ‘empowering’ NGO sector and liberal ‘civil society’ sphere in combination with mass bases of paramilitary forces and ‘fake encounter culture’; a multi-layered ‘contract system’ which enables many permanent factory workers to become ‘small contractors’ themselves, or turns ‘local peasantry’ into landlords for migrant workers; a state-defined ‘reservation/promotion’ for middle(wo)men of all castes and gender; in summary: the ‘individualisation’ of misery here in India, e.g. in the form of mass suicides of small peasants, has little to do with the ‘cultural heritage of fate-obeying Hinduism’, but a lot to do with the brutal internalisation of ‘liberal democratic individual freedom’ in an ‘upwardly/downwardly mobile’ modern market society, which leaves us isolated when facing the systemic crisis;

In the following we summarise the news on the Shahajanpur ‘accident’:

“On 1st of February 2011 – while riots rocked the Kasbah and downtown Cairo – around 150,000 young people arrived in Bareilly, near Shahajanpur in Uttar Pradesh, India. They came in order to apply for 416 vacancies at the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). Facing the enormous mass of applicants the local administration called off the hiring procedure. The angry youth started smashing the place up, burnt cars, government and media buildings. Around six state-owned buses and several other vehicles were set on fire and several shops were damaged and looted by them. The agitating youths also pelted stones at AIR and Doordarshan offices (public media). They then tried to return home. “The Railway staff were taken by surprise when they found the station swarmed by thousands of young men, who looked very agitated,” a senior Railway official said on condition of anonymity from Bareilly. “We promptly got the Railway police into action, but the station was jam-packed with these young men who went about damaging Railway property while raising anti-ITBP slogans,” he said. “No sooner did the Himgiri Express roll into the station than a large group climbed over it, clutching on to all sides of the train, including the rooftop and the engine. There was no way the youth could have been prevented from crowding the train and no one realised that barely 60 km ahead they would fatally encounter a low overbridge,” the official added. Many young people died when the train hit the bridge. The accident triggered violent protests as angry youths torched the train and attacked the station.”

Facing the Uprising, Facing the Daily Accident – What to be done?

The insurrection is permanent – from Argentina to Egypt we see that it does not take much to chase away the police or management, to take the things we need (homes, food, items), to break out of prisons or to fraternise with soldiers, in short, it does not take much to overthrow a government, but what comes next? The uprising asks the question whether we will we continue to live and work in a way, which leaves us having to buy the products we produce, which separates us from bread and roses by price; in a way, which puts a price tag on our time and energy itself and forces us to sell it on the market, competing with others; in a way, which leaves it to the development of prices whether a ‘we are pushed into a job’ or whether a factory is closed; in a way, which – in the end – will force us to call for the ‘good politicians’ to do something about the ‘bad market’: the very same politicians we have just chased away because they are useless – confronted with the global crisis of a system…

It is ironic to see how the regime – be it in Greece, the UK or in Egypt – uses the ‘democratic appeal’ in order to contain social discontent. While in Egypt the uprising is publicly reduced to ‘strife for democracy’ and rulers and twitter rulers to be call for a ‘return to work and return to the ballot box’… in Greece, in the UK or in other ‘democratic’ states the anti-government protests against the austerity measures are told that they will have to let the ‘elected parliament do their work, in the spirit of the democratic process’ – hinting at the fact that otherwise there are other forms of rule waiting in the back rooms…

The uprising, the strike waves have to become the process of discovery of our social cooperation; a cooperation, which so far has been organised as the fragmented ensemble of the ‘capitalist social production process’. The discovery will be both, appropriation for immediate needs and material transformation of production itself. Each struggle will meet the limits of imposed capitalist division of labour: in form of company walls, sector boundaries, ‘institutionalised’ knowledge separation, ‘political’ division between rural and urban. Each struggle will cause its unexpected chain-reactions, will cause shortages and ruptures of social life beyond their ‘capitalist’ boundaries, as proof of its previously hidden social dimension. The struggles will raise the question of direct, instead of mediated cooperation in order to overcome shortages and to make plans for the new day – the economic and political social separation dissolves. The extension of struggles along these lines of social cooperation might take violent forms, but given the historic degree of socialisation of labour (intertwinement of ‘science’ and industry, of ‘administration’ and production’, of agriculture and the industrial complex/market), ‘separate power’ has turned into a mere obstacle which has to be pushed aside; it has lost its productive function and is not worth fighting over.

The managers of capital can only succeed in ‘legitimating their power’ as long as they are able to make ‘capital’ appear as the pre-condition of social cooperation, as long as they are able to separate the social experience of over-productive labour from the poverty of un-/underemployment. Obviously this separation does not take a pure form of working-class on one side, proletariat on the other. This separation appears in its various shades of development and underdevelopment, of high-tech and labour intensity, of regional deprivation and boom centres, of respectable workmen and lumpen, of hire and fire. This separation will appear in all imaginable ethnic colours. With the disappearance of the old buffer-classes, with the social death of peasantry and artisans in the global South, the demise of the self-employed educated middle-classes and petty bourgeoisie, capital has to face up to it’s living self. While being in it’s essence the violent coordinator of social labour – globalisation, international supply-chains etc. – in this crisis more than ever capital has to hide and segment the global character of social cooperation from the emerging global working class. In the attempt to segment and re-combinate capital becomes a burden to social cooperation. It gets in its own way.

Therefore the challenge for working-class communists is to discover and point-out this ‘general global character’ of labour in the concrete local disputes, to discover and point-out the ‘political separation’ of development and underdevelopment, the potential of abundance in the face of stark misery. That means to argue not from the abstract level of ‘class consciousness’, but from the perspective of the collective worker. The challenge for ‘communists’ is not separate from what workers’ themselves are forced to do: As we can see in front of our eyes, most current workers’ struggles have to find answers to their own global dimensions – not to proclaim their communist demands – but to simply avoid being defeated.

Falling Back or Falling Apart? – Impressions from a Visit in Babripur Village

Impressions from a visit to Babripur Village, connected to the Delhi industrial belt by two generations of labour migration.

Some Aspects of Agricultural Investment in India II

There are lot of ‘village case studies’ being published, contributing to the debate on ‘class stratification’ and general changes of the old village structure. There is less debate – and less empirical work – on the question of how urban wage work impacts on village conditions and vice versa. Based on his research in Gujarat, Breman states that ‘the landless lack resources in order to make the jump into urban wage work’, but this might not be the general case.

A classical position states that the ‘landed’ worker, who comes to the urban industrial landscape and shares the same experience of work with his landless co-worker, will mentally and materially relate to the wage as ‘future capital’. He acts in the hope that the urban wages will help him to secure his social position back in the village – as a peasant or petty bourgeois engaging in trade or other business. He will be less inclined to ‘act as a worker’, he has more to lose, he doesn’t depend solely on ‘better wages’ in order to survive.

This position – although sound from a materialistic point of view – seems to lack the ‘historic dynamic element’. It reduces the experience of factory work to the relation of the worker towards his monthly payment and it does not take into account the changes within the village and the changing aspirations of ‘peasant-workers’ after the urban experience.

With similar questions we went to visit our friends village in the North-East of Uttar Pradesh, Babripur near Kadipur, about 80km from Sultanpur. The following is a rather impressionistic account between ganna harvest and buffalo grazing, less of an empirical study.

There are about 5,000 people living in Babripur. Around half of the village population own around 0.5 hectar, there are few ‘landless’. Electricity and tube wells arrived around 20 years ago, there are only three to four tractors in Babripur. Most peasants engage in multiple agricultural production: sugar cane, pulses, wheat, potatoes, mustard, vegetables. Although Delhi is quite far away – around 800 km or 14 hours by train – labour migration from Babripur area towards Delhi and Faridabad started in the mid-1960s and has been passed on to the next generation. We met two old workers who both left Babripur area in order to work in Faridabad factories in the 1970s. One worker belongs to the Brahmin caste, the other to the ‘Scheduled Caste’ (Dalit).

“My grandfather – besides working as an artisan – had an additional income as an exorcist. This had been a family tradition for some 150 years or so. As a kid I would gather people around him, sometimes up to 100, and he would perform his miracles. On his deathbed he told us that we should not continue this family tradition, that it was useless work. My father had too little land to work on, he got engaged in leather contract work. I myself managed to get a government job, I would go around and collect certain kinds of taxes. I then worked as a bus conductor. There were problems – a lot of wheeling and dealing connected to this types of jobs – so I decided to go to Faridabad to work. Initially I was rather na•ve, I thought that I would not have to stick to one job too long, because there seemed to be many jobs on offer. I had a dozen different jobs during the first years. Then Emergency came, they erased the slum settlement where I used to live. We built a new place a bit further out. At that time it was not too expensive to ‘but some unauthorised land’ and to build a small house. I got a permanent job and stuck with it till the company closed in the 1990s. I am retired now, I still live in Faridabad, we have two small houses here. My children had a good education, they now all work, one is an engineer, the other runs a shop”.

“My grandfather performed religious ceremonies, he was also the head of the village council of Babripur after 1947. He implemented the land reform, some land was redistributed. Before the land reform hardly any of the Scheduled Caste members had land, after the reform around 60 per cent had at least some land. My father did farming. He built the house we now live in. He had three sons, there were about eight hectares of land. I decided to leave the village and work in Faridabad. I started working in a plastic factory. In the late 1980s I returned. My daughter got married, both sons live in Delhi. What is our situation now? We have four buffalos to take care of, they give us milk and we can sell some. We have four hectares of land, some potato, some rice, some sugar cane and so on. Most of our food comes from the fields – what we don’t consume, we sell. The money income from agriculture is unstable. Take the example of a 0.5 hectare potato field. A good harvest will provide you with 10 to 12 tons of potatoes. You might manage two harvests a year, depending on weather. Production costs are around 20,000 Rs, this includes the labour we hire, the seeds, the fertilizer, the petrol for the tube well and so on. You can imagine the market rate for a kilo of potato? It will hardly be more than 3 Rs. So this is our basic situation: there is little surplus, my wife and me still work either around the house or taking care of the machinery and organise the field-work. The actual field-work is done by wage workers. We pay them 100 Rs a day. We used to pay them 50 Rs, but when NREGA came in, they demanded 100 Rs and we paid them. They obviously live in worse conditions here in the village, in smaller huts – and they depend on wage work, having little land themselves. Our situation as small peasants depends on previous wage work: some of the machinery has been bought be wage savings. If prices change – either of produce or of wages of the rural labourers – we might be forced to either reduce hired labour or to compensate the loss by our own wage work. Our condition is the suicidal condition of millions”.

The routes of labour migration have been inherited by the next generation. By chance, during a stroll through the fields, we met several ‘(ex-)workers’ from Gurgaon and Delhi.

“I am from the same (Brahmin) family. I worked seven-eight years as a metal polisher in an export company based in Okhla. I came back to the village two years ago, I think I came back for good. I am 28 years old now and I run this mobile phone shop.”

“I belong to the same caste. I left Babripur in 2000 and started working as a supervisor at FCI. I came back last year, I bought some extra-land. I don’t think I will go back to Gurgaon.”

“I normally work at Orient Craft in Gurgaon. I am here for a short visit, my family has little land in Babripur, I help with the harvest, although it does not amount to much. I also do some extra-work repairing machines for other people in the village.”

“I worked as a temporary worker at Honda HMSI in Manesar. The company interrupted my employment two months ago – they enforced a break of one, two months in order not to have to grant permanent employment. I will stay here for another month or so and then go back to my uncle in Manesar. I might try to get a job at Honda again.”

While the old ‘peasant’ comrade says that the ‘progressive’ industrial workers’ consciousness is wiped out as soon as workers get back to their village and re-enter the old village hierarchies, we think it is quite astonishing how direct the exchange between the village and the industrial zones have become. We can also see that ‘the land question’ clutches the new generation of workers from two sides and defines the more precarious status compared to their fore-mothers-and-fathers: it is not only more difficult to survive as a small scale peasant, it is also near to impossible to buy land in Delhi-Faridabad-Gurgaon area in order to ‘settle down’ in a family home. Wages are relatively lower and land prices have gone up.

A week after the return from Babripur we distributed Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in Manesar and asked workers whether they have heard of the 24 hours wildcat strike at Honda HMSI in December. Most workers haven’t heard of the incident, even those workers who work in the main supplier just across the road from Honda factory. It seems that proletarian organisation will not only have to be based – and can be based! – on the urban and rural exchange, but that it sometimes will have to help crossing the street…

The Medical Industrial Complex: Short Notes on Medical Tourism and Report by Medanta Hospital Worker, Gurgaon

We incarnate the global division of labour: private clinics in India cooperate with NHS hospitals in the UK in order to reduce ‘waiting-lists’, labs in Gurgaon process material for the medical complex in the US, patients fly in for final operation in Gurgaon due to lower local costs, organ trade is the scandalised warehouse of this boom sector. While the public focuses on price comparison for services of expert doctors, they often neglect the low-wage service regime, which provides the material foundation for the hospital complex. A general overview and two reports by workers from the Medical Industrial Complex.

Medical tourism and global outsourcing of medical services (laboratory services, telemedicine etc.) is one of the few remaining boom sectors. On the bases of new technologies, oversupply of skilled labour in the global south, relatively cheap transport costs and dismantling of ‘public health services’ in the global north, we can see the establishment of a ‘global body’, which is worked upon in an international division of labour. According to mainstream statistics medical tourism to India has witnessed an annual growth rate of 20 to 30 per cent during the last years. Treatment costs for, e.g. hip replacement or heart surgery are said to be 20 per cent of the costs compared to US standards. The medical tourism business in Asia has grown to 4 billion US Dollar. Not only patients from ‘the north’ but upper-class patience from the Gulf countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. come to India for treatment. Gurgaon has become one of the centres for medical tourism in India. Direct international flights to the nearby Delhi airport, special medical visa service, a sophisticated local service sector are the necessary infrastructural back-bone for an assembly-line type of industry: in Apollo hospital in Delhi doctors performed 4,200 heart operations in 2010. Critical voices point out that a lot of the ‘experts’ have been trained by public sector institutions, but now provide treatment for upper-class patients in private hospitals. While the working class – particularly in rural areas – face a lack of medical support, the material and labour forces are concentrated in the profitable ‘upper-class’ medical complex.

One of the centres of local medical industrial complex is Medanta Medicity, according to company website “one of India’s largest multi-super specialty institutes located in Gurgaon”. Spread across 43 acres, the institute includes a research center, medical and nursing school, 45 operation theatres catering to over 20 specialties. We met a housekeeping worker employed at The Medicity.

http://www.medanta.org/

Medanta / The Medicity Worker

(Jharsa Road, Rajiv Chowk)
The building has four underground floors, it is 16 floors high and has 1250 beds. The housekeeping workers, general duty assistants, security guards, drivers, barbers, washing workers are all hired through contractor. They say that housekeeping is done in three 8 hours shifts, but most housekeeping workers work 16 hours shifts, they receive 4,348 Rs per month, their overtime is paid at single rate. The general duty assistants and the security guards work two 12 hours shifts. There are about 500 general duty assistants – they are paid 7,500 Rs for 30 days of 12 hours shifts. There are two canteens – the workers hired through contractor have a hard time there. For 20 Rs you get hardly enough to fill your stomach. Even if you work 12 hours shifts you won’t get a free cup of tea. The doctors, technicians and nurses are hired directly by the company. The nurses are paid 14,000 Rs, the technicians 22,000 Rs and the junior doctors get 50,000 Rs. They work on two 6-hours day shifts and one 12 hour night-shift. One nurse cares for three patients during a shift. The patient fees for a single-room is 5,000 Rs a day, for a double-room 3,000 Rs.

Down the supply-chain works a friend, manufacturing medical equipment. We regularly report about conditions and struggles of his co-workers at Eastern Medikit, casual workers occupied their factory some years ago in order to enforce payment of outstanding wages.

Harsurya Healthcare Worker

(110 Udyog Vihar Phase 4)
Around 900 workers manufacture IV syringes. We are paid single rate for overtime. Due to the high production targets there are a lot of accidents with the syringes. We are supposed to quickly tape the wounds and go back to the machines. You can only go to the toilet twice during a 12 hours shift and you have to fill in a register for that. If you need longer than 5 minutes you have to face being told off. In the canteen there is not enough space for sitting down during meal time. It is near to impossible to finish your meal during the 30 minutes, and you are told off if you are 2 minutes late. They have installed cameras everywhere. Wages are paid late. In order to overcome these problems a union has been formed three month ago. Since then management swears less at workers, but the company casual workers have been degraded and are now hired through contractor. Before you sign your new work-contract with the contractor he forces you to sign your notice letter – for the future. The union president has spoken out against this, so on 11th of December he was suspended. Since then production has come down and the company started to kick out workers bit by bit. The company has also put up two guys with rifles at the factory gate.

Expanded Capacities – Squeezed Profits: Reports from Local Automobile Workers

In January 2011 automobile manufacturers in India announced both, record sales and plans to expand future capacities on one hand, and a drop in net profits on the other. We briefly summarise a report on Maruti Suzuki and add two reports by workers employed in the supply-chain.

Maruti Suzuki to raise output

ET, Jan 30 2011
The carmaker plans to raise annual manufacturing output to 1.4 million units starting April 2011. Maruti has been selling whatever it produces this financial year with the car market growing at 27 per cent due to strong economic fundamentals. Between April and December, Maruti Suzuki produced 924,103 units and sold 927,665 units, a growth of 31 per cent, according to Siam (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers). Meanwhile, the company reported an 18 per cent decline in net profit for the third quarter ended December 2010.

Shivam Autotech Worker

(58 Kilometer Stone, NH8, Binoula)
In 2007 workers at Shivam Autotech plant in Gurgaon occupied their factory and demanded ‘same conditions’ like their colleagues in nearby Binola. Following report is from Binola, four years later.
We manufacture parts for Hero Honda, Mico and Bosch. There are 750 workers hired through three different contractors, they work on 12 hours shifts. Their overtime is paid single rate. When the factory opened in September 1999 the majority of workers were permanent, their wages were very low, they were forced to work overtime, they were sworn at and insulted… in 2005 just when the Honda struggle took place management started religious offerings in the factory and increased wages by 900 Rs… the discontent remained and the permanent workers gave 1,100 Rs each in order to form an AITUC union. Workers went on five days strike after a colleague was mistreated, then AITUC and management came to a three-years agreement. Increase of monthly wages by 2,700 Rs in three instalments, an end to enforced overtime, no further verbal abuses, introduction of a group incentive scheme… and increased in the numbers of workers hired through contractor. Initially the permanent workers were satisfied, but this did not last for too long… Now half of the work-force is hired through contractor, their wages are between 4,348 and 5,600 Rs, whereas the permanents get 10,000 to 19,000 Rs. The permanent workers are afraid. Every year a union election, internal faction fights, the seven union leaders don’t work, or only pretend to do so. Every month the permanent workers give 20 Rs union dues. The management does not agree to let the union install an office inside the company and gives the union 2,000 Rs per month instead. The incentive scheme is a lollipop.

Neolight Worker

(396 Udyog Vihar Phase 3, Gurgaon)
Around 500 workers manufacture light-systems for vehicles on two 12-hours shifts. The day-shift workers are made to work 16 hours every second day, they then receive 30 Rs extra for food. On Sundays we also work 12 hours. We work 150 to 200 hours over-time per month.

Track Auto Components Worker

(Plot 21, Sector 7, IMT Manesar)
Demand for production is very high, therefore safety devices are removed from the power-presses – both of old machines and newly installed machines. There are a lot of accidents because of that. Fingers are cut off.

V.G. Precision Components Worker

(Plot 327, Sector 24, Faridabad)
We manufacture parts for Maruti Suzuki. Even the company casual workers don’t get ESI or PF. Due to a lot of accidents the workers hired through contractors get ESI, but no PF. Out of 70 workers 55 workers get around 3,000 to 4,000 Rs per month. We work 12 hours shifts, but overtime is paid single rate. Even after seven, eight years of employment your are still a casual worker. Due to iron casting and finishing work there is a lot of pollution in the plant.

G.L. Auto Worker

(14-b, Industrial Area, Faridabad)
The 25 female workers get 2,700 to 3,000 Rs per month, the 500 to 600 male workers get 3,000 to 3,500 Rs. No ESI, no PF. There are few permanent workers, and six or seven of them have become company-internal contractors. There are three external contractor4s. We work two 12.5 hours shifts, sometimes they force us to work longer. Overtime is paid single rate, Sundays they pay double. Wage are paid late. There are only three toilets for the male workers.

Marshal Group Worker

(Plot 390, Sector 24, Faridabad)
There is not even one permanent worker employed. There are 11 CNC operators, 20 dispatch and packing workers and 120 helpers hired through contractor. We manufacture parts for Escorts, Honda, TVS and for export. The helpers get 3,200 to 3,500 Rs. The dispatch guys get 3,500 Rs and the operators get 4,000 to 4,500 Rs. A lot of pollution, and the bosses swear a lot.

Nova Pack / Hella Worker

(Northern Complex, Mathura Road, Faridabad)
The helpers get 3,500 Rs, the operators get 4,300 to 4,400 Rs. We work on two 12 hours shifts. On Sundays we work 9 hours. We work for Hella Light.

Lakhani Rubber Worker

(Plot 262, Sector 24, Faridabad)
We produce hose pipes etc. for Maruti Suzuki. It’s rubber work, it’s dirty. When the Maruti representatives come, workers are given gloves and masks. Maruti stops production after 24th of December for the annual revision. Therefore there is little production, but normally we work on two 12 hours shifts. Since two months the company hires workers through contractors. These workers get single rate overtime payment, while the older workers get one and a half.

Castmaster Worker

(Plot 46, Sector 6, Faridabad)
There are 500 workers hired through three different contractors, manufacturing metal parts for the automobile industry. Overtime is paid at single rate. If they force you to work longer than 12 hours they give only 20 Rs extra for food. Wages are 2,700 – 3,200 – 3,700 Rs. The contractors who pay 3,700 Rs also cut money for ESI and PF from wages. Wages get embezzled, one or two day-wages from the overtime money. Production targets are very high. They won’t grant you a 5 min tea break during the 12 hours shift. Drinking water is bad, toilets are dirty.

Step Across the Border: Struggles of Lakhani Workers in Uttaranchal and International Electro Devices Ltd. Workers in NOIDA

We translated workers’ reports from two Marxist-Leninist journals Nagrik and Mazdoor Bigul, both reports dealing with current ‘company struggles’ in electronics and footwear manufacturing.

International Electro Devices Ltd. Worker (NOIDA): The Mutilating Factory and the Betrayal by CITU

From: Mazdoor Bigul, December 2010

http://sites.google.com/site/bigulakhbar/

The companies Samtel and International Electro Devices (IED) Ltd. – owned by Sudheer Kora and family – are situated in the Lalkuan area of NOIDA. Samtel manufactures computer monitors and other devices, IED Ltd. supplies Samtel with parts. In the name of these two companies, a large area of both government and non-government land has been obtained by the owners – after having delivered little favour to the people in the public administration. Samtel and IED sell parts, monitors and other electronic devices to leading international companies, but at the assembly lines the workers exist in situation of dreadful darkness. In the last eight years near about 300 workers have lost fingers to the machines in the IED Ltd. factory. Management removed obligatory safety sensors from machines in order to increase work speed. The production target given by management so high, that they cannot be achieved if safety measures are applied. They told workers that if they don’t meet the target, they can look for a different job. This forced machine operators to disregard safety measures themselves. During the last eight years hands of 300 workers have been mutilated in result – despite the fact that there is a union operating in the factory. A CITU union has been registered two years ago. CITU did not organise any resistance, so management is able to degrade mutilated workers from machine men to helpers or to sack them from the job completely. CITU did not even demand compensation for these workers. The opposite is true, the CITU leadership emphasises the fact that management – in some cases -would continue employing mutilated skilled workers as helpers, and portrays it as an act of charity. Around 1,200 workers have to work under these conditions at IED Ltd.. Some workers had started to organise themselves in meetings and raised various demands. During this struggle they established contact with CITU. CITU negotiated with management and ‘achieved’ to enforce some minor demands, whereas the important demands were ignored: same wage and bonus as workers at Samtel, reduction of production targets to speed which allows application of sensors, compensation for injured workers. These demands do not show up in the demand notice issued by CITU. Despite this workers started their struggle and even occupied the factory. In response management raised false accusation against six workers and spread the rumours that a legal case had been filed against them – which was not true. CITU used these rumours in order to convince workers to stop the strike and end the occupation. CITU said that due to the factory having five different gates, an occupation was not sustainable and that workers should stop the struggle until the ‘cases’ against the six workers would be withdrawn, and only then to start the fight again. Apart from those six workers, additional 40 workers had been kicked out by management during the agitation. Workers should regroup around a new demand notice which includes all important demands and continue the struggle and occupation.

http://www.samtelgroup.com/#2

Ongoing unrest in Sidkul

From : Nagrik, 1 – 15 January 2011
Contact: nagriknews@gmail.com

The Markson factory is situated on Plot 11 and 11e in Sector 6a in Haridvar Sidkul. On 21st of December 2010 around 200 workers – at Markson around 100 to 120 female workers are employed – went on strike and started slogans against the contractor and management at the factory gate. The main reason for the strike was the fact that November wages had not been paid. The Deepvali bonus had also not been paid and the PF contribution of the company was not correct.

There are three contractors operating in the factory. Only 15 to 20 workers are hired directly by the company. Company management told workers to complain to their respective contractors about wage delays, but workers put pressure on both, contractor and company management: “We work for the company and it is the supervisor and company management who drive us to work harder – so who should we ask to pay us if not those who constantly demand more work”?

The factory manufactures electronic devices: TV’s, DVD and LCD players. This type of manufacturing has to be seen as ‘permanent production’, in contrast to seasonal work, and according to law the company would not be allowed to use contractors for employment in the production department. On 23rd of December the strike was lifted and workers resumed work. Wages were not paid to all of them, but small groups of two to four workers received their wages. Management tries to break the unity of workers by, for example, threatening workers with withdrawing the company bus service.

Lakhani Worker

(Haridvar, Sidkul)
Wages are usually paid delayed at Lakhani Vardan Group. Apart from that the company does not provide appropriate means – masks, gloves, clothes – which would protect workers from the chemicals used at work. Like other companies Lakhani gave workers a bonus and sweets for Dipvali, but only 1,000 Rs bonus and 100 Rs worth of sweets, and the rest of the wages were paid delayed. When November 2010 wages were not paid by 13th of December, workers stopped working after the tea break at 3 pm and started asking the supervisor about the outstanding payment. The supervisor first tried to explain and re-conciliate , but when workers did not accept this he called the plant manager. As soon as the manager arrived he started shouting at workers: “Do your work or go and leave the factory”! During previous occasions only a few workers resisted the threatening behaviour and refused to go back to work, this time about half of the work-force refused to go back. The manager started to call workers singly, he threatened them and he expressed his sadness about the pitiful state of the company:

“We have to work, so do your work, otherwise the situation will remain like this.” “We did not call you to come to work here, you did come on your own accords”. “In other factories the contractors take their share of your wages, here you get your full wages, only a little late” “We can find a lot of other workers and you can find a different job, so there is no shortage neither on our nor on your side”.

The following day the manager continued to preach to the workers:

“If any of you has a problem he can meet us alone and we will find a solution for his problems. If you gather like this in a crowd and stop working, then you will find no worse person than me. If anyone dares to do so, we will have him beaten up, kick him out and make sure that he won’t find any other job in Sidkul. Go back to work, we don’t appreciate these agitations”. The following day, on 15th of December at 4:30 pm wages were paid, but the outstanding overtime money was not paid.

The Re-Making of a Local Ruling Class

During the last months several ‘land scandals’ have entered the public stage in Gurgaon. The state industrial development agency HSIIDC is accused of having sold land dedicated for ‘public purposes’ to private firms, which then used the land for commercial purposes. The immediate reaction is to complain about the obvious rampant ‘corruption’ connected to the land deals. A deeper analysis would be necessary which would have to locate the ‘corruption’ within the formation and re-formation process of a ‘local ruling class’.

Obviously there are the local landed classes involved, who are supposed to sell their land to the state or private companies. The price of land determines whether they will make the jump from peasantry into ‘petty bourgeoisie’ and how high or low this jump will be. Given the vast amount of migrant labour exploited in Gurgaon industries, the local landed class is a necessary social back-bone of the ruling class. They have to be compensated for their loss of land and obtain middlemen functions either as labour contractors, landlords, local politicians, union leaders or other trading positions.

The price of land is of immediate importance for commercial traders of land and private developers like DLF. These companies have been not only important developers of (industrial) infrastructure, they also have been one main entry door of global financial streams into Gurgaon, which then re-diverted from real estate into other sectors. The multinational industrial managing class has similar interest in ‘cheap land’, but depends on ‘good relations’ with the local landed classes to a higher degree than the ‘real estate capital’. Recently the ‘industrial class’ started to complain about a ‘burocratisation’ within the Haryana state apparatus, in the form of increasing power monopoly of the HSIIDC and cases of double taxation.

‘Corruption’ in this sense has a ‘productive function’ – in capitalist terms – beyond the individual forms of embezzlement. It functions as ‘grease’ within the re-shifting of different sections of ruling class and re-distribution process of different incomes in form of land revenue, rent, profit, taxes. The larger picture of extended capitalist cycle shows that despite the initial importance of land prices the main ‘grease’ stems from the exploitation of the industrial working class. The following news snippets can give an idea of the various layers and interests – the true common interest ‘as representatives of capital’ will be revealed during times of social turmoil alone.

Land Scandal – 5th of February 2011

DLF plans to appeal in the Supreme Court against a Punjab & Haryana High Court order to demolish properties on a land owned by the country’s largest realtor in Gurgaon. In September 1995, the state government had sold 30 acres to East India Hotels that runs Oberoi group of hotels to develop a hospital and hotel management institute for the public. The hospitality firm sold the land to DLF. DLF converted the land into special economic zone and took necessary approvals from the central and state governments. The High Court has termed the transfer of land by the Haryana government to the private firms as illegal: “Facts alone are enough to establish the nexus of M/s DLF Ltd with the government to grab the property in question… subsequent facts of granting necessary approvals for setting up a SEZ etc. was an attempt to cover the malafide action of Haryana government.”

Land Grab in Rewari and Manesar

Finance Minister, Capt Ajay Singh Yadav, comes out strongly in defence of Rewari’s aggrieved farmers facing a threat of land acquisition. The farmers, in their memorandum, have mentioned that the HSIIDC has issued a notification for acquiring 500 acres in Dharuhera. He is learnt to have added that the industrial town at Bawal and Manesar are a stone’s throw from Dharuhera where plots can be given to boost industrialisation. “Therefore, I feel that acquiring more land around Dharuhera for the industrialists is of no point as, in this way, no agricultural land would be left for farmers and their livelihood. As of now, there is a saturation point of urbanisation and industrialisation in Bawal and Rewari blocks,” the letter says. HSIIDCs expansions plans are the talk of the town this year, on the list are several villages near the Manesar IMT. Development plans might soon be rolling out for the 1800 acres of land earmarked for large scale industrial and commercial setup by the government. The state is also supposed to make sure that the villagers, who own this chunk of land, get handsome compensation, at the going price of more than Rs 50 lakh per acre.

Farmers Protests Concerning Land Grab – 15th of February 2011

The Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government in Haryana is under attack from various quarters over its land acquisition policy, converting agricultural land into industrial or commercial property. The Opposition is trying to make the most of the situation. The INLD has already announced a state-wide agitation against the ‘pro-builder and anti-farmer’ stance of the government. Farmers of Pachgaon, Kasan, Mokalwas, Baaslambi, Kharkhari, Sehrawan, Kukrola, Pukharpur and Fazilwaas villages have already held two mahaypanchyats and blocked the Delhi-Jaipur National Highway-8 in protest against the government’s move to acquire their land. The protesters soon blocked the highway, refused to talk to the SDM and demanded that either the Divisional Commissioner or the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) be sent to accept their memorandum. Meanwhile, an anti-riot squad of the police force was deployed at the blockade site as a preventive measure. Ultimately, Gurgaon ADC VS Hooda and SDM Satender Duhan went to the farmers’ leaders and accepted their memorandum.

Industrialists complain about HSDIIC

The industrialists of Gurgaon and Manesar claim that the new industrial policy of Haryana grants unprecedented powers to HSIIDC. According to them, besides getting away with a rather lopsided estate management policy, HSIIDC has also acquired chunky portions of industrial land all over the state. Industrial areas in Gurgaon, previously under HUDA or the department of industry, according to the 2011 policy, are to be duly handed over to the HSIIDC this year. But this transfer of jurisdiction is being contested by the industrialists of these areas unanimously. The Gurgaon Industrial Association announced that they are going to ask the Chief Minister to intervene and stop the transfer forthwith. The general concern of the industrialists is that a transfer to the HSIIDC ambit would entail double taxation.

Haryana sets up ‘Japanese Township’

Japanese investment constitutes more than 33 per cent of the total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) received in the state so far: Suzuki, Honda, Canon, Yakult, Denso, Mitsubishi, Toyo, Daikin, Yokohama, Showa, Nippon, Kansai Paints, Asahi and Stanley. There are about 2,000 Japanese nationals working in such these companies. Some of them shuttle between Japan and India. Now, the Haryana government is planning to set up a Japanese township. The Japanese township would be set up near Madina village in Rohtak district, 60 km from New Delhi, along National Highway 10.

Gurgaon Workers News #38 - May 2011

Gurgaon workers newsletter issue 38, with news, reports and analysis from India's special exploitation zone.

Garment and Torment: Reports from Local Textile Workers

Short reports collected and distributed in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in early 2011.

Gaurav International Worker

(198, Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
Management forces women workers to come to the factory at 6 am in the morning and makes them stay till 10 pm. There is a high work load – Management swears a lot at the women workers, they say:”Why do we pay double for overtime?!” – when actually only the first two hours are paid double. Male workers work from 9 am till 10:45 pm, and they often have to stay till 6 am next day.

Pearl Global Worker

(446, Udyog Vihar Phase 5)
Most of the 1,500 to 2,00 workers are hired through contractor. Work starts at 9 am and they make you work till 4 am next morning. Only two hours overtime are paid double. If there is less work, they kick you out. They cut ESI and PF money, but workers get only old ESI cards and no fund money when they leave the job.

Richa and Company

(193, Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
Every Saturday you have to work from 9 am till next day 6 am. Even if you have to work 21 hours on stretch they don’y pay extra for food. Only first two hours overtime at double rate.

RK Footwear Components

(529 and 549, Sector 37)
Only 25 out of 250 workers get ESI and PF, They manufacture soles and heels for the shoe industry. The 25 workers get 7,000 to 8,000 Rs, the rest get 3,600 to 4,000 Rs. Monthly 100 to 125 hours overtime paid single rate. management swears a lot, sometimes beats people.

Indian Hand Fab Worker

(92, Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
Helpers wages are 3,500 to 4,000 Rs. The skilled tailors work on piece rate. Daily working time is from 9:30 am till 9 pm, often till 1 am. Wages are delayed. Theb toilets are very dirty. The 30 to 35 senior workers and the supervisors are allowed to go outside, the rest of the workers have to use the dirty toilets inside.

Shivang Export Worker

(Plot 146, Udyog Vihar Phase 1, Gurgaon)
You normally work from 9 am till 11 pm, but they often make you work till next day 8 am. There is a fixed time when you have to arrive at the factory, but there is no fixed time when you can leave it. On Sundays they make you work till 2 am, too. We work 150 to 250 hours overtime, money gets embezzled, around 200 to 500 Rs each month. If you work from 9 am till 11 pm they give you 15 Rs extra for food. There is no canteen and they won’t let you go outside. They tell you that you can go and eat at home once you have finished work. If you have to work till 8 am, they give you 20 Rs extra and they let you leave the factory for an hour between 8 am and 9 am – but they cut this hour from your overtime. Even if you work 14 or 23 hour on stretch you won’t get a free cup of tea. There are more than 1,000 workers in the factory – but not a single one gets ESI or PF. The thread-cutting female workers get 3,800 to 4,000 Rs, the packing helpers get 4,200 to 4,300 Rs. The tailors get 170 to 175 Rs per 8-hours day. There are a lot of troubles to get drinking water. The toilets are dirty. The situation in the other factory of the company on plot 669 in Udyog Vihar Phase 5 is the same.

Enrich Agro Food Products Worker

(Plot 277, Udyog Vihar Phase 2, Gurgaon)
This is a bottling plant for Coca Cola. The 125 workers hired through two different contractors get 3,000 to 3,200 Rs. December to February there is less work to do, the rest of the year we work 12 to 14 hours a day.

Rolex Worker

(695 Udyog Vihar Phase 3, Gurgaon)
If you leave the job, you have major difficulties to get your outstanding wages. Sometimes they say that there is no money, sometimes they say that they have sent it somewhere, sometimes they tell you to come back another time…

Chelsea Mills Worker

(360 Udyog Vihar Phase 4, Gurgaon)
You work from 8 am till 10 pm, then from 1 am again till 6 am. They give you 20 Rs extra if they make you work full nights. here are 800 male and 200 female workers. The bosses swear and sometimes beat people.

Spark Worker

(166 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
There are 400 workers hired through the contractor ‘MR Stitchwell’ in the factory. When you leave the job and go to the PF office they say that for the last four to five years no PF money has been paid into the account.

Marks Export Worker

(370 Udyog Vihar Phase 2)
The thread cutting workers get 3,500 Rs, the skilled tailors and checker get 4,864 Rs. The make you work from 9:30 am till 11 pm. We manufacture garments for Chicos. Whenever a representative of the buyer [client] turns up, around 50 to 60 out of the 500 workers are kept outside of the factory and are not paid for the dat.

RK Footwear Components

(787 Udyog Vihar Phase 5)
Normal working-times are from 8 am till 8 pm, but 15 to 20 days a month you work till 2 am – they pay you 20 Rs extra for food then. You also work on Sundays. The helpers are paid between 3,600 rs and 4,000 Rs, the operators between 4,000 and 4,500 Rs. Only 10 out of 50 workers get ESI and PF. We manufacture heels and soles for Lakhani (Faridabad), Amar Shoes (NOIDA), Liner (Agra), Liberty (Karnal), Goodladder (Chennai). There is verbal and physical mistreatment from management.

Casual Wear / GAP Worker

(263 Udyog Vihar Phase 4)
About 150 male and 50 female workers work from 9 am till 9 pm, often till 1 am. The company pays only 20 Rs extra for food. We manufacture garments for GAP.

EEL Worker

(401 and 510, Udyog Vihar Phase 3)
There are 40 permenent and 500 temporary workers, manufacturing machines for cement factories on 12-hours shifts. Overtime rate single. Around 300 temporary workers get 4,000 Rs per month. PF is cut from wages, but when you leave the job after three, four month of employment, you won’t get the fund money.

News from Faridabad

ESKO Die-Casting / Phillips Worker

(Ploy 37, Sector 27a, Faridabad)
Around 100 workers assemble Phillips halogen lighting on two 12-hours shifts. Sunday is a working day, too. After workers raised demand for higher wages, double rate for overtime as per law, minimum wages for the 65 workers hired through contractors, ESI and PF – management suspended one of the 35 permanent workers. The company has recently opened a third plant in sector 58.

http://www.eskocast.com/

Kunj Bihari Textiles Worker

(Plot 95, Sector 25, Faridabad)
Out of the 2,500 to 3,000 workers olnly 50 to 60 get ESI and PF. There are two `12-hours shifts. If you work every day, 12-hours a day, you’ll get 4,800 Rs per month. If the reliever does not turn up, they make you stay longer – even if the reliever does turn up they sometimes force you to work beyond your 12-hours. If they force you to work 36 hours they will only give you 25 Rs extra for food. If you work 12 hours they won’t give you a free cup of tea either. The drinking water is bad. There are only six toilets for 3,000 workers.

Colour Line Worker

(151, DLF Phase 1, Faridabad)
About 150 workers dye textiles on two 12 hours shifts. No weekly day off. For a 30-days month of 12-hours days the helpers get 4,500 Rs, the operators get 5,000 Rs. Wages are delayed. Only two or three workers get ESI or PF.

Alpia Paramounts Worker

(Plot 60, Sector 25, Faridabad)
There are 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts. We manufacture plastic parts for Whirlpool, Samsung, LG fridges. We also have to work on Sundays. Only 20 workers get ESI and PF. The helpers get 3,500 Rs. Drinking water is bad. The toilets are dirty.

City Textile Industries Worker
(18, DLF Phase 2, Faridabad)
Around 150 workers on two 12-hours shifts, dyeing textiles. The helpers get 2,960 Rs, the operators get 3,200 to 3,400 Rs. The 20 workers who get ESI and PF are forced to sign that they receive the minimum wage, actually they get the same wages as everyone else. The drains get blocked all the time, the factory overflows with chemical-water. If you have to stand in this water, you get ill. There is also fear of electric shocks.

STL Global Worker

(Plot 4, Sector 6, Faridabad)
Two 12-hours shifts of textile dyeing. helpers get 4,500 Rs, operators get 6,000 Rs. Wages are delayed. Only 12 out of 700 workers get ESI and PF.

Deepak Enterprises

(25/7 Industrial Area, Faridabad)
The helpers hired through contractor get 3,000 Rs, the operators get 4,000 Rs. No ESI, no PF. Sundays 5-hours shift, all other days 12-hours.

News from Manesar

Vatika India Next Worker

For their construction site close to Rampura on National Highway 8, Vatika Company has hired building workers through contractors. Around 500 women workers are employed to transport bricks and mortar. They are paid 110 to 130 Rs for an 8-hours day.

Kumar Printers Worker
(Plot 24 and 38, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
Management has put up a notice inside the factory that for the support of the family of a company worker who has died after a work accident, a daily 12-hours wage will cut from each workers’ wage. The notice does not say how much money the company will pay to the deceased employee. In the meantime, on 30th of December 2010 a worker who had already worked 12-hours in the factory on plot 38 was told to work another 12-hours shift in the plant on plot 24. The worker refused, so management told the supervisor to dismiss the worker.

Crewbos Production Worker

(Plot 12, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
Around 5,000 workers are employed, manufacturing leather bags and boots for Fossil and Next. They work from 9 am till midnight, often till 4 am next day. The 100 to 125 hours monthly overtime is paid at 33 Rs per hour. Since January 250 workers are send home at 8 pm. Their overtime is not paid. They have been set a production target for these 11 hours which would need 12 hours to achieve. For 26 days they receive 6,000 to 6,500 Rs. The rest of the workers have not been paid their January wages yet – it’s now the 25th of February. December overtime has not been paid either. In the company factory on plot 8 in sector 7 around 2,000 more workers manufacture leather belts and purses.

http://www.crewbos.com/factories.html

News from NOIDA

JPC Worker

(A-45, Sector 83, NOIDA)
Around 300 workers are employed on two 12-hours shifts, they dye textiles. There is no weekly day off. Only 50 workers get ESI and PF, these workers are paid 5,500 Rs for a 30-days month of 12-hours shifts. The rest get 4,500 Rs for the same working-time. management cuts 500 Rs for ESI and PF from their wages, but they don’t get neither ESI nor PF. Drinking water is bad. The toilets are dirty. The supervisors swear a lot.

News from Biwari

Jaguar Worker

The factory is near Rico and Nilam Chowk. Around 2,700 workers are employed on two 12-hours shifts, they manufactur copper fittings. Overtime is paid at single rate – overtime is not shown on the pay slip. Helpers are paid 3,300 Rs and skilled workers 4,300 to 4,500 Rs.

http://www.indiamart.com/jaguar-international/

Gurgaon Workers News #39

Below you can find an interview and translations relating to the history of workers’ struggles at the still existing Thomson Press in Faridabad, near Delhi.

HMS Thomson Press Union leader in Faridabad in 1970s to 1990s

A short interview with a union official of HMS in Faridabad. He arrived in Faridabad in 1973, worked as a printer at Thomson Press (1) and became the union president there. He covers the events at Nilam Chowk in October 1979 and the turmoil during Devi Lal take-over of Haryana government in the late 1980s early 1990s. Like the main local HMS union leader Sethi, he was invited by the international Trotzkyte movement to speak as an ‘independent’ workers’ leader at various international gatherings. We suggest to read his account together with the Faridabad Majdoor Samachar reports, in particular about the developments at East India Cotton, at Escorts and Thomson Press itself.

I arrived in Faridabad in April 1973 and started working as an apprentice at Thompsen Press India Ltd. Around 250 to 300 workers were employed, most of them permanent workers.

At the time I didn’t know much about trade unions, there was no union at Thomson. But in 1973 workers went on strike for higher wages at Escorts company, Faridabad’s main company, and the police attacked them badly. They arrested workers as soon as they could. It was not possible to hold a meeting in Faridabad, you had to go to Badarpur-Delhi border. At the time there was AITUC, BMS and INTUC union at Escorts, in each of the eight plants here in Faridabad there were different unions. In 1973 there was also a violent incident in front of the Goodyear factory, one worker was shot by the police. But I don’t know too much about this event.

Then came the Emergency 1975. Work-pressure in the factories increased and less bonus was paid. Outside the factories there was the issue of enforced sterilisation and demolitions of slums. AITUC was predominant in Faridabad at the time, AITUC is affiliated to the CP, which had supported the Emergency. Therefore there was silence in Faridabad during this period.

In 1977-78, after the lifting of the Emergency, CITU became more powerful, given that the CPM had opposed Emergency. The National Labour Organisation (NLO) also became stronger, but our leaders had to leave the NLO and formed the Haryana Labour Union (HLU) instead. They met with union leaders of seven, eight factories. At that time our comrade Mr. Sethi started his work as union leader at Escorts. He called various unions and asked: “Why do you work seperately, in this way the bosses won’t be effected and you won’t achieve anything”. He suggested a general union election and contacted workers in all eight plants. A year later secret elections were held at Escorts and he was elected union president in 1978.

After Emergency AITUC was replaced by BMS as the main union at East India Cotton Mill, one of the major textile companies in Faridabad at the time. The workers did not support the new union, they wanted elections, they supported the HLU. A struggle broke out around this issue, this was in 1979. The three HLU leaders got kicked out by East India management, workers opposed this. Unions in Faridabad reacted by forming a Sangarsh Samiti (Struggle Committee) and called for a huge rally, nearby Nilam Chowk.

All main union leaders came, even the AITUC ones. They announced to the government that if it would not give those workers their right to elect their union there would be a general strike on 17th of October. East India Cotton still refused negotiations, so the general strike went ahead and the whole of Faridabad’s industry came to a halt. The union committee had to go underground on the 16th of October in order to avoid being arrested, so there were hardly any union leaders around the next day.

On 17th of October masses of workers came from both directions towards Nilam Chowk, a huge mass of Escorts workers from one side, other from the other side. The police got caught in between. People started shouting slogans. One police officer started shooting and was subsequently killed by the masses. A huge contingent of special police then started firing and chasing people, the terror spread to all areas of Faridabad. A lot of people went hiding, active workers had to hide. The majority of workers went to work next day. During the following days the police continued to arrest individual workers, around 150 to 200 in total. They were charged with 202 or 207, with murder of the police officer or attempted murder. The government had imposed a 144 the day before the general strike.

At that time I was still working at Thomson Press and we were thinking about establishing a union there, we had set-up a committee already. At the time we had no famous leader, it was a small union. The management told my name to the police and ten days after the Nilam Chowk incident I was arrested. The workers at Thomson stopped work in response, for four hours. The management talked to them and promised them to get me out. They denied that they had anything to do with the arrest and accused us of telling lies. They said that they will pay for my court case, give me full facilities, “but please go back to work now”. Management and some of their men then came to the police station and spoke to me: “It was the police, not us, who got you here”.

After Nilam Chowk they also arrested a lot of local peasants who had come out in support of the workers. They had also suffered under Emergency. There was no jail, so we were first sent to Rohtak and then to Bhiwani. The workers at Thomson Press thought that if the general strike scares the management then we might get something out of it. That was there attitude towards the strike.

On 5th of December 1979 I was released from jail, on bail. The workers at Thomson welcomed me, the management joined them. The manager said: “Go, meet the boss. You can stay off work, outside the factory, and he will pay you”. I said that there is no need to meet the boss. We then tried to continue rallying in front of East India Cotton factory, but the police had barricaded the whole area off. They stopped people. It was not a lock-out, production was running, but they did not let the old workers go back inside, neither did they get compensation for redundancy.

At Thomson the union was established in 1980. When I was out in 1979 the workers had elected me as general secretary of the union. The management was not in favor, but they were not too aggressive. Things changed in 1981, when management became rather aggressive towards the union. Because we raised the question of payment for the casual workers, who were paid less than the permanents. The other point of conflict was a three and a half years agreement which had been forged with some “leaders” about one year previous. According to the agreement there was hardly any wage increase, only increase of the housing allowance. This agreement was still pending when I became union leader.

I opposed this agreement, so the management organised a different union group against me, an INTUC union. They called for a gate meeting in order to set-up this union. Local MLAs, ministers, they all came. We also went, we wanted to go to work, but we were stopped at the gate. As long as the meeting went on, we listened. Shift normally starts at 8 am, the meeting went till 9 am. After their gathering was over I called workers over and asked them to listen what I had to say. I asked them: “What need was there for a meeting? Why have you been stopped at the gate? All this is a conspiracy to weaken our union. Let’s go inside now and stop work when we are inside. Let’s demand from management that they should recognise our union and only if they do so, we go back to work”. The workers did this, they went inside and sat down. The police arrived. At that time the casual workers were not members of the union, but they were with the union. They were a minority at the time, hardly ten per cent of the workforce. The production was stopped for the whole day. The labour commissioner arrived. A meeting between the conflicting parties took place. They said that they would increase the basic wage by 30 Rs. So we went back to work. They also started paying minimum wages to the casual workers, which they had not done before.

The management then targeted three of our comrades, who had been active during the dispute. They laid a trap and then suspended them and finally kicked them out. At the time I was still inside. We assembled the workers, took the flag and supported the three suspended comrades. This went on for six months. Then the 13th of March 1981 came. Management sent some thugs in order to attack one of the suspended comrades at the factory gate. We thought that this was a provocation and that we should avoid a confrontation, but people pushed forward. We stopped working after the lunch break and people left the factory in order to assemble at the gate in support. There I was attacked by thugs, the beat me with clubs. Police arrived, I was taken to hospital, but a case was registered against me. They said that I started a fight, that I called for strike – there was no case filed against the thugs. A minister intervened in support of the management, while a high-rank police officer asked me whether I knew the thugs. I confirmed and told him who it was. They arrested them shortly after, but I was not taken back on duty.

Management set-up their INTUC union inside the factory. A few workers benefitted from the subsequent settlements and agreements between INTUC and management, but the number of workers hired through contractors and casual workers increased rapidly, from around 300 in 1981 to about 1,000 workers in 1987 – in 1987 there were around 500 permanents employed, by then a minority. In 1987 the Haryana government changed. The Devi Lal / Chautala (2) government replaced the Congress government. Given that we were opposed to the Congress, Devi Lal gave us some support, not much, but some. We called all workers together, after change of government, I was again attacked by thugs. It was actually those guys close to the INTUC leaders, they broke my nose. In reaction to this attack the Escorts workers laid down tools. Our union was the main union at Escorts and at about 70 to 80 other local companies , they shut down the whole of Faridabad in support for us at Thomson. The DC arrived and said that he will set-up elections, to decide whether it should be INTUC or HMS. We received 99 per cent of the votes. Then Chautala saw that unions can be a good support for political parties, so he set-up his own union, the Lok Majdoor Sangh (LMS). They first invited us to join them, when we refused, they started to contest us (1).

After 1990 re-structuring accelerated, now there are hardly 400 permanent workers left. This is the general trend – therefore the union movement has been seriously undermined.

(1)
http://www.thomsonpress.com/international-business.asp

(2)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaudhary_Devi_Lal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om_Prakash_Chautala

Thomson Press Faridabad

(June 1989)
After both the General manager and the (INTUC) union leader attached to him got discharged in 1987, the Thomson Press workers gained some short relief – when recently management started to put pressure on workers again. The capitalist law says without any doubt that after 240 days of constant employment casual workers have to be made permanent – now the management has settled an agreement with the new (HMS) union that all those casual workers will be made permanent who have worked at Thomson for more than four years. After some time of pending this agreement was nullified again on 15th of May. There are still 100 casual workers – with over four years seniority – who wait to be made permanent, plus 65 to 70 casuals who should be made permanent according to law. Now Thomson Press says that there is not enough work and that either 200 workers leave voluntarily or the 1,700 workers, who are now employed on two shifts, are supposed to work on three shifts – or in more straightforward words: the management is eager to increase the work-load by 30 to 35 per cent. The current changes imposed by management correspond with this aim: reduction of last year’s bonus payment of 20 per cent to 10.37 per cent; stopping the process of making casual workers with four years seniority permanent; giving the sack to 40 workers after closing two departments; suspending two workers after minor incidents and threatening them with shift to recently relocated composing department in Okhla.

(August 1990)
Three years ago management withdrew the general manager. Management also replaced the very unpopular old (INTUC) union leader with a new one. Despite the fact that the new (HMS) leader openly receives 2,000 Rs monthly payment from management, the fact that the old leader got discharged gave some respite to workers. In exchange for his 2,000 Rs and other crumbs the new (HMS) leader supported management in “getting the company out of its troublesome condition” by cutting down annual company benefits: the annual three-four days company tour got cut, the annual picnic got cancelled, the annual ‘open-day’ and program at the factory, as well. Together with these measures the new (HMS) leader inscribed a work-load increase in the new collective agreement. After having signed the agreement, the union leadership called the workers during a side meeting to stop these measures – a proof of the leadership’s juggling performance. In this way the situation at Thomson Press has aggravated to an extend that some workers started to run back to the old (INTUC) union leader. These developments are part of the reason behind the current beatings and fights within Thomson Press.
But the main reason behind the internal fights is the management’s policy to put their support behind the back of both sides. Thomson Press management is also affected by the intensifying blows of capitalist crisis. Management states that it is difficult to obtain orders and that the company is in trouble due to fierce competition. After having increased the work-load and cut certain company benefits, management now says that either the lottery department is shifted to Okhla or 200 to 250 workers have to go – otherwise the company would get into economic trouble. Workers assume that management wants to get rid offf a total of 500 workers. Speculation increases with aggravating capitalist crisis – the lottery business is booming – but the current management’s schemes to steer the company out of the waters of crisis are little more than speculation themselves. In order to fortify their strategy, management now – after having divided up workers between the increasingly disgraced new union leader and the already disgraced old union leader – prepares their agreeing/favoured workers to offer sacrifice for the company.

(January 1991) (1)
In the August 1990 issue we stated the management policy of putting their hands behind the back of the two conflicting parties as the main reason for the current physical confrontations between groups of workers at Thomson Press. This evaluation was wrong. At that time we saw the events only related to Thomson Press itself. We did not take into account the links between management of Thomson Press, India Today, News Track and the influence of the local capitalist politics. This is why we were wrong then. The agitations of the 6th of December 1990 made this quite clear. Nevertheless, the workers at Thomson Press still try to understand these events on the limited bases of their own company grounds. Workers have been turned into pawns in the struggle between different capitalist leaders – 150 workers cause trouble for the Devi Lal / Chautala government, so 1,500 workers pose a threat to the Thomson Press management. The whole issue is of importance for the workers at Thomson Press, but other workers can also learn a fair share from these developments – let’s therefore consider the whole issue more thoroughly. In a capitalist democracy the big newspapers and publishers play an influential part – their influence even increased when, together with the elections in November 1989, the theatre play of local capitalist parliamentary politics turned into a full-on drama. Concerned about their image, political leaders try to make themselves ‘popular’, while the big publishing houses and daily newspapers use columns like ‘The Nation wants’, ‘The country speaks out’ or ‘India demands’ in order to dictate the political leaders their aims and wants. On this background, after having put a lot of effort into becoming part of the central political machinery, various big capitalist newspapers and publishers started attacking Devi Lal and Chautala, aiming to extend their influence within the political machinery. During election times these attacks became more fierce. Devi Lal / Chautala retaliated, e.g. by verbally abusing newspaper publishers in their speeches.
The owners of Thomson Press, India Today and Newstrack were at the forefront of attacks against Devi Lal / Chautala government. The attacks in India Today and through video in Newstrack were publicly debated issues. The Hindi and English version of India Today is printed by Thomson Press in Faridabad, Haryana. Devi Lal / Chautala are in control of the government apparatus in Haryana and, in the name of trade unionism, the LMS is their hooligan organisation. It was therefore easy for Devi Lal / Chautala to take steps against their opponents in Haryana. In July 1990 the struggle between Devi Lal and the publishers emerged and expressed itself through the violent confrontations between groups of workers at Thomson Press.
In 1987 Thomson management replaced the old general manager and the old union leader attached to him. The HMS leader took his position. After his take-over workers felt some relieve and did not object to the HMS leader openly receiving a monthly payment of 2,000 Rs from management. Discontent grew after the union leader helped management to cut three lakh Rs for annual company-provided conviniences and to increase work-load. Their discontent came together with the start of Devi Lal’s intervention at Thomson Press through his union LMS and the old union leader. Despite their discontent with the HMS leader, the majority of workers refrained from re-grouping around the re-emerging old leader. In July 1990 the series of violent clashes started. Through the middlemen of HMS and LMS the struggle between Devi Lal and the publishers has turned into a struggle between workers.
The struggle was still in full swing when Devi Lal, after having been pushed out of the centre of power in August, re-entered the central power in November. Their efforts to obtain control over the publishers intensified. As part of this chain of events the LMS put up their flag at Thomson Press on 6th of December 1990. The stir caused by Chautala and his men cause trouble in the management departments of companies in Faridabad. Escort management fears that after having done so at Thomson Press, Chautala could post the LMS flag at Escorts, too – a fiery former Escorts leader, who had been kicked out of the Ford plant (part of Escorts), is with Chautala. Here Mr. Sethi, the main HMS leader in Faridabad also plays his role. As president of the Escorts workers union he openly supported the Nanda management in the struggle with Swaraj Paul over Escorts take-over in 1983. He also helped enforcing increased work-loads. Having been a follower of Devi Lal this main HMS leader has recently left him and started to support the Janata Dal. In this way the front against Devi Lal / Chautala has been fortified behind the leadership of Thomson Press management. The Faridabad Industries Association has expressed its support of the Thomson Press management against Devi Lal in front of the SP – DC. On 6th of December Escorts management ordered ‘a strike’ for the first shift in all Escorts plants against the setting up of the LMS flag at the Thomson Press gate. On the background of all these facts it seems that this ‘strike’ happened after a signal of the SP – DC, and on the very same 6th of December at 2pm the HMS leaders uprooted the LMS flag from the Thomson Press gate. The police just watched. In order to demonstrate their loyality towards Chautala and Devi Lal the SP – DC removed the HMS flag again later at night of the 6th of December. The capitalist factions opposed to Chautala and Devi Lal took further steps. The HMS leaders staged a gate meeting at Thomson Press assembling central leaders of the Janata Dal. All this resulted in Devi Lal and Chautala withdrawing slightly from the attack.

Lock-Out at Thomson Press
(April 1991)
After having instigated clashes within the factory on 21st of March, management has imposed a lock-out under the name of ‘suspension of production’. The lock-out continued at least till the 4th of April, the time we received our latest news. But this time neither the big newspapers issued big headlines about it, nor did the big party leaders arrived at the gate in order to deliver big speeches, nor did the management association raise their voice, nor did any middlemen come to agitate. This time the atmosphere is absolutely different from the one in december 1990, when the struggle between Chautala / Devi Lal and the publishers were in full swing. It seems that this time the issue is between management and workers alone.

(May 1991)
Thomson Press in Faridabad, employing 1,700 workers, belongs to the most important printing presses of India. Since 21st of March a lock-out continues, labelled as ‘suspension of production’. The wages for the first 21 days of March had not been paid by beginning of May. It seems that management’s plan consists in imposing their conditions on starving workers. And the complete silence by all those capitalist elements, which in December 1990 stirred up a huge noise around the conflicts at Thomson Press, plays in the hand of management plans. To consider this issue in more depth might also be useful for other workers.
Currently thirty big printing presses in India are declared as ‘sick units’. Thomson Press is one of them, but up to this point has been able to hide their crisis behind the ‘booming condition’ of India Today. According to the opinion of some experts working in the printing industry the main reason for the ‘sickness’ of Thomson Press is located in the confusion within management. The printing of lottery tickets and other security relevant documents required investment of large sums in machinery, but Thomson Press seems to have difficulties to establish themselves in the market, both in terms of quality and price. The Thomson Press policy is to employ highly qualified workers at high-tech machinery, but to pay them very little. When economic trouble started at Thomson Press around six, seven years ago the owners sacked some low-skilled managers and instead put high-degreed managers in charge of leading the business. These managers got involved in large-scale irregularities and in order to cover them up they declared that Thomson’s ailment was due to superfluous work-force. The current events are part of their plan to enforce large-scale retrenchments. Recently 50 workers were dismissed under allegations that they had been involved in fights. It is obvious that the main ‘sickness’ is the capitalist system in itself, where the main daily work of the representatives of capital is to play poker with workers income, subsistence and life. Let us have a look at the events of the 21st of March and the subsequent developments. It looks like the event of the 21st of March has been result of an instigated conflict in the factory. And given that the outcome of the fight plays in the higher management, it seems that the instigation had its origin in Thomson management itself. At about 4:30 pm, after the fight, two shifts of total 1,500 workers were inside the factory. One Escorts union leader, who is attached to HMS, and the Thomson Press union leader told the workers that management will lock-up the factory and that all workers should come to the union office at 10 am the next day for a meeting. On the 22nd of March the union leadership said that on the previous night management had started to remove material from the factory and that therefor workers should encircle the factory in order to prevent management from taking away stuff. Between 21st of March and the beginning of May there had been no demonstrations/processions or public gathering about this matter. These events express the non-understanding of the Thomson workers and the collusion of management and middlemen.

(June 1991)
The main HMS leader in Faridabad, who had helped management to enforce their lock-out on 21st of March and had then given full support to maintain the lock-out for 70 days, now claims on a printed leaflet that the “Thomson Press workers are not ready to fight”. Workers should know the truth in order to be able to learn from the painful experience of the Thomson Press workers and to escape the clasp of the management-middlemen alliance. Here, as well, management keeps Dal Fry-type of gangs; here, as well, in the name of INTUC-AITUC-CITU-HMS-BMS-LMS middlemen practice every day to enforce management policies. Again and again workers in Faridabad reject these shopkeepers of various colored flags, but given the lack of alternatives, workers get caught in the tread-mill of choosing ‘the lesser of two evil’. In order to prevent the return of the old infamous LMS leader, even Thomson Press workers who are dissatisfied with the HMS rally around them. During the battle between Thomson Press management and Chautala the HMS leaders made use of the workers to take sides of management, and afterwards, when they helped to fulfill management’s plan of attacking workers. On 21st of March the HMS leaders helped to get the assembled two shifts of workers out of the factory, so that management was able to implement their lock-out. Following the example of CITU at Gedore, which physically attacked workers and made 1,500 workers sign their resignation, HMS established their role at Thomson Press during the lock-out. Between the beginning of the lock-out on 21st of March and the re-opening of the factory on 31st of May the HMS leaders did not organise even one protest march, not even one public gathering. It seems too remote to even think about stopping work at Escorts in solidarity or to take other measures of struggle. After two months of lock-out around 80 per cent of the Thomson Press workers have returned home to their villages: to sit and sit in front of the factory doing nothing had caused too much trouble for them. And then the HMS leaders came to ‘an agreement’ with Thomson management. The ‘agreement’ was so bad that the remaining workers openly opposed it. This discontent was then covered with the veil of democracy by making even less than the remaining twenty per cent of the work-force take part in a secret ballot – in order for the main middleman to be able to shout about that the Thomson Press workers are not willing to fight.

(1)
Chautala’s men attack Press workers again

The Telegraph, 21-01-1991

Chautala’s men attack Press workers again
Faridabad, Jan. 22: After a brief lull, violence erupted once again at the Thompson Press here when five employees owing allegiance to the Chautala-backed Lok Mazdoor Sangh (LMS) alongwith two outsiders fired at point blank range upon the vicepresident of the elected Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Mr Ashok Kumar, yesterday morning. Mr Kumar escaped by running into the factory premises.

The LMS, which has been creating trouble at a number of factories in the industrial township here in order to establish itself as the recognised union without facing an election, has since the middle of last year injured 22 employees of the Thompson Press in various attacks. No arrests have been made against the FIRs registered at the police stations by the HMS. The police have consistently turned a blind eye to these incidents of violence. In this case also, the HMS has registered an FIR naming some of the alleged attackers but no action has been taken so far.

The HMS union, which was being strongly backed by the management of the Thompson Press so far, is now alleging that the management too is trying to shield the culprits in order to weaken their elected union. The Thompson Press management had put up a notice in the factory earlier this month saying that any employee indulging in violence on or outside the premises will be suspended. Citing this, the HMS president, Mr R.D. Yadav, has been demanding suspension of the five employees who indulged in yesterday’s attack.

A senior manager of the Thompson Press admitted putting up the notice but he did not want to implement the warning because, in that case, the HMS employees, who had attacked LMS men on December 29, will also have to be suspended. Requesting anonymity, the manager said the HMS was free to make any allegations it liked.

However, the fact that the Thompson Press management had changed its tune was evident as it had not admitted that the HMS men had beaten the LMS boys on December 29 till now. In fact, they had been saying just the contrary and blaming the LMS men for the attack.

The manager also said that whether it was the LMS or the HMS, they were both harmful to the Thompson Press as the continuing violence had affected their work badly. “The HMS employees resorted to work stoppage for one hour each on January 15 and 17 and for five hours on January 20 when LMS men, who had earlier incited violence, reported for duty.”

The continuing violence at the Thompson Press by the LMS so far was alleged to have been inspired by the Janata Dal (S) secretary, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, who was said to be settling scores for exposing the violence during the Mehem byelection in the India Today magazine which is printed here. But neither the management nor the HMS union has made any mention of Mr Chautala in this round of violence.

* Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar: January 1989 to February 1997
Articles covering re-structuring process and struggles in jute mill, powerloom department and table-printing department of Faridabad’s major company.

East India Cotton
FMS
(January 1989)
Nowadays Chhotelal cycles a rickshaw. He had been hired at the Jute Mill of East India Cotton Company in 1974. In 1983 the mill was suddenly closed. Since then Chhotelal stays in Faridabad in the hope that he will get his outstanding wages, his PF money and seniority bonus. In order to survive he cycles rickshaw in the meantime. Five years have passed, but Chhotelal hasn’t seen any money yet. Chhotelal is one of 900 workers, out of which 200 to 300 are still in Faridabad – waiting like him. The rest could not make ends meet, they have disappeared. There are many factories like the Jute Mill in Faridabad, closed factories. There are thousand workers like Chhotelal who wait for outstanding wages, which are due to them according to capitalist law.
Jute Mill, Powerloom, Dabar, Ajanta are the names given to the different departments of Eastern India Cotton company. Apart from the jute mill, the rest still exists within Eastern India Cotton. When the dismissed jute mill workers asked for their money the management refused to have anything to do with the workers. They said that the workers belong to Fibre Processors Limited. Whenever necessary the Eastern India management creates new companies within the company. This happens in many other factories in Faridabad. When workers – hidden behind the many company names within the factory premises – want to file a case against management, their lawyer will say that the management actually belongs to a different company.
In September 1983 the jute mill management laid off workers for a months – they said that this was due to lack of raw materials. At this point the company owed workers two months of outstanding wages. Workers were given 200 Rs and told that they should go back home until the necessary raw material arrives. By October no jute was to be seen. Eastern India management closed the factory and only left their security guards sitting at the gates. Through some middle-men workers filed a case in 1983, but nothing came out of it. In the meantime banks also filed a case in order to get back their money and in 1986 the jute mill machines were auctioned. When machines were about to be retrieved from the factory, workers became agitated. New middle-men entered the stage. The new middle-men took 50 to 100 Rs from each mill worker still hanging out in Faridabad and they filed a case. At this point the machines had not been taken from the factory yet and the middlemen delivered endless and promising speeches. After the machines were taken from the factory in December 1988, the middlemen would not be seen at the gates of East India jute mill anymore. Till today the 900 workers of the jute mill haven’t received their final pay.

Kanpur – Textile Workers blockade railtracks
FMS
(March 1989)
The developments at East India in Faridabad cannot be seen isolated from the wider development of textile industry in India. Below you can find a short article relating to the struggle of textile workers in Kanpur, which took place at the same time.
On 22nd of February around 35,000 textile workers blocked the main railtracks in Kanpur. Every day, after end of their shift, around 10,000 workers met and blocked the tracks. Only once the other shift had arrived at the tracks, the workers would get up and leave. Only after the government accepted their demands, the workers gave the tracks free on 27th of February. For five days the workers did not let any train pass through Kanpur. The government had to cancel 100 trains every day. Please read the article published in Indian Express on 27th of February:
“The railtrack-blockade movement of the textile workers is exceptional in many ways. The workers have become leaders themselves, and the old trade union leaders are left standing aside.”
We can learn some valuable lessons from the marvellous movement of the Kanpur workers. We will talk about some aspects here and hope that we will be able to provide more material in the next issue. The Kanpur textile workers have clearly demonstrated that the whole capitalist machinery is nothing but a thing and that during struggle workers can harm this machinery in sensitive and important spots. The Ministry of Railroads has announced in thir propaganda, that the struggle of the Kanpur textile workers is between the workers and the management of the textile mills, and that the workers should not draw the railways into this conflict. The workers refused this capitalist nonsense-talk and as a result, they won. Police, army, court, parliament, village council: this whole machinery is the workers’ enemy.
The Kanpur workers have chosen the right time to start their struggle. On 6th of December 1977 the Janata Partty government sent police into the Swadeshi Cotton Mills in Kanpur, where subsequently more than 150 workers were killed in a police firing. The Janata Party had just got to power and thousands of workers did not create to much commotion around these deads. This time the government did not put into action their action plan to evict the workers from the tracks. The ruling Congress Party has no problem with spilling workers’ blood, but it is election year and in the vote-games the party might have to pay a high price for a bloodbath. Instead of applauding to the election circus, the workers should accelerate the struggle for their demands.

East India Cotton
FMS
(April 1989)
In order to suppress the 1979 strike, the East India management mobilised the infamous Dal Fry goons [a union section]. Even after the open mobilisation of goons became unnecessary the management continued to make use of them. The DC tried several times to explain to the management that their behaviour was rather unintelligent. Seeing that the anger amongst the provoked workers increased and re-calculating the expenses for the goons, the management finally understood what the DC had try to explain. Suddenly, on 28th of February, the management announced union election for the 4th of March. The agitation among workers was considerable. Although they knew that the elections will not change anything, they got tied up in the hope that something will change. The Dal Fry goons and some others ‘got elected’.

East India Cotton
FMS
(July 1989)
On 8th of June the workers at East India Cotton achieved their first victory over the alliance of management and goons in ten years. This victory happened after a sad incident.
At East India, particularly in the printing and processing department, the capitalist health and safety rules are ignored to such an extend that, if the system was not as rotten as it is and the makers of the rules did not break their own creation, the company would have to be closed for security reasons. But it is the worker, who dies in accidents, while management can claim some money from insurances for ‘damage’. Therefore the company keeps on running – after putting some money into this or that official’s pocket.
On the 8th of June at 1 am a worker died in an accident. The corpse was sent to hospital, where the doctors announced death and immediately sent the corpse on to the mortuary. So far this would have been a common event at East India. It seems that the Dal Fry goons tried to get 5,000 to 10,000 Rs out of the worker’s death. Instead to the mortuary the corpse arrived in the factory at 4 am. All workers assembled around the dead worker. The workers of the 6:30 am early shift joined them. The news spread and the workers of the powerloom and dabar department also arrived, so did the next 8 am shift – in the end about 3,000 to 4,000 workers gathered. The Dal Fry goons and people of minor importance staged a drama of negotiations with management. Up to this point the game of the Dal Fry goons seemed to go according to plan, the workers were a mass, but only a mass. Then a worker from the powerloom department arrived and gave the silent mass a voice. The speech of this worker spoilt the game for the Dal Fry goons. Thousands of worker raised the demand of 1 lakh Rs compensation for the family of the dead worker. The district president of the LMS, who is also the legal advisor of the Dal Fry-union, tried to rescue things for the Dal Fry. The workers gave him a good beating. At this point the 100 to 150 Dal Fry goons, who had been well fed over years, also lost their good senses. A leader among them threatened the powerloom worker when police was already about to arrive – the angry response of thousands of workers shook both management and the arriving police. The things had gone out of hand of the Dal Fry and their ally from the personnel management – so the main company management took over. As soon as the management accepted to pay the due compensation to the relatives of the dead workers, apart from 100 – 150 individuals, all workers left the factory together. The relatives haven’t received any money yet.

East India Cotton
FMS
(September 1989)
On 12th of August the union leaders hold a gate meeting. At the meeting workers complained about the fact that workers were laid off, while leaders were paid the full 30 days without having worked. The leaders were stunned at these signs of workers’ resistance against the leader-management alliance. On 13th of August a worker who had raised his voice during the gate meeting was refused entry to the factory. It is the rule at East India Cotton that workers who are refused entry are not given the obligatory charge sheet or any other written reason for the refusal. The capitalist rules are broken by the representatives of capital themselves. Knowing that East India Cotton normally undertakes steps against those workers who oppose the union leaders, the powerloom workers had been expecting the move. Up to this point the steps taken by management had frightened the workers, this time they organised a counter-move. In protest against their work-mate having been kicked out, the night-shift of the power-loom department refused to leave and the early shift did not start working. Within an hour management and leaders started to run around. No one wanted to be responsible for the decision to refuse the worker entry, everyone said that the worker should start working and that everything will be fine. After the reassurances by management and leaders the workers started working after one and a half hour strike, and the night-shift said that in case the worker is not taken back as promised, they would undertake steps during the next shift. The worker was taken back on the 13th, during morning shift.

The power-loom workers learned quite a lot from this incident. Having examined the situation, they did not engage in an ‘all out’-struggle. The workers did not say: “Take the worker back on, then we will work”. The workers have given the management both, a blow and time to think about the damaging consequences. And the workers were successful.
In general workers tend to engage in an ‘all out’-struggle even when it concerns small daily conflicts. It has turned into an ideology that, disregarding the impact of the blow, the struggle has to be advanced to the outmost degree. As long as the factory was owned by an individual person, who had invested their private money, this way of struggle had usually increased the strength of the workers. The greater the impact of their attack, the higher the possibility that workers would win the struggle. A long strike used to be able to force a capitalist to his knees. But over time important changes have taken place concerning the ownership of capital. Nowadays individual persons or families do not tend to invest to much of their private money into a single factory. This is obvious when looking at state-owned factories, but the relation is not much different in the private sector. Today, workers face a management, instead of a boss. Management are representatives of capital and ministers-DC-SP-judges -generals are their colleagues. Given that management has invested only little money themselves, a long strike does not impact on their individual condition much. Therefore, an ‘all-out’-struggle in a single factory tends to first of all harm the workers. At the printing and processing plant of East India Cotton, as well, a worker was refused entry due to having opposed the leaders. There, as well, workers were rather angry, but this anger was vented by merely engaging in verbal cannonades. The workers did not undertake any steps for their work-mate. This worker is still struggling to get his job back.
In the dabar plant, East India management has removed 400 permanent workers and hired worker through contractors. On the first working day of the workers hired through contractors, the management made sure that police was around. The fact that the workers did not raise their voice against the shift from permanent to contract work, reveals the weakness of the workers.

Workers in Faridabad undertake some steps during the drama of capitalist elections
FMS
(December 1989)
During the times of election the whole capitalist regime spreads their illusionary net in order to entangle workers. But it seems that the workers in Faridabad have learnt their bit during the last years. This has become obvious during the current elections in various forms.

Firstly, the fact that AITUC-CITU-HMS-LMS-BMS unions call workers to support the candidate of the Janata Dal does not seem to have much of an impact on the workers. This might be because the current Congress candidate was the chief minister of the Haryana Janata Party government in 1979 and the current Janata Dal candidate was a minister in his cabinet at the time – a time when in October 1979 the police firing on workers in Faridabad took place and killed many. Many workers remember this. The unions fail in covering up the current regime of hooliganism and looting of the Janata Dal. More important than the disillusion towards the elections are the steps, which workers currently take in their own interest.

The steps undertaken by East India Cotton workers for the 800 Rs rate are worth mentioning. During his election campaign the chief minister of the Janata Dal had announced in April that the minimum wage in Haryana will be 800 Rs. The Janata Dal and their big-mouthed chief minister spread this promise everywhere, but nowhere in Haryana it has been turned into reality. After six months the Haryana government hasn’t even published the new wage in its newsletter. AITUC-CITU-HMS-BMS-LMS-Bank Employees Federation praised the chief minister Devilal on 13th of June for his wage announcement. The announcement of the new wage has been published in the government newspaper’s in due time before the parliamentary elections, but there wasn’t any factory in Haryana, where the new wage would have been paid on payday in November. At this time the union of the Janata Dal LMS was the leading union at East India Cotton. At the gate meeting on 3rd of November the Haryana president of the LMS beat the drum against the current Congress candidate and his involvement in the police massacre of 1979. One of the reasons for the 1979 firing was – apart from the quelling of general discontent – the long strike of workers at East India Cotton. In the period and in the shadow of the 1979 strike the East India management implemented their automation scheme and made 3,000 workers redundant. The LMS president whole-heartedly reassured the workers about the 800 Rs rate and in return asked the workers to vote for the Janata Dal.

But on 7th of November management paid the old rate. In response the 4,000 East India workers of the powerloom and Ajanta department displayed great unity and refused to take the old rate wages. The workers demanded the new 800 Rs rate. Seeing the unity of the workers, the LMS leaders became confused. Given that it was election period the whole situation was rather tricky, therefore East India management hesitated to make use of its goons. Shortly before the East India workers had given the LMS regional president a beating while the Dal Fry goons stood and stared. Seeing that the election harvest might get spoilt, the LMS Haryana president was given the role to entice the workers. On 8th of November this leader held another gate meeting. During this gate meeting the leader reassured the workers that before election the new rate would be paid, and he tried to convince the workers to accept the old rate this time and take their wage. But the workers were not be moved. After he did not succeed during the gate meeting the leader organised a side meeting, but even after hours of bullshitting the workers insisted on the 800 Rs rate. The leader got very agitated and left in his Maruti, while the workers shouted slogans containing his name and ‘down with’.
The East India workers continued working peacefully, but they refused to take the old rate wages. During the next days four thousand workers resisted the pressure in this way. The workers had only started to debate amongst themselves about possible further steps, such as demonstrations to the DC after shift, when the management made a full-force attack and broke the workers unity. The management was successful due to the stay notice drama, usage of the Dal Fry goons and the hesitations of the workers to take next steps. On 14th and 15th of November all workers had taken the old rate wages. During the movement of these four thousand workers it became clear for everyone that in no factory in Haryana the new rate was paid.
Workers at Gedore alias Jhalani Tools could also not be bothered to take part in the election theatre. Workers took part in a gate meeting, because they thought that it was about the demand notice. But the leader of the CITU in Faridabad started talking about support for the Janata Dal candidate. The workers told him to say something about the demand notice, otherwise they would go, because they had nothing to do with the elections. Then management and union put up a notice saying that workers should come to work on Sunday in order to take Wednesday off to cast their vote on the election day. In the first plant workers encircled the manager and told him that they will keep the Sunday as rest day. They told him that the workers had nothing to do with the vote, if management want, they can take the Wednesday off, but we will come to work. After having been encircled for one and a half our the manager withdrew the notice. At Gedore, workers took Sunday off and worked on election day. But in most of the other factories in Faridabad management and union forced workers to shift their rest day to Wednesday.

East India Cotton
FMS
(January 1990)
After having been shaken by the demonstrated unity of the 4,000 workers during the 800 Rs conflict, on 10th of December management decided to stop one power-loom worker at the gate and refuse to let him go to work. They just stopped him, they did not issue any charge sheet or any other written paper explaining the reason. This time the power-loom workers made a collective step in response. When they heard that their work-mate was kicked out, they stopped working. After machines stood for two hour the management gave the worker a one line letter, saying: “You have been suspended. The charge sheet will be issued later”. On 10th of December, East India management suspended five workers in response to the displayed unity of the workers.

East India Cotton
FMS
(October 1990)
It has been 15 months now since the announcement of 800 Rs minimum wage by the Haryana government, but in the majority of factories in Faridabad the new obligatory wage is not paid. In those big factories where permanent workers have been able to enforce the new wage, management engages in all kind of crooked ways to undermine it. Workers in the power-loom department of East India undertook a collective step against one of these crooked attempts. According to the state’s own definition, workers operating ‘Two-Loom-Drawbacks’ are graded as ‘highly skilled’. The minimum wage for these workers is 975 Rs per month, but East India pays them 910 Rs. Again and again workers have individually tried to enlighten management about this issue, but management did not bother too much. As a result workers operating the ‘Two-Loomk-Drawbacks’ decided to undertake a collective step in order to make management understand. The letter signed by all East India workers caused some commotion within company management.

East India Cotton
FMS
(August 1991)
East India Cotton Mills is a well-known Faridabad based company, engaged in cloth weaving, pressing, printing and sewing. The company operates under various names and in different official branches. During the times of workers’ uprising in 1977 – 1979 the East India workers were in the frontline. In order to quell the workers’ discontent East India management made use of the system of goons which made it infamous all over Faridabad. In October 1979 the police managed to suppress the unrest by firing and massacre. East India company established the Dal Fry gang of goons, which, during the last 12 to 13 years, have used all kind of ways and means to crush workers’ actions. In 1983 East India closed its Jute Mill, and years later the 900 dismissed workers still haven’t received their wages and pensions. Against this infamous management the power-loom workers have recently obtained a victory. The workers have been able to get out of the grip of management to a certain extend and open space for their fellow workers.
East India management – amongst many other local company managements – have filed a case at the high court against the new minimum wage grades, which have been announced in June 1989. In May 1990 the high court came to a verdict: The Haryana government and the company lawyers came to the agreement that the new grade would be put into practice not from June 1989 onwards, but from January 1990. many unions had collected money from workers in order to send their own lawyer to the court case, but in the end they did not. In this way several crore Rs endced in the pockets of management and ruling party leaders and several lakh Rs in the pockets of union middlemen. After the court case some power-loom workers realised that they were not paid according the new pay scale. Around 100 workers went – rather hesitantly – to meet management officials and union leaders, but their voice was not heard. In October 1990 these 100 workers sent a signed letter to management, that they are paid 65 Rs too little. Management did not respond. After a month union leaders told workers that they will be paid according to ‘fixed standard’.
After 12-13 years of company-organised violence these scared workers collectively signed their protest letter in order to demand their full wage from management. The workers undertook a second step. In November 1990 these 100 workers sent an application to the DLC. East India management swung into action. The advance payment and the ration and the cooperative store were cancelled for these workers. The intimidations started, but the workers did not bow. Management usually did not attend the meeting the DLC invited them to – and if they attended, then their representative said openly that according to the new rate those workers should receive 65 Rs more, but that management won’t pay them more, because the main issue was not concerning those 100 workers, but how to control 5,000 workers. The fact that these workers undertook steps themselves and put forward demands, this fact could not be accepted by the management. The management representatives said openly that the company would take the case up to the supreme court, but they would not pay. The resposibility of the DLC and the labour inspector was to make sure that minimum wages are paid according to the legal norm and to enforce this against management – but they did not. The DLC issued a request to management and the labour inspector kept on extending the request period.

East India Worker
FMS
(April 1996)
After management had not paid February wages by 13th of March workers gathered and demanded payment from management, they also gave a beating to one of the union leaders. Management consequently suspended two workers. On 14th of March the night-shift stopped at the gate after shift and the morning shift decided not to start working. They demanded that the suspended workers should be taken back on and the wages should be paid. The police arrived. The management promised to take the workers back and pay wages by 2:30 pm.
But since seven to eight months it is number one on the East India management’s agenda to replace the table printing by Tex Print machines and to sack 500 workers from the Ajanta department. Therefore the management started to stop people at the gate, to announce lay-offs and to refuse to give a job to the 500 casual workers, who had been employed as ‘badlis’ on a constant basis since eight to ten years. In order to diffuse the resulting collective anger, management obtained a court order saying that workers’ protest has to keep a distance of 100 metres from the company gates – but given the current election time the DC enforced that the whole conflict should be postponed. The old union leaders were kept away from it all.
Eight months earlier the East India workers had elected the last leader as their saviour, but soon enough tasted his betrayal. This time workers abstained from chosing leaders, but for some people it is necessary to look out for leadership. This time there were no ready-made leaders to buy off, therefore the East India management will be forced to practice how to produce leaders in advance. In this context an East India worker said: “We will not let them continue in the old style. We have challenged them by having beaten up an old leader. Let them run their case about union contributions [?], if they won’t work at the machines next to us, we will give them another beating. Today no one will be able to push workers around.” Another worker said that based on the last collective agreement a wage increase of 500 Rs is legally obligatory. However, we have to bear in mind that the aim of East India management is the dismissal of 500 to 600 workers.

East India Worker
FMS
(August 1996)
On 1st of July management put up a notice saying that any worker who leave the job voluntarily by 10th of July will get extra-money. In times when you need all kinds of personal connections and bribes to get a job, who would voluntarily leave? Voluntarily or not, in order to make people resign East India Cotton Mill management locked out the workers of the Ajanta Table Printing department and the colour room on 11th of July, and they did not pay the June wages. The fact that despite the lock-out production continued in the rest of the factory made management more than happy. Having stolen ten days of wages from the workers in the Ajanta department, after the meeting between management and leaders at the labour commissioner in Chandigarh on 18th of July the lock-out was lifted on the 19th of July and management put up a notice saying that the scheme for voluntary resignation would be extended to the 31st of July.
Since about a year the management aims at finishing off the table printing department and to kick out 600 to 700 workers. The initial scheme of large-scale retrenchment by locking out the complete factory – through attempted provocation pf mistreating one of the leaders – failed. Now management has brought up new leaders and prepared the trap for the lay-off of 600 workers. After management of Calvinators succeeded to lay off 2,500 workers with the help of the ‘great agreement’ facilitated by the Chandigarh officials, now East India management might well repeat this success. In 1979, on the background of automation, East India had to lay off 2,500 to 3,000 workers. Back then leaders could say whatever, the workers would follow. The workers suffered a lot, but the outcome was rather tragic. The fact that workers stand up-sit down-walk-stop on command makes things easy for the management. The East India workers can stop the redundancy drive if they think and decide together. Currently the main aim of East India are redundancies. Currently the new [wage] agreement is not the main concern. In 1979 redundancies were also the main point on the agenda, while the strike was initiated about bonuses.

East India Worker
FMS
(September 1996)
In June 1995 management stopped two workers from entering the factory. When their work-mates arrived at their workplaces, they laid down tools. After four hours management bowed down and only after letting the two workers get back to their job, production resumed. Some days later management stopped five workers at the gate. Again a sudden strike, again management bowed down.
The reason?
During these days the workers at East India did not listen to any of the union leaders. Workers took steps according to collective discussion and decision. To continue this process was in the interest of every worker, while it was a necessity for management to break it. Management brought forth new leqaders and workers – instead of continuing to make their own decision – started to stare at the mouth of the new leadership.

One year later, in July and August 1996:
The management locked out workers in the Ajanta Table Printing department on 11th of July and did not pay June wages. In the rest of the factory production kept running and workers took their June wages – ignoring what was happening in the department next door. In August 1996 management produced a list with the names of 90 workers who were supposed to be made redundant. After five, six years of employment these workers were suddenly kicked out. The production in the rest of the factory continued and workers kept silent about the enforced redundancies – instead they focused on the play-fight of the collective [wage] agreement dispute. Another list with names of 65 workers was produced, again silence from the rest of the work-force. A list with 140 names appeared, workers were kicked out, while the [wage] agreement drama continued.
The reason?
Currently workers listen to what the leaders say, they sit down – stand up, when they are told to. The leaders keep quiet about the dismissals and create a drama about the [wage] agreement. Following their example, workers also keep quiet about the lay offs and joined the drama.
“The leaders work very hard for the agreement, they are busy day and night, run back and forth, but they are not heard. What more can they do, we ask from them? The management is behaving very badly.”
And the East India management is able to lay off people, as they are pleased. Could anything better happen to management? Currently management breaks one finger of the hand, while the remaining keep silent. Workers hope that someone else should think for them and make decisions. We wish that someone else would find a solution for us. As a result leaders spring up like mushrooms. It will not change much if we later on cry about mushroom poising if we don’t change our state of inertia.

East India Worker
FMS
(October 1996)
In August East India management sacked 300 workers in three batches. On 2nd of September management put up a notice at the gate saying that the table printing department is closed due to running losses. The 600 remaining Ajanta printing workers were told to do this or that useless work in other parts of the factory. Anyone can predict that this increased the discontent amongst workers. Management announced on flyers that August wages would be paid on 8th and 9th of September, but by 10th of September wages were not paid. People kept silent about the redundancies , but got agitated about the [wage] agreement and announced the decision for a tool down strike. On 12th of September management of the East India Group enforced a lock-out at the printing and processing plant based in Faridabad Industrial Area and at the power-loom section based in Sector 24. The late shift was stopped by police at the factory gate at 2:30 pm, the early and general shift was slowly released from the factories by 10 pm. Management used to lock-out workers on their weekly day off, because it was hard work to get them out of the factory – whereas it has become rare that workers enforce entry to the factory against a lock-out, given the entanglement in legal procedures. East India management made the decision to lock-out workers while the whole shift was still inside the factory, in believe that they will not face major difficulties to get them out. Given that August wages were not paid, for the workers the lock-out essentially started not on 12th of September, but 10th of August – the original pay date. From 12th of September till 30th of September about 3,000 workers sat together during lock-out, but they did not use the time to debate and decide amongst each other, which would have been the necessary thing to do – during the whole time leaders gave only two speeches. From 12th September onwards a daily demonstration should have been organised in the morning and in the evening, but till 30th of September not a single protest-march was organised. This means that the workers did not undertake any step to increase their strength. What is the reason for this? “The leaders are very busy and if the workers do something without telling the leaders this could cause problems. The leaders are so busy, but what should we do, the police and administration have all sold out.” If the East India workers lose their strength in this way and hand over control to others, than management will impose their conditions. Three thousand workers are not a piece of straw that could be easily chewed by anyone. If workers would decide together, if they would organise protests marches, they strength would increase.

East India Worker
FMS
(November 1996)
After the lock-out in September workers were sitting together, but they were losing strength day by day. No protest march was organised in September, neither in October – which could have changed the balance of forces. The 3,000 workers dispersed bit by bit. After having been let out of the factory and made to sit inactive until most workers left the protest, the workers were preached from above that ‘Workers have to stay firm’. Apart from protest marches workers should try to enforce entry to the closed factories. In this context it is important to focus on the fact that in the powerloom factory redundancies are not on the agenda – management therefore tries to keep the powerloom production running. The redundancies concern the printing and processing plants in Industrial Area, these workers should undertake the first step to get entry to the factories. Breaking through the inertia of police and administration, workers could succeed in forcing government and management into retreat.

East India Worker
FMS
(February 1997)
After four and a half month of lock-out leaders came to an agreement with the management on 20th of January. According to the agreement 350 workers started production in the powerloom plant on 21st of January. Management reassured the remaining 2,100 workers of the printing and processing factories that the lock-out will be lifted on 3rd of February and that before that a good agreement would be found… aim at the end of the process will be the redundancy of the superfluous 600 workers. Roaming around during the months of lock-out, looking for work and being refused – workers at East India found out that it is difficult to find a job nowadays…

Gurgaon Workers News #40

The mining industry and miners' struggles in India

https://libcom.org/library/mining-industry-miners-struggles-india

Gurgaon Workers News #41

Preliminary Balance Sheet of the 13-Days Sit-Down Strike at Maruti Suzuki Factory in Manesar/Gurgaon, India

http://libcom.org/library/balance-sheet-maruti-suzuki-workers-strike

Gurgaon Workers News #42

Faridabad-Gurgaon, India – Three Workers’ Stories and Thirty Workers’ Photographs

We want to change this society, not only because under current conditions our social productivity turns into the alien and destructive forces of war and environmental disaster; not only because in a money/market system, over-production means misery and hunger; but mainly because in the present system our potentially joyful social life is boxed up in daily routines, nuclear households, shift rhythms, loneliness amongst the masses…

Apart from reports on workers’ experiences in factories and struggles Faridabad Majdoor Samachar regularly publishes daily life stories of workers on its front-page. Workers of different generations, professions, gender, … talk about what we do every day. It is a mirror, sometimes we might not like what we see, but it is a starting point for all of us to think about a fundamental collective change…

Friends translated three daily reports: from a 34 Year Old Casual Worker, a 42 Year Old Government Employee and 50 Year Old Electricity Board Worker. A friend of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar took photographs during a visit in the area. They cover the way to work and the living area of workers in Faridabad, Manesar and Gurgaon. We document them together with the three stories…


To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi – some of the photographs in this collage are taken during time of distribution. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch.

34 Year Old Casual/ Temporary Worker: I came to Faridabad for the first time in 1997. First, I joined Autopin factory through a contractor. In the first month, for 13 to 14 days, I worked for 16 hours each day. (I was seventeen at the time.) I worked there for nine months. In later months, I worked 16 hours a day for six, seven, eight days.

Through another contractor, I joined Talbross factory. Here also for six days in a month, they used to force us to work for 16 hours. During winters, going to and from the factory was very problematic given the fog at the railway crossing and crossing the National Highway Mathura Road. I saw three, four accidents where blood was all over the place. I felt sick. Because of the accidents and night duty during winter, I left Talbross after four months.

Then through an acquaintance, I joined Anil Rubber factory. Here for the first time, they had me sign on blank papers at the time of employment. I had also heard that employment officers take a 200 rupee bribe. In Anil Rubber, I worked sixteen hours a day only four days in a month. After six months, I was given a ‘break’, meaning termination of services.

I joined Expro factory. Here we have to work for 16 hours a day, five days in the month. And there was no chance of leaving after 12 hours of work. While working in Expro factory, I had heard about ITI (Industrial Training Institute). After six months, I was again given a ‘break’. In June 1998, I left for my village. That year I could not get admission in ITI. I got admisson in 2000. After completing ITI in 2002, I came back to Faridabad and I am now a temporary worker in Oswal Electricals.

At this time, I am on night shift. In the factory, I go to the latrine. (If I don’t go in the factory, then I have to go out in the open near my shanty.) I walk back to my room. I wash up and then have a bath. I don’t drink tea. By this time, it’s 9 a.m. And for breakfeast, I make roti, and fry potatoes, peas, or cauliflower. Sometimes, when I am too tired, I straightaway prepare my meal- rice, lentils, and something else with it. Normally, I sleep at 11 a.m. and get up at 4:30, 4:45 p.m. If I sleep after breakfast, then I miss out on lunch. After washing up, I go to the vegetable market and have a light snack there. At most, I spend 5 rupees on it. I buy vegetables for another 5 rupees and on returning I sit in a barbershop and read the newspaper there for an hour or two. Then for an hour or two, I study in the room- general knowledge, general science, and about my subject of refrigeration. At night by 9 p.m., I make dinner. Then I rest for an hour before leaving for work.

On arrival, attendance is marked at the factory gate. In the department, the supervisor tells us the work to be done and issues gloves and a pencil. I have to check the production of three operators. I have to check for fissures, indents, fault in the sites etc. There is pressure from the operators that I should hold back from finding faults. Yet, the responsibility of the job is that I do it according to the norms. This work continues into the night until 7:30 a.m. In Oswal electricals, there is no break for a meal and even for tea. Constant work for 8 hours! There is no question of sleep. (In some factories, workers work quickly and sleep after their work.) If the material is bad, then you can’t even take out ten to fifteen minutes for yourself and the material piles up. If the material is good, then we can rest for five, ten minutes and dring this time, we go to the latrine. Otherwise, we go to the toilet after the shift is over.

There are 500 workers in Oswal Electrical factory, but there is no canteen. (The law says if there are more than 300 workers, there has to be a canteen.) We are banned from leaving the factory to have tea. Three, four of us have to get together and obtain a gate pass for one person from the supervisor and send him to the East India Crossing open shops to get tea. Even supervisors cannot go out to have tea. This was the situation in the night-shift of Talbross Factory also- no break for meal, no break for tea, and there was a canteen, but it used to be closed at night.

Shifts change every week. Last week I worked the morning shift. Then I used to get up at 5 a.m. I had to go out in the open to defecate. Then make breakfast and lunch. Eat two rotis and fold four to take with me. During winters, I don’t bathe in the morning. From 7:30 a.m., I work in the factory. In the day shift, there is lunch break from 11:30 to 12 noon.

After the shift is over at 3:30, I come straight back to my room. I bring water and have a bath- supply water is not too cold. If something is left over, then I have that, or I prepare something small to eat. Then I read for awhile. I go to the library in NH1 (a locality) and for an hour, I skim through both English and Hindi newspapers. And return by 7 p.m. I’ll read books for an hour or two. I prepare my dinner at 9 p.m. and sleep by 11 p.m.

For these 15 days, I have to do all the work myself. Earlier I used to give an acquaintance, 600 rupees per month for my meal. The most problemtic is B shift duty. Now I will have to bear this all by myself. In B shift, I return from the factory 12 at night. At that point, it is very difficult to eat the 9 p.m. prepared cold food. It is 1 a.m. by the time I finish eating. I can’t fall asleep until 2 a.m. In the morning, I awake at 7, 7:30 a.m. and because of lateness, going out in the open for latrine is an additional problem. By the time I have my bath, it is 10 a.m. After breakfeast, I feel drowsy and sleep for another hour and a half. After getting up, I have my meal at 12:30 to 1 p.m. and just wile away time. Everything goes topsy-turvy in B shift. I feel loose, without energy. This laziness remains till 4:30, 5:30 p.m. After we have been working for an hour, then the body becomes alert. In B shift, leisurely roaming and reading stops.

I really dislike being in the factory. There is too much fault-finding and lecturing by the supervisor. I feel bad when co-workers refuse to answer a question or talk back rudely- they don’t even consider us human beings. They want to get work out of us at a faster speed than CNC (computerized) machines.

Outside there are also problems upon problems. Water problem, problem in the post office, problem at the railway station…everywhere there is a line. I dislike lines. Right now, I have no friends here. They are all temporary. A little acquaintance, some conversation. Sometimes, I feel extremely lonely.
I like interesting work, where there are things to be learned. I like to roam about and gather information. But in this age, where are such things?…

A 42 Year Old Gov’t Employee: I have been in central government service for twenty years. Before this, I did other jobs for 5 years. To earn some money, I had begun tutoring from the time I was in 8th standard. After I had finished 11th standard, I joined a factory. I worked in different factories- Hindustan Syringe, Escorts first plant, Unimax lab, Belmont Rubber, and Steadchem. (After every six months, I was thrown out). While working in the factories, I continued my studies through correspondence and completed a Bachelors in Commerce. Then I became a teacher in a school and while I was teaching there I got a job in the Central Government.

My husband is also in government service. We have one son. Because of Board Examinations, after 12, he doesn’t go to school these days, and my health is also not well. Therefore, in the morning I get up late- 6:45, 7 a.m. For the past 7 years, I have had breathing problems. For over a year now, a major operation was postponed for medical reasons and then I avoided it because of my son’s exam.

Even in gov’t service, for years it was routine to wake up at 5 in the morning. After making breakfeast and lunch, I sent my son to school at 7. The fridge made it possible to knead the flour for rotis at night and cut vegetables beforehand. So instead of getting up at 5, I could get up at 5:30. After getting my son ready, I would broom and mop the floor and wash the dishes. Then get ready for work. Because of breathing problems, increasing from the dust, for the past three years a woman comes and does the household work. Whether I am awake or asleep, work is on the mind all the time. I don’t feel like getting up in the morning, but I have to work. My husband brings milk and makes tea for us in the morning. I make breakfast and lunch. After getting ready by 8:45, I leave for the office. Work is work. There’s nothing to like about it. Even if there is a problem in the house or I’m not feeling well, I still have to go to work.

Work is from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. First of all, we have to sign in. Then begin your work and keep at it. Earlier I was dealing with the public, but now I only work behind a desk. Because of this, I can be a bit flexible with the work. If I don’t feel like it today, I’ll do it tomorrow, but I can’t postpone it too much longer. There are no constraints on drinking tea in the office from your own money, but I don’t have an habit of drinking tea. Lunch is from 1 to 1:30 and during that time, men and women sit separately. Such is the tradition. In the women’s section, we talk about children, family matters, the rising prices of everyday expense. Someone sings a devotional song. But 80% of us lie down for twenty minutes. Some even take a nap. In these twenty years, I haven’t faced any difficulty as a woman employee. Now in the office there are many women working, but when I was dealing with the public, I was the only woman amongst male co-workers. Instead of facing problems as a woman, I got special attention. After 1:30, office work continues till 5:30. Because I have to sit in a chair all day, I get tired. From the office, straightaway I come home. I’m dead-tired and my husband makes a cup of tea for me. I make dinner and prepare things for tomorrow’s meals. By 10 p.m., we have had our meals and are free. Then we watch t.v.

From childhood itself, I haven’t had time for any interest to develop. Everything is so tied up by routine. If there is an holiday for a day or two, I can do the pending household work, but any time more than that and I wouldn’t know what to do.

My attempt has been that my son shouldn’t have to face the difficulties we have faced. We live an extremely simple life. My husband and I are both government servants and we have only one son, but still we are in debt. We are worried about our son’s exams, but we are even more worried about his admission. What if we have to pay for a slot in a university? To take a loan, we would spend our whole life repaying it. And then my operation!

There are problems. But I consider only those as problems for which I cannot see a solution. In my life, I have had problems at each step. Therefore, I do not consider routine problems as problems. I did not bother about my health- for my job, I have done overtime, and on holidays instead of taking rest, I take care of household tasks. Because of these reasons probably, there have been too much mental pressures. Taking it all into consideration, I am worried about my health.

From my childhood, I liked helping others and my own people. I don’t know why I liked to. Instead of sitting in a chair and doing office work, I like live relations instead. It has been almost my nature that I should not hold back anyone’s papers and no one should have problems because of me. It has never entered my mind that people whose work I do should pay me something in return. In twenty years, I hav not taken a cent from anyone for doing his or her work. And because of this, I have gotten great satisfaction. But in dealing with the public, you need a lot of energy. Of course, you have to talk a lot. You also meet many such people who simply do not accept that you want to help them. In such a situation, one gets tense. Because of illness, now I am doing a deskjob. And here also I don’t want to see anyone face a problem because of me. But government itself is a problem…

A 50 Year Old Electricity Board Worker: Right now my shift is from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., but I am only really off-duty at 9 a.m. because early in the morning, there is a lot of load on the electrical line and some mishap is bound to occur. There is not enough staff there, so we have to stay back and I get home late.

I am tired when I get home. I don’t feel like doing anything. At this age, physical fatigue is natural. But nowadays, mental stress is greater. These days my family is with me so when I get home, I get a cup of tea. After having tea, I rest for an hour or two. Then after a bath and my meal, I go to sleep around 1 p.m.

Of course, I don’t feel like I have to get up around 3 to 4 p.m. Sometimes, it is because noise in the house or noise outside. But I don’t get enough sleep. Because of this, my heart and mind are restless… After getting up, I go and get the vegetables or some other household things. If I leave, I have to go here and there at 6 p.m. It’s 8 by the time I return. These days I get my meals cooked,so I don’t have the additional burden of having to cook my own food. But still there is usually there is something or the other to deal with.

Sometimes, I am ill or my kids are ill and we have to go to the doctor. Depending on the season, there is some illness or the other. On the days I have to go for treatment for myself or the kids, then I have to squeeze in all the other things I have to do. I don’t get a chance to rest. One has to be on duty during the prescribed shift hours. If there is any work on the electric line, then one has to go. Otherwise one has to stay at the Complaint Center. As soon as some break-down takes place, one has to inform the officer.

During summers, there is a lot of power failure. Because of dust storms and winds, there are breakdowns on the line. There is also too much load on the line because of people running fans, coolers, leading to breakdowns. Even at 1 or 2 in the night, the public will come to the Complaint Center. It is because those who come in and complain give us an helping hand with the manual work that we are even able to work. Otherwise, there is too much staff shortage.

During winters, there are less power failures, but when they do happen it is difficult to search them out. Because of fog, there are additional problems. A ten minute task takes half an hour. And sometimes, it is even difficult to locate the reason for the failure at all. During the rainy season, the transformers get burnt. Cables get burnt. Trees fall and wires are broken. The danger of accidents is high. Most workers are busy. Conversations are few. Discussions only take place when people are happy.

When my family is not with me and they return to the village, then life becomes very difficult. Before I come home, I have tea at a shop somewhere. After coming home in the morning, I have to clean the place. Mop the floor, dust, wash the clothes, wash the dishes. I have to collect water from the public tap. Then I cook my lunch and dinner. Sometimes, I make vegetables with bread or rice and lentils or bring curd from the shop and eat it with bread. It gets to be 1 to 1:30 p.m. once I complete all this. Then I rest for an hour or two. After getting up, I clean the utensils and get vegetables from the market…Sometimes, my bicycle needs repairs and sometimes my body needs repairs. By this time, it’s already 8 p.m. And then I have to get ready for the night shift

Life alone is very difficult to handle, whatever be the shift. For the morning shift at 7 o’clock, I get up at 5 a.m. When I am alone, then for half of the week, I am not able to make food for myself. I have to go for duty without tea or breakfast and there is not enough time to prepare a lunch to take with me. One reason for this is the laziness that come in the body with age. Even if one does not get meals, one still has to work. I have to either eat in the hotel or share whatever co-workers have brought. When the family is with me, I get home-cooked food. During the morning shift, there is more work. Instead of 3 p.m., we get off at 4, 5, 6 p.m. Some work or the other comes up so that we can’t leave yet. But we don’t get overtime payment for staying back.

Gurgaon Workers News #43 - September 2011

Gurgaon in Haryana is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers uprooted by the agrarian crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh or Vietnam.

In the September 2011 issue you can find:

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

*** Workers’ Reports from Gurgaon/Faridabad Factories –
Short reports given to and further distributed by Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in spring 2011. Most of the accounts are from workers in the garment export industry based in Gurgaon

*** Systemic Collapse or Emancipation? On Accidents –
Commemorations for victims of two ‘accidents’ in Gurgaon and Okhla and further political questions

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

*** Small Upsurge of ‘Spontaneous’ Collective Actions by Garment Export Workers in Okhla, Gurgaon, Manesar –
Seven reports on direct collective actions in the garment export industry in March 2011. In order to enforce the payment of the (new) minimum wage, workers in several factories went on short wildcat strikes.

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

*** Shifts in the Call Centre Industry: Gurgaon Tata Workers’ Report and Global Re-Locations –
We look briefly at local and global changes in the call centre industry in relation to the current crisis. We document a call centre workers’ report from Gurgaon.

*** A Prelude? Current Problems of the Real Estate Giant DLF –
DLF was the main private company ‘which built the new Gurgaon’. This was before the global real estate bubble burst. Currently the fundaments of DLF are shaky.

4) About the Project –
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News

*** Suggested Readings: A Few Texts for the International Revolutionary Debate –

The global and historical character of the current crisis forces us to coordinate both debate and practice ‘for workers self-emancipation’ on an international scale. Following texts are selective, but we think that they can stand as examples for ‘general theses’, ‘concrete analysis’ and ‘historical debate’ of class struggle and revolutionary movement.

On the current and historical crisis of capitalism

On capitalist crisis and challenge for communist movement

Theses on proletarianisation, food production and (food) crisis

On recent uprising in Egypt

On recent uprising in Tunisia

On recent movement in Spain

Recent contribution for revolutionary debate on Russian Revolution

Last, but not least!

To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch. For more background on Faridabad Majdoor Talmel:

http://faridabadmajdoorsamachar.blogspot.com/p/fms-talmel.html

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

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

*** Workers’ Reports from Gurgaon/Faridabad Factories –

Shahi Export Worker
(15/1 Mathura Road, Faridabad)
The main problem in this factory is production, production, production. The production targets are way too high. At the feeder each worker has to give his production results to the foremen once every hour. If the production target is not met every hour the supervisor shouts at the workers and threatens them with dismissal. In the sewing departments, in the finishing department… at any place the targets are fixed. There is a lot of pressure, no one wants to sworn at. On 16th and 17th March, when the thread cutting workers did not meet their target before the meal break the supervisor did not allow them take the break. In the second finishing department, which is under the corrugated iron roof, a woman worker fell unconscious on 18th of March, because it was too hot and she was over-worked. How will things look like in the summer months? Last year in summer on one day 50 workers fell unconscious. On 5th of March a supervisor swore at a pressman for not having met the target – other press men surrounded the supervisor and threw him on the floor. On 12th of March the production manager slapped a supervisor for not having achieved the production target. Currently there is less work in the sewing department, but male workers in the finishing department start shift at 9 am and work till 1 am. In February the company ordered overtime on three Sundays. There is a canteen in the factory, by they offer neither meals nor tea. Most of the 2,000 workers employed here are female. If you arrive a minute late or punch out a minute too early they cut 50 Rs to 80 Rs from your wages.

Eastern Medikit Worker
Eastern Medikit has several factories in Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon. The wages of the casual workers are always paid delayed. In the factory on Plot 205 in Phase I the casual workers refused to start working on 17th of March 2011, because they had not been paid their February wages. After two hours of ‘work stoppage’ the manager said that wages will be paid the next day. The company plan was to pay an advance of 500 to 1,000 Rs before Holi and the rest of the February wages after Holi, but they had to pay the whole wage on 18th of March.

Gaurav International Worker (Garments)
(Plot 236, Udyog Vihar)
Every month between 400 Rs to 500 Rs get embezzled from workers’ wages. When eight to ten workers went together to the personnel department they were told: why do you come together, come one after the other. When you go on your own they swear at you and ask you: why do you come and make a fuzz about 100 Rs or 200 Rs? Two or four of the old workers were paid the outstanding money, but the rest of us were not paid. Working times are from 9 am to 10:30 pm every day – they hold you back in order to make you work longer. Only the first two hours overtime are paid double, the rest single. We manufacture garments for GAP, Asmara and Dealers. The bosses say that when the representatives of the clients come to visit the factory we should say that there is no overtime, only one or two hours here and there and that we eat our meals at home in the evening. Apart from the 2,000 to 3,000 workers hired directly by the company there are 400 to 500 workers hired through contractor in the finishing department. They don’t get ESI or PF.

Kalamkari Worker (Garments)
(Plot 280, Udyog Vihar Phase II)
Here 400 permanent workers and 1,600 workers hired through contractors are employed. The company does not hand out a pay-slip. We work 125 hours overtime per month, the permanents are paid one and a half, the rest of the workers are paid single rate. The workers stay the same, but after six months they are put on a different pay-roll and the cards are changed in order to avoid having to make them permanent or pay them seniority bonus. The toilets are dirty.

Modelama Worker (Garments)
(Plot 417, Udyog Vihar Phase III)
Daily working time is from 9:30 am till 10:30 pm and at least 12 days per months we are held back and we work till 1 am. For the tailors and the checkers the first two hours of overtime are paid double, the rest at single rate. The other categories of workers are paid only single rate. If you take leave at 6 pm and go home, the next day you have to face verbal abuse. They only start ESI and PF once you have worked for the company for three months. If you leave the job, in order to get the PF form filled in by the company it takes a lot of running around. The helpers received 4,350 Rs in February 2011, meaning that the 155 Rs DA from January was not paid.

Stickpen Worker
(Plot 318, Udyog Vihar Phase IV)
In this factory us 150 workers produce writing pens on two 12 hours shifts. On Sundays the day-shift works 9 hours, the night shift 12 hours as usual. Overtime is paid at single rate. The helpers receive 3,200 Rs per month. Only 2 – 4 workers get ESI and PF, these are the permanent workers, the rest are casuals. The drinking water is bad. The toilets are dirty.

S.A.N. International Worker (Garments)
(Plot 203, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
We work from 9:30 am to 10:30 pm every day. Then we might have half and hour or an hour off, then again work till 1:30 am. Often, when we are caught up in work pressure they don’t even grant this break for taking meals. Then we work till 6 am the next day. On Sundays they let us go at 5 pm. The tailors work 125 hours overtime a month, the guys in the finishing department 200 hours, paid single rate. If they make you work till 1:30 am they pay 25 Rs extra for food. If you have to stay till 6 am, they pay 50 Rs. There are about 700 workers in the factory, but there is no canteen. The tailors don’t get ESI or PF. There is a lot of dirt in the drinking water. The doors of the toilets are broken. We are hired through contractor, but we don’t know who it is – it’s possible that the general manager himself is the contractor.

Sherry Clothing Worker
(Plot 400, Udyog Vihar Phase IV)
If you take one day off they cut two days from your wage. The management swears at us. The helpers are paid 4,200 Rs, the tailors are on piece-rate. The toilets are dirty.

Aaina Fashion Worker
(Plot 893, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
The helpers are paid 3,500 Rs, the tailors are on piece rate. Of 200 workers only 4 are permanents, the rest are casual workers. The boss tells us that he will close the factory, that he will shut it on the 31st of March, he tells us to look for a different job, that we should leave now and come back on the 7th of April to get our final payment. One of us went and asked: “If we lose the job, why don’t you pay us now?”, but the accountant got angry and hit him. After that the worker went to see the manager of the plant, then the director, but then the big wigs kicked him out from the factory.

Vodafon Worker
(Plot 102, Udyog Vihar Phase I)
For running their company office Vodafon has subcontracted cars and drivers. The drivers have to wait outside of the gate by day and night, during summer, winter and monsoon. Vodafon hasn’t installed a rest room for the drivers.

*** Systemic Collapse or Emancipation? On Accidents –

Two accidents in Gurgaon area earlier this year pushed the ‘constant emergency’ and the ‘fragile temporary absence of accidents’ back into our heads.

On 25th of January in Okhla industrial area a fire broke out on the fourth floor of a arment export factory. Thirty workers in the finishing department died. Most (garment) factories there operate with boilers, solvents or other chemicals. Most factories are crammed with people, most factories only have one entrance/exit, which, in many cases, is locked during working time. After the accident ‘concerned’ journalists reported: “It is surprising that despite occurrence of such a major mishap in the area, no step has been taken so far by the concerned civic agency to stop the illegal and dangerous business in the area, which the owners cannot run without having nexus with the local police. “The business at the factory resumed just a day after the mishap,” said a worker, adding, “there are more than 100 illegal garment manufacturing units in the area which are still operating without any disturbance.” “Instead of standing with us, the police is making their all possible efforts to save the owner of the factory. More than 20 people from our locality have lost their lives, but the police’s count is less than 10,” said Hamid Ali (50), who lost his 18-year-old daughter in the boiler blast.

On the 17th of February an under-construction 6-storey building collapsed on Plot 100 of Udyog Vihar Phase I Gurgaon. It took 24 hours to get the right machinery to search for victims. The road was closed till the 22nd of February and people were obstructed from observing the ‘rescue operations’. Officially two security guards were declared dead. Rumurs spread that several families had slept in the construction site that night. The construction company Millenium Construction Private Limted built a factory for Unitech Infosys. The media: “Though the officials were not certain as to what could have led to the structure’s collapse, use of sub-standard material is being investigated.”

The incidents of ‘accidents’ are neither accidental nor isolated. Regarding the question of accidents we think that systemic problems require a systemic analysis – we therefore encourage to read the following article by Amadeo Bordiga concerning the question of ‘capitalist catastrophes’:

http://libcom.org/library/murdering-dead-amadeo-bordiga-capitalism-other...
http://libcom.org/library/murder-bordiga

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

*** Small Upsurge of ‘Spontaneous’ Collective Actions by Garment Export Workers in Okhla, Gurgaon, Manesar –

In the following we document seven short reports on collective wildcat action by workers in the garment export industry in March 2011. The strikes happened on the background of the Delhi government having increased the minimum wage on 1st of February 2011: from 5,200 Rs to the new Delhi minimum wage of 6,084 Rs for helpers, and from 6,000 to 7,410 for skilled workers. We can briefly derive three conclusions: workers don’t have and do not need an institutional union frame work to impose themselves; the structural weakness of the sector leads to a quick lash-back from the employers which can only be countered by coordinated organised efforts, e.g. when the company relocates work; piece-workers have frequently been able to impose higher rates by strike action, but we have only witnessed strikes of (monthly/daily) waged workers ‘on a mass scale’ when the official minimum wage has been increased; so far there hasn’t been a general ‘wage strike’ of that dimension without the impulse of the government increasing the rate; to our knowledge (monthly/daily) waged workers had to rely either on frequent job changes or sporadic strikes to ‘improve’ conditions; the general tendency is: increasing pressure on wages through global competition and introduction of ‘chain system’ (division of labour and mechanisation).

Om Jyoti Apparels Worker
(B-241, Okhla Phase I)
When the company gave out the two slips with overtime and attendance on 4th of March we became aware of the fact that the company will pay according to the old rate of 5,278 Rs (6,448 Rs). We demanded to be paid the new rate of 6,084 Rs (7,410 Rs). The management kicked out four workers from the factory. The mood was down… On 5th of March after the noon break we stopped production in the factory. In the finishing department there are 4 – 5 ‘incharges’ (department foremen), we encircled them and in order to escape from our anger they took refuge in the general managers office. The son of the chairman, he is the director, then said that the government had not sent the documents with the new pay rate yet and that the company will pay the new rate in March and also the area bonus for February. The company started relocation production work to NOIDA (a close by industrial area, but part of Uttar Pradesh, where the minimum wage is considerably lower). Saying that there is no more work the company dismissed 35 tailors on 15th of March and 16 workers of the cutting and finishing department on the 23rd of March… there are 250 workers left at Om Jyoti Apparels, out of which only 50 get ESI and PF.

Wearwell Worker
(B-61, Okhla Phase I)
The company paid the old minimum wage rate in February. On 11th of March workers stopped work for half an hour in order to protest. On 12th of march, when workers again stopped production after two hours the management put up a notice saying that in March the new rate will be paid and that the February area bonus will also be paid.

Orient House
(F-8, Okhla Phase I)
On 28th of February during the lunch break all workers assembled in front of the factory. They started shouting that they want to be paid the new rate. The management arrived at the gate and gave assurances that the new rate will be paid. Workers said that instead of some verbal assurances they wanted something in written. The bosses demanded that some representatives should come forward in order to negotiate. Us 700 workers said that we don’t have any representatives. The workers did not take up work… After one hour the company put up a notice saying that it will pay the new rate. (Translation from ‘Nagrik’ 16 – 31 March issue)

Shahi Export Worker
(F-88, Okhla Phase I)
In the factory there are more than 5,000 sewing machines. Most of the workers are female. When they announced the new rate the commotion amongst the workers increased. The company then put up a notice saying that the new rate will be paid.

Details Worker
(D-30, Okhla Phase I)
The company kicked out a few tailors on 25th of March after 15 days of employment. There was resistance. They then were paid their outstanding wage according to the new rate of 7,410 Rs.

Edigear International – Adidas, Reebok, Puma, Benetton Worker (Garments)
(Plot 150, sector IV, IMT Manesar)
We start working at 9:30 am and punch out at 6 pm ‘for show’ and for the official documents, actually work continues. At night from 8:45 to 9:00 pm there is a meal break, then we work till 1 am, often till 5 am. During January, February till the 18th of March 650 tailors, 100 cutters and 350 workers in the finishing department turned day and night into one. The tailors work till 1 am every other day, the 80 women workers stay from 9:30 am till 8 pm and Sundays from 8 am till 6 pm. In the finishing department the male workers worked till 1 am every night, on 14 days per months they worked till next day 5 am. In January the pressmen worked from 9:30 am till 5 am next day on 26 days. You have to turn up after your 4 1/2 hours break and start again at 9:30 am. After Holi only 11 out of 19 pressmen returned, some had fallen ill. After Holi 300 tailors, 100 finishing department worker and 40 cutters did not come back to work. We manufacture stuff for Adidas, Puma, Reebok and Benetton and there is a great demand, but currently a great lack of workers. There is no canteen in the factory. If we work till 1 am we are paid only 25 Rs extra for food, if till 5 am only 40 Rs. They should pay at least 50 Rs and 100 Rs for full-night food money. Workers currently refuse overtime and they say that the company should increase the wages, so that more workers will come and work. The workload is enormous and wages are paid delayed. On 14th of March, after February wages had not been paid, workers went inside the factory, to their workplaces, but workers did not start work, in any department. They had agreed on that amongst each other. On the next day, the 15th of March, workers again went inside, but did not move a finger. The general manager and the managing director promised that wages would be paid by the 18th of March, so work was resumed on the 16th. The bosses were told that if wages would be delayed again, people would look for a different job and they would have to find new workers. Now they said that they will pay punctually on the 7th of the month.

Sargam Worker
(Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon)
One month before Diwali the company dismissed 90 per cent of all workers in the factories on Plot 153 and 210 in Phase I, on Plot 224 in Phase IV and Plot 540 in Phase V, Gurgaon. In this way the company managed since 2008 not to pay the annual statutory bonus to 90 per cent of the workforce. In response on 14th, 15th and 16th of March workers in the Sargam factories stopped working and demanded the bonus. In the plant on Plot 210 on 16th of March at 1:30 to 2:30 pm, when production was still interrupted, management said that it will give a written announcement for the payment of the bonus. Now, on 24th of March the bosses say that they will kick everyone out tomorrow, on the 25th of March…

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

*** Shifts in the Call Centre Industry: Gurgaon Tata Workers’ Report and Global Re-Locations –

Call centres can be seen as ‘the industry of globalisation’. The came up in the 1990s as a product of Taylorisation of office work: information technology enabled to undermine the ‘individual skills’ of accountants, bank and other office workers. Contrary to what a lot of lefty ideologist thought the technological restructuring lead to a massification and concentration of work-force. By the end of the 1990s call centres went global, jumped the English speaking global wage scales from the global north to south. The patriotic populism of most of the trade unions proved helpless facing global relocations. India became the global back-office and call centre. Call centres combined ‘excess capital’ (finance, dubious personal services etc.) with an excess educated working class (students, graduates etc.). Unemployed post-graduates in Tunisia phoned for French Telecom, their Indian work-mates did the same for British Telecom. With the crisis one of the main pillars of call centre industry – the finance sector and personal services – came under pressure, so did wages in the global north. Currently we can witness rapid changes and shifts within global call centre work. In the following we give a sketchy overview on recent trends. Gurgaon is probably still the biggest call centre hub world-wide, so we are glad to document a short letter by a worker at Tata Consultancy Services based in Gurgaon.

a) Re-relocation back to the US and UK – Falling wage levels and populism
b) ‘Indian’ call centre companies opening call centres in the global north – Investing in the industrial decay (Manchester)
c) Call centre industry shifting further into the lowest wage regions, example Kashmir and Bhutan
d) Strike by call centre workers at Sparsh after relocation to small Indian town
e) Intensified outsourcing of accountancy and personnel departments and supply-chain management by major corporations
f) Squeezing space in ‘Indian call’ centres to counteract rising rent prices
g) Foreign workers in Indian call centres – Report of a worker from the USA
h) Strike by workers at Verizon in the US
i) Worker’s report from Tata Consultancy, Gurgaon

a) Re-relocation back to the US and UK – Falling wage levels and populism

There is a lot of talk about ‘on-shoring’, meaning that US or UK companies would close their call centres in India and re-open it in the US/UK. Most of these cases are actually blown up and don’t represent a major trend. The reasons given are often populist to both the patriotic sentiments and the ‘client pride’ (local accents, ‘good quality’ etc.). In general the share of IT-BPO service work done in India still increased, the global market share stood at about 55 per cent in 2010. Nevertheless there are some shifts taking place. We document some of them:

Indian call centres: not as cheap as the UK
(4th of July 2011, ET)
“But with Indian salaries expected to rise 13 per cent this year, at least one UK company has decided it’s cheaper to operate out of northern England than in Mumbai. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, New Call Telecom said it was leaving Mumbai to open a call centre in Burnley, Lancashire after being attracted by low commercial rents and cheap labour costs there. Salaries in India aren’t that cheap any more. Add to that the costs of us flying out there, hotels and software, and the costs are at an absolute parity. Mr Eastwood added he also expected to save money through better staff retention in Burnley. In the UK we will pay workers the minimum wage. Given the current economic environment, we will get good “sticky” employees who will also receive bonuses linked to performance. The new call centre will operate out of rented property and employ up to 100 people. Some days later banking giant Santander announced to bring its call centres ‘back’ to the UK: 500 jobs would be created by the switch of call centre work from India to staff based in the UK cities of Glasgow, Leicester and Liverpool from this month. This year, BT has also created several hundreds of jobs in the West Midlands through the opening of a new call centre in Sandwell in the West Midlands. That investment follows a decision announced at its annual meeting two years ago that it too would be moving some offshored customer support jobs from India back the the UK. UK insurer Aviva moved back some jobs from its Indian BPO partner WNS to Norwich, UK, earlier this year. Although it did not give a reason, people familiar with the matter said it was facing quality issues.”

The following example demonstrates the ironic side of things: banking call centre relocation back from Asia because local workers are better in putting pressures of local workers in debt:

“The decision to bring the work – which had been handled from the Philippines under contract by Accenture has boosted employment at United’s offices in Warrington and Whitehaven in north-west England.
Russ Houlden, chief financial officer, said a review of United’s debt collection strategy had prompted the move – and a recognition that local staff were best positioned to deal efficiently with customers with genuine problems in meeting their bills.”

b) ‘Indian’ call centre companies opening call centres in the global north – Investing in the industrial decay (Manchester)

“On 14th of July 2011 the Indian firm Aegis announced to create 600 jobs by opening call centre in Manchester, UK. The contact centre will handle calls on behalf of Aegis clients, most of which are blue chip companies in sectors like healthcare, travel and hospitality, retail and technology.”

“As Indian companies grow in the U.S., outsourcing comes home
By Paul Glader, 20th of May 2011
New York – Ray Capuana paces the rows of cubicles in a haggard high-rise a stone’s throw from Wall Street as his people hustle the phones and hope for a bonus check. His employees are not bond traders, though. They are call center workers. Many are African Americans without college degrees. Some lack high school diplomas. They work for a Mumbai-based company called Aegis Communications. India’s outsourcing giants – faced with rising wages at home – have looked for growth opportunities in the United States. In this evolution, outsourcing has come home. The pay runs $12 to $14 an hour, with bonus checks of up to $730 a month. At $12 to $14 an hour with possible monthly bonuses, workers can make four times what call center workers in India do. But Essar executives say it’s worth paying more in wages to leverage a large U.S. presence to gain contracts with banks, health-care companies and governments that require the work to be done here.”

Importing cheap labour
Actually at least in the US most of the ‘Indian’ companies import some of their work-force and undermine local wage levels.

“In the past, if, say, BNY Mellon inked an IT contract with Infosys, Infosys would handle 70 percent of the work in India and send 30 percent of its project staff to the United States on temporary work visas. These Indian workers often live in ethnic enclaves on the outskirts of a city, work long hours and earn less than an American would for the same work. Companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Genpact and Infosys are the largest users of the H-1B visa program and have collectively brought as many as 30,000 workers into the country in a year on H-1B or other visas. The workers are often paid “home-country wages” in America. “That’s as low as $8,000 a year” with housing allowances, he says. The employers own the visas – so the workers can’t bargain for wages, and if they lose their job they have to leave the country.”

c) Call centre industry shifting further into the lowest wage regions, example Kashmir and Bhutan

In the end it’s a question of wages, and wages are low when workers conditions are miserable. Aegis not only opens call centres in Manchester, they and companies like Genpact are the global tracker dogs for an ‘educated low waged work-force’. They have to enter the fields of social disintegration and decaying dictatorships:

Kashmiri call centre gives flicker of hope to a bleak future
(12th of August 2011 ET)
IS one of the world’s most volatile regions – a flashpoint between two nuclear-armed states that has become an economic backwater.
Now, India’s IT revolution has arrived in Kashmir with the opening of the state’s first call centre, in the city of Srinagar. The 230-seat centre, which handles calls mostly from customers in other parts of India. The call centre is operated by Aegis, an outsourcing company owned by Essar Group. Much of its work involves handling calls from customers in India’s booming mobile phone market, which is adding 15 million subscribers a month. With 500,000 unemployed, there is no shortage of willing job applicants, while wages in Kashmir are among the lowest in India.

Despite slowdown, BPOs look for expansion in Bhutan
(24th of August 2011, FE)
While the industry body, Nasscom, sticks to its projection of 16-18 per cent growth in IT exports in 2011-12, industry leader Genpact is all set to foray into Bhutan. “We are all set to open our office in Bhutan and we hope to start the operations soon. Tiger (NV Tyagarajan) and his team are already working on it,” said Pramod Bhasin, vice-chairman Genpact. “We believe that our country is an ideal destination to start a BPO because of the conducive atmosphere we have. To begin with, we have a stable government that is eager to set up an outsourcing industry. Apart from Genpact, we are also in talks with Wipro and few other players to start their operations in Bhutan,” said Kezang, executive director, ministry of information and communications, government of Bhutan.

d) Sparsh workers strike again!

In March 2009 workers at Sparsh call centre went on strike against low wages.

https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-933/#fn2

The call centre closed and a smaller call centre was opened in a small town in Rajasthan. About two years later and several hundred kilometres in distance Sparsh again faced workers’ anger:

BSNL call centre employees on strike
(22nd of June 2011, Times of India)
AJMER: Employees of state’s first call centre – BSNL – went on strike alleging the organization for illegal deduction of money. They said they got payments lower than what was promised to them during their appointment. The management was in touch with the employees but no solution came until the evening. The call center was inaugurated by union IT and telecom state minister Sachin Pilot. About thirty people working with call centre ‘Sparsh’ walked out of the office on Friday morning. They shouted slogan against the officials. “They promised to pay Rs 5,500 at the time of appointment but they are paying us Rs 3, 700 only,” Minali, an employee, said. They also accused the HR and operation officials of harassment , “They have zero tolerance . Even when the system fails they deduct half day’s salary,” another employee said. When contacted, the officials refused to talk and said there was some misunderstanding , which they were trying to solve.

e) Intensified outsourcing of accountancy and personnel departments and supply-chain management by major corporations

Obviously it becomes more interesting when global call centre agents or back-office workers not only handle ‘global clients’ but form part of an actual global productive cooperation. For example a back-office in Gurgaon organises all shift-shedules for the German railways Deutsche Bahn. Some recent examples from Gurgaon:

“Capgemini inaugurated its new Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) centre in Gurgaon, its first BPO centre in North India and sixth in India
(23rd of July 2011, FT)
Spread across an area of 35000 sq. ft, the new BPO facility in Gurgaon will increase Capgemini’s BPO’s total capacity in India to over 4500 seats. The existing BPO staff in Gurgaon will deliver Global Order Management services to Nokia Siemens Networks, a leading global enabler of communications services, to support the company’s global Supply Chain Management.”

“Genpact acquires Nissan’s HR operations
(2nd of June 2011, ET)
India’s largest BPO firm, Genpact, on Monday bagged a seven-year HR outsourcing contract from its existing client Nissan by acquiring its shared services center for human resources in Yokohama , Japan. The acquisition will boost Genpact’s presence in Japan and the center ( Nissan Human Information Service )) will be renamed as Genpact Japan Service . The amount paid for acquisition was not disclosed by Genpact. Genpact will provide payroll, benefits, staffing, training and other key HR services to Nissan’s 54,000 employees. Genpact already manages procurement for Nissan from its offices in Gurgaon and Dalian.”

f) Squeezing space in ‘Indian call’ centres to counteract rising rent prices

Apart from cutting wages, free food, bonuses etc. a lot of call centres in India, particularly in high-rent urban areas, start to reduce the work and breathing space of their workers.

“IT, ITeS firms pack more employees in confined work space to save on real estate costs
3rd of August 2011)
“Under pressure from their clients, or parent organisations, to reduce bills amid increasing rentals and employee salaries, these IT-enabled services (ITeS) firms are taking stringent measures to cut costs. They are reducing space per employee, and decreasing the size of common areas like cafeterias and conference rooms. At a clutch of ITeS companies, office space is being shared between IT workers and the call centre workforce (as the latter work the late shift to synchronise with US timings). And a few firms have even been asking employees to work out of the library. At the Gurgaon offshore office mentioned above, space per employee has been reduced to 60 sq ft from 100 sq ft; at large IT companies, 125 sq ft per employee is a standard. Workstation width has dropped from 3-4 feet earlier to 2 feet. All this is leading to severe workrelated stress. “I can’t move my hands in the fear of hurting someone. And all day one has to hear colleagues talking about issues from boyfriends to food recipes to childcare, which is not just distracting, but irritating,” says Rajsekhar. A Kumar, an employee at one Gurgaon ITeS centre, adds: “In the morning, the lifts are so packed it feels like you are travelling in a Mumbai local train.” “In the West, people come out on the street to protest when governments allow higher bird density in poultry farms. Over the past five years, rentals for IT and ITeS firms in the main metros have gone up by between 20% and 90%, according to real estate consultant Jones Lang LaSalle India. Salaries, on the other hand, have seen a 15-20% growth year-on-year. A junior employee with generic skills in India costs about $20 an hour, or $40,000 a year. An equivalent resource in the US comes for $60,000. A senior executive resource in India costs $30 an hour, or $60,000 a year, while an employee with a similar experience and skill in the US costs $90,000 annually. The result? Margins in business process outsourcing (BPO) have been stagnating at 18% for the past years even as revenues declined in 2011. For IT services the drop in profitability is worse: margins have plunged from 32% in 2006 to 18% in fiscal year 2011.”

g) Foreign workers in Indian call centres – Report of a worker from the USA

And obviously there are quite a few foreign workers employed in Indian call centres now. A readable account of a US based worker from Gurgaon:
http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/05/indian-call-center-americanizati...

h) Strike by workers at Verizon in the US

They have been one of the proletarian back-bones of global communication workers and one of the first call centre workers who went on a mass strike in 2000.

http://libcom.org/library/6-confrontations-pulse-collective-struggle

They had to go on strike again this year in August, after Verizon announced to cut health care and pension. We know little about whether this strike had repercussions within the global telephone lines, whether Verizon call centre work was done by invisible (and probably unknowing) ‘scabs’ at the other line. This mass work-force which is still semi-integrated with the ‘hard-ware’ workers like electricians or line-maintenance could have reached out to a global work-force. We know too little about the strike and given the lack of first-hand accounts or reports by comrades we document the conclusion of the WSWS:

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/aug2011/pers-a22.shtml

i) Worker’s report from Tata Consultancy, Gurgaon

“Two brief accounts from Gurgaon where call centres continue with their exploitative practices
Tata, the salt to software conglomerate is no stranger to controversies. From the killing fields of Nandigram to driving the endangered Olive Ridley turtles to near extinction the Tatas have seen them and done them all. Outsourcing behemoth, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which operates in both information technology and business processing outsourcing (BPO) domains, has kept alive the age old Tata tradition of exploitation of workers – this time in Gurgaon call centres. As an employee of TCS, I have documented two such practices.
One of them relates to increasing the notice period. A notice period is the time which the employee must serve on resignation before he is relieved from company services. As per labour laws these are a part of the employment contract and cannot be increased to the disadvantage of the employees without employee consent. Rachel, an agent with TCS, narrated an incident when she found a better offer with a rival call centre and resigned from TCS. To her consternation, she was informed that her notice period had been unilaterally increased by TCS from two (as was mentioned in her employment contract with TCS) to three months. She was not informed of this change in the terms of her employment (which is completely illegal in the first place) and she came to know about it only when she had resigned. Since she had already committed on a joining date to the rival call centre – which she was unable to meet – she was left with no choice but to take back her resignation and continue working with TCS. On the first glance this may not appear to be a serious violation of employee rights. Reality however is different. Since call centres are not unionised the agents have no negotiating power. This creates fertile conditions for exploitation by the management all of which is well documented in call centre literature. The only real power that an employee possesses is to resign. By depriving the employees of this power they are further subjugated to management whims leading to possibility for pervasive exploitation.
Timesheets are meant to document the man-hours logged by agents at work. Agents fill them at the end of a day’s work. Call centres extensively use them to determine the salary payout to the agents. Abhishek, an agent with a voice based process for domestic client narrates that their team was asked to fill 8 working hours of work even as they were asked to put in 10 hours. What it meant was that they were paid for 8 hours work while they were putting 10 hours. What is more interesting is that there virtually no protests on what was a patently exploitative mandate. As Abhishek notes, the typical reaction of an agent was of docile acceptance coupled with the acknowledgement of lack of negotiating power vis-a-vis the employers.
These two instances only go to reveal the extent of exploitation of the workforce and an urgent need for unionisation in the call centre space.

PS- Some names have been changed in order to prevent the victimisation of my sources. Again this goes to show the oppressive nature of neo-liberal global capitalism that is pervasive in Gurgaon.”

*** A Prelude? Current Problems of the Real Estate Giant DLF –

The real estate company DLF was the symbol of the ‘Shining India’ of the post-1990 period, the shooting star on the stock-markets and the builder of neoliberal city Gurgaon. The most recent news about DLF might be an indicator of the current condition of the ‘Indian boom’ and will have an impact on the local (political) ruling class, which has been forged in the gold rush of ‘land deals’. We should keep an open eye at further developments.

DLF to sell 13-acre Gurgaon plot for Rs 300 crore to ease debt burden
(19th of August 2011, ET)
India’s largest developer DLF is selling a 13-acre plot in Gurgaon, Haryana, as part of its plan to ease its debt burden through asset sales. About 1 million sq ft of commercial space can be built on the plot, which is expected to fetch Rs 300 crore for the realty firm. DLF’s net debt increased by Rs 100 crore during the April-June quarter to Rs 21,524 crore. The firm had said that it plans to sell developed assets, including IT parks and its hotels business as well as hotel plots to raise Rs 7,000 crore over the next two years. The company reported that the money from the sale of non-core assets was Rs 165 crore in April-June quarter. The company is also trying to sell land in other cities such as Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Chennai. DLF has also appointed Goldman Sachs as an advisor to sell Aman Resorts, a luxury hotel chain of 23 hotels across 12 countries it had acquired in November 2007 for $400 million. Real estate giant DLF may have to pay Rs 900 crore extra penalty if the Competition Commission of India (CCI) finds it guilty of abusing its dominant market position in three more projects in Gurgaon.

Gurgaon Workers News #44

Wildcat strikes, factory occupations and protest camps

Since June 2011 around 3,500 workers at Maruti Suzuki car plant openly confront the factory regime and its institutional allies in Manesar, in the south of Delhi. [1] Their struggle leaped over to other automobile factories in the industrial corridor, which brought the world’s third largest automobile assembly plant in nearby Gurgaon to a halt. While in the US automobile workers have to confront the introduction of a union sanctioned “Two Tier”-wage system, which enforces a dramatic (global) wage drop and generational division, the Maruti Suzuki workers refuse the status as cheap labour.

In the most significant workers’ struggle in India in the last two decades the young workers managed to undermine the companies’ attempts to divide them along the lines of temporary and permanent contracts. The struggle attacked the core of the Indian development model and puts it into question: integration into global markets and production structures on the highest technological level combined with harshest casualisation of the workforce. While waves of protest against the impacts of the crisis rock the globe, their occupations and protest camps are an angry exclamation that this system is in crisis even when it is ‘booming’. In its potential their struggle is a chain in the missing link between the strike waves at Honda in China in 2010 and the mass mobilisations against corrupt austerity regimes during the ‘Spring Uprisings’ and in the global North in 2011.

We hope to be able to provide some material and thoughts for the necessary debate about this dispute and the general question of ‘how to organise for the self-emancipation of the working class’.

*** Collection of Quotes from the Front-Line –
*** Summary of the Struggle from June to October 2011 –
*** Chronology –
*** General Political Thesis for the Debate –
*** Further Material –
* Links, Videos and Documents (Written Agreements) –
* Contribution for the Debate: A Critique of the ‘Balance-Sheet of the Maruti Suzuki Struggle’ in GurgaonWorkersNews no.41 –
* Article in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar with Workers’ Reports after the first Factory Occupation in June –
* Short Reports by Workers in Automobile Factories in Manesar/Faridabad, Distributed by FMS Shortly before Dispute at Maruti Suzuki Broke Out –

Collection of Quotes from the Front-Line

“When we went home finally after a long stint occupying the factory, we saw how fast the world is changing on television, there are hundreds and thousands of people like us, working people, young people, out on the streets, occupying so many cities, New York, London, Rome…, we realized that we are not alone…that makes us feel very happy…that is why you see so many of us smiling here…we are angry, but we are not beaten, we are out here, and we will not give in now easily…the whole world is watching the whole world.”
(Maruti worker after the end of the second occupation)

“Indisciplined workers inside the plant can cause an even greater loss'”
(Maruti Suzuki chairman R.C. Bhargava, after decision for ‘lock-out’)

“But we are not donkeys. We cannot work like slaves. The problem is the immense pressure. They are extracting the work of 5,000 from half that number. We cannot go to the washroom during any other time, and in case we do, we have to give an unconditional apology letter. We are giving our best to the company, but what are we getting in turn? The production capacity of Maruti has gone up from 10 lakh units to 12.7 lakh units in during the last two years, but our salary has not gone up at all. Where is the incentive for hard work?”
(Maruti worker)

“A process of healing had to begin, and it was clear from the amount of feedback we received from that exercise that we had been somewhat cut off from how they [the workers] were feeling.”
(Maruti official after the first occupation and the decision to engage Brahmakumaris spiritual organisation for ‘re-conciliation’)

“My wife and I talked it over. We decided we’re young enough to fight this. What do we have to lose? If we win, we don’t have to be slaves any anymore. If we lose, I’ll find work somewhere else.”
(Maruti worker on strike after second occupation)

“Global investors are watching this very closely. India’s low-cost manufacturing growth story is built upon labour stability.”
(Stock-market trader SMC Global Securities)

“We would not call it a strike as there is no labour union at Munjal Showa. It is a fallout of whatever is happening at Maruti’s plant. The protesting workers from Maruti’s plant joined people here at our plant last evening.”
(C.M. Midha, general manager at Munjal Showa after wildcat strike at his factory)

“These hands have worked so hard that had I put them to use in my family farm in Hisar, my folks would have been very happy. We have delivered 2 lakh cars when the management wanted it, working overtime and breathlessly and we have been taken for granted.” Asked why he does not go back home to work on his farm, he shoots back: “I wanted to be something else.”
(Maruti worker)

“We are on strike in support of the Manesar workers. Once they are issues are resolved then we will raise our demands. Our workers are paid less than what the company pays the Manesar workers. We want the same pay for all workers.”
(Powertrain Union official, 21st of October)

“When you look at this entire situation, then we admit that there is a need for us to bring in adaptability in a young population that is very, very young. I think definitely, it must be somewhere more from the side of the young inexperienced workers and I think it is typically a question of capability to adjust and adapt and have some respect for law”
(Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Managing Executive Officer, after the start of the second occupation)

“Once a problem starts, it does not just go away.”
(Maruti chairman R.C. Bhargava after the ‘lock-out’ started)

Chronology

Please feel free to correct and add to this chronology. We need a collective memory for the struggles to come.

The First Occupation: 4th of June to 17th of June 2011

3rd of June
Representatives of the MSEU meet the Labour Department to complete the formalities regarding registration of the union. The same day the labour department officials inform Maruti management about the issue. The management begins forcing workers to sign blank papers in order to be able to sabotage the union formation.

4th of June
Start of the 13 days of the first occupation. After the union reps try to retrieve some of the blank signed papers, management resorts to dismissals and suspensions. Workers start a sit-down strike in the afternoon and occupy the factory.

5th of June
The management starts to seal the factory gates and placed a row of security guards in front of them in order to prevent exchange between workers inside and outside, between workers and supporters and media. In nearby Delhi the police attacks the mass protest of ‘anti-corruption Guru’ Ramdev brutally.

6th of June
Only after a demonstration outside the gate, the food supply through family and friends is permitted again. Police is deployed both inside and outside the premises, they remove some tents, which supporters had put up.

8th of June
The main unions AITUC, CITU, HMS, INTUC, UTUC form a ‘joint action committee’ to ‘support’ the strike.

9th of June
The ‘joint action committee’ mobilises “workers of 50 to 60 factories in Gurgaon”, around 1,000 to 2,000 union members gather in front of the Maruti factory gates.

10th of June
The strike is declared illegal by Haryana government. Two truckloads additional police arrive on the factory premises. Under pressure 250 workers decide to leave the occupation. Due to lack of storage space around 200 to 250 of the suppliers, most of them located in the proximity of the plant, have to reduce or stop production.

12th of June
The Maruti Suzuki management offers to take back 5 of the 11 sacked workers, but the union refuses. The main unions announce a two-hour solidarity strike for the 14th of June 2011.

13th of June
The management announces that it would accept a separate union for the Manesar plant, but under the umbrella of the company council, which would be responsible for wage revisions and other general issues – a fake offer.

14th of June
AITUC secretary Sachdev first announces that the two-hours solidarity strike is on, only to proclaim that it is called off ‘due to negotiations’.

16th of June
The management tells the media that it would try to ‘revive’ production lines in the Gurgaon plant for models, which had been moved to Manesar.

17th of June
End of the first occupation. The dispute is settled with help of main trade unions and MUKU (Gurgaon plant union). Maruti promises to turn the dismissals into suspension. Union reps accept ‘no work, no pay’ plus penalty wage reduction. Maruti says that the occupation has caused 93 million USD loss. Maruti Suzuki brings in external trainers and the spiritual organisation Brahmakumaris to organise sessions with the workers, where they were encouraged to speak about their problems. After lock-out at Denso in 2010 the same ‘spiritual organisation’ had to heal the ‘industrial relations’.

The Underground: 18th of June to 28th of August

18th to 25th of June
According to management sources the output of the Manesar factory during that period was only 1,100 cars per day instead of the usual 1,200. Workers report that most supervisors, who had been high-handed, now treat them with a certain awe.

16th of July
After 11 years the MUKU holds elections. Workers in Manesar boycott the stage show. Only a dozen votes were polled.

26th of July
The application to register Maruti Suzuki Employees’ Union (MSEU) is rejected by the state authorities for formal reasons (illegal strike, faulty signatures).

27th of July
A group of workers hired through contractors complain about the work load and demand more workers to be hired for the job. The department supervisor verbally abuses one of the workers. His workmates support him and the supervisor is forced to apologise in front of the workers.

28th of July
Police enters the factory and take away four workers from their work-places and announce six suspensions. In response workers in the whole plant stop working and gather. The company is forced to ‘show’ that the four workers have not been arrested. The company orders that no buses are sent out to collect the B-shift. Workers arrive by their own means, but Maruti refuses them entry. The A-shift workers refuse to leave the factory. After a short stale-mate the company lets the B-shift workers enter.

8th to 17th of August
Although the management promised to withdraw the suspensions if ‘normality returns to the factory’, management refuses to do so. Instead the company continues hiring new ITI workers from Kanpur and other colleges. The company also fences of all grass and outside areas on the premises, which have been used by workers during the occupation. Supervisors start using their previous high-handedness towards the workers again.

23rd to 24th of August
Four more workers suspended. The company complains about production loss due to go slow and sabotage. “On August 24, 1,230 cars were planned to be produced, but only 437 were assembled. Out of which, just 96 cars could pass quality check”.

The Protestcamp / Lock-Out: 28th of August to 30th of September

28th of August
Start of the 33 days of lock-out / protest camp. During the night, when only a few hundred workers and supervisors on overtime are in the plant a 300 to 400 strong police force in riot gear enter the factory and establish themselves there.

29th of August
The management refuses to let any worker enter the factory without signing the ‘good-conduct undertaking’. Only 18 workers sign. A nearly 500-metre-long aluminium wall is put up covering the service lane, blocking the view from both inside and outside. Notices announce dismissal of 11 workers and 10 suspensions.

30th of August
The company claims to have started ‘production’ in the highly automated areas (weld-, press-, paint-shop) and announces to ‘have found 200 potential ITI workers who will be hired on contract basis in the next 2-3 days’. 12 more workers sacked and 16 more suspended – allegedly all office-bearers of the MSEU.

31st of August
“The company brought in 120 ITI-trained workers this morning to the plant on a contract basis to strengthen manpower for assembly operations”. In addition, 50 engineers from the Gurgaon factory and 290 supervisors are working at the Manesar plant. The company claims to have 500 trained and experienced people available for production. Only 36 workers have signed the bond so far.

1st of September
Nearly 3,000 members from 35 unions in the region assemble in front of the Manesar plant to express solidarity with the protesting workers. The unions announce to go on a tool-down strike the following week if the management declines to negotiate.

2nd of September
Some contractors and Maruti middle-management round up around 150 Maruti workers in Aliyar village near the Maruti plant in Manesar. The workers are threatened and some are beaten. After workers resist the contractors/thugs, the police arrive and arrest some of the Maruti workers. Meanwhile the employers’ association ASSOCHAM asks the Haryana government “to take firm action against those who are trying for sometime to malign the name of Gurgaon, which has become destination for many Indian and global companies.” The company claims to have produced 125 Swift cars from Manesar Plant A and Plant B this day. Normal production in Manesar: 1,200 cars (150 SX4, 300 to 400 A Stars, 650 to 750 Swift).

3rd of September
Some 70 students from Delhi universities visit the Maruti workers. Towards evening, workers have to shift their protest-tent across the road, as the management obtained a court injunction against any protest within 100 metres of the factory. The company claims the current strength of people available for production to be around 800 (90 engineers from Gurgaon, 290 supervisors and 425 new manual workers). The new workers have to stay inside the factory day and night. This workforce is supposed to have produced 150 Swift.

5th of September
The MSEU publishes a communiqué: “The production was at a total halt in the beginning of last week, and in the last 2-3 days, a meagre 8-10 cars were produced in the plant, which are all faulty models somehow clubbed together.” The company claims that so far 63 permanent workers have signed the ‘good conduct bond’.

11th of September
The MSEU meets with representatives from around thirty trade unions and repeats its demand of the right to organise and unionise, to withdraw the charge-sheet, termination and suspension of 57 workers. In turn Maruti announces: “From Tuesday onwards the company will start hiring trained technicians, who will be on the permanent rolls, to replace the current workers who refuse to sign the bond.”

12th of September
Wildcat strike at automobile supplier Munjal Showa in Manesar, which spreads to the companies’ Gurgaon and Haridwar plant. The 1,200 workers in Manesar are hired on temporary basis and are not unionised, they produce around 60,000 shock-absorbers per day. They demand permanent contracts and the company to stop shifting workers between plants. The production at motorcycle factories of Honda and Hero Honda is threatened due to lack of supply.

13th of September
The wildcat strike at Munjal Showa ends. The management agrees to make 125 workers permanent, and to promise that after completion of 3 [5?] years of training, all workers will be made permanent. The management complains about ‘negative influence from Maruti Suzuki workers’. AITUC, CITU, HMS and 11 members of independent unions revive the ‘Joint Action Committee’. In Gurgaon around 1,500 union members and students demonstrate in support of Maruti workers. Maruti claims to have 1,100 work-force in Manesar, after having hired additional 100 ITI workers today.

14th of September
Strike at Suzuki Powertrain Ltd. and Suzuki Castings in Manesar and workers at Suzuki Motorcycle India Ltd. in nearby Kherki Dhaula in solidarity with Maruti Suzuki workers and for own demands. More than 4,000 workers are involved. When asked for support MUKU at Gurgaon plant talks about ‘potential of a hunger strike next week’. Around 350 workers hired through contractor engaged with loading and unloading at Maruti Manesar plant also go on strike and demand driver instead of helper grade. Suzuki announces to locate a planned $1.3 billion passenger car factory in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

15th of September
Negotiations at Suzuki Powertrain, Casting and Motorcycles. Scuffles at gates of Maruti Manesar plant when the company tries to force three buses with temp workers inside the plant. Four strikers injured and arrested. The media reports about 11 injured supervisors.

16th of September
While Maruti announces to close the Gurgaon plant due to lack of parts from Suzuki Powertrain, the union HMS negotiates an end of strike at Suzuki Powertrain and Motorcycles, the workers at Suzuki castings also call off their strike. Gurgaon plant operational again on 18th of September. Meanwhile the “Joint Action Committee” calls for demonstration in Gurgaon, but after the district president of the AITUC was arrested (‘risk of ‘breach of peace’) the demonstration is postponed.

17th of September
Short strike Manesar Honda HMSI plant in order to get the AITUC officer out, at 2pm he is released against bail. At the stock markets analysts downgraded their call on MSIL shares from ‘buy’ to ‘accumulate’.

18th of September
Police arrests three MSEU leaders when they come out from negotiations with management and state administration on basis of phoney charges.

19th of September
The three MSEU leaders are released. Meeting of worried company leaders (Maruti, Bony Polymers, Honda, Rico Auto) to discuss the industrial dispute’. Maruti announces that they will ask 350 trainees to resume duty within next three days and claims to have produced 600 Swift from Gurgaon and Manesar plant (no separate figures for Manesar available). HMS leader proclaim that workers are ready to sign ‘good conduct bonds’, but insist on taking back all suspended and dismissed.

20th of Sep
Maruti dismisses five more workers in connection with the alleged scuffles at the gate.

21st of September
“After exceeding the normal production levels for the Swift, the company is planning to start production of the SX4 and A-star models at Manesar plant,” Maruti claims in a statement and announces to have hired 100 more regular workers. 104 workers at the Manesar plant are said to have signed the ‘Good Conduct Bond’ since the start of the dispute.

22nd of September
Day of solidarity: Demonstration by section of railway union in Japan against arrest of Maruti union leaders. About a dozen trade unions demonstrate in various places across India. More than 100 people protest in front of Haryana Bhawan in Delhi and at a Maruti Suzuki showroom near Connaught Place. Meanwhile the media announces that the total workforce at Manesar has increased to more than 1,300.

23rd of September
Company sends individual SMS to permanent workers mobile phones and asks them to go back to work. Workers’ families in villages are also contacted to ‘convince’ their sons/husbands to resume their duty.

24th of September
Maruti claims to have produced a total of 700 Swift, out of which 400 in Manesar, no other models. 116 workers are said to have signed the bond.

26th of September
Maruti claims that in total 1,400 workers are working at Manesar factory, out of which around 800 newly hired.

27th of September
Talks fail, workers in Manesar accept MUKU (Gurgaon plant union) as negotiator. MUKU announces a ‘hunger strike’ for the 28th of September, in case the management will not move. The AITUC indicates it will press for an immediate return to work if the company agrees to place about half of 62 workers it has fired for “indiscipline and insubordination” on suspension instead. The Economic Times claims that total work-force is at 1,500 and that Maruti started producing the second (out of three) model in Manesar.

29th of September
Two weeks of lock-out of 2,500 Bosch automobile workers in Bangalore begins after tool-down strike. Bosch wanted to outsource certain work-steps and started to dismantle machinery.

30th of September
Agreement and end of lock-out / protest camp. Workers sign bond; 18 trainees are taken back; 15 dismissals revoked and turned into suspension; total 44 permanent workers now still suspended. ‘No work, no pay’ plus one daily wage per day wage reduction as penalty. Maruti says that the 33 days lock-out created 150 million USD loss (22,000 cars).

The Second Occupation: 7th of October to 14th of October

3rd of October
On the first day of work after the lock-out / protest camp Maruti management refuses entry to the 1,200 workers hired through contractor who took part in the protest and previous occupation. Inside the factory Maruti decided to shift a lot of workers from one work-station to the other, which caused discontent, so did the company move to suspend the company bus service, which fetches workers who live further away.

3rd to 7th of October
In frustration and at the end of financial resources around 100 workers hired through contractor take their final dues, while the rest puts pressure on company and fellow workers inside the plant. Contractors try to prevent workers to get to the Maruti gates by threatening them with violence.

7th of October
Workers inside Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant, Suzuki Powertrain, Suzuki Castings and Suzuki Motorcycles occupy their factories in support of the ‘locked-out’ temporary workers at Maruti. Workers at Omax Auto, Lumax DT, HiLex, Lumax, Endurance Technologies, Degania Medical Devices, FCC Rico, Satyam Auto go on solidarity strike, a total of more than 10,000 workers.
There are an estimated 2,000 workers inside the Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory. This includes about 700 regular workers and also the workers newly hired during the 33 days of lock-out.

8th of October
The company uses the media to claim that the workers are indulging “in several random acts of violence and damaged property inside the factory premises.” “The agitating workers attacked co-workers, supervisors and executives in multiple incidents of violence.” They claim to have ‘rescued’ 350 workers from the factory with the help of the police.

9th of October
Maruti Suzuki India dismisses 10 workers, terminates five trainees, suspends 10 and ‘rescues’ another 100 employees from the plant. Still around 1,500 workers inside and over 1,000 workers outside the factory. Newly hired workers inside the plant ‘fraternise’ with strikers. Meanwhile armed labour contractors (Tirupati Enterprises) fire gun-shots and throw bottles at striking workers outside the Suzuki Motorcycle plant. At least three workers get injured. Police lets attackers get off.

10th of October
Occupations at Powertrain, Motorcycles and Maruti Suzuki continue. Maruti officials announce, that they ‘will need the police to evict the workers”. Police is overstretched due to election time in Hirsa, another district in Haryana, ‘private bouncers’ are hired to keep people out of the industrial area of Manesar – comrades say that the ‘atmosphere is tense’. The Haryana labour department issues a ‘breach of settlement’ notice on striking workers.

11th of October
Due to the halt in supply of diesel engines and transmissions from Suzuki Powertrain India, the production at Maruti’s Gurgaon plant falls to 1,000 units against a normal daily production of 2,800 units. The local class of land-lords and village hierarchy mobilises against the strike: village councils in four villages around Manesar write to the state authorities to ‘find a quick resolution to the strike’. More physical threats from local contractors / village leaders on striking workers.

12th of October
Production in Gurgaon plant falls to 600 units.

13th of October
Maruti announces to shut Gurgaon plant due to lack of parts after five days of strike at Suzuki Powertrain. Some models (M800, Omni, Eeco and Gypsy) do not need parts from Suzuki Powertrain, but their production volume accounts only for a small share. Maruti Suzuki suppliers in turn start to shut their plants, for example Sona Koyo. The elections in Hirsa district are over. At a gate meeting main trade union leaders announce that they will bring the whole of Gurgaon to a stand-still if the police touches the workers inside the factory.

14th of October
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh observes regarding Maruti, ” Labor unrest is a matter of serious concerns, we need to address it efficiently.” 18 workers at Powertrain and 10 at Motorcycle plant are dismissed in the morning. One office member of the MSEU union arrested from his house at 2 am. Raids also take place at houses of other MSEU representatives. More cops enter Manesar, they take down the workers’ food-kitchen, which had supplied around 4,000 workers at Powertrain and Maruti Suzuki plant. There are said to be around 1,500 to 2,500 cops inside the Maruti factory now, they shut down access to water, canteen and toilets. Late at night workers decide to leave the factory and continue strike outside. Maruti complains that some ‘robots have been damaged and machine settings altered’. Earlier the day, according to the media, over 100 analysts, investors and fund managers of Maruti Suzuki participated in a conference call with Sonu Gujjar, president of Maruti Suzuki Employees Union, to ‘talk about the situation’. No leaders of the main trade unions around.

15th of October
Workers at Powertrain and Motorcycles decide to end their occupation and continue strike outside. The MSEU publishes a communiqué saying that they stick to the unity between temp workers and permanents and that they call all trade unions to show support. The AITUC says: “We will observe a solidarity day on October 17”.

The Second Protest-Camp / Strike: 16th of October to 21st of October

16th of October
Maruti workers decide to celebrate Diwali as a black day if demands not met. Maruti announces that “Production has started in a limited way at the company’s plant in Manesar. To start with, the weld shop has been made operational.” Production in Gurgaon resumes, too, although only those models which do not need parts from Powertrain Suzuki Powertrain. Meanwhile in nearby NOIDA several hundred workers at solar-panel and optical disc factory of the multi-national Moser Baer go on strike and demand higher wages.

17th of October
Talks at Maruti between management and union reps fail. The trade union ‘day of solidarity’ takes place: an afternoon (and after work) rally in Gurgaon, several thousand union members from Gurgaon factories and students attend.

18th of October
The company claims that now 400 workers work in the Manesar plant and that 1,700 cars have been produced in Gurgaon. An two-hour tool-down strike announced by the main trade unions were called off, because ‘management entered negotiations again’.

19th of October
Maruti announced that work-force in Manesar is at 600 and that they rolled out 200 cars. Suzuki also claims that production has been started at Powertrain, but the president of the Suzuki Powertrain India Employee Union says that no work happens at the plant apart from cleaning.

20th of October
A dozen unions in Kolkata announce solidarity rallies for the Maruti workers. Labourstart campaign delivers more than 4200 letters to local management in less than 24 hours, complaining about the repression.

21st of October
Agreement in Manesar: the management agrees to take back 64 permanent workers, but another 33 will remain suspended (30 from Maruti, 3 from Powertrain). The 1,200 workers hired through contractors are supposed to be taken back on. Bus service is supposed to be provided again. Instead of recognising MSEU the company will set up a ‘grievance committee’ and ‘labour welfare committee’ with “equal representation from the management and the workers . Presence of a Labour Officer from the state government will be a key comforting factor”. Strikes at Suzuki Powertrain and Suzuki Motorcycles are also called off. The negotiations are said to have been a 42 hours marathon during which workers representatives were put under pressure of ‘pending arrests’ and ‘no permission to leave the venue of negotiations’.

22nd of October
Production resumes in Manesar.

Further Material

* Links, Videos and Documents –

* Links for the Debate

http://www.radicalnotes.com
http://www.facebook.com/groups/WithMarutiWorkers/?ref=ts
http://kafila.org/2011/09/06/speed-and-control-at-manesar-why-is-the-mar...

* Videos

http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/truth-vs-hype-maruti-trouble-at-th...

http://www.radicalnotes.com/journal/2011/10/21/working-conditions-maruti...

http://www.radicalnotes.com/journal/2011/10/20/video-maruti-suzukis-atte...

http://www.radicalnotes.com/journal/2011/10/18/october-17-gurgaon-rally-...

* Documents

17th of June Agreement
The 11 terminated workers will be taken back, but enquiry proceedings will be initiated against them and “appropriate disciplinary action” will be taken. Regular employees will be considered to have resumed work on June 17th, but actual shifts will resume from midnight on June 18th. An extra day of work on June 19th will be required to compensate for not working on June 17th.
In accordance with the provisions of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 and the standing orders of the company, workers participating in the strike are liable to a fine of three days wages for every day of work lost. However, it was agreed that, for the moment, only ten days’ wages will be deducted (ie one day’s wage for each day of the strike). The remaining amount of the fine will be waived if, and only if, the workers maintain good behaviour and discipline, and abide by the rules of the company.
In accordance with the principle of “no work, no pay”, the workers will not be paid for the days they were on strike.
The workers agreed to maintain discipline, ensure expected levels of production and not indulge in any individual or collective activities that would hamper the normal functioning of the factory. The management also agreed not to behave badly or hold a grudge against the workers.
The agreement will be taken as a final resolution of all disputes between the workers and the management.

30th of October Agreement
The details of the settlement are as below:
1. 15 workmen who have been dismissed shall be reinstated and placed under suspension and impartial inquiry will be initiated against them.
2. 18 trainees who have been terminated will be reinstated.
3. 29 workmen placed under suspension will remain under suspension and face impartial inquiry.
4. On the principle of “no work, no pay”, no workman shall be eligible for wages from August 29 until the day of reporting for duties. In addition, a penalty of “deduction of wage for one day” shall be imposed upon them.
5. All workmen shall sign the revised good conduct bond and join duties with effect from October 3.

Good Conduct Bond*
In Terms of Clause 25(3) of the Certified Standing Orders

I,………………………. S/o…………………………. Staff
no…………. do hereby execute and sign this good conduct bond
voluntarily in my own volition in accordance with Clause 25(3) of the
Certified Standing Orders. I undertake that upon joining my duties I shall give normal production in disciplined manner and that I shall not resort to go slow, intermittent stoppage of work, stay-in strike, work to rule, sabotage or otherwise indulge in any activity, which would hamper the normal production in the factory. I am aware that resorting to go slow, intermittent stoppage of work, stay-in strike, or indulging in any other activity having adverse effect on the normal production constitutes a major misconduct under the Certified Standing Orders and the punishment provided for committing such acts of misconducts includes dismissal from service without notice, under clause 30 of the Certified Standing Orders. I, therefore, do hereby agree that if, upon joining my duties, I am found
indulging in any activity such as go slow, intermittent stoppage of work, stay-in strike, work to rule, sabotage or any other activity having the effect of hampering normal production, I shall be liable to be dismissed from service as provided under the Certified Standing Orders.

Date:……………………
Signature of the workman.

“I agree that if on joining duty I am found indulging in go-slow, intermittent stoppage of work, stay-in strike, work to rule, sabotage or otherwise indulge in any activity which would hamper the normal production in the factory, I will be liable to be dismissed from service without notice, as provided under the certified standing orders.”
(i) Apply or obtain leave on a false pretext.
(ii) Lack of proper personal appearance, sanitation and cleanliness including proper grooming.
(iii) Conduct in private life prejudicial to the reputation of the company.
(iv) Remaining in a toilet for a substantially long period of time.
(v) Habitual neglect of cleanliness.

* Contribution for the Debate: A Critique of the ‘Balance-Sheet of the Maruti Suzuki Struggle’ in GurgaonWorkersNews no.41 –

We thank the comrades who took the time to write down a contribution to the debate. We did not yet find the time for a proper reply, but hope that a reply can partly be found in the political thesis of this newsletter and the Faridabad Majdoor Samachar article, following their contribution below.

ARE THE MARUTI WORKERS REALLY DEFEATED?
A DISCUSSION ON “BALANCE SHEET OF MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS STRIKE”
Published in GurgaonWorkerNews No 41 July 9, 2011

1. We think that this is very unfortunate that the comrades who have drawn up the “balance sheet” have termed this struggle as a defeat. We have been told that “Despite the young workers’ courage and the fact that the company was hit at times of full-capacity the strike ended in a defeat for the mass of workers.” Why? They continued in that line, “They did not enforce any betterment of conditions and wages, which was their main concern.” Is it really a fact that the Maruti workers started this strike for “betterment of conditions and wages” as has been told by the comrades. No, the comrades have completely overlooked the fact that the workers did not start the strike with any such demands. The strike started spontaneously because the management started to coerce the workers to join the management controlled union. It is also a fact that the workers, either a section or whole of them, were trying to organise themselves in a separate, fighting union. Even if it is true that only a section of workers were active in organizing this new union, the fact that the new union had the backing of overwhelming majority of workmen had become evident from later facts. So, actually the strike was not at all for any demands, like wage revision or improvement of their service conditions as has been assumed by the GurgaonWorkerNews. The workers went for a strike to foil the conspiracy of the management to force them into joining the management-controlled union; the workers went for the strike to preserve their right to form their own union, they fought for their control over their own struggle. Had they achieved their demand? Definitely not completely. But, definitely they have foiled the plan of the management and they have done it by fighting alone against such a mighty management like Suzuki management and who had the complete backing of the Government of Haryana, and definitely we can well assume, the overt and covert backing of the Central Government also, which is very likely in this era of Globalisation. Yes, it is fact that the workers could not force the management to recognize the new union. Actually they did not wage their strike to do that. They did not heighten the movement for recognition of their union by management. They kept themselves within the limit to foil the conspiracy of management. They have done it and the workers are not only still organised, they have consolidated their strength and basically they have formed their union through the strike, whether they have got the formal registration or not is immaterial to us. We have seen in the meeting held just after the withdrawal of the strike, the workers themselves could recognize and appreciate this fact that not the registration, but this unity shown and achieved during this 11 day is the real union. But, unfortunately our comrades could not appreciate it. It is obvious that the struggle between the workmen and the management will continue regarding the organisation of the workers, the result of which will decide the fate of their next struggle, struggle for their economic demands. However, for the present the workers have foiled the conspiracy of the mighty Maruti management, they are still united and organised, consolidated their strength and trying to launch their next battle. These achievements are no mean achievement, considering the disintegrated, unorganized state of the working class movement through which we are passing now. The representatives of big bourgeoisie will definitely try to belittle the achievement. Should we also do likewise?

2. Another important achievement of the workers is that they have forced the management to take back the dismissed workmen. It is important because it will help to retain their strength. Had the management been able to dismiss the leadership it would have helped them to advance in their conspiracy to break the unity of the workmen, conversely by forcing the management to take back the dismissed workmen, the workers have been able to advance in the direction of organisation and also future struggle.

3. Even if the workers had not achieved anything palpable (“material gain”), even if they had to go down fighting, would their struggle lose all significance? Should the real representatives of working class think in that way? For one moment remember how many struggles of historic significance had been actually defeated in terms of achievements. No, do not think at all that we are comparing this struggle with any such struggle of historic significance. What we are trying to impress is simply the fact that for anybody who is fighting not for any improvement of the condition of working class keeping the system of exploitation intact but for the abolition of the system of exploitation as a whole, it is not important at all what gains in wages or service conditions the workers are now achieving, the only important thing to them should be whether the workers are uniting and organizing themselves more and more, whether their struggling unity and organisation is preparing them to fight the capitalists, helping them to discover their real strength, helping them to stand on their feet, build their own, independent organisation which will lead them in their struggle for the complete emancipation from the exploitation of the capitalist class. Definitely, these spontaneous, economic struggles of the workmen, especially in the narrow factory plane will not itself advance to the struggle of working class for complete emancipation. But, definitely, through these struggles the workers are awakening and from among these fighting workmen, will awaken the advance, class conscious workers of future working class struggle. Those, who are fighting for the complete emancipation of working class, should not evaluate any struggle of workers from what material gains in terms of improvements in the condition of the workers the struggle could achieve or not, but whether the struggle will help the workers to advance in the long path of struggle for complete emancipation.

4. Undoubtedly there is a tendency among the workers in general to rely on the formal recognition or registration from the Government. Definitely, it is a sign of their backwardness, which we have seen amongst the fighting workmen of different factories, that too, of different areas of the country, who think that the formal registration will help them to maintain their union, will help them to resist the attacks of the management to break their union. We know very well that the real strength of the workers lies in their struggling unity, not in any formal registration or recognition and so the workers should not have depended so much on the registration of the union. However, is it not natural that the workers will display such examples of backwardness, considering the state of the working class movement in which they are in. Is there any real Working Class party to help? To educate these fighting workers? Are there any working class organisations which have the real organic link with the masses of workers, upon whom the workers can depend and also depend in reality? No. There is no force to educate, to guide the fighting workers in their struggle, no force to develop the workers struggle into a real struggle for the complete emancipation from exploitation. The workers are struggling and also learning from the experience of their struggle and life on their own. So, in this process it is very likely that they will make mistakes, but we must keep faith on them and help them. Can we help them by belittling their achievements and inflating their weaknesses, backwardness etc?

5. The workers are learning through their experiences of struggle. Summing up their experiences of the betrayal of established parties, especially the left parties, the workmen are trying to establish their control on their organisation and struggle. The Maruti workers are also showing such signs in their struggle. They have depended somewhat on some establish parties to get the registration, but in essence maintained their independence over their struggle. This is the most significant feature in this struggle. However, the Gurgaon Workers News has rightly pointed out that “is naïve to repeat the phrase of ‘betrayal’ of the main unions.”, the workers should free themselves from any dependence on the established parties and more and more depend on their own strength. We do not know what they meant by ” ‘political’ experience of self-organisation”, but it is undoubtedly true that political consciousness of workers would have helped the workers not only to free them from the influences of the old established parties but also to free themselves from the influences of the reformist politics of these parties. In fact, the dependence of the workers on the legal structures is an apt example of such pernicious influences of reformist politics practiced by the established parties, especially the so-called ‘left’ parties. The political consciousness, more correctly, class consciousness of the workers will help them to free themselves of the pernicious influences of the politics of the establish parties. Not only will it help them to build their struggle for complete emancipation, but also help them to develop the present economic struggles. Once the workers will become conscious about the real class character of the present legal structures, the class character of the established parties, especially the so-called left parties, It will help them to free themselves from dependence on the legal structures ( like dependence on the formal recognition of the union as shown by the Maruti workmen ), to understand the conspiracy of the established parties, and also help them to form and develop their independent organisation, free from the control and influence of the established parties. But how this political consciousness will grow among the workers? Here, we face a paradox. To make the workers really politically conscious we need a real working class party. But, how can a real working class party develop without a substantial segment of class conscious workers, especially in the present situation of defeat of working class movement? So, it is very natural that the workers will fight on their own strength, with the instruments of struggle which they are building up from their past experience and they will also learn from their present experience, from the weaknesses, defeats of the present struggle. Definitely it is tortuous path, but probably inevitable also. Maruti workers are part of this struggle, part of the process of new awakening of working class, who are awakening not only in our country, but in different countries throughout the world. We must help them in this process and to do that definitely we should criticize their weaknesses, but we shall have to do that from a class point of view and obviously upholding advancements they are making. We shall have to understand the real condition of present working class movement, analyse the strength and weaknesses of their movement against this backdrop and understand the achievements and weaknesses of the workers. Otherwise, we will not be able to really help the workers in their struggle.

———

* Article in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar with Workers’ Reports after the first Factory Occupation in June –

FROM HONDA TO MARUTI SUZUKI: A WIDE ANGLE VIEW OF CORPORATE STRATEGIES

(New Series No. 277, July 2011)

WHAT THE MARUTI BALANCE SHEET SHOWS

The 300-acre Maruti Suzuki factory in Gurgaon houses three plants and produces 7 lakh cars a year. The engine plant alone has a manufacturing capacity of 7.5 lakh engines a year.

The 600-acre Maruti-Suzuki plant in Manesar started production in February 2007. This factory houses Maruti’s newest assembly plant with a capacity of 3 lakh cars a year.

Another assembly plant in this factory will begin production in March 2012 and will have a capacity of 2.5 lakh cars a year. The Suzuki Powertrain Diesel Engine factory adjoins Maruti’s Manesar factory. This is a joint venture of Suzuki Motors (70%) and Maruti-Suzuki (30%) and has a capacity of 3 lakh engines a year.

12.7 lakh Maruti-Suzuki cars were produced in 2010-11 – 2.7 lakh units more than the installed capacity of its plants – and representing almost half of all cars produced in India.

Around 1.4 lakh Maruti-Suzuki cars were exported to 120 countries in 2010-11.Maruti earned slightly more than Rs.40,419 crores from sale of its cars during 2010-11.

Maruti-Suzuki contributed a total of Rs.4290.81 crores to the national exchequer by way of excise duties, and paid Rs.820.11 crores in taxes to the Haryana Government in 2010-11.
The company declared a total share capital of Rs.144.46 crores. The value of a Rs.5/- share went up to Rs.79.22 during 2010-11.

After deducting payments to employees (Rs.703.62 crores), bank interest payments (Rs.24.41 crores), costs of raw materials and plant maintenance (Rs.27,576.13 crores) and other expenses, the company declared a net profit of Rs.2288.64 crores.

WHAT THE BALANCE SHEET DOESN’T SHOW

Maruti-Suzuki had 8,500 employees as of March 31, 2011. Only 3,200 of the total of 8,500 employees are factory workers – 2,300 at the Gurgaon factory and 950 at the Manesar factory.
Apart from these 3,200 regular workers, every other worker in the Maruti factories is a contract worker, hired through a labour contractor.

Maruti first started hiring contract workers in 1977. In 2001, after a strike at the Gurgaon factory which was probably engineered by the management and was ruthlessly crushed, 1250 regular workers were laid off. Another 1250 workers were laid off in 2003. As of 2007, the Gurgaon factory had 1,800 regular workers and 4000 contract workers. The number of contract workers at the present date is not known.

According to figures from the ILO, regular workers comprise only 15% of the Maruti-Suzuki factory workforce – 85% are contract workers. This is a much lower proportion of regular workers than in companies such as Nokia (50% regular workers) and Ford (25% regular workers).

Regular workers in the Maruti-Suzuki factory are paid an average monthly basic salary of Rs.5,300/- and an “attendance allowance” of Rs.8,900/-. An amount of Rs.2,500/- is deducted from the salary for every day of non-attendance other than earned leave.

Contract workers hired through a labour contractor are paid an average monthly wage of Rs.7,200/- (for those with an ITI diploma) and Rs.6,200/- (for those who do not have an ITI diploma). There is no provision for leave, and an amount of Rs.2,000/- per day is deducted for absence from work.

THE ARITHMETIC OF PROFIT

Assuming that none of the workers took leave, the total amount paid out by Maruti-Suzuki to their regular factory employees during 2010-11 is Rs.54.52 crores. Assuming that the number of contract workers today is 8,000 (twice that in 2007) and calculating at the higher rate (Rs.7,200/- per month) the total amount paid to the contract workers in 2010-11 is Rs.69.12 crores. The total amount paid to factory workers (Rs.123.64 crores) represents 5.4% of the profits of Rs.2,288.64 crore made by Maruti-Suzuki in the same period.

THE MARUTI FORMULA- “LEAN MANUFACTURING”

One year ago, it took a herculean effort for the Manesar plant, working two shifts on the main (automated) production line, to make 1,100 cars a day. Today, the plant rolls out 1,200 cars every day from the main line and another 150 from the manual line. How has the pace of production has been stepped up?

Maruti Production System or MPS draws learnings from its parent company Suzuki Motor Corporation’s concepts on `lean manufacturing’ under Suzuki Production System (SPS).

Setting trends in new products and achieving customer delight starts with Manufacturing Excellence and Maruti’s manufacturing excellence hinges around four important pillars-Cost, Quality, Safety and Productivity.

Every employee working on the line is ‘cost sensitive’ and functions in capacity of a Cost Manager. He is a key contributor in suggesting how to keep costs of production under control.

A product of poor quality requires repeated inspections, entails wastage in terms of repairs and replacements. “Do it right first time,” is the principle followed to avoid wastage. To ensure quality, robots were devices and deployed, especially where they reduced worker fatigue and were critical in delivering consistent quality. With consistent improvements in the plant the company was able to manufacture over 600,000 vehicles in 2006-07 with an installed capacity of just 350,000 vehicles per year.

“Home or work place; Safety takes First Place”. This has been the motto of the company where safety is concerned. Maruti attaches great significance to safety of its people and strongly advocates that safety at work place adds to quality of the products and improves productivity of the plant significantly.

In the Japanese manufacturing system, the central role is accorded, not so much to Quality, Productivity or Cost, but to Safety. When process flow, lay-out and systems are designed for maximum safety, they automatically contribute to better quality and productivity.
– from http://www.marutisuzuki.com/lean-manufacturing.aspx

The deepening economic crisis is justification enough for companies like Maruti to push even harder to cut costs and increase production. Shorn of jargon, Maruti’s much-lauded lean manufacturing system is the tried-and-tested traditional system of squeezing the workers through increasing workloads, cutting wages and benefits, undercutting investments in safety and increased casualisation of the workforce.

Here’s what lean manufacturing looks like on the factory floor.

The paintshop at the Manesar plant is a schizophrenic combination of cutting-edge robotic technology and brute physical labour. 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.

“The tea break is seven minutes long. In that time, we have to run to the canteen, line up for tea and a snack, use the toilet and get back to the assembly line – and they expect us to be back with a minute to spare.”

“The line moves so fast that there’s no time even to scratch an itch…”

“The company gave us all mobiles as gifts to celebrate reaching the one crore production mark, but what’s the use – we don’t have the time to call anyone.”

WORKERS AT THE MANESAR PLANT, SPEAKING TO FMS

Casual workers hired through a labour contractor are paid an average monthly wage of Rs.7,200/- (for those with an ITI diploma) and Rs.6,200/- (for those who do not have an ITI diploma). Casual workers on the A and B shifts are entitled to free meals at the canteen. There is no provision for leave. Wages for the day, and an extra penalty of Rs.2,000/- are deducted for every absence from work. Any protests or arguments with the contractor are dealt with by immediate dismissal.

Regular workers are not much better off. Their package consists of a basic pay of Rs.5,300/-, an incentive/attendance allowance of Rs.8,900/-, a house rent allowance of Rs.1,600/-, a Dearness Allowance and an allowance for children’s education, adding up to between Rs.17,000 and 18,000/- a month. Although their contracts include provisions for paid leave and casual leaves, each day off work results in a deduction of Rs.2,200/- from the incentive allowance. The entire amount of Rs.8,900/- is forfeited if a worker takes more than four days off in a month.

Regular workers cannot be threatened by dismissal, but are harassed and humiliated by supervisors who abuse and manhandle them, arbitrarily move them from one assembly line to another, and report them to managers or the HR Unit for concocted offences.

THE STRIKE

The workers at the Manesar factory started a new union in April 2011. The membership included both regular workers and casual workers hired through labour contractors. The management refused to recognize this union. On June 4, 2011, the workers stopped work. The A shift was just ending and the workers on the B shift had all come in. Workers on the C-shift were quickly contacted over the phone and asked to join the strike. Before the management realised what was happening, more than 2,000 men – regular workers, apprentices, trainees and contract workers from all three shifts – had occupied the factory, sending the management into a complete panic.

As the strike went into its second week, the Haryana Government declared it illegal, but was unwilling to intervene as they had done in the Honda strike. Although police were stationed in the factory premises, the management was reluctant to force the workers out of the factory, given the the risk of damage to the equipment. Equally, the workers were determined to hold their ground inside the factory – everyone was aware that being forced or persuaded to vacate the premises would be the beginning of the end, as it had been for striking workers in Rico Auto, Denso, Viva Global, Harsurya Healthcare, Senden Vikas …. crushed protests that left workers far more vulnerable than before.

By the time the strike entered its tenth day, the factory had lost Rs.600 crores and Maruti shares had plummeted in value. It was obvious that the Maruti management and the government were helpless in the face of the workers’ determined refusal to surrender.

The agreement between the workers and the management that ended the strike on June 16th does not reflect this situation. No one reading this extraordinary document would guess that the workers were in a strong bargaining position while the management and the government had their backs to the wall. Instead, those who brokered this “return to normalcy” created a scenario that disempowered the workers and made it seem as if it was their inability to hold out any longer that brought them to the negotiating table.

THE AGREEMENT

The signing of the agreement and the fact that the management agreed to take back the 11 office-bearers of the new union who had been dismissed on 6 June, has been hailed as a victory for the workers by some commentators.

But the terms of the agreement suggest otherwise.

A bitter “victory”

The 11 terminated workers will be taken back, but enquiry proceedings will be initiated against them and “appropriate disciplinary action” will be taken. Regular employees will be considered to have resumed work on June 17th, but actual shifts will resume from midnight on June 18th. An extra day of work on June 19th will be required to compensate for not working on June 17th.

In accordance with the provisions of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 and the standing orders of the company, workers participating in the strike are liable to a fine of three days wages for every day of work lost. However, it was agreed that, for the moment, only ten days’ wages will be deducted (ie one day’s wage for each day of the strike). The remaining amount of the fine will be waived if, and only if, the workers maintain good behaviour and discipline, and abide by the rules of the company.

In accordance with the principle of “no work, no pay”, the workers will not be paid for the days they were on strike.

The workers agreed to maintain discipline, ensure expected levels of production and not indulge in any individual or collective activities that would hamper the normal functioning of the factory. The management also agreed not to behave badly or hold a grudge against the workers.
The agreement will be taken as a final resolution of all disputes between the workers and the management.

The story of the Maruti Suzuki strike of 2011 is very similar to that of the Honda strike of 2005. The Honda workers were persuaded by the so-called negotiators to come out of the factory. Once they did, they were mercilessly beaten by the police. By brokering this agreement, the self-appointed negotiators in the Maruti case have dealt an even more lethal blow to the workers’ struggle. The Maruti Suzuki management is exhibiting care and concern for workers’ welfare in the immediate aftermath of the strike. If the Honda case is anything to go by, this phase will be short-lived, and will be followed by a further tightening of the screws.

The 1,700 Honda regular employees who launched the strike in 2005 were workers on the factory floor. Of the 1,800 regular workers on the Honda rolls today, a large segment works as supervisors of contract workers hired through labour contractors. For instance, the motorcycle engine assembly plant at the Honda factory in Manesar is run by 4 engineers, 12 regular workers and 110 casual workers hired through a labour contracting company. Each shift in the assembly line in the no.2 motorcycle plant has 8 staff, 3 line leaders, 4 regular workers, 4 casual workers hired directly by the company and 101 contract workers hired through a labour contractor. Workers hired through labour contractors are responsible for the bulk of the production in the Honda plant. There are 6,500 such workers on the production line, and another 1500 in ancillary departments.

THE ISSUE IS GLOBAL

Regular workers and irregular workers. Casual workers employed directly by the company and contract workers employed through a labour contractor. Registered contractors and unregistered contractors. Workers who are entitled to PF and ESI, and workers who are not entitled to these benefits….

As many as 75% of the factory workers workers in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad are invisible in government statistics. The vast majority – over 80% – of these workers are paid less than the statutory minimum wage. Shifts of 12 to 18 hours are the norm, and overtime is compensated at the same rate as regular duty and not at twice the regular rate as required by law.

The situation of workers in Maruti Suzuki and Honda is mirrored in thousands of small and medium factories operating within the 300 or so square kilometres of Delhi and the NCR, that are connected to other such operations in other cities thousands of kilometres away. All of them are struggling against similar strategies of exploitation and resisting attempts to undermine solidarity and unity.

Yet, it is this globalisation of oppression that is creating the conditions for solidarity across boundaries of race and nation, across different industries, different sectors, different companies.

————-

* Short Reports by Workers in Automobile Factories in Manesar/Faridabad, Distributed by FMS Shortly before Dispute at Maruti Suzuki Broke Out –

Factory Reports – FMS no. 274, April 2011

Flash Electronics (Automobile Parts Manufacturer)
(Plot 3, 8, 9, Sector 27 B, Faridabad)
Together with the general shift of 12.5 hours there is a day shift and night shift of 12 hours each. Those workers who start at 8 am in the morning are supposed to finish at 8 pm, but often they are made to work till 1 am or 5 am next morning. On Sundays workers have to work 8 to 10 hours. There is a lot of pressure to meet production targets. The foremen, supervisors and manager swear at the helpers amongst the casual workers, the general manager also slaps them. In order to meet production targets the general manager also slapped a permanent worker. There are 60 to 70 power presses from 20 to 1,000 tons. Most of the presses are old and there are no safety devices. Most of the presses are run by helpers. On the presses, too, workers have to stay longer after 12 hours shifts, up to 21 hours. The daily pressure, the little space etc. results in many accidents. Parts break, people accidentally press the pedal while hastily taking out finished parts, pressure from the supervisor… one-two-three fingers, thumbs, fingers of both hands get cut off. Each months two-three-four workers cut their hands. If this happens the company does not bring the worker to the (official) ESI hospital, they don’t fill in the accident form, they send the worker to a private hospital in Sector 16. The tools of the power presses weigh 50 to 80 kilos and have to be removed by hand. Hands and feet get squashed. The supervisor swears at the injured worker that the injuries are his/her own fault of having been careless. The injured workers do not receive wages during time of treatment and when not able to work. The company does not pay compensation for lost fingers. When workers want to go to the ESI hospital after first treatment in the private hospital, they demand the accident report, but neither doctor nor company provide this. They also don’t provide the necessary documents for the ESI smart card. On 28th of April a worker operating a power press cut off three of his fingers. He was sent to a private hospital in sector 16 for treatment… We work 100 to 225 hours of overtime each month, paid single rate. From overtime each month 400 to 500 Rs get embezzled. Last year’s DA (inflation compensation) of July was not paid before October and this year’s January DA has not been added to wages yet (March wages). Casual workers received pay-slips in January 2011, but the overtime was not mentioned, no ESI number or PF number given. Casual workers are dismissed after seven months of employment and are rehired after two months of break. There are workers who work continuously in the factory, but their contributions for PF and ESI are not deducted for these two months (meaning that they are officially not employed). There are 100 permanent workers and 1,000 to 1,200 casual workers employed. We produce parts for two and three wheelers. There are 300 to 350 operators amongst the casual workers, the rest are hired and paid as helpers. The operators get 15 Rs per 12 hours shift for tea, 30 Rs for a 17 hours shift and 50 Rs for a 21 hours shift. The helpers get nothing. In Badarpur there is another Flash Electronics factory manufacturing auto meters and they are about to open another plant in Faridabad DLF Industrial Area.

Omega Auto Worker
(Alley no.2, Krishna Colony, Sector 25, Faridabad)
The female workers in this workshop are paid 3,500 Rs, the male workers 3,800 Rs. There is a drill, a welding machine, a lathe, a power press and three CNC machines. Women workers are also employed at the CNC machines. No ESI, no PF for the workers. We work from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm. We manufacture small metal pipes which are used as engine parts for oil and air supply. Our pipes go to Imperial Auto, a different supplier, and from there to Honda, Hero Honda and Maruti Suzuki.

Munjal Showa Worker
(Plot 26, Sector III, IMT Manesar)
There are three 8-hours shifts. After Holi there was a lack of workers. So since 21st of March workers are forced to work double-shifts of 16 hours. They don’t let workers leave, they use physical force to keep people from leaving. We manufacture shockers for Honda, Hero Honda and Yamaha. If you have to stand upright for 16 hours and handle these shockers, this causes great pain. They don’t pay extra for food. The overtime payment is 38 to 43 Rs per hour.

Track Auto Components
(Plot 21, Sector VII, IMT Manesar)
Some power presses are equipped with security devices for health and safety, but some operate with double stroke. Due to the heavy vibrations from the presses a metal part fell from some storage space and hit a worker. The injured worker had to wait, because the van which is usually meant for ambulance transport was used to transport work materials. They had to mend his foot with 12 stitches. On 18th of April a worker cut off four of his finger at a power press. If you have to start working at 7 am you have trouble to prepare your meals. In January they said that they will open a canteen on the third floor, but now they installed a sheet rolling machine there instead. The company hired 30 to 40 staff directly, 600 workers are hired through five different contractors. We manufacture parts for Maruti Suzuki, Honda and Hero Honda. The drinking water is not alright. The filter machines has been faulty for the last 8 months. The workers of the upper floors have to come to the ground floor if they need a toilet – there are always queues. On the upper floor under the roof there are 18 power presses, but not a single fan. On 26th of April Maruti Suzuki sent an audit. Those workers who operate the 160 ton power presses for Maruti parts were given ear plugs and helmets – after the Maruti reps had left the Track Auto managers took the helmets away again. The workers in the press shop often demanded ear protection, but the company does not give out any.

Honda Motorcycles and Scooter (HMSI) Worker
(Plot 1 and 2, Sector 3, IMT)
After increasing production in December last year the company again increased it in April 2011. In the motorcycle plant we had to produce 1,025 instead of 1,000 vehicles, now fixed production target is 1,100. The company swalloed the time to drink water, go to the toilet and get a breath in. Most of the production increase is enforced onto the backs of the 8,000 workers hired through contractors (this includes drivers, canteen staff), and they don’t see a paisa more for it. The illusion that some of the workers hired through contractor employed in the Manesar plant would be hired as permanents in the new Bhivari plant has imploded. The company policy of: “Use the workers and then throw them away” has proven itself clearly. The annual production target of 1.8 million bikes in 2010 has been brought to 2 million bikes in 2011. Neither the union nor the management has an open ear for the problems of the workers hired through contractor. The assembly lines are stopped by workers, sometimes here, sometimes there. On the 16th of April one production line came to a stand-still several times, instead of 1,100 bikes only 950 were produced.

SKH Worker
(Sector 8, IMT)
This factory is situated on the Maruti Suzuki premises, near the fourth gate. Around 300 workers work on two 12-hours shifts. On Sundays, too, 12-hours shifts. The company pays the overtime at single rate. They have Vishal Power Presses (800 ton model) set up in a production line, with separate die casting tools. If the first press does 1,700 piece, then the last one has to do the same amount. The machines are not supposed to stop. The ‘line must be clear’ all the time [no pieces piled up anywhere, the line moving]. There is no time for getting and drinking water or go for a piss. It’s heavy work, you have to lift the 15 kilo sheet metal by hand. If one piece gets rejected [by quality check], hell breaks lose.

General Political Thesis for the Debate

The following thoughts remain on a rather superficial level due to lack of opportunity for first-hand exchange with workers during the struggle. They are at the same time a call to intensify the debate on an international level.

1) The struggle at Maruti Suzuki was the most important workers’ struggle in India since two decades. For the first time on mass scale the new composition of a young industrial work-force came to itself by confronting the factory regime. They undermined the division in temporary and permanent workers, which had been imposed as a main line of division within industrial working class in India – and not only in India – since the early 1990s. The workers hit the core of the Indian regime’s developmental model, which consists of the integration into the global market and production structure at the highest level of technology and ‘productive cooperation’ – combined with the severe suppression of the aspirations of the work-force, which emerge with this integration.

We say ‘most important struggle’ less because of its quantitative scale, or militancy, or result, but because of its structural character. The struggle brought together the subjective anger of a new workforce with its objective position in the core of the current developmental cycle. Since three decades we witnessed the dismantling of old workers’ core centres, the main struggles evolved as defensive struggles. The centres moved from the textile mill strikes in the mid-1980s (which were undermined by new division of labour between automatised spinning and informalised weaving processes). Throughout the 1990s, the centre shifted to the struggles in the major (automobile) manufacturing companies (Escorts, Maruti Suzuki) [1] against capital’s attack in form of ‘privatisation’, outsourcing, casualisation. These were decades of major defeats of the old trade union movement, which was only able to compensate for their decline by co-managing the emerging class division between a mass of casualised workers and a core of permanents.

We currently see a reversal of the historical trend in automobile manufacturing. From Detroit at the beginning of the 20th century to the Midlands in the UK, to FIATs Turin and Toyota’s factories in the 1950/60s to South Korea and Brazil in the 1970s: while the first generation of car workers produced cars for the middle-classes, the workers of the second generation – through struggles and general productivity increases – were able to afford the product they produce themselves. In India, if at all, this trend has reversed itself, the second generation of car workers is worse off. They are also less attached to company spirits and the automobile dream. At Maruti the various carrots and waiting-loops have lost their gripping effects. The ladder from apprentice, trainee, temp worker, “junior workman” “associate workman”, to the Nirvana of a permanent status or even an award as employee of the year has been broken, the level of casualisation is too high in order to mobilise workers’ illusions. Similarly the patriarchal whip of ‘warning letters’ – three times too late, too slow, too ill and you are out – and other threats have become blunt. Maruti wants to copy the paternalistic ‘Fordist model’ of interference in workers ‘private life’ – workers are supposed to abstain from public activities harmful to the reputation of the company, they have to announce once they are in debts – without being able or willing to pay them the ‘Ford wage’.

The current composition of the workforce at companies like Maruti Manesar plant is the outcome of the defeats and restructuring of the 1980s and 1990s and the further integration into the global production system. It took the working class two decades to ‘find itself’ and turn this ‘precarious, but central structure’ into a more radical basis for its struggle. Current struggles at Bosch in Bangalore or wildcats at General Motors in Gujarat are other indicators that the conflict has returned to the centre again. Here we can see parallels to the strike wave in automobile factories in China in summer 2010. [2]

2) During the last years the divisions between permanent and temporary workers in Gurgaon area deepened. In many cases ‘union recognition’ was enforced by joint-struggles of both categories of workers, but once established, the trade unions could not reverse this trend of increasing separation.

In the few cases where trade unions were established in modern manufacturing industries in Gurgaon area during the last decade this lead to an ‘improvement’ of the position of union members, wage levels rose up to 25,000 to 30,000 Rs, management was able to offer these unionised permanent workers some stability, three-years agreements, regular productivity/sales-related wage hikes. But this ‘improvement’ was paralleled by the reduction of the permanent unionised work-force to about 30 per cent of the total staff. In many cases these workers were granted if not supervisory, but ‘privileged’ position in relation to the increasing mass of temporary workers within the production process, whose wage levels dropped in real terms and hover at about 5,000 Rs. For them ‘three years wage agreements’ have little to do with the reality of frequent job changes and mobility. In many cases the ‘enforcement’ of trade union recognition against the company was only achievable by ‘struggling in unity’ by both permanent and temporary workers, but tragically after establishment the (permanent) workers did not find ways to bridge the widening gap between ‘represented minority’ and ‘marginalised majority’ – see development of the union at Honda HMSI in Manesar. [3]

During the last years, the ‘casualised majority’ of workers appeared several times on the stage of workers’ struggle in Gurgaon and Manesar, e.g. during factory occupations at Hero Honda or Delphi by thousands of temporary workers [4], but in these struggles ‘permanent and temporary’ workers had remained being separated. This was not the case during the current Maruti Suzuki struggle. The material division (quantitative ratio on the shop floor, wages, qualification, origin etc.) between permanent and temporary workers have been less pronounced in the first place. Furthermore, Maruti Suzuki does not seem willing or able to ‘offer’ the young permanent workers a similar ‘privileged’ position (managed by a respectable union body) which permanent workers had been offered during the last two decades. They know that the standards at the central assembly set the standards elsewhere. Both, the objective factors (“ability to finance a division”) and subjective response (“acceptance of division” by workers) were not given at Maruti Suzuki. This is why the struggle carried on.

3) The situation of the global automobile industry makes it difficult Maruti Suzuki to ‘finance’ a class division by granting the permanent workers a privileged position through trade union management. It forces the company to casualise the workforce in the new plants. A draconic disciplinary regime is supposed to impose a more intense combination of underdevelopment (‘speed-up without investment’ of manual work, extension of working hours) and development (automatisation in upstream departments etc.) within the factory. All this fuelled the collective anger.

The conditions have changed quite fundamentally since 2000/2001, when Maruti enforced a major split within the geology of the work-force in Gurgaon or even since 2005, when Honda in Manesar did the same. The global pressure on wages and conditions increased fundamentally with the contraction of markets since the crisis 2008. Due to the lock-out Maruti started production at Manesar ‘Plant B’ three month earlier than planned – a more automatised plant, which was presented as the technological fix to workers’ unrest. Here in an direct sense workers’ struggle pushes capital into aggravation of its contradictions, expansion of productive capacities while reducing its living (and consuming) self. Including the two Manesar plants and the Gurgaon plant Maruti Suzuki’s capacity will be around 1.7 million cars a year, this is nearly as much as the current total domestic Indian market. In July Ford and PSA had announced to each open new assembly plants in Sanand, Gujarat – the market pressure is increasing through overcapacity and potentially swindling demand. The cheap cash for consumers crunches. The Reserve Bank of India has raised interest rates 12 times since mid-March 2010 to rein in inflation, driving down demand for cars. In India about 80 percent of purchases are funded by loans.

The crisis has proven that there is no ‘de-coupling’, meaning that there is no national market or sector or company, which could remain unaffected by the general conditions. ‘Suzuki’ is not a ‘Japanese’ company anymore, the Indian subsidiary accounts for 55 per cent of Suzuki’s global operating income. At the same time its not solely an ‘automobile manufacturer’, which would only depend on car sales. Life Insurance Corporation, ICICI Prudential Life and Bajaj Allianz are among the major shareholders of Maruti Suzuki and the pressure on banking and insurance markets will reverberate within the assembly lines.

Behind the surface of ‘market’ pressures the core of ‘wage’ pressure reveals itself more blatantly on a global level. In September 2011 – while the struggle at Maruti was still intense – the United Auto Workers union in the US agreed on the ‘Two-Tier’-wage-system, which means that newly hired workers will earn only half the wage of the older workers, which will cause an enormous downward pressure on the global wage cascade from the North to the South. These wage pressures are not mediated anymore, with the integration of ‘Indian’ car production into global markets it becomes an ‘immediate’ global wage. Manesar is Maruti Suzuki’s sole global manufacturing base for the A-Star, which exports the compact car to various markets in Western and Eastern Europe, South America, Africa and other parts of Asia. In Europe, Suzuki sells this car as ‘Alto’ and Nissan as ‘Pixo’ – around 9 per cent of Maruti Suzuki’s revenue comes from export.

The squeeze is not solely on wages, but on workers’ brains and muscles. Under these conditions ‘capital has to eat itself’, it has to squeeze workers beyond physical capacities, without re-investments. Within the factory the split (and combination) between development (automatisation) and under-development (manual speed-up, double-shifts) aggravated. After 2008 the work pressure in Manesar increased considerably. Instead of investing into separate production lines, different models were produced at the same ‘flexi-line’, increasing work stress. With an official capacity of 250000 cars, Manesar manufactured 350000 in 2010. Certain departments of the plant, particularly in Plant B, became more automatised after 2010, while the manual operations were simply ‘sped-up’. Workers were more frequently forced to work double-shifts and Sundays, the whole ‘disciplinary regime’ has to be seen on this background.

“The paintshop at the Manesar plant is a schizophrenic combination of cutting-edge robotic technology and brute physical labour. 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.”
(FMS, July 2011)

4) If Maruti had calculated to ‘save the investment on a separate trade union’, the actual course of the struggle forced them to accept major losses in order to smash the emerging workers’ collective and to re-impose their regime. In a wider sense it was a ‘political price’ to pay, in defence of the ‘developmental model’ of the ruling class.

The dispute inflicted major losses on Maruti Suzuki at a time when according company claims ‘there are 100,000 open orders for the Maruti Suzuki Swift’ and waiting-times of more than four months. If we leave out all extra-costs (resting capital and capacities, payment for extra-security, bribes, legal and propaganda work etc.) and calculate an average price of a Maruti Suzuki Swift at 400,000 Rs [8,000 USD or 5,800 Euro] when sold to the traders, then a loss of 1,200 cars per day in Manesar amounts to 48 crore Rs [9,600,000 USD or 7,000,000 Euro]. A total loss of 75,000 units, as Maruti claims to have lost between June and October 2011, would amount to 3000 crore Rs [600 million USD or 435 million Euro]. Also Maruti Suzuki’s share-values have suffered, between June and mid-October the share price fell by 16 per cent.

A lot of the business media people wonder about the seemingly ‘irrational stubbornness’ of Maruti to rather swallow such kind of losses than accepting ‘the workers’ right’ to a separate trade union – quite a lot of leftist might have shared this view. We think it is less about the ‘violation of workers’ rights’, but about Maruti Suzuki having to confront developments during the course of the struggle, which forced them to ‘fight it out’. It became a question of who rules on the shop-floor. It became a question of whether capital let workers undermine the core of the current developmental regime by joint unlawful direct action.

5) During the last three decades the local industrial ruling class developed a fairly repetitive manual in order to transform workers’ unrest into leaps of re-structuring. This strategy was able to integrate trade union forms of struggle as long as it stuck to the rules of representation, labour law and/or other calculable forms of struggle. The workers’ actions at Maruti broke the master-plan at several points.

The use of ‘good conduct bonds’ or ‘lock-outs’ in order to tire out struggling workers is no new development. [5] We have seen hundred of times how this strategy in combination of ‘company’-focussed trade union struggle ended in hundreds of defeats. If the management is not able to get the general situation on the shop-floor under control – or if the general conditions force them into re-structuring – they prepare themselves for a ‘showdown’. Often they try to focus on the question of representation, either by crushing the workers’ representatives or by promoting and co-opting them, in order not to have to deal with an unruly and inadressable mass. If that proves to be difficult management prepares for a lock-out (impose overtime to fill stocks, arrange alternative sourcing of extra-parts, start to arrange supply of ‘new workers’). Depending on the economic climate they might announce to ‘close the whole factory’.

The management provokes the workers, e.g. by suspending their representatives. In order to circumvent the accusation of an illegal lock-out management issues ‘good conduct bonds’, hoping that the main trade unions stick to the ‘traditional ways’ of struggle, which means: refusal to sign, confining the struggle to the company gate and occasional demonstrations, reducing the conflict to the question of ‘our victimised leaders’ and thereby making it an individual issue which has little danger to explode into the wider proletarian area. At the same time management tries to keep up production, partly in order to avoid losses, but mainly in order to demoralise the workers. In the meantime they attack the workers outside by all means necessary (thugs, cops, boredom).

After some weeks there is an agreement, which normally results in severe re-structuring and re-placement. The trade union leaders can proclaim ‘a victory’ (“We got our representatives back on” or “We prevented the closure of the company”). The formerly combative collective is dismantled, e.g. by taking back only the permanent workers, or by shifting workers around within the plant. In this way most struggles in recent years got lost and re-structuring boosted. The fact that this set-up has repeated itself so many times is not mainly due to the cunning plans of management or the ‘compliancy’ of the main trade unions, but because of a specific configuration between general economic situation, composition of the workforce and blockades in the re-structuring process.

These conditions have changed. Maruti Suzuki was not able to enforce the usual strategy to deal with industrial unrest. This is mainly due to the unlawful collective action of the workers by occupying the plant and by the threat of spreading wildcat strikes. Instead of sticking to ‘legal campaigns’ ‘and well-meaning symbolic protests’ for their union rights, workers went into an offensive, which gave them an advantage position and raised the stakes. The fact that Maruti Suzuki could not undermine the workers collectivity neither by severe repression nor by replacing them during the lock-out is partly due to the specific nature of the industry and partly due to the general social atmosphere.

6) The decision of workers not to sign the ‘good conduct bond’ and to hand over the factory floor as the main ground for collective struggle to management was a tricky one. Maruti Suzuki did not manage to get full production going during the 33 days of lock-out, but they came close enough in order for the lock-out to become effective as a means of demoralisation.

If it had not been a central assembly plant – an integrated production process requiring the cooperation of hundreds, thousands of workers inside the plant and in combination with the suppliers – the struggle would very likely have been lost during the time of the ‘lock-out’. The company would have managed to demoralise the workers by being able to return to ‘normal’ production with some of the supervisors and newly hired staff. The ‘combative’ stance ‘not to sign the bonds’ would have turned into a ‘voluntary defeat’, because workers would have renounced to stay in the heart of the beast, where they have a faceless collective power: within the production process.

We should critically examine how close the Maruti management came to actually being able to get production going again – with the help of supervisors, engineers from the Manesar and Gurgaon plant and hundreds of newly hired ITI workers. Maruti Suzuki limited the attempt to get production going to only one of the three models manufactured in Manesar. On 31st of August, the third day of the lock-out, the company started production with 50 engineers and 290 supervisors, who had partly been shifted from Gurgaon, and 120 newly hired manual workers. They said that these 460 workers managed to produce 60 cars. Concerned about the companies’ share price development, Maruti Suzuki from then on announced new ‘production records’ on a daily level. On the 3rd of September 840 workers are supposed to have produced 200 cars. On 5th of September the MSEU declared in a communiqué that these figures are more or less bad propaganda, and that not more than a couple of cars are produced per day. Maruti claimed that at the end of the lock-out 1,400 workers produced around 400 Swift a day (normal output around 650) and that they had started to produce the A Star.

They surely did not manage to get production going within a month time, but they came close enough. This forces us in future struggles to make sure to a) not leave the terrain of the factory ‘completely’ to the management, even if there is great unity amongst the workers and b) not to think to be able to rely ‘on ones own strength alone’ even if this strength is as quantitatively massive as in the case of central assembly plants. The collective stance “We all stay out”, “We will not give in into their good conduct bullshit” is definitely an expression of ‘collective will’ – but if not combined with a major effort to actively connect with other workers in the area in order to spread the conflict it might be a step into a swampy ground.

7) Manesar could have turned into India’s Mahalla. [6] The Occupation at Maruti Suzuki took place while the populist ‘anti-corruption’-movement was attacked brutally in nearby Delhi. The social atmosphere (disillusion with corrupt political class, food price development, ‘desperate’ expressions of discontent) is shared with the countries of the ‘Spring Uprisings’ in Northern Africa. Previous to these uprisings, repression triggered unrest and explosive fusions rather than quelling them.

If the extreme poles of managements strategy to defeat a workers’ collective is to either replace them as collective producers or to repress them with brute force then both poles have proven fragile during the Maruti dispute. In 2005 we witnessed that neither Honda management nor the Indian state has major problems with crushing heads of hundreds of workers if it seems like a good way to return to ‘harmonious industrial relations’. This did not happen this time. There are various reasons why Maruti did not consider a violent eviction at the time. Obviously there is the danger of damaging machinery (and the cooperative will of hundreds of skilled workers!) and the possibility that an eviction will not go down well with the other workers of more than 500 factories in Industrial Model Town Manesar.

But we think that there are more specific reasons for why the ruling class is very cautious to make use of mass repression in current times, and these seem to be global reasons: in the current social atmosphere repression does not seem to instil mainly fear, but could create incalculable trigger effects of unrest. We have witnessed this during the recent uprisings in Northern Africa, from Tunisia to Egypt. The parallel to the situation in India is not a mere abstraction. The time of occupation coincided with the rather populist ‘anti-corruption movement’ (Ramdev, Harare), there were the violent attacks of the state on the Ramdev followers in Delhi in early June. There have been ‘suicide attempts’ of followers in desperate acts of ‘solidarity’. An attack on the occupation only miles away could have sparked all kinds of fusions and reactions – some of the Maruti workers had referred positively to the anti-corruption movement. This is understandable giving general situation and the concrete ‘corruption’ at Maruti Suzuki, e.g. at the annual remuneration of the CEO has increased by 419 per cent between 2007 and 2011, while workers’ real wages (and general profitability) dropped. Similarly the allegation that high-rank manager in Maruti’s HR department are personally involved in labour contracting business. This ‘corruption’ is obviously ‘unfair’, but just a drop in the sea of crisis. We have to see the ‘corruption’ primarily as an expression of the current instability of the system: future (profitable) prospects are bleak, the ruling class looks for immediate ‘personal gains’, instead of long-term investment.

During the course of the dispute the area around the Maruti factory turned into something like a ‘proletarian protest-camp’, various political groups turned up, students, family members. It expressed a certain need for spaces to come together in support and debate about what is happening in this world, a need which we can see spreading from Tahrir, to the Spanish square occupations to Wall Street. Manesar could have turned into an Indian Mahalla, where the repression of an organically very organised industrial working class could have given a whole different framework and impetus to a general ‘populist anti-government’ sentiment. We don’t advise workers to look for ‘formal alliances’ with these type of movements, but we should be aware of the general fragile social fabric.

In this social atmosphere the ‘means of repression’ had to be more subtle, but they revealed the wide social front-line which workers have to face: from the desks of the state administration to the metal barriers set-up by the company and staffed with private security guards, from the riot cops to the individual sms send by management to workers’ company phones, calling them back to work – these mobile phones had been a company present for 10 million produced Marutis. From the drunken land-lord thugs and local labour contractors attacking them in their ‘villages’ or in front of the factory with guns to the ‘soothing’ spiritual brain-wash of Brahmakumaris, hired by Human resource management to ‘heal’ the workers from their anger after the occupation. From the ‘panchayat’ leaders of the Manesar villages, linking up with the multi-national Haryana regime, to the investment fund advisors asking for ‘de-risking’ of Maruti’s production location. From the media regime, which portrays them as villains or victims to the production manager who orders to shift them away from their old work-mates to other lines and departments. And last but not least all those institutionalised leaders of trade union apparatuses who promise and postpone and mobilise and call off, all rather in the interest of their own organisations than to strengthen the collective power of the workers.

But we think that all these ‘cogs of the system’ can not explain the paradox that although Maruti’s position had been difficult and the losses significant, the workers did not manage to turn the (company) regime’s weaknesses into their own victory.

8. Despite the unity and sacrifice, despite the 100,000 open orders for Swift cars, despite having imposed full(-stop!) control over the factory… in many ways the workers lost, without having been defeated. We cannot ignore the material wage losses and glorify the struggle for ‘dignity’ and union ideals.

To ask about ‘victory’ and ‘defeat’ and ‘true demands’ of workers’ struggles is obviously an awkward matter – see contribution to debate on first Maruti occupation in this newsletter. Let’s start with the official demands and the gains and losses of workers as a result of the struggle. The initial official demand – the recognition of a separate union – has not been enforced, the company and administration offered a watered-down version of a welfare-board. If we just look at the ‘black on white’-results in form of wage slips, termination/suspension letters and agreements, then the workers paid a rather high price for this. Several dozen workers have been suspended, more than 100 temporary workers left the job at Maruti out of frustration – particularly after they were not taken back on 3rd of October. All agreements had an element of ‘moral punishment’ for the workers, either in form of penalty wage cuts or in form of the ‘good conduct bond’, which ‘on paper’ prohibits them to gossip or sing on the job or spend too much time on the toilet. The wage losses are considerably: the sole wage loss amounts to more than 50 days wages, if Maruti actually imposes the penalty wage cuts on the permanents then we talk about a total of about 130 daily wages loss. [7] The media likes to emphasise that these young workers a often unmarried and son’s of small peasants with brothers working somewhere in the army, and that therefore they are able to stick it out ‘with family support’, but anyone can imagine that this is a heavy loss to take, which definitely sets a limit to the participation of poorer and/or temporary workers.

This ‘material’ defeat is contrasted by something like a ‘moral victory’, in the sense that workers fought together for a common aim in form of ‘the union’, symbol for of their unity, for their own interest opposed to the interest of the company and for their hope in future betterment through union representation. They stood up for those who got suspended or terminated throughout the struggle (mainly representatives and office bearers of the union) and – and this is one of most significant decisions a collective of workers took in recent history of class struggle – for their ‘excluded’ temporary co-workers. This is their victory. We can go even further and say that although workers’ struggles tend to have ‘demands’ for betterment of their material situation, in many ways the collective struggle in itself is what we want and what in the end will improve the situation – with or without prove on paper in form of an agreement. We want to say “Enough!” together with others, link up, create a moment where everything is put into question, where we learn new things and where ‘their haughty power’ is broken. This is the political content of any struggle. And the Maruti workers did it! If all this happens around the ‘demand for a union’, let it be, but…

9) It was a tragic short-coming on the side of the workers not too put their concrete necessities into the foreground of the struggle: “More Money, Less Work” – because these had been general necessities of the mass of workers in Industrial Model Town Maneser. If combined with concrete steps ‘from group of workers to group of workers’ to actively generalise, this could have given an additional forceful dynamic to the struggle.

It is useless to debate whether the ‘demand for union recognition’ – reduced later on to the sole demand of ‘withdrawal of termination and suspension’ – has actually been the only demand of the workers. It has been the official demand and leaders like AITUC-president Sachdev have made clear a thousand times that this should be the focus. The initial demands of temporary workers for fixed contracts had disappeared early on.

As workers we cannot allow ourselves to postpone concrete demands and hope that they will be solved at future negotiation tables – particularly not if our general status is temporary anyway. Not only for the immediate sake, for ‘bread and butter’, but also in relation to other workers. The demand for ‘a company union and re-instatement of leaders’ creates less common grounds and potentials for generalisation than a concrete demand of, for example, 500 Rs for 8 hours, stop to double-shift and weekend work, … and all the other common problems of workers in Manesar and beyond. The likeliness of contagion will be higher in the latter. It also makes a difference if workers in a ‘privileged position’ like a booming assembly plant say that after weeks of full-on struggle they got something materially out of their enemy’s hands – or if they have to admit that they have lost a lot of money and only been offered a welfare board.

The ‘generalisation’ of a struggle obviously depends less on ‘the right demands’, but on its form: whether it leads to wider participation and active engagement of a mass of workers. Like demands, the decision about this form of struggle should not be delegated. Here, again, the formal constitution of institutionalised trade unions rather hinder ‘mass participation’ and ‘unity’ (beyond one-day shows) than encourage them. We cannot say much about the relation between the MSEU and the wider mass of Maruti workers. Facing the severe repression and general pressure we can understand that workers have the urge to defend those ‘who stick their neck out’. We don’t criticise the ‘representatives’, we question institutionalised representation and delegation. We have to ask whether ‘formal representation’ actually leads to both ‘immediate workers’ power to enforce our needs’ and to a political mass experience of workers deciding and doing themselves. We have to see that Maruti and the state operated very strategically with their arrests, suspensions and terminations (or withdrawals of them) of the representatives – and by doing so they were able to focus and ‘reign in’ the struggle around this question.

The ‘joint action committee’ which was set up first in June and was then revived during the ‘lock-out’ comprised only few Maruti workers, and if so, then the leaders of the MSEU. In June, out of a meeting of 100 in Manesar, there were only five Maruti workers, the rest were either union officials of the main trade unions or leftist supporters. Comrades noted that often there was little engagement of Maruti workers in the decisions of the ‘official steps of the struggle’ (when to demonstrate) or that in most cases the ‘agreements’ were settled without wider debate amongst the workers. Comrades noted that as long as the relation between Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers and Powertrain workers was mediated through the main union bodies, the different interests of AITUC, HMS and other institutions were actually hindering the coming together – e.g. Powertrain workers not taking parts in the early demonstrations of the Maruti workers in Manesar. Only once workers actually made contact, particularly the casual workers of both plants, they were able to push things to ‘common action’, in particular the second occupation.

10) The most ‘offensive’ and ‘potentially generalising’ leaps within the dispute, which actually questioned Marutis strategy to insulate and choke the struggle, were taken without major decrees and without following the pre-described formula of the labour laws. While officially and formally workers wanted legal recognition, their actual practice went way beyond this. Not the ‘betrayal’ of the main trade unions, but the fact that workers did not develop strong enough independent coordination during the struggle can explain its arbitrary outcome.

There were moments were workers – as part of the union or not – were able to put Maruti and the state on the back-foot. For us these leaps were:
* the first occupation in June, stopping or impacting on production of 200 nearby suppliers within weeks (a major potential, but largely missed chance for getting in touch with these workers);
* followed by the unrest ‘back at work’ in July and August, e.g. the wildcat strike on 28th of August;
* during ‘the lock-out’: the wildcat strike of casual workers at Munjal Showa on the 12th of September (which spread to the companies Gurgaon and Haridwar plants), the strike at Suzuki Powertrain and Motorcycles on the 14th of September;
* the decision to occupy again on 7th of October – not at last due to the pressure of 1,000 angry ‘locked-out’ temporary workers.
These were the moments were ‘things could have gone out of hand’ of the (state) management.

It is easy to discard the main trade union leadership for ‘betraying’ the unity, which they claim to symbolise:
* trade union leaders told everyone and the workers that ‘workers are victimised’ and ‘workers are in a bad spot’, while they were on occupation in June and were actually in a rather strong position
* AITUC called off the solidarity strike in June last minute;
* HMS called off the strike at Powertrain in September as soon as it hit the Gurgaon plant;
* regional AITUC president at nearby Honda plant said “We are waiting for the authorities to take initiative to resolve the issue.”, when Maruti workers occupied again in October and were actually threatened by eviction.

We think it is less about ‘betrayal’, but about a general problem with ‘trade union form of struggle’ in times of crisis. If under the general conditions trade unions confine themselves to their set limitations (within legal boundaries, confined to sector or company, based on formal representation and settlements), they will remain largely toothless. If they are toothless, the ‘improvements’ for their members will be counterweighted by the deterioration of conditions of a growing mass of other workers: all those, who remain outside of the formal boundaries which legal trade union struggle can act within. The rapid changes of the social production process (globalisation, new technologies) undermine institutionalised forms of workers organisations further. If unions decide to actually go beyond their limitations, they will face the full brunt of repression and they will have to question their very formal premises. At Maruti Suzuki workers reached this point. So instead of barking about betrayal, let’s focus on the essentials instead: independent organisation of workers. [8]

11) What could be done?

We cannot come up with any master key or all time solutions, but rather some general day-to-day considerations and suggestions. As we wrote in April 2011:

“We will put forward the issue “500 Rs for an 8-hours day – We can’t do it for less’ in Manesar Industrial Model Town. We openly say that such a slogan alone will neither free us from looking at our department or company specific conditions, nor do we have the illusion of a ‘final settlement’. It can help us to debate about concrete steps. Which steps will be specific, which steps can be common? What can we do inside the factory, what in the wider area? We have discussed the issue with some workers employed in different companies. We will put it forward both in form of hand-written posters in the area and inside these companies. We will decide about further steps according to the debate, which hopefully will emerge amongst workers in different factories.” [9]

* Let’s not delegate and postpone our concrete needs! Let’s start formulating with our co-workers what we want and look for commonalities with others. Let’s not go for promises and future settlements, enforce ‘less work, more money’ if we can, here and now.
* Let’s start with collective steps on the level of our day-to-day existence as cooperating workers or neighbours. Let’s share your experiences and debate them with other groups (in other departments, factories, sectors) and find ways to join up in common steps.
* Let’s not give out of our hands the weapon of the collective producer. Don’t let them blind you by all their talk about ‘indiscipline’ and ‘unlawfulness’. Collective ‘indiscipline’ doesn’t cost much, doesn’t need experts, hurts the management and can provide immediate relieve for us.
* Let’s try to find forms of struggle, which do not require individual people sticking their heads out too much, without leaders to be corrupted or squashed.
* Let’s create means of communication and spaces in the wider area to meet and coordinate practical activities on a larger scale, linking up with the experiences on a day-to-day group / factory level.
* Let’s find forms of collective debate and decision making during mass mobilisations or meetings. Don’t wait for calls, plans or decisions from above. Make any effort to spread ‘company struggles’ to other workers, relating to them as co-workers.
* Let’s not give the state or management too much chance to predict our next moves – break their strategy of ‘good conduct bonds’ or other traps. Don’t go for set-up provocations. Don’t stick to their normal procedures.
* Let’s not rely on the spectacle of the middle-class playgrounds (legal proceedings, media, NGO campaigners, political leaders). We should find forms of struggle and communication, which remain independent.
* Let’s make an effort to learn from the current explosion of struggle around the world (occupations of squares, strike waves, riots etc.) – let’s not treat them as ‘glorious’, but examine critically whether new forms of working class organisation and perspectives emerge. Let’s share our experiences with them in a global discussion.
* On the bases of the experiences of the global working class – as producers and as groups in struggle – let’s debate about a social alternative to car production, traffic jams, mega-cities, villages, peak oil, bio-fuels, war machines, the permanent crisis and this failing system.

Friends of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar try to support this process of working class self-organisation by taking part in the discussions amongst striking workers during the Maruti strike, by publishing a monthly workers’ newspaper and by taking part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel, an effort of workers’ coordination in the industrial belt of Delhi. If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part. We distribute Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi. If you are interested, please get in touch.

For more background on Faridabad Majdoor Talmel:
http://faridabadmajdoorsamachar.blogspot.com/p/fms-talmel.html

Footnotes:

[1]

Extensive material by Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on the re-structuring process at Escorts and the role of the HMS union:
https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/workers-history/#fn131

Overview on the 2000/2001 dispute at Maruti Suzuki Gurgaon plant:
https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no8/

[2]

See comprehensive analysis by Mouvement Communiste:
http://mouvement-communiste.com/documents/MC/Booklets/BR1_China_EN_vF_Co...

[3]

Documentation of the struggle for union recognition at Honda HMSI in 2005:
https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no7/#fn4

[4]

Documentation of wildcat strikes / factory occupations of temporary workers at Hero Honda and Delphi:
https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no4/#fn2 https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no8/#fn4

[5]

Documentation of ‘management’s strategies’ at Faridabad Gedore Handtools factory:
https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/workers-history/#fn292

[6]

Industrial town in Egypt. Mass strikes in 2005 and 2008 provided impetus and organisational focus for the ‘popular movements’ emerging around Tahrir Square in 2011:
http://www.klassenlos.tk/data/pdf/egypt_interview.pdf

[7]

If we count full days of strike as full working days: 14 days occupation, 33 days of lock-out/protest camp, 14 days of 2nd occupation and strike; plus 28 days penalty wage cut for first occupation, 33 days for lock-out, 14 days for 2nd occupation

[8]

For the historical debate on the question of ‘economic’ and ‘political’ struggle of the working class:
http://libcom.org/library/class-composition-sergio-bologna

[9]

Paper on potential for wage struggles in Manesar, April 2011:
https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-937/

Summary of the Struggle from June to October 2011

Struggle at Maruti Suzuki in India:
Wildcat strikes, factory occupations and protest camps

Since June 2011 around 3,500 workers at Maruti Suzuki car plant are confronting the factory regime and its institutional allies in Manesar, in the south of Delhi – also see GurgaonWorkersNews no. 41. Their struggle leaped over to other automobile factories in the industrial corridor, which brought the world’s third largest automobile assembly plant in nearby Gurgaon to a halt. In the most significant workers’ struggle in India in the last two decades the young workers managed to undermine the companies’ attempts to divide them along the lines of temporary and permanent contracts. The struggle attacked the core of the Indian development model and puts it into question: integration into global markets and production structures on the highest technological level combined with harshest casualisation of the workforce. This casualisation is enforced by various means, ranging from the use of country rifles by local labour contractors to sending individual text messages to the workers company mobile phone (a ‘company present’