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.