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.

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.