Thousands of invisible hands moving the automobile industry in Gurgaon area, Part One

A short introduction to the local automobile industry, plus five Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar reports from workers employed in different companies of the supplying sector.

The automobile industry is of major importance in the Gurgaon and Faridabad area. According to an IBEF presentation of Haryana published in October 2005, half of the four-wheelers and 60 to 70 percent of the two-wheelers manufactured in India are manufactured in Haryana, which basically means in wider Faridabad and Gurgaon area. Half of the industrial work-force of the state is said to be employed in the automobile sector. Given that about 70 per cent of the industrial work-force is officially non-existent, due to not being registered, official numbers are not to trust. In the 2001 census Haryana had a 40 percent ‘work participation’ rate, which can be translated as roughly 8.4 million wage workers. The census then distinguishes between ‘main’, ‘agricultural’, ‘household industry’. The main work-force comprises 65 percent, which would be around 5.5 million official ‘urban work-force’. The number of automobile workers in the Faridabad-Gurgaon-Manesar belt is difficult to assess. The main assembly plants alone (including trucks, tractors, two-wheelers) employ somewhere around 50,000 workers. Maruti alone has 400 first tier suppliers, Hero Honda 240, … and the supply-chain has many more hidden links within the area.
Often parts have many tiers to pass through before they end up at the Maruti or Hero Honda main factory. For example, rubber hoses for carburetors arrive in the form of rubber blocks in Mujesar, a village in Faridabad surrounded by industry. What remains of the village is the scattered layout of the small one-story shanty huts with cows and goats in front. The rest is transformed by the industry. Inside the huts people work on 1970s laces of German origin, turning metal or working on antique power presses. Maruti’s supply-chain starts here. In the backyard of one of the huts there are three different garages, each is one company. In one garage, door hinges are galvanized, the chemical liquide up to the ankles of the workers. In the other room a woman works in the dark next to a mind-numbing noisy generator, de-burring metal parts. In the third garage two children take the fin off rubber hoses, covered in black dust, operating a one-phase electrical engine. Two workers next to them have just finished pressing and cutting the hoses with a hand-wheel press. The woman and the children get 800 Rs to 1,200 Rs per month (see glossary), for a ten to twelve hour shift, a six to seven days week. One of the workers is the official owner of the rubber hose company; he used to be a permanent worker in a rubber hose manufacturing company and this is where he got the contract. The rubber hoses end up at Mahindra, Maruti/Suzuki and in the railway industry. They will pass through another four to five suppliers and the hands of hundreds of workers on the way.
The amount of capital involved increases when we approach the main plant. It starts with slum production, women sitting in front of their houses sticking together plastic parts. It moves on to smaller workshops like the ones we have just described, on to medium work-shops, mainly doing sheet-metal work. Then we reach small and medium sized factories like those of the following reports. In the final suppliers like Delphi, Bosch, Mitsubishi, Denso, and Sona Koyo in Gurgaon and Manesar the technological standard is similar to that in the main car or scooter/motor bike plants. Apart from Maruti/Suzuki, Hero Honda, and Honda HMSI there are other automobile assembly plants in the wider sense, e.g., Escorts tractors, Eicher trucks, Claas agriculture vehicles, and JBM excavators, and they often extend into the same industrial network. Even between local suppliers, parts have to go a long way, e.g. Hero Honda in Gurgaon receives gears from Shivam Auto-Tech in Manesar, which is 20 km away, while Shivam is supplied with metal parts from KDR in Faridabad on a daily basis, passing Gurgaon on the 70 km trip. Maruti/Suzuki changed their supplier policies in the 1990s, cutting the number of direct suppliers from 800 to 400, out-sourcing the responsibility for on-time delivery and quality. The total number of suppliers is said to be 6,000, not including the workshops in Mujesar. Suppliers manufacture the most crucial parts right on the Maruti premises.
The automobile industry extends into a fragile net of manufacturing units and keeps a mass of casual workers circulating within. Ask any of the security guards, cigarette stall workers or auto-rickshaw drivers in the area and they will know someone working in the industry, if they have not worked there themselves. And the hierarchy within the workforce of Maruti persists after workers have been kicked out. In Maruti Vihar in Gurgaon, a housing colony for permanent workers built in the 1980s, the medium-sized clothes shop belongs to a former Maruti unionist and permanent worker kicked out during the 2003 strike against the Voluntary Retirement Scheme, while a former contract worker now handles the cigarette stall in front of the house. His wife and three children live in Ilahabad, but there is no work. He prefers the work at Maruti to the work at the stall, where he has to hang out for fourteen hours a day and hardly makes 2,000 Rs at the end of the month. On Sundays he cleans the house and car of his landlord.
There is more to be written about the industrial structure and the circulating work-force, mainly because we get a glimpse of how workers can turn this social cooperation against the regime of capital. In the coming issues of the newsletter we want to have a closer look at the main automobile actors in Delhi and Gurgaon and the recent workers’ unrest which they had to face: Maruti/Suzuki and the trouble with the Voluntary Retirement Scheme, police repression and contract conflicts at Honda (HMSI), Hero Honda factory occupation and its chain reactions of workers’ unrest. There is more to come.
Following are five reports from workers employed in the automobile supplying industries in Faridabad. They describe the conditions in the first-tier suppliers. They are translated from Hindi. Their stories were published in Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar (FMS) no. 220, no. 222, no. 223, during October 2006, December and January 2007

Yamaha Motor Worker

19/6 Mathura Road, 250 workers are hired through 24 different contractors. At first workers could stay when the company changed the contractor, but they started to replace the workers together with the contractor, which meant that people got sacked after more than ten years of continuous employment in the factory. Today only in the spare parts department there are fifteen of us older workers left, fifteen workers who are hired through contractors. They intimidate us, but the togetherness amongst us is good. Nevertheless, the situation is precarious. We used to give our dues to the union, after seven years of taking our dues, the union gives the money back to us (which means that they refuse us as members). In this situation we took steps ourselves, for our interests. Three years ago stopped work for one week, then our wage was increased by 700 Rs and they accepted that overtime is paid at double instead of single rate, they agreed to give us 12 to 14 paid holidays per year, and to give 10 Rs for food for each working-day. Every three months wages are checked according to the DA (see glossary), but although the permanent workers get their wages increased accordingly, we do not receive any additional money. This January our wages have been increased by 30 Rs, this is after three years receiving the same wage of 2,968.20 Rs. You cannot make ends meet with this wage. The permanent workers who work next to us get 15,000 Rs.

Super Auto Worker

Plot no.84, sector 6. Out of the 500 workers employed in the factory only about 50 to 60 get PF and ESI. The factory processes sheet metal using power presses, workers often cut their hands. The company keeps some prepared ESI forms, so if there is an accident and workers cut their hands it shows that they get ESI. Amongst those who receive ESI and PF seven or eight workers had cut their hands. During this month alone one worker got two fingers cut off, another one chopped off one finger. The company itself employs 25 workers directly, 100 are employed through Durga Enterprises. The rest are hired through some permanent workers who the company has labelled as contractors (a legal fake in order not having to hire people directly). In the paint shop at the Yamaha, Mahindra, and the Honda lines workers are hired through contractors; the unskilled workers amongst them get 3,000 Rs for a 12-hours day and 30 days month. During the twelve hours they don’t even give you a cup of tea. There is no canteen in the factory and we have to take our meals on the road. Every month the company gets rid of documents. The company has other factories in sector 6, plot no. 13, 50, 79, 80.

Talbros Engineering Worker

Plot no. 74 - 75, sector 6. In the factory there are 25 permanents employed and 1,000 workers are said to be hired through a contractor, but in fact it is the company which does the hiring. Out of the 1,000 who are documented as hired through the contractor only 60 get ESI and PF. The monthly wage for ‘unskilled work’ is 1825 Rs. The factory runs two 12-hours shifts and it is obligatory to work 30 days per month. They define when to enter Talbros, but they do not fix a time when to leave the factory. Overtime is paid at single rate. If you cut or wound yourself at work you receive a little treatment and then you get dismissed. The factory manufactures parts for Tata, Mahindra, Bajaj, Massey and others.

GEMI Motors Worker

Sector 11, Model Town. First the sign at the factory said American Universal, after that GE Motors, and now the name is GEMI Motors. The factory is very clean, but the 10 Rs meal in the canteen will not fill your stomach. If you ask for seconds the canteen guy turns a deaf ear and says that for 10 Rs this is how much you get. They say that the company contributes with 15 Rs to each meal. For the packing and cleaning the company employs workers hired through contractors, and there are trainees in the categories of six months or eighteen months. By luring and by inflicting fear the company increases the work load of the trainees constantly. It is said that the company factories in America have holidays on Saturdays and Sundays, but here the factory runs even on Sundays. In New Plant on Sunday the 24th of December the company reached a limit. During the year itself production had been increased by 40 per cent and on the 24th of December the manager came and said that on that day we would be allowed to go home once we increased production by 80 per cent. The shift started at 6 am and the few permanent workers who arrive on Sundays left at the end of the shift at 2:30 pm, but in order to meet the production target the trainees had to work till 5 pm. Officially the company does not acknowledge overtime. The two and a half additional hours after the end of shift will not be paid for by GEMI - GE Motors. On 24th of December the company made the workers do unpaid labour.

Alpha Instruments, Abhirashi Impex Worker:

30/2 Industrial Area. Work starts at 9 am and 4 to 5 workers leave the factory at 6:30 pm, the rest of the skilled workers at 7:30 pm. The casual workers and those who do the packaging work have to stay as long as necessary, sometimes they work for 48 hours continuously. Those who stop at 6:30 pm neither get a tea break, nor are they paid the one hour overtime. Those who work till 7:30 pm get tea and biscuits at 7 pm and their two hours overtime are paid at single rate. If they keep you for longer than 10 pm they give you 10 Rs for food. More than half of the workforce does not show up in the official documents, they do not get ESI or PF. The initial wage is 1,500 Rs per month?. In the factory, which got shifted from SGM Nagar to Industrial Area, the management set up three different companies in order to make the workers show up in this or that document. By doing this the management has done away with workers’ 8 to 10 years of employment and the benefits attached to this. The company directors are father and son and the father always is always putting pressure on us. Two months ago a woman worker submitted a complaint at the labour department, the company did not bother to send a representative, instead they sent a permanent worker and presented him as a manager. The permanent workers handed in a complaint in the labour department on 24th of November. In reaction to this on 29th of November most of the casual workers were dismissed. The company, which has never paid on schedule, this time paid the November wage on 9th of December and for the first time the permanents received a pay slip as well. Now many permanent workers finish their work at 5:30 pm. The company has never paid the statutory annual bonus, but when the November wages were paid, they even made people sign the bonus register. The factory manufactures auto-meters for all kinds of vehicles. Most of the products are for export to America, Britain, Germany, Holland, and Turkey. The company gave only four holidays during the whole year.