*** Two Decades of Unrest at Clutch Auto in Faridabad
Clutch Auto belongs to the first industrial companies in Faridabad. The first factory was opened in 1971, in the mid-1980s the company shifted to a new plant at Mathura Road, now Clutch Auto is about to open a factory in Rewari, near Manesar, which might result in down-sizing or closure of the Faridabad plant. The company is India’s largest clutch manufacturer, around 2 million per year, for the automobile industry, for agricultural machines and army tanks. In June 2011 about 350 permanent workers at Clutch Auto went on a 11-days strike. At the time the dispute at Maruti Suzuki in Manesar, about 50 km from Faridabad, was in full swing. The strike officially concerned wages and a ‘wage agreement’, but the relocation of the factory is looming in the background. We document a workers’ report published in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. We also translated an older article relating the story of a strike at Clutch Auto two decades earlier in 1992, after 250 casual workers were sacked from the plant.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – July 2011
Clutch Auto Worker
(12/4 Mathura Road, Faridabad)
Every month 100 Rs is cut from the 350 permanent workers wages and paid annually in form of LTC [Leave Travel Concessions] – the bosses say that this is inscribed in the agreement with the trade union. By June 2011, this money accumulated from 2010 had not been paid to the workers yet. The company had also put up a notice in the past, which said that workers are not supposed to take their paid holiday, that they will be compensated. Since 2006 there has been not paid holiday and people who ask for holiday are not granted any. Now, in May 2011 the company put up a notice saying that for any holiday taken the company will cut two day’s wages. In addition, management cut 1,800 Rs from the April wages of workers, saying that according to the wage agreement with the trade union they can cut wages if production targets are not met. On 12th of May 2011 the permanent workers refused to take the reduced wages… on 20th of May the company paid the wages without any reductions. The company opens a new factory in Rewari (around 40 km from Faridabad), they take machinery from the Faridabad plant, they hire new people for training… it looks like they want to get rid off the 350 permanent workers here. On 3rd of June the permanent workers engaged in a tool-down strike, they came to work, but did not start working. On 12th of June negotiations between management and union took place at the office of the Ministry of Labour. The permanent workers and their families ‘encircled’ (protest form) the house of the labour minister, the Clutch Auto workers live in his election constituency. The workers will get wages paid for the ten days of strike, five days are paid by the company and for the other five days workers will work from 20th to 30th of June for 12 hours instead of 8 hours per day. Apart from that a lot of reassurances are given. Production started again on 13th of June.
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – May 1992
On 4th of April 1992, 250 casual workers were kicked out from this factory, situated at 12/4 Mathura Road. They were employed in the factory for eight to ten years continuously, and during this time the workers had been squeezed to the max. They had to jump from one machine to the other, relentlessly. They were not paid the minimum wage. They did not receive ESI. They worked 30 days a month and if they left work to go and drink water, smoke a bidi or go to the toilet, they were marked as ‘absent’ for half of the day and their wages were cut accordingly. Now, at Clutch Auto like at Universal Engineering or other factories, the conditions of the casual workers come to the fore. In July 1991, management and trade union negotiate a new three years wage agreement. The agreement concerned only the 500 permanent workers, the 250 casuals were not even mentioned. According to the current agreement the workers would have received a 150 Rs wage increase combined with an increase in work load – but management was not able to increase production to the extend they had wanted to. This is why they refused to increase the wages by 150 Rs. Under these conditions it was only natural that dissatisfaction amongst the permanent workers towards the trade union leaders grew. It seems that the union leaders, who are affiliated to the HMS, pushed forward the demand to give all casual workers a permanent status. The fact that management kicked out all casual workers on 4th of April is a link in this chain of events. The fact that management suspended 12 ‘prominent’ permanent workers on 27th of April and the subsequent back-and-forth is another link. In the factory production runs as normal. The casual workers, who had been sacked all of a sudden, are angry and they started to organise themselves. Against their protest management obtained a court rule saying that they have to stay in 50 feet distance from the factory gate. On 26th of April thugs paid by the management started to threaten these workers and ‘prominent’ casual workers were followed back to their homes, where the thugs also threatened their families. One problem is that the casual workers – following the advice of some people who want to turn themselves into prophets – started to put their hope in procedures at the labour department and other paper-tigers. A whole month has already been spoiled while waiting for the date of a hearing. Here we have to remember that in 1983 – 1984, during the period when Clutch Auto shifted the factory from sector 6 to Mathura Road, management sacked hundreds of permanent workers with the help of the CITU. At Mathura road INTUC staged the show the drama, and now it is HMS’s turn to continue the drama.
The back-and-forth heated up and on 11th of May 1992 workers at Clutch Auto went on strike. Workers stare at faces of the union leaders and wait what they have to say – the harmful consequence of which becomes visible. With having forced 100 of the casual workers to resign by end of May, management has sealed the fate of the demand to make all casuals permanent. And at Clutch Auto workers still sit in front of the gate, playing cards, putting their hope in leaders who run back-and-forth between labour department and other officers.
*** Green/Nano-Technology, the Long Shadow of the 20th/US-century and the Local Regime: A workers’ Report from Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. –
Worker’s report on a dispute at Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd., in Gurgaon, in summer 2011. Workers had recently formed a trade union, which raised the demand for higher wages and permanent contracts for the casual workers. In response Usha management sacked all casual workers – followed by police repression and entanglement in the net of the labour law. The company Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. is an interesting example for the close connection between so-called ‘green’ and ‘nano-technology’ and the large scale industries (automobile, aerospace, military-complex). The company history also shows the formation process of ‘global corporations’. Behind the formal display of joint-ventures (in Usha’s case with Honeywell, US; Siemens, Germany; Hitachi, Japan) and ‘capital and technology transfer’ we can see how these corporations grew as part of the state regimes and their ‘opening of markets’.
Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. (UAML) manufactures ‘nano crystalline cores’ (amorphous alloy) for electrical switches used in solar inverters, wind generators, in automobiles, rail traction, aerospace and military technology. Usha Amorphous Metal Ltd. came out of a joint-venture with the US multi-national Honeywell. A Usha subsidiary linked up with the German equivalent Siemens. Both Honeywell and Siemens manufacture for the energy and military complex and the development of the corporation is very closely linked to the ‘expansive’ policies of their respective state regimes. Or as Honeywell management puts it: “Honeywell is a Fortune 100 company that invents and manufactures technologies to address tough challenges linked to global macrotrends such as safety, security, and energy”. Honeywell employs around 122,000 workers worldwide, including 19,000 ‘engineers and scientists’. Honeywell is a company of the 20th ‘US-century’, based in the oil and gas sector, expanding into automobile and military sector. “By 1941, the company was present in Chile, Panama, Trinidad, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa. By 1998, the company had operations in 95 countries through 83 wholly-owned subsidiaries and 13 joint ventures.”
Honeywell started to sell amorphous metal products on the Indian market in the 1980s. At the time the state in India curbed the possibility for ‘foreign’ companies to set-up ‘their own’ subsidiaries in India, instead they were ‘forced’ to engage in joint-ventures with ‘local’ companies. The distribution of shares amongst the factions of capital and the question of technology-transfer was given a formal frame-work. In 1987, Honeywell agreed with Usha India to create an Indian-based joint venture, UAML, to make and sell amorphous metal products. Usha India agreed to contribute real estate in exchange for more UAML shares – the family behind Usha India owns large pieces of land in Delhi area and in other regions. Honeywell agreed to contribute technology in exchange. This agreement was memorialized in a “Technology Transfer Agreement”, executed in February 1994. In 1995 the laws for foreign direct investment changed, also as part of the post-1990/91 crisis management and ‘structural re-adjustment – and allowed to set up 100 per cent ‘foreign-owned’ companies in manufacturing. Honeywell set up their ‘own’ unit and the joint-venture with Usha India finally broke up in 2008 – not without a long legal case about ‘monopolising knowledge’ and ‘active sabotage’ of the joint-venture. As we can read in the following, for workers it does not matter too much who their bosses are…
Usha Amorphous Metal Worker
(Plot 487 – 487, Udyog Vihar Phase III, Gurgaon)
In the factory 32 permanent workers and 100 casual workers manufacture parts for electrical transformers. The work load is high, there is hardly time to go on the toilet or drink water. People work 125 to 190 hours overtime per month, which is illegal, payment is 31 Rs per hour overtime, which is also illegal. Each month around three to four day wages get embezzled. After 10 – 20 years of employment the wages of the permanent workers are still only 6,000 to 7,000 Rs. In order to find some relieve workers joined a trade union. In March 2011 workers gave a demand notice to management, demanding a wage increase and permanent contracts for the casuals. In response to this management sacked all casual workers on 28th of April. The workers handed in a complaint at the labour office and started a protest camp in front of the factory. On 11th of May the police arrived, they started to threaten workers, “what are you doing here, go to the labour court”, and chased them away. An appointment was given at the labour department on 18th of May: the management claimed that the casual workers were not casuals, but workers hired through contractor and that currently there is no work at the factory. They said this while hiring new people on a daily level. The April wages were paid to the sacked 100 casual workers on the 18th of May, but the overtime money for March and April has not been paid.
*** Caparo Automobile Workers in Chennai: Short and Succesful Strike against Casualisation and Low Wages –
On 1st of December 2011, 500 workers in the stamping and foundry units of the automobile parts manufacturer Caparo (Sriperumbudur/Chennai plant) went on strike. After two days, management agreed to raise wages and to make 110 workers permanent. We document our rather limited information and ask friends and comrades in Chennai to supply further insights on this important struggle. The strike has to be seen as a continuation of the unrest at Maruti Suzuki or Munjal Showa in Manesar, Gurgaon – the unrest of a new generation of workers.
The information on the numbers of workers who took part in the dispute differs. Some sources state that there are 800 workers employed at the plant, out of which 500 are ‘company trainees’, the rest workers hired through contractors. According to this source only the ‘company trainees’ took part in the dispute. Other sources claim that 500 out of 800 ‘company staff’ laid down tools and were joint by 600 workers hired through contractors. It would be important to know which version comes closer to truth.
Workers struck on Thursday, 1st of December 2011. On Saturday, 3rd of December, the Caparo management arrived from Delhi for negotiations. After management agreed on certain demands raised by the workers, work resumed on Sunday morning, 4th of December. “The training period is for about 1-1.5 years. But many of the workers have been here for three to four years without getting confirmed,” said Mr E. Muthukumar, union leader at Caparo. “The management has given confirmation order to 110 workers belonging to C3 grade. The rest of the workers will be made permanent over a period of time,” said Muthukumar. “There has also been a salary increase – from Rs 7,200 gross to Rs 10,200. The management has promised us that the other issue of recognition of our union will be taken up later”.
Caparo India is part of the UK-based Caparo group let up by Swraj Paul. Whoever is interested in the history of this ‘industrial captain’ should read about his involvement in the back-and-forth over the management leadership at Escorts in Faridabad during the early 1980s:
The plant near Chennai supplies stampings, aluminium die-castings and forgings Nissan and Ford. Caparo India basically supplies parts to all major car manufacturers in India and for export, for example:
* Caparo Maruti Limited produces sheet metal and door-parts to Maruti Suzuki and General Motors from factories in Gurgaon, Halol and Bawal;
* A different plant in Halol manufactures axle and suspension systems for GM and for export to Thailand and Mexico;
* The plant in Pune manufactures stamped components for Tata Motors;
* There is a fastener manufacturing unit in Chopanki, another stampings facility in Greater Noida and Caparo aluminium foundry, Chennai.