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

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.

Ongoing unrest in Sidkul

From : Nagrik, 1 – 15 January 2011

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.