MAY DAY FEATURE

Contract Workers' Strike at Hero Honda's Gurgaon Plant

Once again Gurgaon has become the centre of workers' unrest following the strike at Hero Honda's Gurgaon plant. Around 4,000 casual workers of Hero Honda were on strike from 10 April 2006 against the anti-worker stance of the management that had ignored the demands of the workers for a long time. The main demands placed were wage hike, job regularization, extra casual leave and medical benefits at par with the permanent workers.

In fact, around 4000 contract workers of Hero Honda's Gurgaon Plant (owned by Pawan Munjal) were denied regularization for the last 7 to 8 years. A contractual Hero Honda worker is paid between Rs. 4000-6700 per month as against Rs. 40,000, the salary of a permanent worker performing the same job. Rs 10 is deducted daily for food and tea only from the casual workers' salary. The three major contractors who operate in the Hero Honda Gurgaon plant include the Sehgal brothers and workers recruited by them not only get low wages but also do not receive any pay slip or cards. The casual helper at the plant gets a meagre Rs. 2000-2500 at the end of the month. The management and the contractors are equally involved in the exploitation of the contract worker.

There is no union in the Hero Honda unit, but the casual workers of the company unanimously decided to protest and braving all kinds of threats and machinations by the management, they determinedly continued with their strike.

Finally, the administration and the management were forced to come to the table. On 14th April, a tripartite meeting was held between Haryana's additional labour commissioner, management and worker representatives and they agreed for a settlement, under which some demands were met with and on the rest, talks will continue. It was an important victory for the contract workers, who are otherwise forced to live in miserable conditions. The agreement included a 30% hike in salary, two days of casual leave every month and medical benefits in accordance with the company rules, issuing identity cards and ATM cards and opening bank accounts for the casual workers. The management also agreed to pressurize contractors to address some of the genuine grievances of the contract workers. The management agreed to review the situation at the earliest and look specifically into the demand for abolition of contract labour and their regularization.

AICCTU expresses solidarity with the movement waged by the casual workers of Hero Honda's Gurgaon unit and welcomes the fighting initiative taken against the repressive management of Hero Honda especially after the brutality meted out to the struggling Honda Motorcycle (HMSI) workers in the recent past. It is truly commendable that the workers have not lost courage to challenge the hideous nexus of the private entrepreneurs, state administration, and labour contractors, particularly in Gurgaon. Their fight for economic rights and their initiative to unionize reflect the spirit of working class offensive against the shrinkage of workers' rights and democratic space for struggle in the era of liberalization, privatization, and globalization.

Ardhendu Roy