Maruti Workers’ Strike
The prolonged lockout at the Maruti’s Manesar plant had ended on October 1 with a setback for the workers. In the agreement with the management, the workers agreed to sign the thoroughly illegal ‘Good Conduct bond’ that the management imposed as condition for entering the factory. The agreement obligated the management to take back the workers who were suspended or terminated. However, soon after, the management violated its side of the bargain, refusing to take back around a 1000 contract workers and several suspended permanent workers. Once again, the workers rose up in protest. This time, the workers went on strike, supported by comrades at the Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd.; Suzuki Motorcycle India Ltd., and other nearby Maruti-Suzuki plants.
Striking workers have been subjected to intimidation by goons sponsored by one of the contractors. The contractor’s men fired in the air and threw broken bottles at the workers.
A solidarity team of the Delhi State Committee of CPI(ML) comprising State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, AICCTU leader Santosh Roy, VKS Gautam and Mathura Paswan, AISA leader Sandeep Singh and Uma Gupta of Left and Democratic Teachers’ Federation (LDTF), Delhi University visited the striking Maruti workers on 12 October.
Though the main demand this time hinges on reinstatement of the workers, the matter at the core of the Maruti workers’ struggle is their legally mandated right to form a union of their own choice. And this question of industrial democracy touches a chord with workers not just in Manesar and Gurgaon, but the entire automobile industry and in fact the entire working class all over the country.
As the workers confront the Maruti management with its blatant violations of labour laws, Maruti has resorted to the usual arm-twisting and threats. A la Tata Nano, Maruti too hinted that they might pack their bags from Haryana and head for that dictatorial paradise – Modi’s Gujarat! The attitude of corporations pampered by governments is: ‘a subjugated populace and workforce (in addition to all kinds of freebies) is our basic requirement; fail to deliver on these and we will leave.’
In turn, governments at the states and Centre act as though the suspension of democracy is the birthright of the corporations and the very foundation of ‘investment.’ Even as the Maruti struggle is ongoing, the Prime Minister announced that the “government is working on streamlining labour laws.” The PM said, “There is a view that the labour laws are too rigid and are a constraint on our growth impulses,” and stressed that there is “a need to strike a balance between the needs of a growing economy and interest of the workers.” In other words, what the PM wants to do is to get rid of the very same labour laws which managements are currently violating!
In the name of ‘balance’ between the needs of growth and the interests of farmers, the UPA Government is set on legalising land grab. In the name of ‘balancing’ the interests of ‘growth’ and workers, the Government is seeking to jettison the hard won rights and liberties of workers.
As we go to press, the workers strike appears to be nearing its end. However, the management is still refusing to reinstate several of the leading workers’ activists. And the issue of recognition of the independent union is one that is going to continue to simmer even after this particular strike ends.