Strike at Munjal Kiriu
A strike of workers at MUNJAL KIRIU (Plot 92, Sector 4) automotive parts plant in IMT Manesar since 18thDecember 2013 has again openly questioned the exploitation under repressive conditions that goes on in the industrial areas of Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera in Haryana. Responding to continuous attacks by the management of Munjal Kiriu on their Union rights and their livelihood through terminations and repressive working conditions, the workers of both A and B shifts numbering around 300, later joined by C shift workers worked a sit-in strike or occupation at around 2pm on 18th December 2013. They held fort inside the factory till around 9pm, when a large contingent of Haryana police personnel numbering around 1000 which had entered the factory around 4.30pmousted them to the factory gate. The workers decided against any altercation with the police and have since then been camping at the factory gate. They are braving the cold industrial winter with their unity in struggle and strong slogans of solidarity of other workers in the area which enthusiastically rent the air.
The strike marks a unity of permanent, trainee and contract workers, and also a unity of both local and migrant workers. Around 550 workers work at present in the factory, 238 of whom are permanent, 6 TT (technician trainee) and around 300 contract workers working in abysmally low wages. Job security remains a major issue and the workers stress that the frequent arbitrary terminations while the work pressure is increasing is the primary bone of contention at present with the management. Horrendous working conditions particularly of the contract workers are another source of legitimate anger.
The plant started production as Munjal Kiriu in 2007 with Foundry and Machine shop, before which in 2003-04 it was a Hero plant with Hero group having the majority share. At present, Kiriu Corporation Japan has 67% share while Munjal owns 33%. Workers at Munjal Kiriu produce brake discs, drum brake, shafts and other automotive parts for Hero, Maruti Suzuki, Toyota, Nissan, Bosch and others.
Profit through Terminations and Increasing Work Pressure
It expanded production in 2012, when the number of lines went up from 5 to over 10, while the number of workers remained stagnant at first, then decreased. This means a steep growth of profit over the job-terminations and deterioration of quality of work, a classic case of jobless growth model that is in place in the entire country.
This was taken up with the management with the attempt and formation of the Munjal Kiriu Employees Union (MKEU) in June this year. On 29 February 2013, workers filed for registration of the Union. Just after this ‘audacity’ from the workers, upping the attack ante, the management terminated the job of 5 out of 7 of the Union body members whose names appear in the file sent for Union registration. Workers Rakesh and Mukesh Kumar were thrown out, then three more workers of the Union body, with the General Secretary getting his transfer papers handed to him. The workers however got their Union registered as Munjal Kiriu Employees Union with Registration number 1953 on 12 June 2013, and affiliated themselves to HMS. They presented a 41-point demand notice. Most of the demands including regularization of contract workers were disregarded during the settlement on 26 November 2013, which imposed a mere Rs. 4500 to 7200 wage increment in a period of 4 years. Of the 5 Union body members, 3 were first taken back then another reinstated, while 1 Union member still remains suspended.
Meanwhile the attacks on the more insecure contract and TT workers continued unbridled. While in February 2013, there were 150 TT workers, come November only 6-10 TT remained, even as the work pressure on a single worker increased. Reacting to this, workers resorted to a wildcat strike which was a 12hour occupation in October this year, which forced the management to reinstate 3 recently terminated workers. The final straw was the termination of 3 TT workers on 18 December, which resulted in the present strike from that day.
Some glimpses of Working Conditions
o Contract workers usually work anywhere on 8-12-24 hour to even 36 hour shifts.
o There is a system of forced overtime in place, with workers routinely harassed and refused Gate Passes for entry-exit. Even leaves are not granted when asked, and for contract workers, that would mean losing their jobs.
o If after a shift of 12 hour work, anyone wants to go home, the management at its whim forces the worker to do overtime illegally at single rate, and threatening and effecting cuts in wages of even that day’s 12hour work if the worker refuses.
o Wage paid for contract workers who’re doing hard skilled production work, is only the Haryana minimum wage and less for unskilled labour, a mere around Rs.5200.
o There is no ESI, PF, CL, LTA for contract workers, many of whom have worked for 4-5 years continuously on contract. They are hired through contractors in a murky system of bribes and cuts.
o For TT workers, who’re usually diploma holders, the wage is around Rs.6-6500, while for permanent workers the wage comes to only around Rs.7000. After 1 year on the job, the TT workers are to be made permanent, but many workers attest to the fact that to divide and spread suspicion among workers, only few are favoured for permanency. The management this year, after throwing away almost all the TT workers, now do not even have to bother with making anyone permanent.
o 50% of the cost of food and tea are deducted from wages, and 50-670% of the fare for bus facility is also deducted from wages.
o Safety issues remain a big concern for workers: the work at the Foundry shop is to do with high temperature, and safety shoes even when they wear out, are not replaced before 6 months. Likewise with other safety equipments which most of the time workers have to pay themselves to get.
o At the Foundry shop, and at loading/unloading, workers whether contract or permanent are routinely made to pick and carry 20-25kg heavy loads including hazardous slag.
o There no scheduled time for lunch or tea break for workers at the Foundry shop and for all contract workers, which is served packed on the line to ‘save time’ on work stoppage.
o Even for urinal, there is no time given to keep the continuous production on.
o Continuous warning letters on refusal to forced work and harassment is the normal mode before terminations, and workers raise the question of dignity at work when faced with an abusive and repressive management.
As few days back, one national newspaper reported Japanese Kaizen technology being used in Maruti Suzuki Manesar which saved 21,500 steps from worker walks in FY13, we understand that the companies nearby (Maruti is just 500m away, and Honda MSI 1km away) are learning from each other to ‘save time’. The inhuman squeeze without respite on the brains, muscles and emotions of workers produce such wonderful profit margins for in this factory regime.
Solidarity of Workers in the Area
On 21st December 2013, 17 months since the Maruti Suzuki Manesar incident of July 2012, this strike at Munjal Kiriu (Plot 92, Sector 4) plant in IMT Manesar, brought about an angry assembly of workers at the factory gate from across the area, with slogans of ‘management chor hain’, ‘Hooda sarkar murdabad’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’.
Even till recently, the heavy continuous deployment of state security forces ostensibly to maintain industrial peace, would not allow any dharna, rally, pamphleteering or anything that would even minimally question the legitimacy of production at gun point inside the IMT Manesar area. We had as recently as 18th July 2013, witnessed a deployment of a 10-15000 strong police, commando and paramilitary personnel posted to prevent the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) call for ‘Manesar Chalo’ to mark one year of the 18th July 2012 incident demanding the release of arrested workers and reinstatement of terminated workers this year ostensibly to maintain ‘public peace’. This state of affairs very much continues. But on 21 December, workers from nearby factories numbering over 1500-2000 assembled in a show of solidarity, even going on to say that it is a common issue of workers in the region which can only be resolved with solidarity among workers here primarily. Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, Omax Auto Employees Union, Perfetti Employees Union, Rico Employees Union Dharuhera, FCC Rico Employees Union Manesar, Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union Gurgaon, Suzuki Powertrain India Employees Union, Nerolac Employees Union, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, AITUC, AIUTUC and many others came in force in the solidarity action with the workers at the factory gate.
Meanwhile, the management is employing all legal and illegal options to further attack the workers. A Good Conduct Bond has been issued which the workers are being asked to sign to get back to work. 64 more workers have been suspended after this solidarity action on 21 December as a notice pasted on the gate informed the workers. Court Summons have been issued in the name of 11 workers to shift the strike site 100 meters beyond the gate. Around a 100 new contract workers have been brought in to resume production which cannot be done given the skilled nature of work required, and production continues to remain at a halt at present. Workers demand their legitimate rights and an end to arbitrary terminations. This is not an isolated case of the Munjal Kiriu Workers, as the parallel strike of workers at AUTOFIT factory, Dharuhera, brewing unrest in Baxter factory in Manesar against management efforts to curb Union formation (5 workers terminated and 45 workers who signed for filing Union registration, all transferred to Pune plant), and recent strike in Daikin factory in Neemrana point out. This is in the shadow of normal everyday exploitation, which leads to non-reported incidents like in the Asian Colour Coated factory in Bawal, where a boiler blasted on 19 December 2013, killing 2 workers and injuring 9-10. No accountability is the rule in such cases.
Update on the situation at Daikin factory, Neemrana:
Workers of Daikin tell us that amidst the hostile company management-state attitude, the strike at Daikin went on for 60 days till day before. They had a tripartite settlement on 20 December 2013 in the presence of the Labour Department and the management of the company. However 39 workers remained suspended and it was given in writing that they’ll be taken back on duty within 80 days. The odds against isolated cases of strikes are many and so agitation is difficult to sustain, and though the strike has halted but the struggle, workers attest, will continue.
Strike at AUTOFIT factory, Dharuhera:
There is a strike going on in the AUTOFIT factory since December 2013. A unity has been forged among the 95 permanent, 20 TT or technician trainee, 298 casual (who’ve been working for 12-18 years without permanency) and 150 contract workers (who’re thrown out every 6 months) in the strike.
Autofit is an autoparts company which has been in the area for 27 years. This is the main plant with two more being in Manesar and Haridwar, and a fourth plant about to be started. Workers here produce wheels and seats, mainly for Hero, Honda (Honda Core, Honda city), Sonali Tractors, JCB, Omega and HMSI.
The wage for permanent workers is a mere Rs.6-7000 while contract and casual workers get a Rs.5200. Only a Works Committee existed then. In June this year, workers filed for Union, and got their registration on 15 October, with registration no.1998, Autofit Workers Union, affiliated to HMS. Just after the filing for Union registration and giving the demand notice, the Autofit management increased their harassment of workers and taking back facilities. In the Settlement, while the workers demanded Rs.10000 increment in a period of 3years, the company agreed to less than half the demand and this too in CTC (gross Rs.2346). Since 7th December, no work, no pay imposed on Trade Union leaders, and 17 workers which includes the entire Union body members were suspended, and Good Conduct bond issued for all workers.
Strike started with both permanent and contract workers. Cases of misbehaving and stoppage of raw material entry have been thrust on 10 workers, and legal stay of 1000m brought in to shove the workers out from the factory gate. At present the strike continues with the workers staying put at the factory gate. There is a halt at production, leading to low production at Hero Motorcorp and allied factories. On 23 December 2013, a joint Trade Union program was organized to mark a show of solidarity with the Autofit workers. All the striking workers of Munjal Kiriu Manesar also participated in full strength and solidarity.
Immediately reinstate all the terminated and suspended workers of Munjal Kiriu, Autofit and Daikin unconditionally!
Immediately implement the just demands of Munjal Kiriu, AUTOFIT and Daikin workers!
End the regime of exploitation-oppression of workers in Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-
Report from: Workers Solidarity Center, Gurgaon.
Contact: [email protected]; 09873057637