Workers are on strike in IMT Manesar for more than one month
30 October 2014
(A Report by Workers Solidarity Centre, Gurgaon)
Workers in Munjal Kiriu factory in IMT Manesar, Gurgaon are on strike from 24 September 2014 against the termination of 8 union leaders and suspension of 20 more workers by the management. Munjal Kiriu, a joint venture (33:67 share) of Munjal group (which owns the brand Hero MotoCorp) and Kiriu Corporation from Japan, is a supplier of auto parts to major assemblers like Hero MotoCorp, Honda, Maruti Suzuki etc. This strike action is a part of a protracted battle that continues for more than one and a half years between the management and the workers.
Protracted battle for last one and a half years:
The workers of Munjal Kiriu applied for the registration of their union on 28 February 2013. Though at that time even the permanent workers used to get a meager salary of around Rs. 7000 and had to do the work of core production under intense work pressure (as in 2012 the number of production lines got doubled from 5 to 10 to increase the production, but the number of workers remained more or less same), the company put the workers under the category of ‘supervisors’ to prevent the formation of workers. The company management also terminated 5 among the 7 union body members in the period from March to May 2013. However the workers remained united and they got the registration of their union on 12 June 2013. They submitted their demand letter to the management where apart from the salary hike and other facilities of permanent workers they demanded the permanency for contract workers. The conflict between the management and the workers got sharper with time. On 2 September 2013, all the workers struck work, occupied the factory premises and forced the management to take back the President, Vice President and Joint Secretary of the union. The management thereafter started to terminate the contract workers to break the workers’ unity. On 18 December, when the management terminated 3 contract workers without reason, all the workers went for strike and occupied the factory premises again. However, after 7 hours of occupation they were forced out of the factory by the police force. They continued their strike and sit-in demonstration for more than one month withstanding the chilly winter. There was a strong unity between the contract and the permanent workers. The workers had to confront an armed attack by company-hired ‘bouncers’ on 12 January night because of which several workers were seriously wounded and got hospitalized. The next day when the Manesar police station refused to take an F.I.R. against the management, thousands of workers from the entire Manesar industrial belt gathered in front of the police station (first such collective show of strength of the workers in Manesar after the 18 July 2012 Maruti incident braving the repressive regime). Ultimately the police had to accept the demand. On 16 January the management of Munjal Kiriu was forced to accept a tripartite settlement with the workers union. The settlement clearly mentioned that no worker would be dismissed from the job and all the workers would be taken back within 40 days. But thereafter the management played a trick with the words of the settlement. They dismissed 7 union leaders (later one more), including the President and the General Secretary of the union, in May 2014 after a farcical domestic enquiry and termed those dismissals as ‘discharge’. Workers did not accept this blatant violation of settlement and pressurized the management in different ways including wearing black badge, boycotting lunch, demonstrating in front of the company and in labour department. Then on 24 September 2014 the struck work again and sat inside the factory for several hours. Then the police arrived and forcibly drove them out of the factory premises. The workers continued their strike in front of the factory gate. While the strike goes on, the company management has suspended 20 more workers.
Challenges and importance of the struggle:
The workers are struggling against several odds. This time management is a bit better prepared to run the production by hiring contract workers this time. The workers have faced repeated incidents of non co-operation by the leading central trade unions that have frustrated them. Besides, the strike is taking place when an offensive of the capitalists and the government combined has been launched with renewed zeal against the working class. The anti-worker labour law reforms are in place. The labour department and the administration have aligned with the business houses more closely in last few months, particularly after the parliament election. The managements of different companies in this entire belt from Gurgaon to Manesar to Bawal have been united in putting pressure on state machinery and in crushing the resistances of workers. Earlier the management used to take some conciliatory efforts to settle the issues. Now they behaved more adamantly in handling with all the major strikes which took place in this belt in last several months — Autoliv and Baxter in Manesar; Posco, Minda Furukawa, Talbros in Bawal, Hero MotoCorp in Gurgaon, Shriram Piston in Bhiwadi and so on.
But militant workers struggles still continue in this industrial belt. Workers in new companies are getting united too. Workers of Belsonica, a factory with 1000 workers within Maruti Suzuki premises itself in IMT Manesar which makes body parts of Maruti Suzuki cars, has formed their union on 10 October 2014 in spite of the suspension of 47 workers during the registration process. The workers make Maruti cars as the workers of Maruti Suzuki do inside the same factory premises, but they get are paid significantly much less in comparison to the latter. Workers of Baxter, Autofit, Talbros are also struggling to bring back their union leaders. The militant strike and struggle of Munjal Kiriu workers in December last year broke the repressive atmosphere prevailing in entire belt after the 18 July 2012 Maruti incident. That was followed by a new wave of workers collective assertion in different companies in this belt. Now when there is again a collective offensive of the capitalist class in this belt under the guise of ‘development’, ‘labour reform’ and ‘Make in India’ project, who can say when a spark of successful resistance struggle will again unleash a counter-offensive?
Let us prepare for that.
Let us stand in full solidarity with the struggling Munjal Kiriu workers!
Workers Unity and Struggle long live!
Workers Solidarity Centre, Gurgaon
Contact: [email protected]; 9873057637 (Amit, Organizing Secretary, WSC Gurgaon)