Thursday, December 12, 2019

New Axis, New Terrain, New Milieu

Activities of workers hired through contractor companies in Honda two wheeler factory in Manesar, India:

The November issue of Majdoor Samachar was getting ready to be published.
We received and added the following message from a worker hired through a contractor company from inside the Honda factory on 5th November: “In A-shift during the lunch break at 11:30 a.m., workers did not go to the canteens. They gathered at one place in the factory. Euphonic-cacophony! Production stopped in the factory. The B-shift came in the factory. A-shift workers did not leave the factory. Outside the factory 250-300 workers and inside the Honda factory thousands of workers gathered at one place.” After the permanent workers left the factory, 1500 workers hired through contractor companies stayed put inside the factory. They stayed for 15 days. This brought to the fore with amazing clarity, the changes that have taken place during these twenty five to thirty years. It is very important for all workers and even important for a widespread arena. Therefore, despite it taking more space, we are publishing the excerpts from the aadaan-pradaan (conversational exchanges) that had taken place between November 5th to the 28th:

*November 7th: Temporary workers of Honda bike and scooter plant are sitting together inside the factory.

Yesterday, Honda management tried to start production through permanents, company casuals, apprentices, and staff. (Company casuals are workers who have been working for years in the Honda factory and who are made temporary for two more years before being made permanent workers). Only 50 vehicles in a day. Through a notice, the management had called all of them in one shift today. Permanent workers decided to stay in their own departments and refused to work on the assembly lines. Assembly lines shut down.

# Notice from the Management to suspend production on November 8th and 9th.

# Work suspension notice provides a pretext to the permanent workers to not come to the factory tomorrow and day after.

# Tomorrow and the day after, the management and the government together could do something to throw the temporary workers out of the factory.

# Solution...together only.

Now whether inside or outside the factory, the immediate task seems to be to think and prepare to defeat what is likely an imminent attack by the company and the government.

# This is not a do/die struggle. Like waves of the ocean, advance-recede, again and again, repeatedly, continuously. It behooves to have conversations regarding paths to exhaust the power.

# Company and the government are scared. They are disconcerted. Their weakness is symbolized by their preparations.

All of you temporary workers’ self-confidence is something fantastic. It behooves all to stay calm. Discussions at length on everyone's suggestions are indispensable.

# The atmosphere has changed. The environment needs to be changed further.

This is neither a struggle for honour nor a do/die struggle. This is not something to be negotiated across the table.

Table and negotiations have become irrelevant. They have become obsolete. They have become meaningless.

Everyone knows this.

To advance and to recede like waves. To spread your ideas, views and practices. This is the time for workers of one factory to become workers of thousand factories.

The company and government's consternation will increase further.

# It seems bankruptcy is covered under the garb of honour.

*November 8th: Now food and water of all the workers sitting inside has been stopped.

# No one is being allowed to enter the company premises.

# Blocking the entry today is a defensive step of a frightened Honda management.

Unable to understand what is going on, Honda company has done this to instigate the thousands sitting inside the factory and those workers sitting outside the factory. Provoked workers do something so that power can go in for police action.

The lesson learnt from 2011 experiences of Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory workers is to not get provoked. The workers did not get provoked even when their fellow workers who were called in for talks were arrested.

In October 2011, when the factory was de-occupied for the second time, a Maruti worker shared this about the time spent sitting together in the factory: "We, who had been working together for years, felt during those seven days as if we were seeing each other for the first time. We conversed a lot. We sang. We danced. Those were the best days of our lives." And, the Maruti management had to back down, conceding concessions after concessions.

For the temporary workers gathered in Honda factory, the factory is now their space. Lots of conversations. Lots of rest. Sing to your heart's content. Compose new songs. And do convey your songs and conversations to us outside.

Enjoy. It's a time for jubilation. These are moments of joy. Let’s make this time and these moments more memorable.

The Honda management does not know what to do.

*November 9th: Tonight, at around 8:30, workers sitting inside the Honda Factory were given biscuits, snacks, bread, and juice.

# Tomorrow friends, do come from 11 to 12 o'clock to encourage these casual brothers and if you can cook at home then do bring food so that there is no let-up in our brothers’ movement. …Beedi to smoke…

# Increasing discussions and support for workers firmly sitting inside the factory

*November 10th: Dear Associate, due to prevailing I R situation in the plant operations have been suspended and plant will remain closed till further intimation. ---A Honda manager

# What does this mean?

This means that the company does not know as to what it should do. The management had suspended the production for two days thinking that by 8-9-10th, you will mellow down.

# What does it mean next?

The new and significant difference from Maruti Suzuki 2011-12 is that thousands of workers hired through contractor companies by Honda management are together determining the turmoil. There is no basis for representatives-demands-negotiations-agreements to maintain the status quo. This is a new terrain.

*November 12th: Today, November issue of Majdoor Samachar was available near the power house in Sector-3 of Industrial Model Town Manesar from 5:30am to 9:30am. 1800+500+250 copies amongst workers in many factories in IMT Manesar. Then we met workers sitting outside the Honda factory.

Thanks to the Honda workers who met us joyfully, said what they wanted to say, heard us, discussed. It was a good example of aadaan-pradaan (conversational exchanges) for us.

Thanks to those Honda workers also who tried to see to it that the November issue of Majdoor Samachar is not read by Honda workers. They must have had their reasons for this.

After meeting Honda workers it seems that:

Some sections are troubled by the zest and enthusiasm of workers firmly entrenched inside Honda factory.
Their trouble seems to be that this can go on for long if the workers sitting inside the factory are not in distress.
The management had shut down the canteens and kept the firmly entrenched workers in the factory hungry for 24 hours.
The fear became overwhelming that the situation could worsen if the workers sitting inside were kept hungry. The union of Honda permanent workers came forward and made the food available to workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside the factory.
[Propaganda that 2500 workers sitting inside the factory had begun fast unto death. And, the Honda union stopped supply of food.] To see to it that no food enters the factory from any side, some from amongst the workers hired through contractor companies and sitting outside the factory were put up as additional guards.
The tested method of creating an emergency is being tried in the Honda factory. Due to an emergency situation the bad solution had to be accepted is a raag heard ad nauseam.

Laughing. Singing. Dancing. Seeing joyful workers, the bosses sweat.

More the solution is deferred, the position of workers hired through contractor companies will get stronger. The discussions amongst workers in thousands of factories in IMT Manesar are providing them strength. It behooves to further expand these relations.

*November 13th : Forcibly keeping workers sitting inside the factory hungry to create an emergency has advanced. Inside, three workers have fallen ill. Leaders by beating the drum of “thousands of workers inside the factory on fast unto death” remind of the deceptions in the war epic Mahabharat.

*November 14th : At 2:30 in the night, one worker fell sick and was sent to Employee State Insurance hospital.

# Those who are against you, their very plan is to create an emergency situation. Have discussions amongst yourselves. Is it in your favour or is it in the company’s favour to keep you hungry?

# Instead of being serious, this is the time for laughter and singing. The company’s emergency plan will get bogged down.

Worker’s joy is distress for leaders and officers.

# The B-shift going to the factory and the returning A-shift of the workers hired through contractor companies in Maruti Suzuki Gurgaon factory showed great interest, curiosity, hope and enthusiasm in the turmoil created by workers hired through contractor companies in the Honda factory from 5th November.

*November 15th : The conspiracy to create an emergency by keeping the workers hungry for a quick resolution collapsed the moment it was revealed. Milk-bread-bananas are being given to workers sitting inside the factory.

*November 17th : I am standing outside Honda. Spoke with a few workers about giving food inside. They said that they are giving food which is just sufficient for survival… they are just trying to exhaust the workers inside.

# 1) Honda Manesar factory workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside Honda Manesar factory since November 4th and 5th are not complying with anyone's consent.

They are not sitting inside because some leader told them to.

They are not sitting inside because some court ordered them to.

They are not sitting inside on the instructions of some representative.

In fact, workers hired through contractor companies cannot have any representatives.

There being absolutely no space for negotiations, in these circumstances such workers take collective decisions based on their thinking and understanding.

It seems to be a new terrain. This is absolutely different from the tussles going on in the world to keep the status quo intact. Workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside Honda factory and staying firm seem to be a part of attempts to bring about real changes in society

2) Those who want to throw out the workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside the Honda factory since November 4-5th, are scared.

In whatever they think of doing, they at once see more harm and they also become aware of big danger.

Thousands of factories being next to each other. Millions of workers being close to one another. In the capital and surrounding area, ten million factory workers, together.

The government's hands are tied. If they use the police, there is a possibility of the situation getting out of control. Millions of workers close to one another can make the situation explosive in minutes. What can the army do?

Honda management does not know what to do? What can the bouncers do?

Workers hired through contractor companies very well understand and recognize the Honda factory permanent workers’ union and its leaders. But for "support", what else can the leaders of various shades do?

What can the courts do? Today violation of laws is common in the "rule of law" and adherence to laws is the exception. Hence, the courts keep deferring by giving date after date. And, it is common to not implement court rulings.

3) The position of the workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside the factory is getting stronger with each passing day. The position of Honda company is becoming weaker and weaker with each passing day.

*November 18th : It is necessary to say this.

Government, labour department, and all the unions in Gurgaon region (including the Honda union) have for the present, rescued Honda company stuck in a dead-end. There is no longer any need to say anything about the assurances of leaders and officials.

In Honda Manesar factory, the workers hired through contractor companies de-occupied the factory. Removed the management's control over the factory for 13-14 days. Workers created a space for themselves. This experience requires lots of discussions. Now, the point is to increase workers' own space. The point is to create workers own space beyond a factory's walls. This is the time to create and spread the space in many factories, in the whole industrial area. Workers hired through contractor companies in Honda factory have shown a glimpse of this.

*November 23th : Read the special notice of Honda Manesar management. A few things in this context:

In Faridabad, from 1990 to 2000, many such notices were seen. The process was somewhat like this:

After the notice, representatives warm-up. Conditions unacceptable. Will not sign.
No entry into the factory. Sit outside.
On the one hand it is an illegal lockout and on the other hand it is an illegal strike.
At that time some major transformation was underway in the production process. Or demand in the market had fallen greatly.
Indefinitely outside the factory. Wither.
Restructuring by the company. Or declaration of bankruptcy, selling of assets.
Workers obtained extremely small amounts of their legal dues from the courts.
It seems that this process is again at play. But now workers are alert. So, this process will not be effective.
The new methods that workers have adopted : collective, spreading, staying put at workplaces, and shutting out the language of negotiations.

Good times are ahead.

*November 24th : Greetings. Attaining success is becoming difficult. Six persons of the union have also been suspended by the management. Result is not in sight. Unable to understand what lies ahead. Offers from contractor companies. Some have broken ranks which is terrible.

# When you people were inside the factory, Honda management was very weak.

After you people came out of the factory, the scale tilted in the favour of Honda management.

At such opportunities in the future, it behooves us to think about means-methods to stay for longer periods in the factory. Now, it behooves us to reach out to workers in other factories in IMT Manesar. Your experiences of 15 days inside the factory need to be spread in the entire industrial area.

Managements are scared by two things. One is when workers do a ‘sit-in’ inside the factory and second, when workers spread their experiences and ideas. Spread what all you did in the last 15 days. This is your force.

*November 25th : Sitting inside and outside the factory for 15 days, workers hired through contractor companies in Honda Manesar factory became an axis. Support and opposition revolved around them.

It seems that a new terrain got constituted/was constituted. Temporary workers, casual workers, workers hired through contractor companies constituting the axis seem to be a new phenomenon. When it is said that "the workers have taken things way ahead," then it can be said to be an expression of this new.

Workers, who have come out of Honda Manesar factory, after sitting inside for 15 days, are getting rid of their tiredness. They are acquiring energy. Becoming strong and robust, they will take the phenomenon greatly forward. In every industrial area, temporary workers will further speed-up the transformations.

The new terrain has come with new questions. No one knows now what the paths are.

By the factory sit-in, the 1500 workers have answered many questions with amazing and astounding clarity. The old questions have become passé.

The new terrain needs a new thought.New questions and widespread aadaan-pradaan (conversational exchanges) seem to be a primary necessity.

••• [After signature by each worker on the conditions as per Honda management’s directions, permanent workers entered the factory from 25th to 28th November.]

*November 28th : From 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., we were near the power house in sector-3 of IMT Manesar in conversations with workers of different factories. Then with a little apprehension we decided to meet the Honda workers on our way back.

Now sitting outside the factory, the workers hired through contractor companies had to be searched a little.

The moment we met them we were elated. Workers who were inside the factory from November 4th to 18th met us with enthusiasm.

One worker: Stepping out of the factory was falling in the pit.

A number of workers: The moment we came out of the factory, we became weak. The scale turned in company’s favour and the management removed us from the factory gate. We have been made to sit in this far-away empty plot covered by trees.

Workers took the copies of the November issue of Majdoor Samachar and started distributing it themselves. This refreshed the memories of November 12th, when some people at the factory gate had tried to stop the circulation of Majdoor Samachar amongst workers sitting inside and outside the factory.

The demonstration on November 27th organized by the Trade Union Council of Gurgaon at the district administration’s head office and the assurances given there were brushed aside by the workers by mere mention of Honda union president's “two hundred percent assurance” of result on behalf of this Council on 18th November, within two days of the workers coming out of the factory.

Regarding prolongation of sitting out and weakening the workers: unlike workers of other places, we Honda workers will not become weak vs Honda workers have not come from the moon.

Discussions in some groups regarding increasing the strength of workers:

Conversations on paths to transform one factory's workers into workers of thousands of factories.

Mention of sitting at six-seven locations instead of the one presently in IMT Manesar.

Regarding the sit-in at a very important place, some details of the experience of Honda Tapukara factory workers sit-in at Jantar Mantar in Delhi were shared.

Experiences in Faridabad, and in Okhla Industrial Area (Delhi), of workers of one factory taking their experiences amongst workers of thousands of factories by writing on cardboards were discussed.

Discussion regarding 30-40 Honda workers standing during morning shift hours with their written cardboards along roads at 6-7 places in IMT Manesar from where large numbers of workers go to the factories.

It seems that the 1500 workers hired through contractor companies who sat in the Honda factory for 15 days have the capacity to take things very far.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Effervescence | FMS #376

FMS#376 || Faridabad-NCR || October 2019

A cup of tea, please. Have you brought my ten copies?

Your copies are here. A little ginger in your tea?

Companies do what suits them. What’s all this reading going to do?

Shift ended at two last night. Some left in groups. Some of us stayed back and slept inside the factory. I dreamt. A rhinoceros was chasing me. I turned back; it smiled. It was walking slow as a tortoise.

The rhino must have read the paper!

Don’t know. But yes, it has slowed down. Some brake was in play.

The ten copies I take bring a warm complexion to conversations around me. Minute observations of living find a weave; they leaven. This in itself is a value.

If we withdraw these from our conversation — representation, power games, and lamentation — how do we sound?

That’s just it. To take this question, and to experiment and create new milieus — this in itself is a value.

This value you are speaking of, it shows on the shop floor. In the gaps when irritation from work ebbs a little. When the concentration that work demands eases a little. An effervescence enlarges.

A sparkler!

Sometimes in one. Sometimes among a few. Sometimes in many. Sometimes in all. Sometimes a relay.

What spreads?

What is it?

It is that of which you were speaking just now. When we withdraw representation and fluctuation of power from conversation. When we try to touch that which seems far.

What happens then?

You know it. Interest, selflessness, self-interest, harm, purpose…

…Sermon. Aim. Success. Failure.

Is this conversation about the irrelevance of all these?

Of their having become incompatibles?

Oh! It’s like when you question purpose and aim, you are accused of being powerless and delusional.

So, not as much about being out of joint as this is about moving in parallel.

What you are all discussing is something I have been quite preoccupied with, I should say. It’s something I keep trying to figure out. I do many thought experiments to frame it. Make many models to comprehend it.

So share some, friend.

Like breathing. We draw in. We exhale. You can discuss quality here — the quality of air, the quality of the breath — but not the aim of breathing. To ask about the aim of air and the aim of breath would be bizarre.

That’s an intriguing formulation. It’s simple. It's persistent. Always there. Daily. With everyone. In parallel with everything. Expressed. But accepting this as thought comes with obstacles.

Those moments in which we are joyful and overflowing with laughter, are called distracted, wasted time. And sometimes we repeat this admonishment as if it were our own thought.

Wasted time is a formulation of management. The importance of a regime of time too is a formulation of management. Misers! It is miserly to give such qualities to time. To set time in only two values. And then they spend their days measuring waste and use.

They count breaths. Good breath. Bad breath. Good good breath. Bad bad bad breath.

Ha ha! A calamity has befallen thought!

Why should we get trapped in this measure?

Don’t! Don’t get tied down. The outcome of this stingy measure is fully apparent everywhere today.

True. We all know this. It is the kernel of our everyday critiques of management.

Now is our time to live our parallel lines, with an effervescence, with a liveliness, with a fullness of expression and resonance with each other. Qualities not measurable.

And as always, my tea has turned cold!

fms Nov 2019 by baatein1 on Scribd

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Roam, Zigzag Some More | FMS #375

Friends, this month 36,000 print copies were taken by readers to create their own milieus. We welcome your contribution to address this growing demand.

FMS#375 || Faridabad-NCR || September 2019
Stillness too has a noise.


Friend, ask not what it means; start a duet.

Hah! That’s a new spin.


How far will asking the meaning of a thing take you?

First you will try to infer how many are being referred to. Then you’ll ask what the event was. And then you’ll want to know what came of it. That’s it, thought circles back to where it started from.

We bind our curiosity. A compelling argument, my friend. We cocoon ourselves.

Roaming is important. Circular paths are boring. Roam we must, so why not start at a tangent.

And then zigzag some more. Change the vehicle now and then. Slow down a little. Describe the route. The breeze too, sometimes. And blow in the wind a bit. Some fantasy. Some joyful halts.

So let’s roam then. Let’s start with this amazing intuition, this gift from our friend here: Stillness has a noise. Let’s go!

Wait! One question. You’re saying we all have intuition. And the insights from intuition can feel like they are without analysis and consideration.

She’s also saying that this intuition loses it force and joy when pressured by a demand for elaboration.

Ok so let’s travel. I’ll start. One screaming project manager. Five quiet workers. Some time passes. Fifty quiet workers. Some more time passes. Hundred and eighty quiet workers. Some more time. Three hundred and fifty quiet workers. Project manager goes crazy and runs out of the gate, screaming all the way. All workers stay still.

It starts with a few words: ‘Why did you bring it?’ Everyone looked at each other. Time dissolved. Everyone slowly started gathering around the production manager. Time stopped. We were two hundred and fifty. We were all silent. Electricity coursed through our bodies.

We see each other for the first time. Again.

These days signatures are being demanded on forms that say, ‘I am leaving work of my own free will’. We are all silent.

There is a noise in this stillness.

We were called to a job with personal phone calls. We were assured a yearlong tenure. Fifteen days into the job, and some were told to leave. One month on, some more were told to leave. Forty-five days, and some were again told to leave. Two months, some more. We are four hundred now, and we are in conversation. We will sit inside the factory. And we’ll talk with each other freely. And we will be still.

We were quiet. We were listening to music. It was very hot outside. In Saudi, the temperature soars to 50 degrees. Buses were sent. Threats were made. Requests were made. Assurances were given. Police fired in the air. We were five thousand; we did not come out. We were listening to music. Chicken was slow-cooking in large utensils.

When four, or five, or seven and eight of us finish the night shift and step out, we talk a lot. Like floodgates have opened. All kinds of stories. Some experienced, some heard. And a whole lot of forecasting.

And many, many kinds of intuition inter-lacing sentences. Sources are many. From places very many. And from strangers unknown and unnamed.

Let’s keep playing.

FMS October 2019 by baatein1 on Scribd

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Unprecedented Confusions

FMS#373 || Faridabad-NCR || July 2019

Did you see the video?

Which one? The one you sent with the line "to increase your confusion"?

Yes. Isn't your workplace becoming somewhat like that?

Yes, something like it is happening. But the dexterity of the workplace in that video was of a different order.

Arre, at least show us the video!

I’m sending it. But let me quickly run you through it. It’s a PCB board making factory. The thing is, they make with precision, dexterity, and automation, thousands and thousands of boards, but they also make customised, unique, single boards with the same precision.

Raju keeps telling me about his circuit boards and sometimes shows me complex designs. I should tell him to have them made there. That’s possible, isn’t it?

Should be. Anyone can send a design from anywhere. They test it, make a board, and send it back.

So where’s the confusion?

What I understand is that along with doing our work in factories and workshops, we keep tinkering with, probing, and exploring technical objects.

It has been so for long, long years.

True, true. Our Autopin settlement was built by us over so many years. So at least for that long, we have.

The city itself is built that way.

Actually, much of the videos that circulate are self-made, self-learned, peer-gained.

Looks like it’s Raju-time! It’s a capacity, his confidence, becoming visible to all. He is happy, we are happy. So where’s the confusion?

The language that makes the world of work familiar and known no longer holds that world. Robots, artificial intelligence, automation, computation are changing the contours of how we work.

Work itself is getting confused!

And within this atmosphere, everyone's inner Raju is emerging stronger.

And the way we all are knitting, mending, binding, stitching the world together is probably unprecedented.

Amidst this then, we have two kinds of confusion. A joyful confusion and…

And an astonishing confusion.

FMS_373_Jul2019 by baatein1 on Scribd

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Beyond the Bounds of Certain and Uncertain

FMS#372 || Faridabad-NCR || June 2019

Can we agree that the question of ‘what life will be’ is always an open question?

For everyone?

Yes. Open for everyone, at all times.

So are you saying that nothing is certain?

Well done friends! What a cool conversational gambit. My lemonade seems warm in comparison!

There you go again, trying to sidetrack our conversation with irony. This isn’t about certainty, surety, uncertainty, unpredictability. Something else is at stake.

Ok. See life beyond ideas of certainty and uncertainty. So then, how else? Ok, the future is open. I agree intuitively with that. And then?

We do see each others’ ferment. Sometimes it feels like we are all engines. Whenever we see even a small dip in another’s ferment we ask, where is your spirit? What is making you feel discouraged?

Well, my friends mostly tell me I am as if in a space shuttle.

Well, we can see that. You never have an air of despondency hang over you. A thought strikes me: To keep open the question of what life will be, is something that needs nurturing between and practice by all.

You’re saying that asking another about the loss of their engine-fury comes from a shared terrain of intimate affinities.

And where does this shared terrain come from? I’m not asking rhetorically. This question really does crop up in my mind often, navigating the places that we do, with their uncountable people and millions of practices.

It’s an elegant and large question. A mystery, a riddle. The kind that gets flush with new tides of energies with every incident.


Don’t you feel that, on the assembly line, all of us could swing to a un-predictable rhythm—resonating with each other, unknown to each other—at any time? In a strange way we feel it, we can even claim that we know it, and sometimes we even speak it. This is probably what keeps the question, ‘what life will be’, open.

You might find this a bit out of context here. But do listen. In the factory in Manesar, I feel very cold while I work, even in this heat of May. The new machines, the new robots — they seem to need 16 degrees to be stable, otherwise it is said that there will be havoc. We are given training in yoga to help us adapt to new robot ways. And when I come out at the end of the day, friends say it’s all fun for you, you don’t have to sweat. And I say that I’ve done too high a production, too high.

So, what is this about?

The story is that I am really confused. Work is changing. The design of work, the way of work is changing. The logic of wage doesn't register in any meaningful way. What’s the calculation based on, I don’t get it. I do work equivalent to my wage in about one minute, maybe two.

What you are saying? Are you talking about possibilities? Are you saying the radius of our conversation is limited? Are you saying the ground has shifted?

What I’m probably saying is that the word ‘life’ itself has to be thought differently.

FMS_372_Jun2019 by baatein1 on Scribd