Wednesday, December 30, 2009


(New Series No. 258, December 2009)

A late letter from London. I started working for a temp agency which hires street sweepers, waste loaders, street sweep-truck drivers. I work on a street sweeping truck, I sweep stuff from the pavement into the vacuum-brush of the truck.

When they hire people at the agency they say that you might get a public sector contract, a direct contract with the council. Then you might earn 18,000 to 20,000 pounds a year as a street sweeper. We get less than the minimum wage, about 5.50 Pounds per hour. This is about 750 Pounds per month if you work eight hours a day, five days a week, this would be 9,000 Pounds per year – less than half of the council workers pay. At the agency they tell you that you will get working clothes after six months, but the workers I talked to worked as agency workers since two or three years and they still did not have working clothes. For most single rooms in London you pay 80 to 100 Pounds a week– meaning that you can just ‘survive’ on the minimum wage – live in a room and eat basic.

A lot of guys work seven days a week, some work double shifts. The Polish truck driver I worked with yesterday takes speed (drugs), he worked 72 hours this week. London is based on this low wage maintenance work. The unemployment is high, entry wages are low, criminality is high. This creates quite a lot of pressure on people. And absurdities: I need a cycle to go to work, because buses and metro-trains are expensive. I bought a second-hand cycle for 50 pounds, the cheapest you get, I guess it has been stolen and then sold by someone who tries to survive – then I bought it. I get a cheap cycle, but I have to leave the cycle in the open at a bus stop – I would have to spend 100 pounds on a good lock in order to feel safe and sure that it is still there after work. On the main street we sweep five young guys were shot last month – gang war, poverty crime. In the estate where I live a group of young guys sweep the streets at weekends. They are supervised by an officer. They wear vests saying ‘Community Pay Back’ – a kind of chain gang. They have been caught committing poverty crime, and now they have to sweep. On our vests it says: For a cleaner Borough. The wages are too low to meet urban desires.

The truck driver I normally work with is from Algeria. He has to drive the truck through very busy London traffic, he has to operate the mechanical brushes and vacuum cleaning device at the same time. At the same time he is on the mobile phone talking to friends he has no time to see. I prefer walking down the streets sweeping – you have more time to think. Because you normally only sweep your own rooms it feels a bit like you extend your home into London city centre. Walking leaves more time to observe. Beggars in London normally sit next to cash-machines of banks. As a cleaner you feel a bit like a ‘city worker’, you can connect more easily with post workers or other people working in the open. People often ask you for the way. I don’t have to walk too much, the routes are quite short, may be seven miles in total. Sometimes we have to work on the truck, change the mechanical brushes etc., but that does not take long. We can finish our round in four hours. We wait somewhere sitting in the truck for an hour. I leave work after six hours, but get eight hours paid. The truck driver cannot do this, he has to return the truck – chained to the machine. All sweepers leave early. This makes the job o.k. The ‘productivity’ is the councils main target.

We had a meeting with the management yesterday, about 30 sweepers. They have a investigation team running around to score the cleanliness. We had 4 per cent litter, which is a good score. But the manager is not happy with people leaving the job early. He said that last month 50 per cent of the people were seen leaving the job early. He first talks about the productivity bonus (this is only for the permanent workers) – which is nine per cent of the wage. He threatens to cut the bonus if people continue to leave early. He then also talks about disciplinary measures. I was afraid that the truck driver would be scared after this talk, but they are used to management talk. This day of the meeting I left even earlier then usual. Even the recruitment agency knows that people leave early and they try to sell you the job as a good job because of that.

There is ‘first world’ and ‘third world’ close together: the sweeping trucks are highly equipped with technology, cameras etc. They must cost more than 500,000 pounds. The license to drive it costs about 800 Pounds on top of the normal driving license, which is 1,500 Pounds. High-tech for long hours of work. This is the ‘first world’. Early in the morning at around 4:30 the ‘third world’ arrives at the depot: workers who have no contract, but who are on stand-by. They wait and see if a worker with a contract does not turn up for work, then they can get a day job. If not, they have to go home again. Today I met one of them, he worked double shift, as well.

In Leeds yesterday an 11 weeks strike of bin men and street cleaners finished. The council had threatened to cut annual wages by 5,000 Pounds. The strike was bitter, glued depot locks, the council hired 100 temp workers, 950 had applied for the ‘scab-jobs’, some violence at the picket. In the end the wage cuts are not as bad, but the union agreed to a ‘productivity scheme’. The council wanted to enforce an average time of 13 seconds for getting the bin from the street, emptying it into the truck and returning it. In Brighton they have abolished bins for each household, people have to walk down the street to bring the waste to a huge container themselves – this is then emptied with the accumulated rubbish of 80 houses. Under the impact of the crisis there is a wider productivity drive: our friend was on strike in the Post Office, they want to introduce new sorting machines. In the supermarket Tesco, people scan their items themselves and pay at machines, no cashier worker necessary, one cashier supervises five machines and helps people to check out their shopping themselves. More unemployment, more pressure on wages, more crime…

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Under the Blogroll, we have added these links:

China Study Group
*news posted about workers in China

Collective Action Notes
*some English translations of FMS's first page from 2003-2004 can be found here

Faridabad Workers News
*here you can find video footage about the condition of workers in the national capital region (Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad)

Gurgaon Workers News
*updates on workers in Gurgaon, Haryana

Kamunist Kranti
*here you can find Questions for Alternatives, Ballad Against Work, Marx's Critique of Political Economy, and Self-Activity of Wage Workers

Subcontinental Upheaval
*monthly discussion and working group out of London

Towards Autonomous Transformations: FMS

*a description of our work

Sunday, December 13, 2009


(New Series 257, November 2009)

In an effort to clarify some questions, we’ll discuss only the factories. 70 to 75% workers working in factories in Faridabad, Okhla (Delhi), Gurgaon are ‘invisible.’ ¾ of workers working in the factories are not in the factories according to the factory and gov’t documents and records. This is the meaning of ‘there is no ESI.’ (ESI stands for Employee State Insurance which is legally compulsory for every factory worker. Where ESI does not exist, the worker does not exist in the factory records. To Provide ESI 1.75% of wages are deducted and the company contributes approximately 4.75%.) 80 to 85% of factory workers are not given the statutory minimum wages set by the governments of Delhi and Haryana. In factories, 12 hours work every day is common. And 98 to 99% “extra time” alias over time is not shown and the payment is at single rate instead of double rate. Conditions in other areas under the control of the gov’t of India is not different than the above. Here on August 15, 1847, the government gained independence from providing residence to factory workers.

Based on conversations with a permanent worker, Rico Auto Industries, 38 kilometer Delhi-Jaipur National Highway, Gurgaon:

It’s a big factory. After casting in iron and aluminum through machining, various parts of vehicles are made. The company has factories in Ludhiana, Dharuheda, Manesar. Rico Auto, Continental Rico, Magna Rico, FCC Rico…In these factories, work of Hero Honda, Maruti-Suzuki, Honda, Ford, General Motors etc is done. Work has to be performed standing and after 8 1/2 hours duty, they force you to keep working. Even on weekly rest day, shift workers have compulsory duty. Payment of overtime is at single rate. They keep increasing the production target and for not completing the production target, they harass us. Wages are said to be 5,500 but really 4,200 are given. Basic wages are low and there are various allowances. Leave Travel Allowance (LAA) money is cut from the wages each month and given at the end of the year when LAA is supposed to be provided by the company. In the canteen, bad food for more money. No arrangement for transport. Despite many efforts, workers get tired of asking but many of the permanent workers also are not given ESI card. In this situation, permanent workers keep quitting jobs and new ones become permanent. ITI & MSC are taken as trainees. Permanent workers are 2,000 to 2,500. Through 2 contractors, as many as 2,500 workers have been hired. I don’t know about their condition…To overcome their difficulty, permanent workers put in 1,000 rupees each, that is 20 lakh rupees collected and joined the union. The big leader of the union converses with the Chief Minister-Prime Minister. In August, things started heating up. On September 21, when the company suspended 16 permanent workers, then no permanent worker entered the factory.

Workers hired through contractors also stayed out. Workers sat at the factory gates all day, even cooking their meals there. Leaders came to give speeches. Company hires new people. Production goes on. Goods enter and leave the factory. Sec. 144 forbids a gathering of 5 or more people at a place. Stay 50 meters away from the gate. Police took away the tents and mats. Arrests and bail. In support of unions in Sunbeam and Rico factories many unions together held a big meeting on September 25th. Normal production continues in other factories of the company. Due to prolonged time and the Diwali festival on the 17th, there were a smaller number of workers at the factory gate. The company organized an attack on October 18th in which a worker died and many were injured. Unions called strikes in 50 factories on October 20, 80-90 thousand workers did not work. Work came to a standstill for three days in the factory. One boss was beaten. Leaders did not allow the National Highway to be blocked. The company gave 5 to 10 lakh rupees to the family of the dead worker. No arrest in the murder case. Though the Labour Department–Chief Minister got negotiations started between the Management and union on Oct. 22nd. The Company restarted production in the factory through new hires on October 23rd. Negotiations are continuing. Leaders are keeping all things to themselves. This time they are not telling anything to the workers because... In 1998, when an attempt was made to form a union, the leader had sold out, we don’t know what is there in the demand notice, what the conditions are…Production is continuing in the factory. Pressure on the company is decreasing…Conversations-negotiations are on. Workers hired through contractors have dispersed. Where can we permanent workers go? Despair, full of rage, enraged. This week something is bound to…Union has started a relay-hunger strike from November 2nd.

*In eastern Uttar Pradesh in Bargadwa Industrial Area of Gorakhpur. On June 15, 600 workers of Ankur Udyog stopped work for statutory minimum wages etc. For the same thing, 300 workers of V.N. Dyers on June 23rd and 300 workers of U.N. Textile Mill stopped work on June 28. After an agreement was reached, work commenced. In these 3 factories on July 13th, Joint Front for the Struggle of Workers Rights was formed in the area. 1,000 workers of modern laminators and modern packaging on August 3rd demanded statutory minimum wages, ESI etc from the Labour Department. 10 rounds of negotiations. After the negotiations of August 21st, the company closed the gates at night to the workers at the gates. After finishing the shift at 10 p.m., workers at the factories also started gathering there. On September 11, hundreds of workers set up camp in the court premises and started cooking food. Gov’t Administration became active and gave assurance of a written agreement. At the Deputy Labour Commissioner’s office, Management explicitly refused to give statutory minimum wages. And the Co. which had been calling it an ‘illegal strike’ on September 13th put up a notice of a lock-out. Workers of many factories demonstrated on September 14th and burnt law books. 10 days assurance, on the fixed day of September 23rd, Gov’t Administration and co. did not appear for negotiations…

Hundreds of workers marched 5 miles to the District Administrator’s office and began preparations for cooking. Agreement on September 24th, workers hired through contractors and 18 other more active workers were refused a job. All the workers blocked the gate. Police, armed police. Agreement. Again not implemented. Hunger strike at District Administrator’s office on October 14th forcibly removed. On October 15th, 4 persons very active in the movement were called for negotiations by the Administration and beaten and sent to jail. All around opposition…Announcement of civil disobedience in Gorakhpur from October 21st. Strike by workers in 5 factories on October 21st. Strike by workers in 5 factories on October 20th and workers of 2 other factories joined the strike the next day. The Administration released the 4 persons who were jailed the night of October 21st…Seeing no other way, workers of modern laminators and modern packaging resigned in mass. And these two factories are closed till beginning of November. Lack of Alternatives…

(Information from Satyam, Katyayani; “Bigul” (69 Baba ke Purva, Paper Mill Road, Nishat Ganj, Lucknow 226006. Sanyukt Majdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Morcha, L.I.G.-II, 414 Vikas Nagar Bargadwaj, Gorakhpur).

Craft, trade, craft and trade unions narrowness has been known since 150 years. Craft-trade unions becoming harmful or dangerous to workers came to be realized in practice 90 years ago. Organizing workers on the basis of factory instead of trade was understood to be a viable alternative. Industrial unions were formed. To increase production on the basis of line system industrial unions soon became a tool to keep workers in control. Between unionized workers and those without unions, big differences in wages and allowances emerged. Extremely small minority of union workers got caught in the encirclement of fear and arrogance. Acceleration in the condition of the majority of workers went from bad to worse.

Automation and especially emerging electronics has made it possible to learn to work in the factory in a very short time. Together with this, the number of workers necessary for production of work decreased very rapidly. Number of unionized workers in the world has shrunk quite a lot.

Here in India, normally in factories only permanent workers are made members by the unions. And in these 20 years, percentage of permanent workers in the factory is between 0 to 10/15% only. Old factories that did not close down and where companies could not succeed in large scale retrenchement are exceptions. An articulate aspect of the reality today in factories here is that 80 to 90% of workers are temporary- casual workers, workers hired through contractors. Social death and social murder of peasants and artisans is pushing tens of millions in the ranks of workers at increasing pace. Large chunk of those who do anything for money has come into existence.

In Gurgaon in these 10 to 15 years, new factories have come up rapidly. Young workers are the overwhelming majority in these factories. At some factories, there are very small numbers, while at others more permanent workers are prominent. The pain that is borne of being a wage worker is also boiling in these young permanent workers. The function of established unions is to make these workers controllable/pliable.

80-90% of workers in the factories are casual workers. Those who work for 2 months here and for 6 months there. Who are not paid even the statutory minimum wages. Such workers are outside the frame of industrial unions…For the creation of a new society, these workers are freed from many types of shackles.

In Gorakhpur, questions regarding new forms of organizations, new methods of struggle are knocking at the door. In Gurgaon, it is not the talked about cases of Honda, Sunbeam, Rico Auto but rather the steps of 2,500 workers hired through pro contractors in Delphi; sudden stoppage of work by 4,500 workers in the spare parts factory of Hero Honda in Gurgaon; stoppage of work by 3,000 workers hired through contractors in Honda Motorcycle and Scooter factory against the Magement union agreement; stoppage of work by Eastern Medikit by casual workers on delay in wage payment…Workers are engaged in searching, making, forming, new paths.

In these conditions, the question before us is what all we should not do; what all we should do; how to go about it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


(New Series No. 176, February 2003)

I am 32 years old. I work in a big company. My job is collecting dues from factories and offices situated in Faridabad and depositing them in the Delhi office. I work 6 days out of the week. I have to go to Delhi 18 to 20 days out of the month and in those days, my duty is from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. On other days, from 9 to 6. My work is such that my body is getting out of shape. During these 4 months, every day I get up at 5:30 in the morning. I drink a lot of water and after going to the toilet, I go for a walk. We five, seven neighbors go for a 4 kilometer long walk and do half an hour exercise. While walking, we have a discussion on some topic. Here and in other places also, I have a lot of difficulty when similar people amongst themselves try to show themselves as superior or important.

We are all working. All are staff members. Some in Purchase, some in Accounts, some in Sales. We don't consider ourselves workers. In our definition, a worker is one who goes on a bicycle, has his lunchbox on his back, and a bidi lit in his mouth. But we all are bothered by more work and low wages. If someone falls ill in the family, then a thousand to fifteen hundred have to be spent and it takes many months to recover from such a blow.

Refreshed by a walk and exercises, I return home by 7:15 a.m. My wife is often asleep till then. We have two children- three and a half and another one and a half years old. I wake my wife up and together we have tea and read the newspaper. Twenty days in the month, I make the morning tea. If the children wake up, then we are able to have tea together and I read the paper alone. I have a bath at 8:30 a.m. and by then the children are usually awake. By placating them, and sometimes leaving the girl child crying, my wife makes breakfast and lunch, I pick up my bag after breakfast, take my son for a quick ride on the scooter and then leave for work at 9.

Collecting dues is a very difficult job. At some places, they put the condition of first getting the machine repaired. At many places, the customer is short of money and makes excuse upon excuse. At many places, the system is so inefficient and clogged, payment is tied up. Everywhere, there is a demand from me for New Year and Diwali festival gifts. And sometimes, there is even a demand for bribes.

From one place to another, throughout the day, I'm busy running around on my scooter. At every place, I have to be a gentleman before entering. These days I have to remove my muffler, remove my gloves, take off my windbreaker etc. It's compulsory to wear a tie but I don't wear it and instead keep it in my bag and only put it on before entering the Delhi office at 6 p.m. We consider the person who wears a tie to have monthly wage of 20,000 rupees. But they only give me 8,000. If they give me 20,000, then I'll accept the punishment of wearing a tie. Tie is the definition of gentleman.

At every place, I have to go through the process of enquiry and an enter myself in the register with my name, address, and work. Meet the dealing clerk in the Account department. If the check is ready, take it, otherwise wait till the next date. Out of 30 places at least 20 offer me tea. In dealing with one customer, it takes 30 to 45 minutes. One, then second, then third...Sometimes, at 1 p.m., or at 2. I have lunch and again that factory-office round. Work is such that I have some flexibility. Therefore, there is some possibility for shifting time depending on my mood or other work. But the pressure of work is such that whether there is desire or not, one has to go to the customer. On average, I go to 30 customers. The need for money smothers my body and soul and the company has also put out the bait of commission.

When I have to go to Delhi, then at 4:30 p.m., I park my scooter at Old Town or Balabgarh and catch the train. Then I take a bus to the company office. There I meet 8,10 people like myself.

Giving a report and listening to the boss about this or that takes an hour or two. I take a bus and then the train back home. I pick up the scooter from the station and reach home at 9, 9:30 pm. Sometimes, the children are asleep, sometimes they are awake. After a wash, have my meal at 10. After dinner, my wife and I used to go for a walk at night but we've stopped this because of the winter. Now we talk about something that occurred in the day and watch t.v. for awhile. When I was a student I used to come from the village to Faridabad to watch films but now in these four years, I have not seen a single film in the hall. I don't feel like it. I am fed up with the job. I want to leave the job but where can I go? We sleep at 11 pm.


I am not yet 35 years old. My husband and elder son both work. I look after the house and also earn some money from stitching and embroidery. Every day I get up at a.m. I have to go out for latrine in the open. It is dark. I fear pigs and dirty men. (Men sit and hide). It's forced on us. I have to prepare for it. After coming back, I fill up water from the public tap. If it is not crowded, it takes twenty minutes, otherwise it takes an hour.

After bringing water, washing the dishes, cleaning the place then I cut the vegetables and grind the spices. I don't use readymade spices. My husband works in Okhla now and he has to catch the 7:40 a.m. train. On one stove, I cook vegetables and on the other I make rotis (bread) after kneading the flour. Sometimes, on the kerosene stove, I have to heat up the water because my two kids have to get ready for school. After the vegetables are ready, I make tea. My husband has to leave home at 7:15 a.m. to catch the train. The children leave at 7:45. In the morning, they have breakfast of roti and vegetables and then drink tea. My husband also takes his rotis. The children come back at 1 p.m. and eat. After I've completed my work then if some tea is left, I drink that or I make another cup. I drink tea but I don't feel like having breakfast. I heat up water and have a bath. Then I wash the dishes, broom the place, fold up the beds. I work very fast but still it is ten to 11 before it's over and if some guests come in it takes more time. Then I take rest for an hour or two.

I again fill up water in the morning from the public tap. I have to collect water three times in a day. Then work for money. I stitch a pajama for ten rupees. An underwear for five. A petticoat for ten rupees. Contractors bring clothes from factories on which I do embroidery at piece rate. It is 4 to 5 p.m. By the time I bring milk and vegetables from the market, it is time to start preparing for dinner. Taking it all into consideration, it means that I cannot take care of my body. There is no time for myself.

My eldest son has night duty for 15 days in the month. Today he has night duty. He has to go at 8 p.m. from the house. I had prepared food by 7 because if he leaves immediately after a meal, then he'll have a stomach. He eats one hour before and takes some rest. At this time, he is also ill. His duty is of 12 hours. From 8 p.m. till 8 a.m. tomorrow, the boy of 17 years old has to stand at a plastic-moulding machine for 12 hours every day. I feel a lot of pain. I wish he didn't have to work but he is forced to. How can I have him sitting idle at home?

By 9:30 p.m., everyone is free and lies down for bed and watches T.V. Sometimes, I am not able to sleep the whole night because of worries. When I've fall ill, I worry about who will do my work as my son and husband go to work and my children go to school. If you take help from someone then one fears the false allegations by neighbors of having a 'loose' character. My daughter is getting older (she is 13) and I keep thinking about her. I have to carry so many burdens, yet have to still keep going. How can I go on? I have not even lived half of my life. My blood-pressure goes down very low and I have very bad thoughts. If I die, what will happen to my children? Now I don't feel like meeting people whereas earlier I used to get-together a lot with people. Now my daughter has become a great support for me.
When I was 12 or 13 years old, I was married. And my husband and I stayed like two friends. Our children respect us. Again and again I try to convince myself that my children will support me. Like others’ children, my sons will not leave for their marriage. The fear of being left alone in old age...I cut down on meals to save some money so that at least their greed for money will make our children look after us in old age.

When I get too tired then I become irritated and think why is this life being given to me? Death is better than this life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


(New Series No. 237, March 2008)

Young Wage Worker: In 6 months, they definitely terminate your job. Many a time, a month passes before one gets work in any place. When 10 days pass of sitting idle, then hopelessness increases. One feels like dying…To commit suicide is a sin. I stop myself from doing so by saying suicide is a sin.

Manager of a factory supplying parts to Maruti, Suzuki car factories: There is more work with power presses. There is no count of fingers getting chopped. In these 2 years, 18 workers’ hands are being cut from the wrist. This is not to be shown in the records therefore treatment is done through private doctors. Seeing all this, I feel a lot of pain. My helplessness causes still more pain to me.

70 years old retired professor: Reading the newspaper early in the morning ruins my mood. How many disgusting things…My conscience says shoot these leaders and officers.

Those who were earlier villagers: Another young man of Mujesar village has recently committed suicide. Villages on whose land the factories of Faridabad stand, large numbers of the residents of these villages are in the grip of addiction. Rent from rooms is the main source of income for many of them. Young people full of arrogance and intoxication won’t even listen to their elders.

20 year old worker: Every day 12 hours. When there is more demand for the goods, then each day it is 16 hours of work. No day off in a week. No day off in a month. It is forced, if you don’t stay for 12-16 hours then there is no job. Payment at hourly rate. Whether it is second hour or 15 hour, the rate is the same. Production is not according to an hourly rate. Initially, for a new piece, if they set a time of 10 minutes then by reducing it, they make it 9, 8, 7, 6 minutes per piece. Then there is plus, minus, deduction if the production is less than what was set…

Lining charge and master constantly reprimand us. Why do we not oppose this? Why do we grapple to achieve the target? Why don’t people think? I get very angry. I feel like blowing away the bosses. I feel like becoming a terrorist.

*We are not happy with what there is. We want change.

-Each one of us goes to great lengths to change one’s conditions. From stretching our body to killing our conscience….What all we don’t do…A few people, one in many, are able to fulfill their desires. But, on looking back, these things which were considered very important are in reality found to be insignificant. All around conditions are going from bad to worse…Our efforts are failing.

-A common understanding is “the system itself is bad.” That solutions for people’s problems cannot be found for each person separately has also become a common understanding. That our condition will only change by transforming society also became a common understanding. And yet it seems that our efforts to transform our society has reached a level of stagnation.

*Discontent from the present used to be expressed prominently in demonstrations, strikes, confrontations with the police, armed revolts. That is a fact that throughout the world in these 100 years, but the success of meeting-strike-revolt has proved to be a failure. In the whole world, factories have been increasing, the number of workers has been increasing, size of the family has been shrinking., women working alongside men has been increasing, hours of wage-work have been increasing, pace of work has been increasing, insecurity is increasing…

Discontent has been increasing. Rage has become explosive. Throughout the world, their expression in meeting-strike-confrontation decreased greatly. Workers, following leaders is not seen often.

*What to do? Where to go?

We are very well aware of the personal importance of our own steps. The practical importance of our coordinations at workplaces and residences is known to all of us. In our opinion, in this extremely difficult environment, it is necessary to think and consider the extensive importance of our own coordinations and steps.

One person participates in many coordinations. Some coordinations of the old type are loosening, breaking but for a person to participate in new coordinations is becoming easier. Conditions have increasingly become such that a bond can easily coordinate with many bonds. These can take us beyond I-department-factory-neighborhood and provide a larger space. With ease, we can create world-wide coordinations.

-Coordinations which are outside of the bounds of practical/pragmatic interests are necessary and it is not difficult to form them. Such coordinations of ours can now and then with ease bring to a stand-still all that is happening. These will provide us with breathing spaces. These will save us from desperation.

-Market and money have forcibly joined the world together. Whereas through our coordinations, we can form bonds of our desire with 5 to 6 billion people in the world. To overcome the present, exchange and experiences and ideas can certainly help one another. These bonds-coordinations will provide momentum to churning that is going on for the creation of a new society in the world.

Demands are: Zestful life, Joy, Happiness, Love, Respect, Contentment

-If we put it this way, then for our own selves, for dear ones what we need is time, time, time. The real poverty of us people who are compelled to slog for 12 to 16 hours is the dearth of time.

-When we are sent back from the gate, given break, forced to sit idle, time becomes a death for us. This time which increases our worries is time forced on us. This time is not our own time.

-In this period of 12 to 16 hours work, continuous holidays for 3-4 days is necessary for merely saving life. 3-4 days of holiday will be able to provide some time for rest, worry-free sleep, get togethers, for some fun.

-Continuous work is causing derangement. Increasing vacancy of factories-offices is a point of departure for a zestful life.

-Coordinating holidays is how flowers of joy bloom.


(New Series Number 206, August 2005)

Honda Motorcycle and Scooter Workers: Plot 1, Sector 3, Manesar. The biggest problem in the factory located in Gurgaon is – work, work, work and work. The factory was set up four years ago and one thing that has been on the rise is production demand and the burden of work. The 'saahabs' (managers) keep the pressure of work up, and if anyone is questioned, then you are told - “You don't have to come on your duty tomorrow. This is how things have to be done. If you can't, then you can leave.”

In this way, one line has been made to produce 2,000 scooters in one day, by work being done in two shifts. Production of motorcycles has reached 750 in one shift – motorcycle production work is an year and a half old. One scooter has to be produced in 25-26 seconds. In this way, production of 1,000 scooters has been fixed for one shift. But if, for some reason, this does not happen, then the B-shift has to make up to meet the 2,000 figure. If, in order to make this extra work possible, production is halted for half an hour during the second shift and then continued, then no overtime is given. If production is still not completed then workers are forced to put in overtime. B-shift ends at 11:15 p.m., and usually one must work till 1-1:30 a.m.. On and off, one has to stay back till 5:30 a.m. to finish the production of 2,000 scooters.

Parts are made on CNC machines, where one worker has to operate two machines at a time. Some parts have to be made in 15 seconds, others in 30, others in 50 seconds, and some heavy parts in up to 2 minutes 10 seconds. In all this time, two machines have to be operated together. There are two shifts on the line, but three shifts for production of parts. Working one shift is so tiring that overtime is impossible, but has to be done or you will be shown the way out of the gate.

Around 90-100 hours of overtime have to be put in every month. The company compensates for overtime with twice the payment, but we workers are very opposed to putting in overtime. Considering the speed at which work is being done, no one will be able to work beyond the age of 35-40 years.

At first glance, at a superficial level, everything is good in the Honda Factory. Any worker (even the one who has come in through a contractor) is given two sets of uniform, one pair of shoes and a cap on the very day he joins. There are 25 buses which transport workers from the home to the factory and back, and if there are few workers then even an Indica or Qualis. There are two canteens and a meal – roti, rice, two vegetables, curd, salad, something sweet – is available for Rs. 6. Every worker is given a coupon of Rs. 200 for tea and snacks every month. It is clean. There is a doctor in the factory at all times, an ambulance, Medi-claim. Permanent workers, trainees and apprentices are all given their payment on the first of every month, and those who work through a contractor are paid through him by the 7th of every month. Trainees and apprentices are brought from far, and they are provided for accommodation for the entire month. Some of the ITI workers brought in by the contractor work for 6,7,8 months and are thereafter sometimes retained as trainees. Trainees are permanently employed once they finish their period of training (one to two years).

Paucity of permanent employment opportunities and the desire for permanent employment post trainee-ship compelled us to bear anything. But after the incident in which a worker was kicked, we increased dialogue amongst ourselves.

Late year, in October, at 11:15 p.m. in the weld-shop, during B-shift, one manager kicked a worker. The next day, during A-shift, workers stopped work at 9:00 AM, to protest against this. When the manager who had kicked the worker apologized, work was resumed – this was at 2:00 p.m.. B-shift workers also stopped work. The manager apologized again and work resumed at 7:30 PM. If work stops in a factory for one day, it amounts to a loss of Rs. 8 crore.

Quarrels increased in the factory. This year, on 6th February, bonds were asked to be signed, and the management was very forceful about this. All the workers left their place of work and assembled in the canteen. No one ate food. No one left when the shift ended. C-shift workers also came and sat in the canteen. Next morning, A-shift workers made there way to the canteen as well, instead of going to work. Workers from all three shifts – 1,200 permanent, 1,600 trainee, 1,000 employed through a contractor and 400 apprentices – were congregated in the canteen. No one ate or drank any tea. The company called police in the factory. The D.C. also reached the factory. There was no leader among us – the company asked for 5 workers from each department to talk with. An agreement was reached by 5-6 in the evening – there would be no suspensions, the bonds which had been signed were returned (workers burned them) and the production would be completed.

Work resumed on the morning of 8th February, after having been stalled for one and a half days. Pay was not deducted for the period for permanent employees and trainees, but workers employed through the contractor lost a day and a half of pay.

In April, the company gave its annual increment to the workers: Permanent employees got a raise of Rs. 2,800-3,500. Trainees got a raise of Rs. 600 (even through the raise in April 2004 was Rs. 750). This meant permanent employees were now earning Rs. 8,500-10,000 per month and trainees, Rs. 5,600. One thousand workers employed through K.C. Enterprises did not get any increment. Their salary remained at Rs. 2,800. They work on production and operate the CNC machines.

Apprentices get Rs. 900 from the government, and Rs. 700 from Honda Company. Like all companies, apprentices are put to production from the first day itself, instead of being trained first. They work all three shifts. Most apprentices are brought in from far off places and Rs. 1,600 do not suffice for them. They get overtime through a calculation on their 1,600, not what other workers would get. Once a machine got spoilt because of an apprentice and because of which the line didn't work the entire day. The apprentice was fired.

Things were stable for a few days. Then, a fork lifter got spoiled and a permanent employee was suspended. Ten days after this, workers refused to eat. The work was heavy, and so workers would drink tea. Trainees, apprentices and workers employed through contractors were involved in this. Despite a lot of pressure, workers employed through the contractor did not eat at the factory. When this continued for a month, the factory gave the worker back his work.

Talk about relief through a union began. Workers would meet at the Devilal Park in Gurgaon at intervals of 15-20 days. Cronies among us would report the proceedings to the company. Some steps to align with registered and bigger unions were taken. The Honda company began to increasingly suspend workers over small matters. It began with workers employed through contractors, and by 26th June, 500 of the 1,000 workers employed through contractors were fired. On 2nd June, to protest against this, B-shift workers left their place of work and went to the administrative building and shouted slogans. Production had stopped for half an hour and was compensated for later. The company fired four permanent employees the following day and suspended 25. In protest, meals were refused and overtime was stopped. Production of scooters fell from 1,000 to 450-500.

On 22nd June, the company put up a notice that trainees whose training period was over would be put to test on 24th June, a Sunday. Those who passed the test and if considered necessary would be employed permanently. This, when till now the company had been employing trainees and there had been no test preceding this. No one appeared for the test on Sunday. By this time the number of suspended workers had increased to 50. On 27th June, when we reached for work, the company asked us to sign certain conditions at the gate. When we refused, the company refused to let us enter the factory. Over 300 staff, 40-50 permanent employees and workers hired through contractors on 27th June itself, entered the factory. Work continued – there were around 2,000 people in the factory. Police was stationed at the gate. Four thousand workers were outside the gate.

The administration was petitioned through the union. A procession. Even came to the Parliament during the 11th July session. But nothing changed. It was in this context that there was a clash with the police on 25th July and we were beaten with sticks.

Following this, claims and announcements on TV, in newspapers and by political leaders made it look like our problems would be solved. But on the instruction of the Central Government, the compromise struck under the aegis of the Chief Minister of Haryana has pushed us into hell. According to this, workers returned the factories on 1st August, and are filled with anger. Everyone is annoyed. Permanent workers are saying that if they had to sign the conditions of Honda company after all, then what was the point of doing all that they did. The 35 trainees who had finished their training are still out of work. The 500 out of 1,000 workers employed through the contractor, who were fired on 26th June have still not been hired back. Those who had been hired through contractors on 27th will remain. The company will not pay us for the period from 27th June to 31st July. Through the deal that has been struck, the workers have been divided.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


(New Series No. 188, February 2004)

11 Years old child: Home-Family is a Jail. Parents sharp-searching eyes are fixated on the child all the time. If parents commit a mistake, the children are punished.

25 Years old adult: Family depends upon its own members' exploitation. Through the interplay of emotional blackmail and toughness- cruelties' dual tactics-families survive in the present. In a society where vast exploitation occurs throughout, family members themselves are very oppressive. The trouble is that parents take the responsibility of molding children seriously but in the same exploitation system at any cost. Whether it is the peasant or workers, today the family is paralyzed. To survive, all most families do is work, work, work, and play tricks. When children grow up, the parents are then engaged in limitless efforts towards marriage. Why? What is the purpose? For exploitation to provide a new family set up, create a new organized unit?

Elderly person: In family, there is increasing unpeacefulness… and more unpeacefulness. No sitting together, no love amongst one another. Living isolated and ignored. There is a sense of extreme burden, responsibility, heavy expense, no respect for any one… Mostly everybody feels inner isolation yet everybody appears integrated in the family. For every one either young or old, the family cycle is a difficult chain. The gradually narrowed family is now scattering. Family says,”I can’t take your burden any more.” To make ends meet, so many persons run away from family. But then outside the family, there is the market. Nowadays to make ends meet, it is very tough in the market. On the one side we are unhappy because of family and on other side because of society. What to do?

*The human species, like other species, has generational relationships which provide continuity. The community has generally constituted society generally through generational relationships which continue to be expressed until now.

* Due to the scattering of community, society is now in a very dangerous situation and there are problems for the human species. Hierarchic, oppressive, exploitative social systems have had a very bad impact on the body and soul of humans.

-- After birth, death is certain. This is natural. Happiness at birth and sadness at death are natural amongst living beings. But in a hierarchic social system, in a divided and split society, the pain of death becomes concentrated. No longer something of collective mourning, the pain becomes unbearable. Death which is natural becomes unacceptable. The obsession to become immortal is born.

-- In the hierarchic social system that emerged with the break-up of the community, men acquired a central role. And men's "I"-ness has became all-engulfing.

-- On the one hand, concepts of soul-rebirth and rejecting death emerged. And on the other, male-centered families arose to maintain the "I,"- my blood, my lineage, my copy, my name alive. But without women, children were not possible. So man's 'my woman', marriage rituals, emerged to create my wife/wives.

-- Nose-rings were used to establish control over animals. Nose-rings became the symbol of a husband's property. Thus, the nose-ring was declared to be the ornament of woman. The formation of family was the institutionalization of the dominance of man over woman. Mother and father both became the nose-rings of children and without them the children were considered orphans. Marital institutions drew lines demarcating legal and illegal sexual relations between man and woman. Men kept on consuming illicit relations and the pain was borne by women and illegal (bastardized) children. The constraints on women and the guarding of females has made woman irritable and overbearing. Woman as mother, as giver of life, has been transformed into woman as mother of nagging.

-- 'Blood relations' are supposedly considered an important part of the family yet girls through marriage become part of another family. With the creation of separate kitchens, even brothers by birth become parts of different families. Man by taking a woman constituted an economic unit in the form of family. Besides satisfying a man's sexual desires, marriage and family has become a means for producing children. There is an extreme desire for a son so that the rituals to be performed after death can be carried out by the son. There is an extreme desire for a son as a walking stick in old-age.

...Family acts like a permanent military detachment. But while a conscript army robs and then disperses, a standing army or permanent army continuously loots…

* To maintain the status quo, to climb the ladder of hierarchy, the whole family has to work as a unit. Family is a primary base in hierarchic social systems. The family works like the permanent military unit for these systems. To make life hell for children in the name of their welfare and to insult the elderly as a superfluous load is the normal function of family.

--In the past, having children so that they will look after you in old-age, generating a shop-keeping, instrumental relation, was undoubtedly painful. But nowadays, the gulping-biting that takes place in childhood to increase the marketability of children is resulting in the very break-up of relations between the young and old.

--The increasing dominance of the market in thought and practice combined with the increasing tendency of one-upmanship in society is deepening the politics that goes on in the family. Family has become the primary unit of the market. In the family, there is endless disrespectful behavior today towards one another. This behavior is flourishing. Insulting behavior reaches the depth of breast-beating and again comes back to the level of disrespect. Indifference and disrespect for the desires, tendencies of childhood, and children is called 'love'.

* Motherly love then, love, attachment, feeling of one's being, entertainment, empathy, sentiments, respect, help, co-participation, happiness at arrival, pain at departure... There are multi-dimensional relations between generations. Between infants, boys and girls, young and old. Community-wide bonds that existed between generations in the family mold have shrunk and narrowed and now entered the stage of the break-up of relations among generations. Slave-mother, foster mother, governess used to limit the motherly functions of a few women slave-owners, fuedals, bosses. But now daycare is limiting the motherly function of large numbers of working women. A handful of maternal and paternal grandparents of slave-owning/fuedal/boss class was limited by clowns, singers, storytellers, instructors. Now teachers and specialists through various mediums have side-lined maternal and paternal grandparents on a massive scale.

--In the said 'blood relations' mothers and women's role is dominant. Still recognition is given to the father, the man. "There should be at least one daughter otherwise the womb is not clean." Offering a girl in marriage is a great charity. These beliefs kept some space for daughter in the pre-dominance of man and son in the family tradition. In the past, there has been the custom of killing girls upon birth. But murder of the fetus after discovering it is a girl through the use of modern technology is a modern phenomenon.

* With the break-up of community, and the advent of hierarchy, inter-generational relationships community-wide have shrunk. The domination and expansion of the market has further limited the family, affecting husband-wife-daughter/son. Life has become a machine, leaving no time for love and romance between husband and wife. At the same time, dwindling desire and energy is emerging as the basis for industries that cater to produce sexual desire. The present system’s axis is the market and its crisis and instability has shrunk the family to a single woman bringing up children in highly developed areas. A single person does not constitute the definition of family. Yet in highly developed areas throughout, the number of single persons is continuously increasing.

The formation and increase of old-age homes and the withering-dying desire for children is a reflection of massive disorientation in intergenerational relations in the human species. Rejecting the natural process of death after birth has given birth to social psychosis. This massively hideous condition is also a loud call for a new social construct based on a new community.