Thursday, September 30, 2010
WORKER ACCOUNT OF VIVA GLOBAL DISPUTE
(New Series No. 267, September 2010)
A worker’s account of the Viva Global dispute, Marks & Spencer supplier. 413, Udyog Vihar Phase III, Gurgaon.
“Often there’s no water in the toilets because the pipe is bust. During the summer, drinking water is warm from the overhead tank. Workers on the 3rd floor must go to the 1st or 4th floor for drinking water since there’s none on our floor. It’s too hot on the shopfloor and workers faint. The annual wage increment is too low. Overtime is paid at single rates while we’re told to sign that we’ve received double. To overcome the problems faced by these regular workers, tailors took the initiative to start a union. Slowly 250 workers hired by the contractors were thrown out. Among these thrown-out workers there were 150 women (threadcutters and sequin/ bead sewers, repair workers) earning Rs.3,000 per month (significantly below the minimum wage). Since April the company has closed overtime and management started getting work done outside the factory. They began discriminating against permanent tailors by giving less work and then making allegations that they weren’t working. 20th August, some workers went with the union to the labour office and one representative from management came, carrying merely a letter. On Monday August 23rd, 14 workers were stopped at the gate and prevented from going into duty and told that they were suspended. Instead of the usual 3 guards, there were 7, as well as 8 others to bully the workers. 120 workers stood in the rain and arguing that these 14 should be let in, there arose a scuffle between the workers and guards. Then others arrived with hockeysticks from the company’s side. Male and female workers were beaten with hockeysticks and so forced away from the factory gates. They also took one worker away.
Workers went to the union office, then the union called the labour officer to the factory. But nothing happened. Since August 2rd, 120 workers have been sitting at the factory gate in a protest, with only 50 working inside. The union president and a tailor sat on a hunger strike to get the kidnapped worker released, which he was the next day, dropped beaten and injured, 500 yards from factory gate.
On 27th August, the police arrested three persons in relation to this case.
The factory makes goods from M&S. The buyer came from Bangalore. She made enquiries and called the union and management representatives for a meeting in a hotel. Then she left for Bangalore after saying that there would be a meeting on 28th August between management and union to reach an agreement. But until now (12 p.m., August 28th), management had not shown its face”.
Students comment on the protest
“2nd September labour commissioner himself came to the factory (from Chandigarh). He stayed for 2 hours with management. After coming out, he told the (non-suspended) workers to return to work, saying that an agreement would be reached. Then the workers roughly spoke to him and the union leader spoke in his favour. There was some discussion among the workers that they should negotiate for 6 of the suspended workers to stay out and for the rest to go in.”