Translated from March 2016 issue of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
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Majdoor Library, Autopin Jhuggi, NIT Faridabad - 121001
On the afternoon of 17th February, while distributing Majdoor Samachar, conversations took place with the workers of the A and B shifts of Honda-Manesar factory.
Against the dismissal of 4 permanent workers in the Honda two-wheeler factory in Tapukara, Alwar Rajasthan Honda Manesar union leaders told to boycott tea on February 16th. Leaders and permanent workers also shouted slogans inside the factory. Temporary workers said that instead of boycotting, extension of the tea-break to half an hour would have affected production, put pressure upon the company. When the permanents shouted slogans, the production lines were functioning and temporary workers were at work. Most of the production work in the Honda-Manesar factory is done by temporary workers and the permanents could be said to be overseeing the production process. Temporary workers are four to five times more in numbers than permanent workers. And, permanent workers wages are four to five times the wages of temporary workers. The Honda-Tapukara factory was started in 2011. In this factory, there was not much difference between the wages of permanent and temporary workers. On the afternoon of 16th February after stopping production permanent and temporary workers gathered at a place in the factory. Around 7 pm, Rajasthan police baton charged and made arrests to throw the workers out of the factory.
The Honda-Manesar factory had begun in 2001 and the increasing bonds-relations-talmels amongst permanent, trainee, and temporary workers had become a pain in the company's neck. Bonds amongst all workers working in the factory in today's situation started giving shape to a real wage-workers organization on factory basis by 2005. To overcome this, the company and the state on the one hand used the police and on the other hand union was registered. All the 500 trainees who were in the factory in 2005 were thrown out and hence onwards the company stopped having trainees. All the temporary workers who were working in Honda Manesar factory in 2005 were thrown out, new were hired and then on the number of temporary workers has increased a lot.
After registration of the union in 2005, Honda management recognized the union. Union office is inside the factory. Only the permanent workers are members of the union. Temporary workers cannot become members of the union. Such is the rule, the law. Whether it be Escorts factories in Faridabad, or Maruti Suzuki factories in Gurgaon and Manesar, only the permanent workers are union members in them. Not one temporary worker is a member of these unions, cannot become a member. And, today normally in factories there are 5-10-15-20 percent permanent permanent workers and 80-90-95 percent temporary workers.
In 2006 in Honda-Manesar three year agreement between union and management took place in which production was increased and permanent workers wages were increased. Temporary workers work load was increased and wages were not raised. Next day of the agreement, 1500 temporary workers of the A-shift instead of starting production at 6:30 a.m. went to the canteen and at the same time temporary workers of the B-shift gathered at the factory gate. The management, police, administration, courts, and middlepersons of various hues had to do strenuous exercises for five days.
Union-management agreements have been taking place in Honda Manesar since 2006. After each agreement the difference between the wages of permanent workers and temporary workers have been increasing. And, today 1.6 million two-wheelers per year are manufactured in the Honda-Manesar factory.
Honda-Tapukara factory started in 2011 and 1.2 million two-wheelers per year are made here. The company's third two-wheeler factory was started in Narsapur, Karanataka in 2013 with installed capacity of 1.8 million two-wheelers, which has been increased to 2.4 million. Recently the company's fourth factory in Vithhalpur, Mehsana (Gujarat) has commenced production from 16.2. 2016 in which 1.2 million scooters per year will be manufactured.
To overcome the increasing bonds-relations-talmels amongst about 400 permanent workers and 4000 temporary workers at the Honda-Tapukara factory, the company and state have now in 2016 repeated their modus operandi of 2005. Use of police and registration of union the issue! Four thousand temporary workers, ninety percent of the workers working in the factory cannot become members of the union and middlepersons of different colors are trumpeting union registration.
After they were thrown out of the factory, Honda Tapukara workers were called to Haryana by leaders of unions in Gurgaon. As support, leaders of many unions gave speeches on the 19th February, announced a committee of 13 union leaders to act as godfathers of Honda Tapukara workers, and gave leadership to the demonstration. Maruti Suzuki Manesar permanent, trainee, apprentice, and workers hired through contractor companies maintained and increased the bonds-relations-talmels amongst themselves during June 2011 to July 2012, and did not allow any middlepersons to become their godfathers. The upsurge of wage-workers went on rising and despite concession after concession by the company, by the state, the upsurge reached that height on July 18, 2012 where two symbols of the wages system, managers and factory buildings were caught in the workers' upsurge. Middlepersons of various hues had then become hyperactive and constituted a leaders committee of 16 unions declaring it the godfather of Maruti Suzuki-Manesar workers. That committee shifted the sphere of activity away from Manesar to Gurgaon. Activities were: to give memorandum to this-that leader-minister, holding meetings now and then as opportunities for speeches and speech makers, to lead demonstrations now and then, hunger-strike. Most of the workers of Maruti Suzuki-Manesar did not get ensnared by this 16 unions committee of leaders but they could not present thousands of factories in Industrial Model Town Manesar as the alternative place and point of departure. Inside the factory through out the year what all Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers had done for which they had not taken permission from anyone. That is why they had kept moving ahead. In July 2012 it had become very much possible to act in the whole industrial area without taking anyone's permission but it did not happen. And in this scenario, the 546 terminated permanent workers and families of 147 workers in prison bonded-like to that committee of 16. By December 2012 the committee of 16 became unbearable then its place was taken by aggressive language speakers and they took the bonded-like further away, from Gurgaon to agricultural hinterland Kaithal. Result: one year later, on July 18, 2013, anniversary of the workers' upsurge was celebrated in a park (designated by the police) in Gurgaon by lighting candles in the day, holding high photograph of the manager who died and declaring him pro-worker...Now the committee of 13 unions leaders told the Honda Tapukara workers called to Gurgaon that because of the reservation turmoil Section 144 (prohibiting gatherings of five and more) is in force therefore for demonstrations-protests they must go to Jaipur. And then, in Jaipur the leaders told Honda Tapukara workers to go to Alwar...
The important thing is that despite experiencing so many times the middlemanning of union leaders, why do we let them come near us? Tea estate women workers in Munnar (Kerala) chased away middle persons of all hues. What is it that we think the union will do for us? After obtaining permission from the police holding meeting-demonstration, submitting memorandum to officer-legislator-minister, now and then handbill-poster, dates-hearings in labour department-court are those acts of the unions which are visible. Many things take place behind curtains. And, the huge number of temporary workers working in factories today cannot even be members of factory unions. In this scenario what do we expect from unions? Why do we expect? Something to consider. Necessary to think.