New Delhi/ 20 October 2009
Sona Koyo Steering Systems Ltd, Hero Honda Motors Ltd, and Lumax Industries Ltd are among the big plants, where workers had joined in solidarity with the workers of Rico Auto.
The workers of the Rico Auto had been fighting for the right to form a labour union in the plant, which of course is their statutory right, but the employers aided by the local police and administration had been resisting this step with all possible means, legal and illegal.
After the workers attempted to form the Trade Union, the employers on 21 September, terminated the services of 17 workers, who were in the frontline of the move. This action purportedly on disciplinary grounds, was to terrorize others to detest themselves from the move to organise in Union. Looking upon the action of the management as a tool of their victimisation, the workers immediately struck the work, demanding that the terminated workers be reinstated and the right to form a Union be ensured.
After conciliation efforts between the workers and the company management had failed, the employers, unable to handle the situation on their own, turned to the Government. The Haryana government obliged the employers, declaring the strike illegal on 1 October and made reference of the industrial dispute to the Labour Court, to calm down the situation, simultaneously buying time for the employers.
“The state government has referred the matter to the Labour Court”, told M.R. Anand, Additional Labour Commissioner, Gurgaon.
Joining the chorus of employers, S.S. Deswal, Police Commissioner of Gurgaon said that “the Sunday’s incident was provoked by a group of striking workers who prevented their colleagues from entering the factory”.
The workers, however, strongly refuted this police version, claiming that the firing by police and security was pre-planned and without any provocation on their part. According to the workers, the trouble had begun as a result of altercation between security personnel and police on one side and workers on the other. The police and guards spilled out of the factory gates in a planned manner, surrounded the workers, to prevent them from escaping and started the assault, killing one and injuring more than 40. Both police and the guards have fired upon the workers in unison.
The root cause of the unrest among the workers, are the working conditions inside the plant, which workers find unbearable. As one of the workers, Pankaj Kumar Singh points out: “After working for 13 years, I take home only Rs. 10,500/- per month. Forming a union is the only way we can air our grievances.” Other workers are also dissatisfied with annual increases in their salaries, capped at Rs. 500/-. The disparities between the salary structure of production and management employees are yet another cause of unrest.
With more than one lakh workers joining the strike in solidarity with their class brothers and demonstrating, the local police and administration fearing the spread of agitation, did not dare to intervene in the protest of today.
The corporate media, which has made so much noise upon the death of the CEO of Graziano International at Noida, during a strike, accusing the workers of violence, is maintaining silence upon the bloodbath at the behest of the employers of Rico Auto.
Rico Auto is not the only plant in Manesar where the employers and workers stand face to face. Entire Gurgaon region has fast become a dense industrial hub, housing the major industry in the country, with huge production plants employing thusands of workers under one roof. After famous Honda workers struggle of 2005, which was crushed through brutal violence by the police, Honda Workers are already on the warpath for the last more than two months. Similar struggles in other plants are also simmering.
However, the negative side of the whole scene is that the leadership of the movement still remains in the hands of the Stalinist parties like CPI-CPM, and the Trade Union bureaucracies dominated by them, who neither have any revolutionary perspective, nor a program of revolution. The movement under their leadership cannot become a real class movement of the proletariat and under no circumstances can develop into an independent and revolutionary movement. To take an offensive against the class of its enemies- the big business bosses and the governments serving their interests, working class will have to move away from this trade union bureaucracy. Workers cannot forget the betrayal by this bureaucracy after the 2005 repression of Honda Workers.
Anyway, the solidarity workers have shown as a class, is a salutary step in the advance of workers movement, which will inspire more and more layers of workers to rise in unison against the might of capitalists and their collaborator governments.
The incident at the Rico factory on the one hand shows the growing repression by the employers upon the workers, depriving them even of the minimum right to unionize, while on the other it shows the first signs of emergence of a defiant and militant working class, comprised mainly of young workers.
The workers on their part are getting primary class lessons that they cannot counter the might of employers in a factory alone. The employers and the government are one, and the workers have to deal with them together. Workers of different plants have extended their hands towards their brothers, warning the employers and government both that they may rise in unison as a class, within no time.