Monday, March 07, 2016

Workers' unrest in Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor's Haryana-Rajasthan belt: Demand for unionization at Honda

Workers' solidarity protest on February 19
By Our Representative
The Rajasthan-Haryana border region of the high-profile Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) is burning with industrial unrest. Following the unprecedented unrest by Maruti-Suzuki workers at the Manesar plant, workers at the Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India Ltd (HMSI) in Tapukara are up in arms against the alleged resistance from the management to allow a recognized union.
With about 466 permanent workers, 100 casual workers, and 3000 contract workers, the dispute at the HMSI plant began soon after the application for union formation was given on August 6, 2015 to the Registrar of Trade Unions, Labour Department, Jaipur, initially signed by 227 permanent workers, with claims of support from other sections.
“The company responded by retrenching a few hundred contract workers from September 2015 to early February 2016”, says a statement issued by the Workers’ Solidarity Centre (WSC) at Gurgaon-Bawal, which is organizing the workers’ struggle.
The proposed union president Naresh Kumar was transferred to a Bihar facility of Honda in November 2015. When Naresh refused to bow down, he along with Union Secretary Rajpal and two more workers leaders were terminated. Fiveother worker leaders were suspended, 20 worker leaders, including the entire union body, were given ‘warning letters’.
Things came to a flashpoint on February 16, when at 2.30 pm, a supervisor, an executive engineer, allegedly physically attacked a contract worker in the paint shop for refusal to work overtime. The contract worker was ill because of having worked overtime for three days. Around 2,000 workers stopped production, demanding action against the supervisor.
Workers' protest at Honda plant, February 16
The workers also raised voice for reinstatement 400 contract workers, apart from the nine permanent colleagues, who were terminated. “Instead of peaceful negotiation, the management called in bouncers and the police. This was followed by an unprovoked lathicharge by the Rajasthan Police at around 7 pm, and a reign of terror”, says WSC.
The workers ran for their lives in and around the factory premises. There was tear gas shelling and gun firing as well as stone throwing. The police chased and detained some workers, with things continuing to remain at the boiling point over the next three days. Five workers of the union leadership were kept in police custody till February 23, where they were allegedly tortured, and then transferred to Kishangarh Jail on February 24.
Parallel to this, On February 19, thousands of workers gathered in Gurgaon’s Tau Devilal Stadium to protest against the repression. These included workers and trade unions from the Honda plant in Manesar, the four plants of Maruti Suzuki (Gurgaon, Manesar, Powertrain and Suzuki Motorcycles), two plants of Hero Motocorp in Gurgaon, Mico Bosch from Jaipur, Rico Dharuhera, Endurance, Sunbeam, Baxter, Delphi, Lumax, Bajaj Motors.
Apart from the WSC, Gurgaon, Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, Shramik Sangram Committee and central trade unions – AITUC, CITU, AIUTUC, HMS, BMS, and INTUC came in solidarity. A 13 member committee from among these factory-level and central trade unions was formed to support the struggle”, the statement said.
On February 26, when HMSI workers gathered to protest in Tapukara industrial area after the district magistrate, Alwar, denied permission, police detained 14 workers till late in the evening. “The Rajasthan and the Haryana government have refused to allow workers any space in Alwar, Rewari, Gurgaon and Jaipur for their peaceful demonstration”, says WSC.
On March 1, 39 of the 44 Honda workers got bail from Jaipur High Court, after the lower court rejected their bail application. Five workers in the leadership, including union president Naresh Kumar, whose names were put in multiple FIRs, got bail similarly three days later.
Meanwhile, says WSC, the company is sending suspension letters on a mass scale to workers. At least a 100 of the 466 permanent workers have already received such letters. It has brought in a few hundred contract workers from Odisha and other far-away states to illegally restart production.
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