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Seeking more wages, Haryana's Manesar unit workers on dharna for more than fortnight

By Harsh Thakor* 

For more than a fortnight, around 200 workers are sitting on a dharna in the Proterial India Private Limited Company, formerly Hitachi Metals, located in front of Gate Number 3 of Maruti Suzuki Company in IMT Manesar, Haryana.
“A pitched battle has been waged against the management”, says a protesting worker, adding, “The management has remained absolutely adamant. Despite repeated rounds of talks, no solution has been arrived at. Still management has showed some adherence to workers’ demand for wage hike.”
On July 13, the management filed an application in the civil court to stop the sit-in demonstration inside the factory, but the court partially rejected it and permitted the workers to sit inside the gate. The workers shifted from the machines and assembled at the gate, sitting on dharna inside the company gate.
A few workers fell ill and, were taken to ESI hospital. Amidst scorching heat and humidity, frequently the electricity and fans of the dharna spot were switched off.
The trade unions located in Manesar have offered full fledged support to these contract workers who are protesting and have appealed to the management to find a viable alternative. These unions include Maruti Suzuki Car Plant Union, Belsonica Union, Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra, Mazdoor Sahyog Kendra and various labor leaders of the area.
Krantikari Mazdoor Morcha in Faridabad and Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra in Sidkul Pantnagar demonstrated and submitted memorandums to the Labour Department in support of the provincial workers.
In the latest round of talks, the management agreed to increase the pay by Rs 1,500, not to deduct leave money and take back 25 out of 30 the fired contract workers. However, the workers demanding that all the workers fired in May should be re-instated in the company, the salary should be increased to Rs 20,000 and the leave money should not be deducted in the company, with legally valid holidays granted in the year.
Workers earn a salary equal to the minimum wage of Haryana, i.e. Rs 10,800, which can barely secure a living. Salary should be at least above Rs 20,000, they demand. The workers are demanding that the company should grant holidays like CL, sick leave etc. In the company, one has to work for twelve months except Sundays and one to one and a half thousand rupees are deducted for taking one holiday.
Many workers in the company have been working on contract for up to ten years and are not made permanent. There are less than 50 permanent workers whose salary around to Rs 80,000.
Union representatives affirm that there has been no increase in the wages of workers in the company for 5-6 years. The management till now reluctant to give pay rise. They are not paid housing allowance or any other allowance.
They are even denied minimum wages. They are paid minimum wages according to the Haryana grade of helper and are designated to perform the work of a skilled worker, or an operator, which is an infringement of labour laws.
Meanwhile, the Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra has issued a statement saying that “the labour department is not challenging the company management for unfair labour practice. Even after one year of struggle, the labor department is not taking any action, it only shows the corruption or favouritism of the government.”
---
*Freelance journalist

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