Maruti workers seize control of Manesar plant wracked by unrest (The Economic Times)
“Striking employees of Maruti Suzuki, India's biggest carmaker, have seized control of a factory hit by weeks of labour unrest, the company said on Monday, as a stand-off that has cost the firm over $150 million descended into violence.[...]
"‘The plant is effectively captive in the hands of striking workers who are bent upon violence,’ the company said in a statement, describing the situation at the factory as ‘grave.’
“Maruti, 54.2-percent owned by Japan's Suzuki Motor, said 1,500 workers were inside the factory on Monday. The plant produces about 1,000 vehicles a day and the unrest has caused a production loss of 2,600 cars since Friday afternoon.
“Supporting strikes by workers at other Suzuki-owned plants in India that supply parts to Maruti's second car factory have resulted in a total loss of production of about $22 million.
“Maruti announced an agreement with striking workers last week to end a month-long strike that has already cost the automaker 6.6 billion rupees ($134 million) in lost output and contributed to a 21-percent slump in September sales.
“The carmaker's total losses due to labour unrest this year stand at close to $250 million, following a 13-day strike by 800 workers in June at Manesar that crippled production and caused more than $90 million in lost output.[...]
“‘The company cannot throw out mobs of people,’a Maruti spokesman said. ‘The action has to come from the police and the authorities.’"
Speed and Control at Manesar: Why is the Maruti-Suzuki Management Keeping Workers Out of Its Factory (Kafila, September 6, 2011)
“Since June this year, perhaps even earlier, discontent at the Maruti-Suzuki plant has peaked. June saw the eruption of a wildcat strike and a momentary occupation of the factory. Eleven ‘ring leaders’ were suspended. The issue that led to the strike was the appalling intensity of work conditions. The media and the management were content to report it as a dispute over union formation. Yes, the workers at Manesar had wanted to form an independent union. And yes, the management wanted them to remain under the umbrella of MUKU (Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union – the ‘Company’ union – which has remained an effective tool of management control over workers). But the reason that led the workers to express a desire to form their own union – The Maruti-Suzuki Employees Union (which is their constitutional right, by the way) was the ineffectiveness of the company union in addressing their complaints about the increasing intensification of control and speed at the factory. Working at the Manesar plant was becoming torturous and attrition was at an all time high.
“The twelve-day long strike in June did not end in attention being paid to the workers demands about working conditions. The eleven suspended workers were re-instated, pending enquiries. This was translated as a ‘victory’ for the workers by their newly formed (and still unrecognized independent union), even though all the workers had to agree to a penalty of a cut in two days wages for the transgression of their strike. The work conditions stayed exactly as before. According to some, things got worse.”
Why they strike. Why you should care. (Tehelka, September 24, 2011)
“Here is what a Maruti Suzuki worker says his average day at the Manesar plant is like. You catch a bus at 5 am for the factory. Arriving a second late to punch in your card means a pay cut, but you can’t leave the premises once you’ve entered. At 6.30 am, you exercise and supervisors give you feedback on your previous output. Start work at 7 sharp. Everyone does his one task — assembling, welding, fixing — for a minimum of 8 continuous hours. A car rolls off the line every 38 seconds, which means you can’t budge from your position, ever. You get two breathless breaks during the day. At 9 am, a 7-minute break to drink tea or go to the loo, or both. After a while you might, like many of your friends here, end up taking your hot tea and kachori to the bathroom with you. Then a lunch break of 30 minutes, in which you walk about a half kilometre to the canteen, wait in line with everyone, eat and walk back. Returning even a minute late from any break, or leaving the assembly line for any reason even for a minute, means half a day’s pay cut. Older systems used to include an overseer for every small group of workers who could step in if someone needed to take a breather. But, the cost logic of production is perennially at odds with workers’ rights.
“If we don’t blink at seeing a man climbing down to unblock a sewer for a few hundred a month, it’s likely we think of a Rs 16,000 factory job with a uniform as clean and comfortable. But even the salary is an illusion, as the workers’ salary slips show. A baseline of Rs 8,000 is all most are guaranteed. Take a day from your legally granted casual leave or sick leave, for any reason, and lose Rs 1,500. Take two and lose Rs 3,000, and so on up till half your salary disappears.”[...]
“On 3 June, the Manesar workers formally applied to form a separate union called Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU). They say the company responded by suspending 11 workers and sending bouncers to force them to sign blank pieces of paper. The workers struck work on 4 June and held a sit-in inside the plant for 13 days till their 11 colleagues were reinstated, though the main issue of unionisation remained unresolved. [...]
“Meanwhile, the file to register MSEU in the labour office was cancelled. Reasons: the employees resorted to an illegal strike; among those who’d signed for a new union, many still retained MUKU membership; some signatures didn’t match with the registered ones. The revolting workers say they’d all resigned from the old union and these technical reasons merely indicate how hand-in-glove the Haryana government is with Maruti Suzuki.”
And see also:
Maruti’s Modern Times clash (The Telegraph (Calcutta), October 19, 2011):
“The Maruti Suzuki workers were recruited when they were about 18 years of age in 2006. The Manesar plant opened in February 2007 and the first batch of trainees became permanent workers only last year. Almost immediately, the workers were urged to become members of the Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union (Muku) that is the only workers’ outfit in the company’s Gurgaon plant. (Manesar is about 18km south of Gurgaon).
“The workers were hesitant. As more batches of trainees became permanent workers, the demand to form a union — basically the right to collective bargaining — was raised towards the end of 2010.
“Maruti Suzuki now has 970 permanent workers in a total workforce of around 3,000 — a majority being contractual, casual or trainees and apprentices, who are worse off than the permanent workers.
“‘We knew that Muku was a pliant union with workers in Gurgaon who are much older and have families and, since their strike was broken in the year 2000, they do not have the stomach for a fight,’ says Naresh.
“His friend, the French-bearded Jitender Barot, who at 28 years is among the oldest permanent workers, raises his palms: ‘These hands have worked so hard that had I put them to use in my family farm in Hisar, my folks would have been very happy. We have delivered 2 lakh cars when the management wanted it, working overtime and breathlessly and we have been taken for granted.’
“Asked why he does not go back home to work on his farm, Barot shoots back: ‘I wanted to be something else.’ [...]
“The rent for the one-room tenements in Gurganva where many of the workers live is between Rs 3,000 and Rs 3,500. A permanent worker technically earns about Rs 18,000 per month. Of this less than half is the fixed component of the salary and the rest are added incentives.
“Maruti Suzuki’s punitive measures often mean that workers have to make do with cuts. In the case of Naresh and some 30 others who are suspended, this means that their salary slips show a negative pay of Rs 3,800, meaning that the amount would be deducted from their next salary. [...]
“For now, the workers are not even demanding a hike in salaries. But what they are asking for — the right to form a union of their choice — is a political demand that may actually spell more trouble.
And see further:
Workers' struggle in Maruti Suzuki by Prasenjit Bose and Sourindra Ghosh (The Hindu, September 28, 2011):
“The stand adopted by the MSIL management in the ongoing dispute was endorsed by the Chairman and CEO of Suzuki Motor Corporation, Osamu Suzuki, during his recent visit to India. He said: ‘Indiscipline is not tolerated . . . not in Japan, not in India.’ Mr. Suzuki seems to have completely missed the larger picture.
“Over the past three years, MSIL has emerged as the most productive and profitable subsidiary of the Suzuki Motor Corporation. Its Annual Reports show that while Suzuki's car production and sales in Japan registered absolute declines in 2008 and 2009 following the recession, MSIL's production and sales in India have registered steady growth during this period. Could this be achieved by an ‘indisciplined' workforce?”
Debate over trade unions rages in India (BBC, October 19, 2011):
“This is the Maruti workers' third strike this year for the same demand. And Maruti is not the only case. Strikes demanding the right to form workers' unions have hit the automobile sector in northern India at frequent intervals.
“Spare parts production company Rico faced a strike in 2009 which affected production in Ford and General Motors plants in Canada and the US.
“Suzuki plants in different parts of India are seeing protests by workers Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India saw a strike in 2005 which was ended by violent police action.
“While the Hero Honda agitation was successful and the company now has a robust workers' union, Rico workers had to bow down to their management.
“Despite a chequered history, workers here seem to have faith in the organised trade union.”
Material for the Debate on Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Struggle in Maneswar, India (GurgaonWorkersNews, October 28, 2011)
Maruti Suzuki Workers Strike: A Report from Gurgaon (GurgaonWorkersNews via Sanhati, July 16, 2011)
And also see anti-caste: A PERSPECTIVE FOR INDIAN LABOR