A convention was held by AICCTU and AISA on Friday in New Delhi in solidarity with Maruti workers.
The convention was attended by workers, students, eminent citizens and activists who demanded Industrial democracy and upholding of labour laws.
Here is the full press release:
The AICCTU and AISA on Friday held a convention at the Indian Social Institute, Delhi, in solidarity with Maruti workers.
The Convention was on the theme, ‘Intensified Assault on the Working Class: Challenges Before Democracy.’
The Convention was attended by workers from the Delhi-NCR area, students, as well as concerned citizens and activists.
Several Maruti workers addressed the Convention, describing the exploitative conditions of work at the Manesar plant, in which they were given just 7 minutes to have tea and use the toilet, where pay was cut for every leave taken, and where the bulk of workers are employed on contract and paid less than permanent workers for the same work, in violation of labour laws.
They described the incident of 18th July, pointing out that the Maruti management had introduced bouncers into the factory in order to intimidate the negotiating union leaders.
They alleged that the violence was unleashed by the bouncers, who were responsible for the fire in which a manager lost his life due to asphyxiation.
The workers asked, “We are being described as criminals and killers. But can we ask – was it not illegal and provocative of the management to suspend an innocent worker and then introduce bouncers in the factory?”
One of the main speakers at the Convention was S Kumarasami, the All-India President of AICCTU, and also the President of the union of the Pricol Automobile workers of Coimbatore.
Comrade Kumarasami described the struggle of the Pricol workers from 2007 onwards, and the incident of 2009 in which an HR manager was killed.
He said that such incidents were bound to increase as long as industrial democracy is suppressed. He said that the Pricol workers sustained their Union and their struggle in the face of repression, by forging strong links with the struggles of local people.
Describing the situation in Manesar now, Comrade Kumarasami said ‘industrial terrorism is being unleashed on the working class,’ with ex-army personnel and police being deployed right on the factory floor. Just as corporate plunder was being encouraged, as shown in the coal, 2G and mining scams, capital backed by the State is also focusing on maximum extraction of profit by maximizing exploitation of workers.
The result, he said, was ‘21st century technology and 19th century labour conditions.’ He called for the Trade Union movement to reach out to the vast army of contract and apprentice labourers and for the working class to forge links with the struggles of contract workers as well as non-factory workers and common people.
He highlighted the demand for the TU Act 1926 to be amended to make it mandatory to give recognition to the majority union in each factory as chosen by workers by secret ballot.
Labour historian Prabhu Mahapatra said that there had been a turning point in production relations since 2000, whereby the permanent workers too were facing depression of wages. The Maruti struggle represented the workers’ own realization that the fate of permanent and contract workers were linked and struggle must be united. He called for a unity of struggles of workers on the factory floor with struggles of adivasis and workers all over the country.
Atul Sood, a professor from JNU, pointed out that Gujarat was a preferred destination for capital, yet strikes and lockouts were maximum in Gujarat in 2010-2011. Capital preferred Gujarat because the State is most authoritarian there, and backs the exploitative managements to the hilt.
Rakhi Sehgal of the NTUI described the Maruti workers’ struggles in detail, highlighting the fact that the investigation was being conducted by police officials who themselves are under a cloud regarding their role on 18th July. She said that the workers of the Maruti factory firmly believed that the 18th July incident was a conspiracy to finish off the Union.
Comrade Matthew, former President of the Maruti’s Plant I Union who was terminated after the struggle in 2000-2001, also described the repression faced by workers at that time.
The Convention was also addressed by senior advocate N D Pancholi of PUCL, Ranjana Padhi, the Maruti workers’ lawyer Rajendra Pathak, and Santosh Rai, President of the Delhi State unit of AICCTU.
Among those who joined the Convention in solidarity with Maruti workers were Jawed Naqvi, columnist, Arundhati Roy, writer, Sanjay Kak, filmmaker, Madhuresh (NAPM), Prof. Vijay Singh, activist Gopal Krishna, Sandeep Singh, President of AISA, Sanjay Sharma, Delhi State Secretary of CPI(ML) Liberation, Prabhat Kumar, Central Committee member of CPI(ML) Liberation, and several teachers of DU, students of Jamia Millia Islamia and other universities in Delhi.
A member of the New Delhi Bureau of the party organ of the Communist Party of Japan also covered the Convention for his paper.
The Convention adopted a series of resolutions: appealing for support for the Maruti workers’ struggle; demanding immediate withdrawal of police and paramilitary from industrial areas in Gurgaon-Manesar; demanding release and reinstatement of all the workers; demanding an independent judicial enquiry into the 18th July incident; demanding that the Haryana Govt and Central Government be held responsible for upholding labour laws and industrial democracy and penalizing companies that violate these laws; ending exploitation of contract labour; and amendment of the TU Act 1926 to make registration of the majority Union mandatory.
The programme was conducted by Kavita Krishnan, Central Committee member of CPI(ML).