PUDR is deeply concerned at the new turn in the saga of Maruti-Suzuki workers struggle against the management and owners of the company. The company has announced that it will set up a special force of security personnel comprising 100 ex-servicemen inside its Manesar plant. By doing so Maruti Suzuki Ltd. is declaring its intention of militarising the workplace. The Haryana Government’s intention of deploying 500-600 Rapid Action Force personnel inside the plant in Manesar shows that the state government is abetting the company in this move. The move is clearly intended to intimidate the workers and, in the name of ‘maintaining discipline’, submitting them completely to the diktat of the management and owners by clamping down on their basic right to resist unfair and illegal labour practices of the owners. This measure will have disastrous consequences for workers’ basic and legitimate rights guaranteed by the law, and it is outrageous that the state should assist the company in curbing workers’ rights in this manner. What aggravates our outrage is the fact that the company has gone ahead and sacked 500 permanent workers for their alleged involvement in the recent violence, a charge yet to be proven in a court of law.
PUDR wishes to draw attention to the long struggle of the workers of Maruti-Suzuki starting in 2000-2001, through the period between 2001 and2007, in 2011 and now in 2012. In all previous struggles what led to conflict was the non-fulfilment of legitimate demands regarding wages, conditions on the shop floor and the right of workers to be represented by a trade union of their choice. These struggles are rendered increasingly difficult because of growing contractualisation of the workforce. Today 82% of the workforce at Maruti is contractual and considerably more vulnerable. Despite these odds, the workers union had been trying to raise their demands on a range of issues in the Manesar plant uptil July 2012. Some of these issues revolved around the conditions of work. The plant at Manesar operated on two shifts, the first from 7.30 am uptil 3.45 pm, and the second from 3.45 pm to 12.30 am. Every worker had to report 15 minutes before work commenced to be present at the meeting. If a worker was late by one minute it was treated as a half-day leave and wages were deducted. Workers got 30 minutes for lunch and two breaks of seven minutes each for tea, smoke and toilet. They had in addition to sign a 'Good Conduct' document which contained 6 points asking the individual workers not to indulge in any ‘go-slow’, ‘tool down’ or ‘stay on’ strike– a clear violation of the legitimate rights of workers guaranteed by the Industrial Disputes Act.
Apart from the struggle to mitigate these conditions of work, the workers in Manesar had also been struggling for their right to fight for their basic rights, i.e., to organise themselves and raise their demands.
In the present situation, once the plant reopens, the presence of the company’s private force as well as state forces are essentially aimed to ensure that the workers remain silent, and do not raise their basic demands. PUDR reiterates its concern and condemns this dangerous precedent that is being set with the state and the company Maruti Suzuki Ltd. openly collaborating to create a work force that would be intimidated into compliance with the company’s unfair labour practices and producing a militarised shop floor at the plant that would be hostile to workers and their attempt to demand their legitimate rights.
Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan