Services of over seven hundred workers of an automobile parts manufacturing company, Omax Auto Ltd., Dharuhera, were terminated illegally on 1st February, 2017 without any prior notice. Of these around 400 contract workers were shifted to other units of the company, the rest, supposedly regular workers, who have been working with the company for 12-22 years are rendered jobless. Unable to bear the shock and the ensuing circumstances, one of the workers Ajay Pande committed suicide on 13th February. These workers have been protesting peacefully since 1st February and have repeatedly approached the labour officials at all levels i.e. Rewari, Gurgaon and Chandigarh, but this has not had any positive impact so far.
Subsequently 39 permanent workers, active members of the union, were suspended on the basis of fabricated accusations of beating up and abusing the managerial staff. Also all the permanent employees were told that their services will be terminated on 1st May as the company faces a plunge in demand. Sudden shortfall in demand is clearly a false claim, for a company that makes parts for Hero Honda. Actually the work has been shifted to the other units of the company, in Dharuhera-Manesar belt and new workers and apprentices are being hired to do the work. This is clearly done to punish the workers for daring to form a union. This move additionally leads to reducing the labour cost.
On the verge of losing their jobs, around 400 permanent workers have resorted to strike since 12th March and have joined the ongoing dharna. Right now over 700 workers are sitting on dharna near the plant totally ignored by the company, labour department, politicians and the media. The workers have now restricted themselves to a single demand - not to take away their livelihood. The strike has been rendered ineffective as the production is shifted and continued at other plants. The labour department has failed the workers and is serving the interest of the company. The police is also acting in collusion with the company. This is clear as the local police has intimidated the workers with fake stay order regarding dharna site and has also recently lodged an FIR against about a dozen union members for allegedly assaulting a worker for refusing to join the strike. Attitude of the labour department and the police is highly condemnable.
Even before these instances of illegal termination and suspensions, violation of labour laws was a norm in the factory. Basic pay of the regular workers remained stagnant at Rs. 5813 for years and their gross monthly salaries were around Rs. 10,000 - 12000 even after having worked for more than one or two decades. They were clearly paid less than the statutory minimum wages. Contractual workers were not given any casual or medical leaves and the payment for piece rate was arbitrary. Immediate provocation for action against the regular and permanent workers most likely is their having demanded revision of pay scales as per the Haryana Government revision order.
As automobile companies across Grugaon- Dharuhera – Manesar belt are increasingly resorting to unfair labour practices and violating the rights of workers, issuing threats and intimidation, arbitrary suspensions and termination of services, the labour department has abdicated its responsibility of giving any justice to the workers and protecting them from the might of the capital and is thus serving the interest of the capital.
- Sacked and suspended workers should be immediately reinstated
- Complaint against workers should be withdrawn
- Adequate compensation should be paid to the deceased worker's family
- Company should be booked for unfair labour practices and penalized
- Salaries of all categories of workers should be revised as per the statutory norms and arrears should be paid
Cijo Joy and Anushka Singh
25th April 2017