Assault On Working Class – Challenges Before Unions

Chandrika Radhakrishnan

Chandrika Radhakrishnan is an IT engineer and an editorial member of Thozhilalar Koodam (tnlabour.in), a blog committed to documenting and analysing labour issues in Tamil Nadu.

Introduction

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The Honda MotorCycles and Scooters India (HMSI)’s factory, established in 2011 in Tapukara, Rajasthan, has a production capacity of over 5000 vehicles per day[1]. The plant employs over 3600 workers, mostly ITI trained. 466 workers are permanent and over 3000 workers are in contractual employment.  While the plant is substantially automated, production of over 5000 vehicles daily still translates to high work pressure and compulsory overtime for the workers. The wages are low ranging from Rs 10000 for contract workers to Rs 22000 for permanent workers. All the permanent workers had initially worked as trainees for 3 years and were then put on probation for 6 months, during which they saw even more adverse working conditions. They had stayed on with the hope that a permanent position would make their lives better. However, work pressure, domination of supervisors at the shop floor and safety hazards have remained the same.

In 2015, the workers, permanent and contract, organized themselves to form a union and negotiate for better wage and working conditions[2]. In the months after the workers submitted their registration, employment of four workers including the president and secretary of the union were terminated and five workers were suspended. The conflict between labour and management escalated when a supervisor abused a contract worker who had refused to work overtime four days consecutively. Over 2000 permanent and contract workers went on a flash sit-in strike in February, 2016. They were brutally assaulted by police and were thrown out of their employment by unrelenting management. Fabricated charges were piled on a number of permanent workers who were accused of attacking the police.

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