Report on the protest by automobile workers in Manesar by BIGUL MAZDOOR DASTA AND AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY CONTRACT WORKERS UNION
On the morning of 18 September 2015 when the workers employed in the Bridgestone company reached their factory gates they were met with Police officers and hired bouncers at the gate. When the workers tried to enter the factory premises they were resisted by the uniformed and the non-uniformed goons of the Factory Management. The Police beat up the workers and prevented them from entering the premises of the factory in spite of having a court order for tool down and without any prior notice the workers were sacked by the company. More than 400 workers employed in Bridgestone Factory in Manesar have been unlawfully sacked by the Company authorities after the workers demanded to get their Union registered. The workers are currently protesting outside the factory and have gathered there to raise their voice against the injustice and oppression that they are facing at the hands of the factory management.
Today on 21 september 2015 the Labour Court had invited the workers and the Factory management for a mediation process after the workers had approached the court to intervene in the matter as the workers had an official court order of tool down on 18 September 2015, the day they were illegally prevented from entering the premises of the factory. A Human resource official from the company came to represent the Union but no conclusive agreement could be reached at and the court has now asked both the parties involved to come again on 24 September 2015. Anant from Automobile Industry Contract Workers Union said that the Labour court employs such tactics of giving dates for further hearing just to delay the process of delivering any justice to the workers. He further added that the Labour court makes the situation more worse for the workers as most of the workers survival is dependent on the factory job and a long process of court hearing for them means being out of work for a long time which they cannot afford and hence are made to agree to whatever the Management is willing to offer them.
The issue began with the workers of the factory trying to get their union registered. The workers of the Bridgestone Factory wanted to get their union called the Bridgestone India Automotive Employees Union to be registered and as per the regulations the workers held two general body meetings on 12 April 2015 and 31 May 2015 which as per the records of the workers was attended by 31 workers. The workers had filed the necessary documents with the Labour Commissioner of Chandigarh along with the records of the general body meeting for their union to be registered. However the Factory management claimed that out of the 31 workers who were shown to attend the meeting in the records submitted by the workers 11 were working in the factory at that time. The Management made this claim in a bid to obstruct the registration of the union. The Labour Commissioner Rakesh Gupta however ruled that even if 20 workers were present in the meeting that qualifies the workers to get a union registered. The file was then passed onto Anupam Malik. On 17 July 2015 the verification of the data provided by the union was to be conducted in order for the registration process to proceed. The factory management wanted to stall and ward off the registration and to do that they tried to transfer two permanent workers who happened to be the Union head Krishan Murari and Secretary to the Chennai plant of the Bridgestone factory without any prior notice or cause. The workers resisted the transfer of the two workers who were instrumental in getting their union registered. In the first week of September to exact vengeance from the workers and to deter them from going ahead with the registration of the union the management evicted 20 workers without any notice. The workers went to court and procured a permission for tool down on 17 september in protest to the above mentioned eviction of the 20 permanent workers employed in the factory. But on 18 september 2015 when the workers gathered outside the gate of the factory to join their shift from 6 a.m. the factory management along with with Police and hired goons were already present at the gates and were trying to prevent the workers from entering in. The Management said that they will let the workers know by 6.15 a.m. if they will be let in. General Manager Manoj Manchanda, Assistant Manager D.V.K Shan, Production Manager Sushil Garg, Assistant Manager Tarun kaushik, HR officials Amit Chaudhary and Sompal were present at the gates and on their behest the Police beat up the workers. The bouncers present forcefully took three workers inside the factory where they were pressurised by the Management to sign on blank papers or to silently go work in the plant. One of the three workers Umesh signed on a blank paper and walked out while the other two gave in to the pressure of the management since they too were threatened with eviction. After this altercation the Management with the help of a worker Gopi lured in the women workers employed in the factory to come and join their shifts. The women workers in the factory are involved in the work of deflashing while the male workforce does what is called moulding. The management after being able to bring the female workforce inside the factory on 18 September forced them to do moulding (a type of work which they had not done and were not doing earlier), they misbehaved and abused them. The management made the women clean the factory and do a work which they were not familiar with. Since then the Management is bringing contract labourers from labour chowk to work in the factory. In a bid to suppress the workers the management has till now sacked 400 workers which includes an odd 150 permanent workers.
This is not the first time that the Factory Management has done such a thing to ward off the union from being registered. Chunni Lal a worker in the Bridgestone factory said that the general manager of the Company Manoj Manchanda is notorious for oppressing the workers and abusing them. There is a general unrest within the workers of the factory regarding his behaviour with the workers. Manchanda joined the Gurgaon plant 2 years back and since then he has left no opportunity to harass the workers, an year back when the workers were trying to get their union registered Manchanda had bought some of the workers in a bid to sabotage the process if union registration. However this year the workers had made sure that he is not able to meddle with their right to form a union.
The workers have decided not to give in to the oppression and are staging a protest outside the factory demanding that they be given their rights. The workers have installed a makeshift tenet within 100 meters from the factory premises and are staying put there. The workers begin their meeting from 7 a.m. every morning and discuss various issues related to their struggle. They have elected a 10 member committee each member of which is entrusted with the responsibility of 30 workers. An attendance register is being maintained of all the workers who attend the daily activities at the protest site. The workers have arranged for a community kitchen by pooling in money so that they stay together, eat together and fight collectively against the repressive and abusive factory management. The Bridgestone Company is owned by a Japanese firm, everything within the factory is run in a very dictatorial way the disparity between the pay of the permanent and contract workers differ by a whopping 50% for the same kind and duration of work. The company has been sending their touts to the workers who are trying to break up the unity of the workers and to weaken their struggle.
Disha Student Organisation joined the workers in solidarity. A musical concert where revolutionary songs were performed was organised for the workers. Apart from the musical concert, Anant from Automobile Industry Contract workers union addressed the workers and talked about the glorious history of May day and how workers claimed their rights to live as human beings. He said that we need to derive courage from our history to fight for our rights.
Such an incident is not unprecedented, earlier a similar strike had broken out in Sri Ram Piston factory in Bhiwadi where workers were demanding to get their union registered. Then it was the Rajasthan Government and now its is Haryana government. But the story remains the same, the 260 Labour laws guaranteed to the workers of this country remain illusory to the large work force. The workers at Bridgestone Company were trying to get their union registered for the last 6 months and during this time period the management tried their best to break up the unity of the workers or to obstruct the process by submitting false information with the Labour Commissioner office and when none of these tactics worked the management shamelessly sacked the workers and beat them up with the assistance of the Police. Right now as this report is being written about 152 permanent workers along with an equal number of contractual workers are staging a protest against the management.
The courage of the workers needs to be applauded as they chose to stand up against the management; however any such worker struggle needs to be fought on a sector based level to be able to successful. Only a sector based union fighting for the rights of thousands of workers engaged in automobile sector can address the issues concerning the workers.