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India: carworkers fight back

Indian car workers have taken off the breaks in the struggle against management, by Ahsan Raza

The city of Gurgaon symbolises India’s economic boom. Twenty miles from New Delhi, its skyline is dominated by the offices of multinationals – IBM, Nokia, Honda, Bank of America.  Not so visible are the two million industrial workers of the region. Half of them work in the auto industry, supplying parts to the major companies. Their conditions are appalling, few factories are unionised, more than 90 percent work up to12 hours shifts for 5000 rupees (£66) per month.
The workers of Maruti Suzuki, in Manesar district, are leading the fight for workers’ rights. Forced to work up to 16 hour shifts, denied time off and fined heavily for the slightest delay, they have formed the Maruti-Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU) as a fighting alternative to the management backed MUKU.
Since a strike in June, the company has tried everything to break the union – with the backing of the government. On 15 August, the govt dismissed MSEU’s application for registration, after the Chief Minister, Hooda, promised Shinzo Nakanishi that his government would not allow the formation of a second union.
In July, workers boycotted elections to the MUK and management responded by sacking MSEU leaders . By the end of August, 84 had been sacked or suspended. The company then demanded that workers sign a “good conduct bond” that removes the right to strike, declaring that anyone who refuses is “on strike”. No worker has signed. Eleven hundred regular workers and 2000 contract and trainee workers have now joined the struggle.
On the morning of 29 August, management imposed a lock-out, backed up by a large police deployment. It sacked five permanent workers and 18 trainees and suspended 26 permanent workers. Despite the efforts of police and goons hired from nearby villages, workers stayed united in their struggle.
On September 18, the company-government alliance went even further, arresting MSEU officers Sonu Gujjar, President, Shiv Kumar, General Secretary and Ravinder Kumar after a supposed “negotiation meeting”. As a result, the Manesar plant is now at a standstill, as the union demands their release, full reinstatement, withdrawal of the “bonds” and recognition of the union.

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