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Updated: 18.12.2012 15:51
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Zeitarbeiterstreik alleine gelassen. Oder: leider nicht...

"Fruehjahr 2006: Fuer fuenf Tage halten rund 3.000 ZeitarbeiterInnen die produktivste Zwei-Rad-Fabrik Indiens besetzt..." so beginnt die kurze deutsche Einleitung zu dem (englischen) Bericht "Strike and factory occupation at Hero Honda motor-cycle plant and its supplying company Shivam Autotech" in dem ein mehrmonatiger Kampf, bis anfang 2007 analysiert wird - in einer Situation, da bis zu 70 Prozent industrieller "Arbeitskräfte" Zeitarbeiter sind. Und die Gewerkschaft der Kernbelegschaft liess diesen Streik allein - und ging zum Schluss gegen ihn vor.

Strike and factory occupation at Hero Honda motor-cycle plant and its supplying company Shivam Autotech

Ein Rueckblick: Wilder Streik von ZeitarbeiterInnen bei Hero Honda in Gurgaon, Indien

Fruehjahr 2006: Fuer fuenf Tage halten rund 3.000 ZeitarbeiterInnen die produktivste Zwei-Rad-Fabrik Indiens besetzt. Ihre Forderungen greifen die massive Spaltung innerhalb der regionalen Arbeitskraft an: sie fordern Festanstellung. In einer Situation, in der 60 bis 70 Prozent der industriellen Arbeitskraft aus ZeitarbeiterInnen besteht, die oft nur 1/4 bis 1/6 der Loehne der Festangestellten verdienen und die von keiner offiziellen Gewerkschaft vertreten werden, muessen ArbeiterInnen neue Bewegungsformen finden, und sie tun es. Nach dem Ende der Besetzung bei Hero Honda streiken ArbeiterInnen bei einem der wichtigsten Zulieferer der Fabrik. Ein paar Monate spaeter besetzen ZeitarbeiterInnen die Fabrikkantine bei Honda HMSI, keine 20 km entfernt, im Januar 2007 blockieren ZeitarbeiterInnen fuer zwei Tage die Tore bei Delphi in Gurgaon, bis sie von der Gewerkschaft der Festangestellten zurueckdrangsaliert werden...

"No more Heroes!", Local Automobile Industry, Part Two

Strike and factory occupation at Hero Honda motor-cycle plant and its supplying company Shivam Autotech. Gurgaon, April 2006


After we had a short glimpse at the structure of the local automobile industry in newsletter no.3, now we document how workers made antagonistic use of their central position in the web of social cooperation. The example of the Hero Honda strike is last year's news. Why bring a workers' struggle up again, about one year after it took place? Although widely ignored by media and by most of the official organisations, the strike and factory occupation at Hero Honda and Shivam Autotech have been the most important recent workers' unrests in the Gurgaon area. The wildcat action at Hero Honda was followed by direct actions of temp workers at Honda (HMSI) and Delphi in the following months (see next issues of the newsletter). The important features and lessons of the short period of strike and factory occupation are:

* The unrest hit one of the main cores of the local industry. The Hero Honda factory in Gurgaon is the two-wheeler factory with the highest daily output in India and attached to it are over 240 official suppliers.

* The strike hit with full force, and no notice was given, therefore the management could not prepare a countermove (piling extra stocks, increasing production in other plants, mobilising strike-breakers, etc.).

* The strikers managed to avoid a lock-out situation and the consequent police repression by occupying the factory.

* At Hero Honda the workers hired through contractors were organising the strike, at Shivam it was a united strike of all categories of workers. This is rare in a situation where most of the official strikes are led by and mainly in the interest of permanent workers.

* According to the group of workers who struck, their demands were addressing issues of hierarchy (abolishment of different kind of uniforms) as well as wage questions. The demands were egalitarian, trying to overcome differences within the work-force.

* The workers' mobilisation spread from the main plant to the supplier, without open or official organisational links. The impact of the strike was noticeable further down the supply-chain (truck-drivers, second-tier suppliers).

* The official unions were outside of the strike. Some positive elements of the strike might be due to the absence of established unions (no strike notice, occupation, involvement of workers hired through contractors), as well as some of the problems, e.g., that there was little support from the outside, necessary during a factory occupation.

* Workers showed that they are able to organise a strike, but during negotiations workers displayed their inability to finish it in their favour. The workers at Hero Honda sent a small delegation for negotiations and they paid for this mistake. The Shivam Autotech workers tried to avoid this, but got bogged down in legal processes and were divided.

* Both strikes showed the volatile situation in the industry, the weak links of capital: the fragile supply-chain and the simmering anger amongst the casual and temporary work-force. In the aftermath the management debates equated the strike at Hero Honda with the suddenness of natural catastrophes.

For the summary of the unrest we rely on some internet and media material, some short conversations we had with workers at the factory gates during the strikes, an article published in the Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar (May 2006) and a report by comrades from the area, written shortly after the strike at Shivam Autotech.

We structured the summary as follows:
1. Overview on the Indian two-wheeler sector
2. Glimpse on the structure of Hero Honda company
3. Strike at Hero Honda
a) Prelude of the unrest
b) Chronology of the unrest
c) Workers' demands and result of the dispute
d) FMS article 'Hero ka Honda'
4. Glimpse on the structure of Shivam Autotech company
5. Strike at Shivam Autotech
a) Prelude of the unrest
b) Chronology of the unrest
c) Negotiation Process
d) Outcome
e) Short visit at KDR, a supplier of Shivam Autotech in Faridabad

1. Overview on the Indian two-wheeler sector

India is the 2nd biggest two-wheeler market and manufacturer in the world. The sales numbers increased from around 0.1 million in the early 1970s to 3.76 million in 2000 to 7.9 million in 2006. This is compared to about 1.1 million passenger cars being sold in 2006. About 70 percent of all registered automobiles in India are two-wheelers. The ”market saturation” is still low; in 2000 there were about 10 bikes per 100 adults (aged 18 to 50), a total of 42 million running (registered) bikes. The main growth of the sector started with joint-ventures in the 1980s (Hero Honda, Bajaj Kawasaki, TVS Suzuki, Escorts Yamaha). Export of two wheelers is still limited, both in terms of numbers (about 350,000 in 2005), as well as regionally (mainly other Asian and African countries). Together with pedestrians, riders of two-wheelers also account for 60 to 70 percent of the 300 people who die in road accidents every day in India, 60 to 70 percent of the 1,000 daily permanent injuries, 4,000 daily serious and 18,000 minor injuries. These numbers are rough estimates from 2000, though as you can see above the number of annually sold two-wheelers has more than doubled since then.

2. Glimpse on the structure of Hero Honda company

The Hero Group, directed by the industrial dynasty Munjal, started as a supplier of bicycle components in the early 40s. Over the years, the Hero Group had entered multiple business areas, largely related to the transportation industry. The group bought into multiple areas of raw material processing, such as steel rolling, to the manufacture of subassemblies and components. In 1984/85 Hero Group started a joint-venture with Honda. Both partners held 26% of the equity with another 26% sold to the public and the rest held by financial institutions. Hero Honda became a public company listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). In 1999 the joint-venture with Honda became critical, because Honda set up 100% subsidiary Honda Scooter and Motorcycles India (HMSI). The Honda HMSI plant is only 15 km down the road from the main Hero Honda factory. At the day of the announcement of the entering of HMSI into the market, Hero Honda's share price dropped by 30%, given the outlook of fierce competitions in the two-wheeler segment. But Honda was ready for concessions. First, Honda agreed to delay entry into the motorcycles segment until 2004. It also agreed to form a four-person committee with two members from Hero Honda to examine any new motorcycles that it would release post-2004. Lastly, it offered an opportunity to Hero Honda to share in the equity as a minority holder in HMSI. The fact that both companies also tap into a similar pool of suppliers should make clear that only from a very legalistic and formal view can they be seen as two separate companies. The same is true for the composition of capital of the seven main suppliers of Hero Honda, which are basically subsidiaries of the Munjal Group (for example: Munjal Showa Ltd., Sunbeam Auto ltd., Majestic Auto Ltd. Shivam Autotech Ltd.). The Munjal Group has set up a range of firms to supply components, not just to Hero Honda, but also to other automobile companies. These operations range from the manufacture of shock absorbers and wheel rims to aluminum castings and plastic products. Apart from Honda, the Hero group has joint-ventures with Universal Cycles Plc. from the UK and Bombardier-Rotax from Austria.

In 2006 Hero Honda sold 3,336,756 motorcycles in India, which means that Hero Honda has a major market share in India (still around 40 to 45 percent) and is the biggest motor-cycle and bicycle producer in the world. In 2007 Hero Honda laid the foundation stone of a third plant in the Gurgaon area (the other two plants are located in Dharuhera and Haridwar). The Gurgaon plant has a daily output of about 6,000 bikes per day and a major dispatch department for spare parts. Spare parts are a big business, given the 42 million running bikes in India (2000).

Hero Honda's management has been very paternalistic towards its work-force, a mixture of tight social control and employee family outings, of enforced discipline and company cricket teams. This is expressed, for example in the company's suggestion scheme: "All employees who make a suggestion are given a ballpoint pen. Further, the best suggestion of the year is given the annual award of cash prize and the family is given a plant visit along with a free lunch in the factory cafeteria" (source: "Transferability of Japanese Human Resource Management Practices: Case Study of Honda Japan and its Joint Venture Hero Honda in India” by Ms. Srabani Roy Choudhury ). At the Gurgaon plant the permanent workers were put in a position very distinguished from the rest of the casual work-force, distinguished due to their supervising function and also visually distinguished by differently coloured uniforms. Following are some excerpts from a manager's study showing that the paternalism at Hero Honda Gurgaon plant starts with recruiting:

"The Gurgaon plant has taken considerable trouble to recruit the right kind of individuals at the shop floor level. The personnel manager at the Gurgaon plant told the researcher that apart from technical knowledge he looked for honesty and earnestness in the candidates. Moreover the integrity of the candidate, past record of alcoholism, vandalism and involvement in union activity is given due consideration. The department has therefore ventured into a time consuming policy of background checks. A candidate's background is given a thorough checking by contacting his previous employer. Moreover, someone from the plant goes and meets the employees in his previous company, as well as gathers information about him from nearby shops and tea stalls. Hero Honda management supports this sentiment and even rejects a candidate with very good qualifications, if he is found to have some past history of unionism. Honda Japan conforms to the Japanese practice of enterprise union system - with 100 per cent participation of workers up to the level of assistant managers. The Honda union functions at two fronts - collective wage bargaining during the spring offensive and participation through meetings at various levels. The management having had a bitter experience of unionism in the Daruhera plant is keen to establish communication channel with all employees so as to enable the management to react immediately to grievances of the employees".

At the time when the strike kicked off at the Gurgaon plant the general division between the 1,400 permanent workers and the 5,500 workers hired through contractors became blatant. The company sent the permanents into holiday, and they went. Interesting is the fact that, like the suppliers, the contractors at Hero Honda are also related to Hero Honda managing Mujal Group. They sub-contract the contracts to other smaller contractors (Sehgal Brothers, Prakash Contractor and Ram Mehar Mann of RSV Enterprises).

3. Strike at Hero Honda

a) Prelude of the unrest
The workers hired through contractors at Hero Honda had been angry for various reasons:
* Although 50 percent of these workers have worked in the plant for more than six to seven years, they are not offered permanent contracts.
* There is a huge wage difference: after six to seven years a permanent worker will receive up to 30,000 Rupees per month while a worker hired through a contractor gets between 2,200 and 6,200 Rupees.
* Most workers have all kinds of trouble because they do not receive a company card, which is necessary for dealing with authorities (e.g., when applying for medical care or other benefits). They are not enrolled in the register, which means that they will not receive PF or ESI.
* Casual/workers (see glossary) hired through contractors are not given work periodically as production targets change. When that happens, Rs 500 is cut from their monthly wage.
* There have been cases of physical harassment of the workers hired through contractors by supervisors and managers of Hero Honda.
We have no idea what finally triggered the dispute. Some people said that a bigger group of workers was not taken back after they returned from holiday (a lot of workers come from far off places in Bihar or Orissa). This is said to have been the final straw. Other sources say that there were some informal gatherings taking place during the week before the 10th of April 2006 where workers agreed on taking action.

b) Chronology of the unrest
10th of April 2006
Strike and factory occupation begins when workers refuse to leave the factory after the end of their shift. For some pictures from the action, visit our makeshift multi-media section on the web-site.
11th of April 2006
Most of the workers have confined themselves within the factory premises demanding regularisation of jobs while another 500 are waiting outside, giving moral and physical support to the workers inside. "The police have prevented us from standing near the gate or raising slogans," says Sushant, a contract worker from Orissa, who was not allowed by the management to go inside the factory. (source: Labourfile). Hero Honda starts negotiating with the strikers. In a public statement made by Hero Honda, it says: "A section of workers hired by contractors have raised demands on their contractors and have irresponsibly stopped working". Reply of a worker during an interview with a newspaper: "We want all the 4,000 contract workers to be absorbed in the company as regular employees, so that we do not have to deal with contractors any longer." (source: DNA Money) The article presented this worker as a "strike leader", then as a "spokesperson", while adding that there is no union inside the plant.
14th of April 2006
Allegedly the water supply for the workers inside the factory has been cut on the 13th of April. Hero Honda says in a statement that the ongoing strike at its Gurgaon plant will "not impact" the company's annual profitability or production targets. "Hero Honda aims to make up the production loss by stepping up production from the current 5,800 units per day to 6,500 units per day, post commencement of operations at its Gurgaon plant," the company said in a statement in New Delhi.
"Due to the very nature of the business, there are sufficient stocks in the pipeline and at the dealerships," it said. "The company would also like to clarify that this is a flash strike and there is no formal workers union at its Gurgaon plant. Also, the permanent workers are not supporting this strike," it added. The canteen stopped providing food for the strikers after the third day of occupation. Some local unionists said that they started collecting money for food.
15th of April 2006
Production at the manufacturing plant in Gurgaon remains suspended for the fifth day in a row. Meanwhile production at Hero Honda's other plant at Dharuhera is going on as usual. At the retail level some dealers complained of supply problems for a few specific motorcycles. Only a small police force is stationed at the factory, most of them sleeping in the shade. Workers hold assemblies on the factory lawn and put up self-painted posters. Some call centre workers on the other side of the street watch the scene. No one is allowed to enter the factory, the security guards are still in place. Allegedly the police refused to enter the factory premises and management was afraid of creating dangerous situations (dangerous for their factory and machinery).
16th of April 2006
The rather miserable end of the strike. After representatives of the Labour Department refused to enter the factory, both the Labour Department and company management asked for a delegation from the workers. About six to seven workers went to a meeting outside the factory; other people, amongst them local unionists, were not allowed to attend the meeting. The delegation returned and said that the strike was over, promising that some of the demands were met. The workers called off the strike, but those workers who went as a delegation to the negotiation disappeared. People assume that they have been bought off. Allegedly, out of the 5,500 workers hired through contractors only 4,000 went back to work the next day, angry about the fact that a lot of the demands were actually not met (for more on the demands, see below). A contract worker at the gate said that they were granted an Rs 1,000 monthly wage rise. He said that people are not happy with the result, but that they decided in an assembly to stop the strike. It sounded like some strikers (strike leaders?) had suggested to resume work after the negotiations did not proceed. About 20 - 30 workers who took part in the dispute were dismissed. Hero Honda management announced that in order to compensate for the loss of production, output at the Dharuhera plant had been stepped up.

c) Workers' demands and outcome of the dispute

Some demands of the workers have been agreed to - whether they are actually implemented remains to be seen:
* A 30 percent hike in wages of casual workers. Workers hired through contractors used to getRs 4,000-4,500 a month for an 8 hour shift. That will now be Rs 5,500. In comparison, ITI graduates (skilled workers hired through contractors) get Rs 6,500.
* Besides this 30 percent hike, there will be no difference in dress colour between helpers and ITI graduates. The initial demand to abolish the different uniforms for permanents and temps has not been met.
* The wage of the contract workers will go into a bank and they will have ATM accounts.
* They too will get a gift annually.

This was told by workers at the gate one day after the end of the strike. However, workers seeking casual/contract work at the Gurgaon plant of Hero Honda report that ever since the strike at Hero Honda during April-May 2006, workers hired through contractors are now being hired only at the Haryana rates of Rs 2,400 (this is the minimum wage valid in April 2006). During short conversations in May 2007 workers hired through contractors working at Hero Honda say that those amongst them with ITI qualification get 6,000 Rs per month, those without get 4,800 to 5,000 Rs, which would mean that the strike resulted in a pay hike. Apart from that they tell that there has been little change since the strike. They say that the major changes after the strike were that they received ATM bank accounts and that now all skilled workers, disregarding their contract situation, got white uniforms. Nowadays the helpers hired through contractors have to wear the blue uniforms and the burden of visual minority.

Interestingly, in a discussion amongst managers of various automobile manufacturers managers were quite blatant about how to assess the strike. In an article published in the automobile section of www.indiatimes.com they stated:

"The Hero Honda strike or indeed the floods in Mumbai last year, the transport strike in were all instances when JIT-dependent Motown's supply chains went for a six."

"When the floods happened not having a single supplier helped us because we had multiple suppliers from whom we could step up supplies to overcome the crunch," says General Motors' [manager] Balendran. As for strikes, here too there is a built-in buffer which is violated only when the dispute involves irregular workers. "In most cases, any legal strike that a labour union goes in for is preceded by an advance notice to the management about the strike which gives the management some time to take stock of the situation," adds Balendran.

Says Hero Honda head of marketing PS Sunder: "We have a stock of 15 days with our dealers so retail sales are not hit." Adds Ravi Sud, vice president-finance, Hero Honda: "We manufacture 5800 bikes in our Gurgaon plant. If we value a bike at Rs 35,000 then we are losing an estimated Rs 20 crore per day which is loss of sales to dealers and not retail sales. However, we would make up for it by stepping up production to 6500 bikes."

d) FMS article 'Hero ka Honda'

Although in the following article there are some repetitions and some statements which contradict some of the information above, we nevertheless want to include it as a report and a kind of summary.

The Honda Hero

Faridabad Majdoor Samaachaar no.215, May 2006,

(reported by someone who regularly visits the Hero Honda plant) In the Hero Honda factory in Gurgaon 1,350 to 1,400 permanent workers and 5,500 workers hired through contractors are employed. In addition there are 300 to 400 security guards who are hired through another contractor. On the 15th of April the 5,500 workers hired through contractors suddenly stopped work; the production was put to a halt till 21st of April, when work was resumed. The Hero Honda factory in Dharuhera was not affected. Most of the permanent workers are employed in the motorcycle assembly. About 25 percent of the workers hired through contractors are in the motorcycle assembly and 75 percent in the spare parts division. The workers hired through contractors who have already worked in the plant for years still get re-issued a card with their photograph every three months. On the card with the Hero Honda stamp is written that they have the permission to work on the company premises (meaning that the card is not an official proof of company ID, necessary for a lot of dealings with administrations). In the name of ESI 206 Rupees are currently cut from monthly the wages, but no worker has received an ESI card; the contractor says that if a worker gets ill, we will get him treated. No PF slips are issued.

Daily the spare parts division sends out parts worth 40 to 50,000,000 Rs. There is constant pressure to fulfil the immediate massive demands of the dealers on time. The finished parts are ordered from external suppliers. In the factory there is only coding, counting, packing and sealing machines ; there are no machines to produce parts in the spare parts division.

The workers hired through contractors used to get 2,600 Rs, and a year earlier I saw a supervisor slapping a worker. Last year after the trouble at Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI) the wage of the workers hired through contractors at Hero Honda was raised to 3,600 Rs. Then after some deductions some workers received 3,600 Rs and some 4,200 Rs.

Then the contractor refused to take back some workers who had been on holiday. The wildcat strike happened after that. The call to stop work on 15th of April was not made by a union, there were no leaders. The management sent the permanent workers immediately into holiday. The state government immediately got into gear, remembering the troubles at Honda HMSI in June 2005. There were talks of setting the factory on fire... Some people were chosen from the workers and on 20th of April a verbal agreement was given, stating, amongst others: that workers would get a 30 percent wage increase, that 500 workers would be made permanent and that white uniforms would be given to all workers. The workers who announced this agreement to the others disappeared from the factory; they were allegedly bought off by the company. Anger prevailed amongst the 4,000 out of 5,500 workers who arrived at the factory in order to work on 21st of April, "We have been cheated".

When the strike ended at Hero Honda, the workers of a Honda supplier in turn occupied 'their' factory, situated 20 km away.

4. Glimpse on the structure of Shivam Autotech company

Shivam Autotech Ltd. based at Binola Village (Gurgaon district) is part of the Hero Group owned by the Munjals. The factory is situated close to the NH8 highway, about 20 km south from the Hero Honda plant. About 80 percent of Shivam's production goes to Hero Honda. Shivam Autotech is engaged in manufacturing of Hot / Warm and Cold Forging Components. On the 10th of August 2005 Mark Auto Components (MAC), a two-wheeler components manufacturer promoted by the Hero Group, had decided to spin off its Binola unit in Haryana into a separate company named Shivam Autotech allowing it to focus on its forging business activity. According to workers met on the 12th of June 2006 the company only changed its name on 1st of April 2006. The workers are still wearing MAC uniforms as uniforms are distributed each year only in November - December.

The factory is fairly new, production started at 2000. There are about 300 permanent workers, 350 contract/casual workers and 150 trainees. Permanent and Trainee workers all have either ITI certificates or B.Sc degrees. Casual/workers hired through contractors have ITI certificates but none have B.Sc degrees. Permanent workers get a salary of Rs 3000 (net) which must be about Rs 4000 gross they say. A miniscule 2-4% of workers may get salaries up to Rs 8000 net. Workers hired through contractors only get the Haryana minimum wage rates of Rs 2400 and even then the canteen charges are deducted from this amount. Since the work involves forging and metal work, there are no women in the workforce (there are some in the managerial staff). Workers say that Shivam uses CNC machines of various technological levels. The contractors at Shivam are R.N.V. Enterprises, N.N. Associates and Ravipul Enterprise. Just as a piece of information: a supervisor who works for one of the contractors said that he gets 5,000 Rs wage per month in order to manage the workers hired through contractors, to hire them and ensure a sufficient supply of new work-force.

5. Strike at Shivam Autotech

There are various interesting elements in the Shivam Autotech strike. First of all is the fact that it started at the very same day when the occupation at Hero Honda finished. Unfortunately we can only speculate why this happened. Workers must have noticed the impact of the Hero Honda strike, which might have contributed to their decision. When the management decided not to send the buses for the next shift, which is more or less a clear move to a lock-out, it might have thought that now is the time to battle things out, with the main client paralyzed by industrial dispute. The management's strategy not to send the buses to the villages of the workers is an often used practise. Many bigger local companies prefer to or exclusively hire people who live in villages further away, workers who depend on bus services and who can be left isolated in case of industrial action.

It is also interesting to see that 'small' things like the food question became the trigger for a conflict with much more pressing problems in the background. The fact that workers know about the conditions and higher wages in the main Honda plants and refer to these standards when they put forward demands is of major importance. During the struggle it looked like that workers managed to stay together, despite their contractual differences and despite the attempts of the management to single out 'representatives', which then could be bought off like in the Hero Honda case. The final outcome of the struggle, which turned into a rather boggy negotiation process, excluded the workers hired through contractors from the wage hike.

a) Prelude of the unrest

Workers had been unhappy since February 2006 since they got increments which were very small about Rs 70 only, whereas the increments of managerial staff were nearly 50% of their salary and the workers' increment amounted to only 2-4% of their salaries.

Workers were also unhappy since managers were not treated them well on the shop floor. One new trainee was made to sit like a murga (chicken) on the shop floor on making a small mistake. Another senior worker was slapped by a senior engineer.

For 2 years the workers had been requesting management to extend the company bus service up to Bhiwadi (Rajasthan) which was only 3-4 kms from the last pick up at Dharuhera. However the company had been steadfastly refusing since this meant the bus would have to cross state borders and the company did not want to pay the additional taxes etc. to the Rajasthan government. This was a big problem for the workers since Bhiwadi was much cheaper for them to live in and many were complaining that had the company extended the bus service up to Bhiwadi many employees would have shifted there and would have been able to buy their own houses since land was cheap there at that time. Now the same land which was selling for Rs 1000 is selling for Rs 10,000 in June 2006. After the recent SEZ deals the price will have gone up even more.

Workers were unhappy that management was unwilling to seriously discuss these issues during the open houses that were held in the company. They were strictly told to only talk about production issues during open houses and the bus service or financial matters would not be discussed.

Another ongoing problem was the food in the canteen. Ever since management decided to tear down the old smaller canteen and build a new canteen with new food supplier there were problems with quality of food and standards of hygiene. Workers complained that bugs and cockroaches were found in the food. A canteen committee was formed to address these problems. Meetings would be held, management would tell the canteen manager to fix the problems, he'd promise to fix it but there would be no improvement. The workers also complained that food served to staff (staff and workers had different canteen timings) never had these problems and bugs were only found when it was time for workers' meals.

The catalyst for all grievances crystallizing into a strike unfolded on a Sunday. Cockroaches were found in the dal [lentils] served to the workers. A worker went up to the canteen staff and asked them to stop serving the dal. It was stopped. But after some time, some workers came up to one of the members of the canteen committee and said that the dal was being served again. Satish now went up to the manager and told him to stop serving this dal. He was promised that new dal would be cooked and then workers could have their meal. However, all workers trooped out of the canteen offended at being served the roach-ridden dal again and again. This resulted in management action against the worker who was a canteen committee member. Over the next few days he was called by different managerial staff time and again and asked that when you were present why did you allow the workers to leave the canteen? Why didn't they wait for the new dal to be served?

Tired of being treated like this, the workers decided that they would place their demands before management and drafted a list of 21 demands, including issues of increment, contract workers' problems, bus service, canteen service, etc. The workers hired through contractors demanded to be made permanent and to be allowed to wear the same uniforms as the permanents.

b) Chronology of the unrest

21st of April 2006
Workers arriving at bus stops for the 6 a.m. shift found that there were no buses. They started calling the workers who were working the night shift to find out why buses had not been sent to the bus stops. They also called the security staff directly.

Workers for the 6a.m. shift used private means of conveyance to show up at the factory only to be told by the security staff that they should go home as they were being given a holiday. Workers had problems believing this since they didn't even get Sundays off (trainings were scheduled on this day. This was another bone of contention that training should be held during company time and not on their only day off).

Night shift workers were being asked to get their production figures noted and leave the premises. Security staff told them - why are you worried about the 6 a.m. shift? Those workers will report to duty when they show up. However, sensing that something was wrong, these workers, 600 of them, sat down on one side of the shop floor. Meanwhile, about 100-200 workers were gathered at the gate outside and not being allowed in. A fight erupted between workers and the security supervisor.

So the workers declared a strike. They occupied the factory for 5 days. A list of demands was handed over to the general manager, the vice president and human resource manager.

The canteen was allowed to run for 2 days but after that it was shut down by management. Food was not allowed in from the outside either. It turned into a case of hunger strike for the striking workers even though small quantities of food managed to get smuggled in.

Permanent workers and contract workers came together to occupy the plant for 5 days. They have been together in this fight ever since. All 3 categories of workers are united - permanent, trainees and casuals/workers hired through contractors. Permanent workers have been conscious of including contract workers from the start and have paid attention to their grievances and demands as well.

22nd to 25th of April 2006
During this time the Labour officer (B.S. Yadav - sits in the mini secretariat and Binola village comes under his circle) and management tried to negotiate with the workers. The Deputy Labour Commissioner arrived on the 4th day. A higher AITUC official also visited the workers. Together all of them brokered the strike to be broken on the 5th day - 25th of April. See copies of agreement.

c) Negotiation process

Workers had submitted paperwork to register an independent union. The first set of applications was 'lost' by the labour office. A second set of application papers has been submitted but again it has run into roadblocks.

There was one meeting with the DLC when he came to the plant on 24th of April. Another meeting was held on 8th of June when he asked the workers to resubmit 5 copies of the list of demands but this time to exclude the items on which an agreement has already been reached. He also asked the workers to submit an authorization letter signed by all workers, that they authorize the 5-10 workers to serve as their representatives and will abide by whatever agreement these workers hammer out with the management on their behalf. Workers were expected to submit these papers to the Labour Officer, B.S. Yadav, by 13th June.

There have been several meetings with the management. Workers were asked to sign a 3 year agreement whereby the workers would get small increments but agree not to ask for salary raises for the next 3 years.

The workers submitted a Rs 10,000 package for 3 years under which all workers would get a Rs 5000 raise in the first year, Rs 3000 raise in the 2nd year and Rs 2000 raise in the 3rd year.

Management has not accepted this proposal and is only willing to talk about Rs 1000-1500 raises in total over 3 years. This is unacceptable to the workers.

Mr. L.R. Parudhi, legal advisor to the Munjal Group has been inducted into the management team and has declared that he will not allow salaries to rise. Workers are also unhappy with his inclusion and would like to include a legal advisor in their team since Mr. Parudhi talks legal mumbo-jumbo during the meetings which the workers don't understand and therefore stalls the negotiations.

Workers also report that the financial negotiations are stuck because management wants to know why they should raise the workers' salaries by so much when the prevailing rates at nearby plants are not this high. Workers compare it to the Hero Honda plant in Dharuhera which does have an independent union and where the prevailing salary is much higher. Workers tell that permanent workers there get Rs 25,000 and workers hired through contractors get Rs 6,000. Even at the Gurgaon plant of Hero Honda, permanent workers get Rs 18,000 and contract workers get nearly Rs 6,000.

According to the agreement signed on 26th of April 2006, the 10th of June 2006 was the last date by which all negotiations were to be completed and agreement to be reached.

However, 10th of June has come and gone and negotiations are stalled on the financial aspect. The DLC has asked the workers to sit quietly as he is working on their behalf. Meanwhile, the workers have been asked to re-submit the same documents to the LO and are now starting to feel that they are being given the run-around.

Workers are being called in groups of 2-4 and management is trying to persuade them to agree to a works committee and drop the demand for forming a union. In exchange they'll be given money.

Sometimes workers are asked by senior engineers to come with them to off-site places just to hangout and have a chat, only to find that when they get there, management is also there and tries to persuade them to drop plans for union formation.

Sometimes 2-3 workers are picked up and driven to some place where again they are persuaded/intimidated to drop union formation plans.

Workers report that so far they are all together and they are trying to counter management efforts to break them and/or create misunderstandings among them by creating very strong channels of communication amongst themselves. All proceedings of meetings/dealings etc with management are duly reported to the workers. They also try to go in a bigger group of 10 to 25 workers to the negotiation appointments

d) Outcome

With the end of the strike a short first agreement was signed, the workers ensuring work discipline and the managers that training would henceforth take place within regular office hours, not on

Sundays. Bus service would be provided until Bhiwadi. There would be special food twice a week, like the staff gets.

Later on workers representatives signed a settlement with management for Rs 2700 wage increase over 3 years (far less than the Rs 10,000 package they had presented management). They get 60% increase this year, and 20% increase each year after that. There is a reworked incentive scheme. Unfortunately, the workers hired through contractors are not covered in the wage hike, but they do get to participate in the productivity incentive scheme. Another outcome is that the management decided to replace all security guards. In general they have been too supportive of the workers during the strike.

e) Short visit at KDR, a supplier of Shivam Autotech in Faridabad

From a truck driver who had to return the metal parts during the strike at Shivam Autotech we got to know that Shivam is supplied by KDR Forgings in Faridabad, Ballabhgarh twice a day. The KDR workers must have noticed the strike. The industrial area of Ballabhgarh already looks more like second tier suppliers, no nice architectural lay-out and nice facades like at Shivam. KDR is about 70 km away from Shivam; the truck drive takes about one and a half hours.

Our info is based on very brief chats with a couple of workers at the gate as they were entering the morning shift, with the head of security who came to check what we were up to, and with a worker whom we talked to later in some detail.

KDR Forgings is a medium sized factory in the vast industrial belt beyond Faridabad, at Plot No. 32 sector 25, Faridabad. It's owned by one Rajesh Juneja, who along with his family owns 8 factories in Ballabhgarh, four that do forging work, three that do more final CNC work on the gears and one lower down in the production chain where iron sariyas (forged parts) are made. From Juneja's CNC factories, the product is sent also to America. However, of this particular KDR unit, Munjal's Shivam Autotech is among their two main buyers, the other being QH Talbros, also located in Faridabad.

KDR Forgings has about 160 workers, who work in 2 shifts of 12 hours each, 8 am to 8 pm to 8 am. Only about 7-8 are permanent, the rest are directly employed by the company, not through a contractor, but not permanent. Their wage levels are about 2,000 for a helper and Rs 2,500-3,500 for an operator. The one worker we spoke to in detail was a final checker who earns Rs 7,000 presumably for a 12 hour shift work.

Concerning the strike at Shivam, those we spoke to said that yes they had known of it because the parts from the factory had come back. During those days, they did work for other buyers. However, since Shivam is such a major buyer, it meant that production was lower than usual. Workers during those days worked only for 8 hour shifts. However since they seem to be regular workers and not contract, there were no lay-offs for the 5 days.

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