MAGAZINE | JUL 04, 2011
Reverse Gear Maruti w orkers on strike at Manesar plant in Haryana
ECONOMY : TRADE UNIONS
Lockdown And After
The strike at the Maruti Suzuki plant shows workers’ rights is still a simmering issue
Spanner In The... Labour disputes/strikes down from 250 in ’04-05 to under 100 Strike by 3,000 Maruti workers found support from 65 unions across companies Trade unions assert workers’ right to form a union, or to decide which union to join Ashok Leyland, Hyundai, Honda Motorcycles, GM among those that have faced labour problems ***
n many ways, the 13-day strike at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, India’s largest automobile manufacturer, was a wake-up call
for the Indian corporate sector. Not only did it illustrate the unity among the company’s workers, but with workers and unions across states voicing support, it threatened to flare up into a wider industrial dispute, giving strong signals of a resurgence of trade union activity in the country. It wasn’t a wage hike or improvement in working conditions but the right to form a union—something of a rarity in the new industrial ecosystem in India—which saw 3,000 employees of Maruti’s Manesar plant in Haryana striking work on June 3. The plant workers wanted to register a new union—the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU)—and had already applied for registration, something the management was opposed to. Maruti officials were not available for comments when contacted.
“Employees have the right to form unions. The general view among workers is that managements cannot dictate which unions workers should get affiliated to as it is their right to register or join a union. Coen Kompier.” Experts stress that the trend of hiring workers on contract rather than taking them in as permanent employees gives company managements the right to hire and fire on issues of performance or in times of recession. disagrees with this view. Modi. Says Mukherjee.” says www.000 cars and business losses of over Rs 400 crore.. the corporate sector obviously has a different view.com/printarticle. In the last decade or so. contending that best management practices are being followed. In 2011. Interestingly. Union activities of yore. all companies.. the industrial relations system in India is very confrontational. We are concerned about the way the company handled the situation. Dharuhera. I do not see the emergence of an era of nationwide militant trade unionism. Manesar and Gurgaon had voiced their
support and about one lakh workers from 50-odd industrial units in these areas had decided to go on fast last Friday reflects a different workers’ perspective.K. puts it. One which is strengthened by the fact that apart from Maruti. “Managements do not want to have unions. Labour laws do not give managements the right to dictate which union the workers should join or what their political leanings should be.” Y.” Gurudas
Dasgupta. there’s no reason to react on this matter. by the management. It’s a pattern among new companies also. Their actions harmed Maruti’s productivity. secretary. Says BMS spokesperson Amar Nath Dogra. it was because there were issues with the way the management dealt with workers’ demands. CITU. “In general and compared to many other countries. vendors and companies associated with it also suffered significant losses. due to new management practices of hiring employees on contract and not putting them on the rolls. says. “Post-1991. The corporate sector.” Adds Dipankar Mukherjee. have not wanted unions to be formed. Any disturbance affecting productivity is bad. even suggested. however. CPI
The fact that incidents of flash strikes or even violent attacks on members of the management have not yet dissipated is testimony to the fact that all is not well on the labour front. A new era in the trade union movement will happen only if unions can operate in full freedom. had of late seemed a thing of the past. Labour leaders contend the lack of union activity in the industrial sector is because of large-scale suppression of labour rights and union voices. chairman and CEO of the Great Eastern Energy Corporation and a former FICCI president. As Y. they either do not want unions or have ‘pocket unions’ who support the management.outlookindia. which harms the interests of all parties. “Industrial disputes anywhere are bad. Consumers too
“The employers haven’t acted intelligently here. They want to make the unions subservient to their interests and compel the workers to be part of a union controlled by them. there are hushed discussions across companies on the way managements handle workers and trade union issues. something not easy in case of permanent employees under Indian laws.”
“Managements do not want to have unions.”
he fact that 65 unions in the nearby industrial belts of Noida.aspx?277353
. general secretary of the CPI-supported AITUC. labour standards specialist with the International Labour Organisation (ILO).. According to rough estimates. Although the strike at Maruti has been called off and the matter resolved for the time being. be they mncs or Indian.. They want to make the unions subservient to their interests. “The very fact that industries everywhere are generally having uninterrupted activity without labour trouble illustrates that there have been good practices mostly.when contacted. There is a mechanism where workers and management recognise unions and decisions are taken with mutual discussion..”
“Nations are competing against each other for market dominance. Says Gurudas Dasgupta.” Given the fact that the 13-day strike led to production losses of over 12.” The CPI’s Dasgupta remains optimistic that the Maruti strike will “open up the scope of the trade union movement and will work towards unity of workers and inspire them in future. this has been the only major strike so far. like the long-drawn Bombay textile strike in the 1980s. If it happened. many of these companies are associated with the automobile industry. These cause losses for both workers and investors.K. the number of industrial disputes and strikes in the manufacturing sector had scaled down from around 250 in 2004-05 to under 100 in 2010. over 50 per cent of workers in most of the large companies are on contract and do not have rights to join unions or can only join one that is recognised. Modi ExFICCI President
The demand for a new union at Maruti’s Manesar unit may be a signal of discontent amongst workers regarding management practices and their own rights and the lack of a redressal mechanism.. Since the issue at Manesar was amicably settled through discussion. “A strike is not the first but the last option for workers.
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www. of course. Considering that neither the BJP-led NDA government nor the Congress-led UPA one has shown any political will to pursue labour reforms.
So what’s the way forward for companies and workers? Modi feels there must be more effective utilisation of industrial dispute resolutions as contained in the ILO governing council resolution on tripartite consultation convention 1976.com/printarticle. All nations are competing against each other for market dominance. Any disturbance affecting productivity is bad.outlookindia.” says ILO’s Kompier.productivity.aspx?277353
.” points out Modi. the government wakes up to the need to strike an equitable balance.
anywhere are bad. it may finally fall on the workers and union leaders to chart their own course. Consumers too face problems. a part of the ILO Plan of Action 2010-16. including ensuring that workers (whether permanent or contractual) are given their legal dues. These cause losses for both workers and investors. Unless.