Working Class
Successful Strike by Bokaro Steel Plant Contract Workers

Braving all terror tactics and disruptive ploys of the Plant management, the powerful strike by contract workers of the Bokaro Steel Plant was a grand success, thanks to the unity of the workers and crucial support of the local people facing displacement at the hands of the management.

Thanks to the liberalized policies of the BSP, contract workers numbering 12-15000 bear the burden of the work, doing the toughest and most insecure jobs, but denied legal securities and rights. The Centre of Steel Workers (CSW) affiliated to AICCTU, which was active amongst permanent workers, has concentrated on organizing the contract workers over the past two years. Since July last year, this campaign was intensified, with a signature campaign, a Convention in August, successful membership campaign, and a Strike on 31 January 2008. The leadership of the Strike actions and protests has been shared with the AITUC-affiliated union, the leadership of which has a tendency to vacillate.

After months of propaganda, workers were determined to settle scores with the management. On the eve of March 10, a day before the strike was to commence, the management started deploying all sorts of forces viz. STF, JAP (Jharkhand Armed Force), CISF, Jharkhand Police, Rapid Action Force along with water cannons etc. and a horde of police officers to foil the strike. There was patrolling by the police force in vans which are usually used in anti-naxalite operations. An atmosphere of terror was created. The management even succeeded in mobilizing some trade unions against the strike. The official group of INTUC, CITU, HMS Union, and a local union linked with Shibu Soren, in joint as well as separate press conferences appealed to the workers not to go on strike, particularly advising them not to do same in the month of March! The Union affiliated with the PCC CPI(ML) also persuaded them not to go on strike. However, unimpressed by all this, the contract workers went ahead with their strike call.

With red flags in their hands, on March 11, the workers started converging at the Plant gate raising slogans in support of their demands. Not a single contract worker went on duty despite the management’s allurement for an additional 100 rupees plus 50 rupees for food. The permanent employees of the plant too stood in moral support of the contract workers and they refused to do any job which used to be done by the contract workers. And thus the scope of the strike was widened.

Crucial support for the strike came from the local populace fighting against land acquisition by the management for the expansion plan of the Plant. On March 6, police resorted to brutal lathi-charge and tear-gas shelling on the agitationists. CPI(ML) declared support to the movement and came out actively in support of the Bokaro bandh on March 7 called by Visthapit Sangharsh Samiti. On March 8, AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukerjee visited the area and addressing a gate meeting at the Plant gate, declaring support for the struggling people on behalf of CPI(ML) and AICCTU. He sought their support for the 3 day strike of contract workers.

On March 9, the Visthapit Sangharsh Morcha declared support to the contract workers strike. Since a large section of the contract workers comes from the local villages, this support of the local agitating people against the management provided a fresh impetus to the contract workers strike. Under this pressure, the vacillation of the AITUC was also checked to an extent, and the strike was a great success. All contract workers joined this strike and their strength is around 15000.

Ultimately the management bowed down and accepted most of the demands: Rs. 105 per day as minimum wages for all workers, attendance cards for all workers and computerized online attendance arrangement within a month, payment on bank account, action against those who threaten to snatch gate-pass, pay-slip, providing annual record of PF cuts, free health centre apart from ESI, baby crèche for women workers within plant, arrangement for education to the children. Though there was no written agreement, departmental directives have been issued.

The success of the strike has enthused the workers and generated a great sense of unity among them.

Liberation Archive