Working Class
Maruti Workers’ Struggle : Challenges for the Working Class

With the all-out offensive on the Maruti workers, the assault of neoliberal capital on labour in India is intensifying and assuming more dangerous dimensions. Consider the implications of some of the recent developments.

The Maruti plant has reopened on 21 August with a ‘havan’ (religious ceremony), minus its existing workforce. 500 permanent workers have been officially sacked, and the existing contract workforce too is not being taken back. Army veterans with firearms on the shop floor will function as personal security officers (PSOs) for managers, and a special Rapid Action Force will be deployed by the Haryana government outside the factory.

Perhaps for the first time in India, workers on a factory floor will work under the ominous shadow of armed security personnel. Industrial democracy has reached a new low. As it is, workers have been finding the industrial and political climate increasingly hostile to their struggles to avail of the legal right to unionise and to demand wages and rights in accordance with labour laws. ‘Bouncers’ and armed thugs have become common tools brought in by management in most factories to intimidate and quell labour struggles and ‘resolve disputes’. It is not hard to imagine the fate of labour rights and struggles, in the presence of ex-army personnel on the floor and paramilitary at the gates.

Another notable development is the fact that after the 18 July incident at the Maruti factory, a 100 gram pradhans of local Haryana villages are reported to have held a meeting and declared that they wanted ‘peace’; that workers would not be allowed to thwart ‘development’; and that the red flag (symbol of unions and the trade union movement) would not be allowed in Haryana. There were even instances of attacks on workers in villages. And the same pradhans approached the administration to demand that the Honda workers be prevented from holding their annual procession commemorating the police brutality on the workers seven years ago, warning that the procession would be met with violence. Eventually the Honda workers held their demonstration within the factory premises. Who are these pradhans, claiming to represent rural Haryana’s aspirations for ‘development,’ and pitting ‘development’ against the working class? They do not represent the people; they are a neo-rich kulak class, often also the bastion of feudal reaction in the countryside. They represent a deliberate political move to isolate and encircle the working class. Can the working class, in its turn, break this encirclement and mobilize the common people in their support. The experience of the Pricol union showed how crucial it was to mobilize the workers’ families and local community actively in support of the workers.

Trade union struggle, even when it is able to mobilize trade union solidarity and unity across factories, as the Maruti workers have often done, has not been able to compel the Government to stop supporting the corporations’ violations of labour laws. State governments compete with each other to offer a ‘secure’ environment (read a disciplined and cowed labour force) to corporations. If the struggle intensifies in one state, the corporation threatens to move to another.

The working class movement, therefore, faces the challenge of developing a political resistance, that can mobilize democratic sections of the people beyond the factories, and that can establish the workers as a political force to be reckoned with.


Protest Against Sacking of Maruti Workers

On 17 August, thousands of workers from various automobile and other unions in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera region held a massive protest march at Gurgaon against the sacking of the Maruti workers. AICCTU and AISA activists and leaders joined this march, holding placards that showed corporations like Maruti pulling the strings of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda.

Sandeep Singh, AISA President, along with other AISA activists, has been meeting the Maruti workers outside jail as well as inside the jail. Several of the Maruti union leaders and workers in jail, were subjected to severe torture (including electric shocks, and rollers on the body) and demeaning acts while on remand. The workers’ lawyer has moved court to demand a Medical Exam of the workers.

On 22 August, the day the Maruti owner Osamu Suzuki visited India, AICCTU held a countrywide protest burning the effigy of Bhupinder Hooda and Osamu Suzuki, and protesting the sacking of Maruti workers and deployment of police and paramilitary in and around the Maruti plant. At Delhi, the protest was held at Haryana Bhavan.

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