First posted on Thozhilalar Koodam (Workers’ Space)
Early on the morning of May Day, 2013, workers of Hyundai, Scholl, and Asian Paints hoisted flags and commemorated the workers who had struggled in the past to safeguard the rights of workers today. The workers called for greater solidarity between workers of different factories and pledged to continue their struggles for better working conditions and rights at the work place.
This is 90th year after the first may day celebrations in India were held in Madras on 1 May, 1923.
Hyundai Motor India Ltd.
Hyundai Motor India Ltd. workers assembled outside the main factory gate at the Sriperumbudur plant to hoist flags this May Day.
The two rival unions at Hyundai,Hyundai Motor India Employees Union (HMIEU) and United Union of Hyundai Employees (UUHE), hoisted separate flags.
The HMIEU flag is to the right of the main gate along with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) flag. The HMIEU workers, some employees and some dismissed employees, assembled around the flag and hoisted the flag while shouting slogans. The president of HMIEU, Dinakaran presided over the function. R. Sridhar, general secretary of HMIEU, who was dismissed in 2008, was also present. Sanmina employees union president, Mani came in solidarity. S.Kannan, state committee member of CITU was present and addressed the gathering along with E. Muthukumar, Kanchipuram District Secretary of CITU. Read the rest of this entry »
First Posted on Thozhilalar Koodam (Workers’ Space)
The following are excerpts from Dilip Veeraraghavan’s book, The Making of the Madras Working Class on the first ever May Day celebrations in India, held in 1923 at Madras.
“Another development during this period [1922-33] was the appearance of left radicalism represented by Singaravelu [Chettiar] who had been championing the cause of labour at the time of the 1921 strike, taking part in the public meeting and demonstrations and writing articles in support of labour. His polemics with Slater were significant. However, he did not hold an office in any of the unions which had sprung up then. It was solely at his initiative that Madras achieved the distinction of having celebrated the first ever May Day in India on May 1, 1923. On the same day, he launched the Labour-Kisan Party of Hindustan as a distinct political party of labour and for labour, with a ‘politico-economic policy for labour, free from mere reformism or opportunism, which characterised all other parties in the country.’ His move however had a hostile reception from the then established labour leaders, like Chakkarai Chettiar, Iyer Thiru Vi. Ka. [V. Kalyanasundara Mudaliar] and from Sriramulu Naidu, who had been with Singaravelu in the beginning, but turned hostile as he considered the Labour-Kisan Party a rival to the Congress. A mass meeting of the workers of Madras was convened to repudiate all connection with the Labour-Kisan party. Swadharma with all its international coverage took him to task for trying to plant exotic ideas and theories in India and held that only the AITUC [All India Trade Union Congress] had the right to represent the workers of India. The nationalist trade union leaders considered the Labour-Kisan Party as distractive and disruptive and wanted it to be ‘nipped in the bud.’
I have been interested in forms of organisation in general, and unions in particular, for some time now. On a recent trip to South Africa I ended up profiling the National Union of Mineworkers for The Hindu, and was intrigued to learn that most unions in South Africa have their own investment companies run, with varying degrees of success, by professional money managers.
8:27 Hrs- Chennai Central Station… Sounds of bustling feet and platform announcements that dies in the din of the crowded, sweaty humanity; a trumpet blare followed by a jerk and the train leaves the platform pushing and huffing.
A kind of ethereal calm sets in.
Then, as if out of nowhere, a woman walks in. Dressed in a blue saree and a bright neon coat that screams “ALL SERVICES”, she purposefully strides to the end of the platform and jumps right into the tracks where the train had just left.
Workers of NVH Auto Parts Limited were on strike for four days as on Sunday, March 17, 2013, demanding higher wages among other things. The protest began, according to workers, because NVH refused to increase wages as per their demands. According to workers the management has now offered a hike of only Rs.4,000, which will bring their monthly salary to around Rs.17,500, which the workers will not accept.
One of the workers said that the Managing Director of NVH, Korean national had agreed for a Rs.20,000 hike in wages about five months ago, but the new MD, also a Korean, wanted to renegotiate the wages. While they were protesting three workers were allegedly suspended by the management. The workers are asking for their suspension to be revoked and for better wages. The workers do not have union and have negotiated through workers committees.
Workers have not been going to work since Thursday, March 14, 2013. However, production at NVH has not been hit. According to workers from other factories are being used as strikebreakers. On Saturday, a group of contract workers, who were employed as strikebreakers were seen exiting the factory in the evening. According to workers, NVH was open on Sunday also, to make up for their slow down in production. According to workers, the company can hold about 15 days of stock. So, the company is not worried about the slow down in production.
NVH is an automobile component producer, which makes sun visors, floor mats and other parts for passenger car manufacturers such as Hyundai. The NVH factory is located in the SIPCOT Industrial Complex at Irungattukottai.
The Assistant Commissioner of Labour, Dharmaseelan, when asked the status of the wage negotiations refused to comment, saying the matter is very sensitive. The general manager of human resources of NVH, K.S Ravikumar also declined to comment on the company’s stand on the wage negotiations. However, the workers said that more than ten negotiations happened between the Workers’ Committee, the management of NVH and the assistant commissioner of labour.
Some contract workers also support the cause of the workers employed directly by NVH. Contract employees receive around Rs. 8,000, even after doing over time. Their regular shift, according to workers is 12 hours, for which they receive Rs.176 per shift. Most of the contract workers in NVH are migrants, who live in Kivallur village adjacent to the factory. Kivallur is one of the three main settlements of migrant workers employed in SIPCOT Irungattukottai live.
Contract workers also alleged that many of them have not got their provident fund numbers, even though they have been working for over three years. One worker alleged that he has four provident numbers, none of which match with his identification details.
Workers also complained that the toilet facilities were substandard in NVH, and that every part of the factory is under surveillance and this leads to harassment of workers.
The all-India general strike called by 11 central trade unions on February 20-21 was one of the biggest strikes in recent years. However, if one followed news surrounding the strike in the English press, one would find that hard to believe.
All English papers, including the pink papers, covered the two-day strike focussing on the violence in Noida, the ATMs without cash, ‘loss to the nation’, and most importantly whether the strike was ‘successful’ or ‘partial’. Some papers did not even mention the demands of strikers.
Day one of the strike was reported in all newspapers, though largely on inside pages. Economic Times (Chennai edition) did not give the story front-page space, but a single column on page 6, without mentioning any demands of the trade unions. An editorial accused the striking workers of being ‘labour aristocrats’, unwilling to allow labour law ‘reform’. In ET’s opinion, reforming labour laws is the only way to improve the situation of the working people of India, but the blatant illegal employment of workers by corporations through informal arrangements is not an issue worth discussing. Some car manufacturing firms, for example, argue that ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ operations are different, and that they do not employ temporary workers in any of their ‘core’ car-making operations. Using this argument, they outsource most of the ‘non-core’ operations to logistics companies who employ casual labour. This argument is spurious simply because all forms of labour required to build a car are essential: without even one of them, the car cannot be produced.