By Workers Solidarity Centre,
On the NH-8 stretch from Gurgaon to Manesar, the largest concentration of two-wheeler production in the world, the workers of Bajaj Motors are on sit-down protest at the factory gate since the morning of 24th February. Day and night through the last two weeks, workers have held through their unity emerging even stronger in the face of ‘legal’ and illegal attacks and manipulations by the management, coercion through huge mobilization of police force (the day before, police tried breaking the tent) and coordinated threats and attacks by local goons on the payroll of the company.
The Bajaj Motors Gurgaon management launched a fresh attack on its workers by a series of vindictive terminations and suspensions, effecting a lock-out situation by imposing a humiliating ‘good conduct bond’ as a condition for entry, and forced-work in conditions of near-bondage for a handful of contract workers.
On Monday 24th Feb when A-shift workers came for work, they found a list of suspension orders against 15 workers, while others were asked to sign a humiliating ‘Good Conduct Bond’ to go inside. On Sunday, in preparation, 150-200 DT (Diploma Trainee or another name for contract) workers had been called by the company on overtime, and were being forced to work in conditions of near-bondage, abused and even threatened to be physically assaulted, and arrangements made with tent on the rooftop to stay overnight within the factory premises itself. On Tuesday 25th February morning, one worker from among the DT workers inside, fractured his leg while attempting to jump from over the wall of the factory premises running away from this forced labour. Production is practically at a halt with less than 10% taking place by the 150-odd workers as all the other around 1500 workers are on sit-down protest at the gate ever since.
This attack comes in the wake of a long struggle of the workers in the plant which the management has been continuously trying to suppress since the ‘audacity’ of the workers in forming ‘Bajaj Motors Workers Union’ in 2008 (Reg. No. 1870). Five among the 15 suspended workers are BMWU body members. Symptomatic of the management attack on the Union is the termination of work of the BMWU President Vijender Gill without any formal notification since 22 Nov 2012 just after the settlement of the Charter of Demands, while due to pressure two other Union body members were reinstated earlier. Workers were demanding reinstatement of all suspended workers. While the management claims that the reason for suspensions is ‘indiscipline and slow-down of production’ in the last five days, the real issue at stake as one worker puts it is, “At present here (in Gurgaon-Manesar) the managements of all the companies and entire the (state) department is united to put curbs on workers forming their own organization for their needs, rights and social security, as they fear that their profit margins will be affected if workers get organized.” Since before the formation of the Union itself, coercion and threats, even brandishing guns by bouncers to dissuade workers from filing for their Union recognition, have been the ways of ‘maintaining discipline’. After the formation of the Union through a two-hour strike, the management started process of Union-breaking and the factory has seen continuous coercion and resistance.
Workers of Bajaj Motors are not new to struggle of the working class in the belt. On 20th October 2009, Bajaj Motors workers joined other 1 lakh auto workers in the region on a one-day general strike to support the 43-day strike of nearby workers at Rico Gurgaon where 26 year old worker Ajit Yadav had been shot dead by management goons. On 7th October 2011, Bajaj Motors workers occupied the factory on a 20 hour strike, in solidarity with the Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers’ second-phase of strike that year which happened with the demand to take back all contract workers.
To crush this emerging unity of workers on a plant level, the organized company managements of the region waited for a reason and situation to attack the workers. Bajaj Motors Owner Chairman and MD, V.P. Bajaj is the President of the GIA (Gurgaon Industries Association), and the relative of Brajmohan Munjal, owner of Hero Motorcorp, with (declared) personal wealth of $2.2bn. This family alone controls number of factories in the region, and has the government machinery at its beck and call.
Ever sky-rocketing profits for Munjals and their partners has meant ever increasing workload in increasingly dismal conditions for the workers in the Narsingpur plant here. The highly mechanized production process has meant cutting down on jobs and increasing workload on a single worker rather than its opposite as claimed by the management. Workers here sends parts for 15000 bikes everyday, producing 22 engine parts like shafts, planks to Hero Motorcorp (Gurgaon, Haridwar, Dharuhera), Suzuki Motorcycles, Mahindra two-wheelers, New Holland Tractors, and so on. Suring the struggle at present, workers seek to turn this production chain into a chain of resistance appealing to the workers in 3 other Bajaj Motors plants (of its 11 total plants) in nearby Manesar, Binola and Bawal to come in support for a larger struggle.
The plant in Gurgaon has around 1500 workers of which 283 are permanent with wages around Rs.10-12000 while the rest are contract workers of various categories who are doled the Haryana minimum wage for unskilled worker of Rs.5342. Whereas the work required is of a highly skilled nature, the bulk of the work is foisted on contract workers whose skewed ratio compared to permanent workers is even admitted by the management. The contract workers also find themselves terminated from their jobs after every 6-7 months; there’s another category of around 300 contract workers called DT (diploma trainee) who’re never made permanent, working for 1-2 years. Only around 10% of the workers are from Haryana, while the rest are migrant workers; most worker stay on rent 10-12km from the factory.
At present workers continue to sit in protest at the factory gate on the national highway. Other workers and Unions from the region are coming in support, among whom are Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, Honda Employees Union, Hero Motorcorp Employees Union, Suzuki Motorcycles India Employees Union, and Unions from Omax Auto, Lumax Auto, Rico Dharuhera and FCC Rico, Automax, and so on. The settlement meetings so far have not yielded any results with the management adamant on breaking the workers unity, while the workers are resolved to struggle ahead with their demands.
Immediately reinstate all the terminated and suspended workers of Bajaj Motors!
Immediately implement the just demands of Bajaj Motors workers!
End the regime of exploitation-oppression of workers in Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal in the name of development!
For further details contact: Workers Solidarity Centre, Gurgaon/ [email protected]