Monday, April 28, 2014

India - A report by Workers Solidarity Centre (Gurgaon)

April 28, 2014
A report by Workers Solidarity Centre (Gurgaon)
The brutal police repression on the striking workers of Sriram Piston on 26th April 28, 2014 in Pathredi industrial area of Bhiwadi, an important part of Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, exposes the underbelly of so-called ‘development model’ promised and show-cased by the political parties and corporate media.
Sriram Piston is a vendor company of Honda, Hero MotoCorp, Maruti Suzuki, Bajaj Auto, Mahindra etc and it manufactures piston, ring, engine valve, pin etc. The production in the Bhiwadi unit started from 29th March, 2011. Some workers were transferred from the Ghaziabad unit, which has a puppet union, and most of the workers were freshly recruited. Now the plant has 1856 workers. Among them 560 are permanent, few are trainee, and remaining workers are ‘fixed term contract’ (FTC), illegally employed in the main production for three years on contract basis. The wage of an operator is Rs. 6000-7000, those who are experienced get a salary of Rs. 9000-10000.
The workers of the plant first initiated registration process of their union on 14th November, 2013 under the extremely exploitative-oppressive working condition and poor wage. As a consequence, the president of the union, Mahesh, was suspended by the management on 6th January. On 20th January, that file was cancelled. Then they filed another registration, this time with the help of AITUC, on 31st January, 2013. After this, continuous process of victimization started. Worker leaders were harassed, and many were restricted to enter the plant without any notice. When the workers decided to organize a meeting on 9th February, the general secretary of the union was picked up from his house by company goons and threatened on 8th February. On 1st March, the company management was successful to get a stay on the registration process of union from civil court by framing some false allegations. The workers, determined to get the registration of their union, called a meeting on 2nd March where more than 1600 workers, including the contract workers, turned up. The workers submitted their demand letter demanding more facilities and higher wage to the company management on 8th March. The company felt threatened by the unity of workers, and intensified repressive measures by suspending more workers. The management asked the workers to do overtime on 23rd March, which was a Sunday. Those who refused to do overtime were not allowed to enter the plant on the next day. The workers decided to occupy the plant premises and stop production. For the next five days, nearly 1000 workers were on sit-in strike inside the plant, and 800 workers sat outside the plat. On 28th March, the management agreed to take back all 22 suspended workers, including the president of the union, in next ten days, and thus a settlement was reached. But after that the management showed no intention to take back the workers. After few tripartite meetings in the labour department, when no solution appeared, the workers again stopped production on 15th April. Nearly 1200 workers of A and B shifts were sitting inside the plant, and the workers of the C shift, around 600, sat outside. A conciliation process was initiated by DLC, Alwar on 23rd April. But in that meeting, the president of the union was not allowed to participate and no conclusion was reached. The next meeting was fixed on 28th April. But as the election of Rajasthan got over on 24th April, the government-administration-police-company nexus decided to launch a planed attack on the workers.
On 26th April, at around 4.30 am, nearly 2000 police, including COBRA, RAF etc, surrounded the factory from three directions. They were accompanied by the 150-200 bouncers who were reserved by the company for last two months. The workers woke up and faced a severe lathi-charge, tear gas and firing. The police had 10 rounds of firing that caused bullet injury of three workers. Some workers had multiple fractures including head fracture. Bouncers attacked the workers with knives and rods. The workers decided to resist the attack by pelting stones, but that did not suffice. The bouncers set 4 cars on fire to blame it on the workers. In the meantime, the nearby villagers came out and stood solidly with the workers. The police was forced to retreat.
Because of the brutal lathicharge, around 150 workers got injured. 79 of them were admitted to Bhiwadi hospital. The condition of 4 workers became serious and they have been taken to Alwar hospital. Police have arrested 26 workers. Cases under section 147, 148, 149, 332, 353, 307 (attempt to murder), 120B (criminal conspiracy to kill someone) have been slapped against the workers.
Even after this brutal repression, the workers are continuing their struggle. They are on sit-in demonstration outside the company till their demands of union formation, revoke of suspension and proper settlement are met. Different unions and workers from different factories from Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal industrial region, including Nerolac, Honda, Maruti Suzuki, Autofit, FCC Rico and Munjal Showa, have come in support of this historic struggle of Sriram Piston Kamgaar Union.

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