Workers at the factory gates Workers at Maruti Suzuki in India have been involved in a long struggle for their rights. The Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union was officially registered in March 2012, and they have been attacked by management ever since. In Ju …

Workers at the factory gates

Workers at the factory gates

Workers at Maruti Suzuki in India have been involved in a long struggle for their rights. The Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union was officially registered in March 2012, and they have been attacked by management ever since. In July 2012, during a violent dispute, a manager at the Manesar plant was killed. 147 workers were arrested, and have been held without bail ever since.

A further 2,300 workers lost their jobs. This comprehensive report (pdf) details the abuse and exploitation suffered by the workers.

Maruti Suzuki workers clash with police

Maruti Suzuki workers clash with police

 

In February this year, the workers embarked on a foot pilgrimage across India to highlight the situation, and this month they relaunched the union at Manesar. They have just won a stunning election victory against a yellow union founded by the company, winning 11 out of 12 seats.

Management tried every kind of divide and rule tactic to undermine the union:  It split workers between permanent and contract, along regions, along various plants, and so on.

After firing over 2,300 workers in July 2012, it hired new workers who were made to toe its line and work in an atmosphere of fear and punishment. They were not allowed to even talk to the terminated workers who were leading the struggle, or even to independent and other trade unions in the area.

Recently management hired 250 new recruits from the Gurgaon plant who they thought would act in their favour, pitching them against the Manesar workers. It tried to disenfranchise the jailed and terminated workers, and the pliant labour department followed suit. The police collaborated in this repression.

Despite all of this coercion, the candidates propped up by management were roundly defeated. On the evening of the elections, there was a spirit of recapturing the factory by workers: the street in front erupted with celebration after two years of hard struggle. Workers from inside the plant came with food from the factory canteen for the terminated workers saying that it won’t be long before their struggle also is won and all arrested workers are released.

This victory was made possible by unprecedented solidarity, from the workers themselves, and from other unions in the sector.

Comrade Ramniwas of the Provisional Working Committee of MSWU said,

“This victory validates our long, continuous, untiring struggle of more than two years, against the exploitation-repression by the combined might of the company management, state administration, police and all its tentacles.”

 


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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