Under the United Progressive Alliance [UPA] regimes, which have been committed to reforms, the country’s labour movement and labour unionization have been treated as irrelevant, undesirable and to be ignored as of no consequence and therefore to be left to their fate.
The UPA-II regime continues to ignore CTUOs and is ready to support every corporate move/action against unions. It is a long known secret that the UPA government has been encouraging the establishment of Special Economic Zones [SEZs] as a matter of policy for export industry. In this sector non-existence of trade unions is ensured administratively.
In this backdrop, observers seem to attach importance to the upcoming labour movement and unionization of labour force in Gurgaon [Haryana state] which has become the centre of development of Auto and Allied Industries. Over two lakh workers are estimated to be employed in this sector where restlessness among workers has been becoming more and more visible in the last few years. It is becoming a testing ground for development of democratic industrial relations in a corporate sector.
In recent weeks tension in the labour-management relations in Maruti Suzuki Plant in Manesar, employing over 3,000 workers, had been in the focus. The plant had seen dispute in 2011 also when workers sought to set up an independent union which was thwarted by the management. Instead management reached a settlement with its own sponsored union. According to reports, it was this latter union which sought implementation of the settlement.
This led to unrest and an unfortunate murder of a manager. In retaliation, without any enquiry, the management retrenched over 500 workers and the police arrested 154 workers under 302 IPC.
The Manesar Maruti plant, when opened after a fortnight, was turned into a virtual concentration camp with police, even some armymen besides the management’s own army of bouncers stationed inside and outside the plant. It needs to be recorded with appreciation that Gurgaon workers did not take the repression in Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant lying down. At a massive rally organised by various Gurgaon industrial workers’ unions on 21 September 2012 near Mini Secretariat, workers demanded early resolution of Maruti Suzuki dispute, release of innocent workers and reinstatement of retrenched workers. They did not ignore the death of the plant’s one manager during the prevailing unrest and demanded an ‘impartial enquiry’ into the incident so that appropriate punishment to those guilty could be awarded, whether the guilty was from the management side or workers’ side.
The workers’ rally assumed greater significance also because it was addressed not only by local leaders from various industries in Gurgaon, Manesar, Rewari, Dharuheda etc but also by national trade union leaders like Amarjeet Kaur Secretary AITUC, Tapan Sen general secretary CITU, S D Tyagi from HMS, Rajinder Singh from AIUTUC. It was also addressed by Supreme Court Advocate Prashant Bhushan. This would enable the Gurgaon workers to focus at the national level also the anti-worker partiality of the state and police in Haryana which is bound to complicate industrial relations in the Auto and Allied industrial corporate complex.
The Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant industrial dispute has neither been the first one nor will be the last. What is to be noted is that at last, the trade unionization is making a dent into a major corporate sector despite government’s all-out effort to prevent it.
Abha Mishra, Aajeevika Bureau