The terminated workers of the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki organised a convention at Ambedkar Bhavan here on Sunday to demand their reinstatement and withdrawal of “false” cases against their jailed colleagues and leaders of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU). After the July 18 violence at the Manesar plant in which one senior executive was killed, the company had fired 546 “permanent” and 1,800 “temporary” workers. The police arrested 149 of them, including the MSWU office-bearers, for alleged involvement in the violence.
The protesting workers alleged that an all-out war has been waged against them by the Maruti Suzuki management in nexus with the Haryana Government because they expressed their right to form workers’ union and questioned the “illegal” practice of contract worker system. “We have got enough evidence which proves that the violence of July 18 was orchestrated by the Maruti management with a single-minded aim to crackdown on the union workers,” said a worker on condition of anonymity.
With their leaders behind bars, the workers have formed a seven-member provisional committee to continue demanding their rights. “We want our reinstatement and a proper and unbiased CBI inquiry into the incident apart from the release of all our colleagues who have been arrested,” said one of the members of the provisional committee of MSWU.
The last seven months since the MSWU leaders are in jail and 546 workers out of job facing acute financial condition, the Maruti Management was trying hard to break the workers’ morale and courage to continue their struggle, charged New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) leader Rakhi Sehgal.
The workers argue that at least 100 to 125 out of the 149 arrested workers who were not there at the spot when the violence happened have been denied bail in spite of the fact that they were slapped with bailable charges. This was because the administration was using them to break the unity of the MSWU, they alleged.
“The jailed MSWU leaders are being told by the administration that if they take the charges of attempt to murder upon themselves, the innocent ones would be allowed to go. This proposal has been categorically rejected because all the arrested workers are innocent,” she added.
The administration is using a double strategy of harassing the workers inside the jail along with not giving these terminated workers their due so that they do not dare form any workers union in future. For instance they allege in continuance with the harassment of the workers, the management and the Haryana Government have not fulfilled the promises.
“We were told that the exploitative contract system will be phased out, which has been our long-standing demand, and test and interviews will be organised to recruit workers for permanent jobs, promises on which they are maintaining a complete silence,” said a worker present at the convention.
One member of the provisional committee said the workers want to return to a healthy working atmosphere to the company through negotiation and dialogue, but on respectable and dignified terms and not on the conditions of “slavery” that were being imposed on them.
One big question posed by the workers was why they were not being reinstated in spite of being acquitted of any involvement in the violence by the Government constituted Special Investigation Team.
Highlighting the “loopholes” in the prosecution case, Ms. Sehgal said the charge-sheet field by the prosecution was not complete because neither the list of witnesses nor proper documents in support of their charges have been filed. “How is the defence supposed to proceed in the absence of these two vital things?” asked Ms. Sehgal.
Ashim Roy from the NTUI referred to the larger picture saying the “corporate controlled” Government did not want the workers to keep fighting for their rights and wanted to write off the possibility of the workers union in the auto industry for which India will be seen be a hub.
The workers organised a rally from Paharganj to Jantar Mantar where they submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister with their demands which included abolishing the illegal contract worker system by the year 2013 especially in the context of the permanent nature of work in the auto sector in Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal-Faridabad-Noida-Ghaziabad industrial region.
MSWU has also demanded that workers union must be formed in the auto belt industrial region. Within 45 days of application for registration of a trade union, the labour department concerned must ensure the registration of the trade union with due process, said one of the MSWU leader adding “all permanent workers in the auto sector must be given minimum wage of Rs.25,000. Till they are not made permanent, all workers in the auto sector in this region should be given minimum wage of Rs.15,000”.