‘Workers at Manesar auto parts firm struggle to form union’

Report by People’s Union for Democratic Rights says accidents common at factory, alleges attempts by management to stall formation of union

December 04, 2017 01:21 am | Updated 01:21 am IST - GURUGRAM

DE04 Anchor

DE04 Anchor

Documenting the workers’ struggle to form a union at SPM Autocomp Systems Pvt. Ltd., a manufacturer and supplier of auto parts in Manesar, the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) has said the domino effect of the struggle at Maruti and subsequent convictions has been felt in the SPM struggle.

Death of worker

They said the workers of SPM Autocomp are suffering the same fate at the hands of the management and police as the Maruti workers, 13 of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment by a court earlier this year.

In a six-page report based on its fact-finding into the conditions in the factory, the PUDR has referred to the death of Shatrughan, a safai karamchari , prompting the workers to come together to form a union, besides giving a detailed account of the work conditions at the factory and alleged attempts by the management to prevent workers from going ahead with their plans to form a union.

SPM Autocomp caters to the needs of passenger cars and commercial vehicles for a number of companies, including Maruti. The company has a foundry and a machine shop in Manesar.

The former employs unskilled workers whereas workers in the machine shop are often graduates from ITIs. The report said that accidents are quite frequent at the factory and workers were not given compensation.

Excess workload

“Minor accidents are a routine matter... It is claimed by the workers that small accidents like fingers being cut off happen almost on a fortnightly or monthly basis. There were accidents in July 2017 and October 2017. In the first case, a worker’s finger was cut off and in the second, a worker’s arm got entangled in the conveyor belt. In such cases, the company pays for one-time treatment but no compensation is paid,” said the report.

It further said that the workers attributed regular accidents to excessive workload. There are no tea breaks during the shift and no reliever is provided to the workers.

The report also pointed out that the work conditions at the factory are quite bad and the workers believe this is on account of lack of a workers’ union.

“The only companies in the Manesar belt where work conditions are better are those with a union, they claim. Companies with a similar work profile but with a union pay a monthly wage of ₹20,000-₹25,000 whereas at SPM Autocomp, they work for minimum wages of ₹8,279,” said the report.

The report said the management responded to the workers’ union application and demand notice with “hostility” and “coercion”.

‘Open threats’

“It exacerbated the existing repression and singled out those who are perceived to be involved in union activity and attacked them in multiple ways. Open and direct threats were given to seven workers in a meeting with the owner... Simultaneously, the owner used his political clout via an ex-Sarpanch of neighbouring Kasan village, and goons and bouncers were sent to the workers’ residences for three successive days. Besides muscle power, monetary incentives were used to buy out workers and force them to leave the factory,” said the report.

Reflecting on the workers’ struggle to form unions in several factories in this automobile belt, the report said that the right to form a trade union was codified in the Trade Union Act in 1926 and the Constitution provided it the status of a fundamental right after Independence, but barely a handful of firms in this Manesar industrial belt possess a registered workers’ union.

The Constitution and the laws reflect this need: that in a conflict between labour and capital, the State cannot be a bystander, the report said.

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