Karnataka

58 days of protest at Volvo plant doesn't stir Government

Resolute: In the beginning, members of the Volvo Bus Workers' Union demanded redressal of issues such as transport for night shift workers and harassment by supervisors. However, the tone of the strike changed after the dismissal of four workers on August 18.

Resolute: In the beginning, members of the Volvo Bus Workers' Union demanded redressal of issues such as transport for night shift workers and harassment by supervisors. However, the tone of the strike changed after the dismissal of four workers on August 18.  

more-in

The bus manufacturing unit is in the Labour Minister's constituency

Nearly two months into an ongoing protest by workers at Swedish manufacturer Volvo's bus manufacturing plant, the State Government has failed to intervene or take statutory action on this festering industrial dispute.

The strike by over 400 skilled workers which entered the 58th day on Wednesday at the Volvo Buses India factory at Hoskote — which includes a seven-day fast by five workers — has impacted production at Volvo's only bus production facility in India.

Incidentally, the long-drawn strike, supported by every permanent factory employee, is going on in Labour Minister B.N. Bache Gowda's Assembly constituency. So far, Labour officials have submitted “confidential reports” after negotiations failed, but no action has been taken. Meanwhile, Volvo has hired contract labourers to keep the wheels rolling.

Though at the onset (on August 2) the workers demanded redressal of issues such as transport for night shift workers, alleged harassment by supervisors and “false accusations” of sabotage to “arm-twist” union members, the subsequent dismissal of four workers, including two union leaders (on August 8), changed the tone of the strike.

Now, workers say their primary demand is reinstatement of the four.

Several workers that The Hindu spoke to, all aged between 20 and 30, said this was about their “self-respect, dignity and security”.

Since 2010

The management and the Volvo Bus Workers' Union (affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions) have been at loggerheads since April 2010, when a tiff between senior staff and workers during wage negotiations culminated in the suspension of four union members. Workers say they had refused to return until negotiations were completed, but management insisted and sent the buses back empty before the scheduled departure, leaving them stranded overnight at the factory, located over 10 km from Hoskote town.

While Volvo, in an official statement, said that managers were “physically assaulted, held hostage”, many workers testified that though workers were agitated, there was no assault.

“If there was an assault, why did it take them 16 months to complete an inquiry,” asked Dayanand, general secretary of the Volvo Bus Workers' Union, who is facing dismissal.

Further, in accordance with the Industrial Disputes Act, five elected office-bearers were declared “protected workmen”.

Unionists allege that management deferred declaring the list for 2011 in order to facilitate their dismissal. Other allegations include attempts to “break the union” and hiring contract workers without requisite licenses.

In August 2010, the union won wage hikes ranging between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 4,500.

‘Atmosphere of fear'

However, since the stand-off, workers claim an “atmosphere of fear” has been created. And in May this year, when Annappa, and 10 others, were handed over to the police for alleged sabotage, it was the last straw, they say.

Annappa, claims he was punished for refusing to do ‘pasting work' on the bus ceiling due to safety concerns. “When I complained, they threatened me, and later framed me.”

The management, he added, refused to provide CCTV footage to prove this.

A Volvo spokesperson said the union “resorted to production slowdown, sabotage and external campaigns”. “We supports unions, but this is about discipline and company values”, he said and added that the strike had impacted production by 40 per cent.

Workers here reiterated that their protest was not for fiscal benefits.

Indeed, like the ongoing protests at the Maruti Suzuki factory at Manesar, this one too stands for the basic “right to associate”.

Prasanna Kumar, State general secretary, CITU, said that the Government must intervene, instead of “simply pandering to industry”.

Support quality journalism - Subscribe to The Hindu Digital

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Sep 22, 2019 7:56:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/58-days-of-protest-at-volvo-plant-doesnt-stir-government/article2497011.ece

Next Story