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Guragon Workers News, "Ten Years After and a Global Crisis Later"

Ten Years After and a Global Crisis Later… – Preface to Indian Edition of ‘Hotlines: Call Centre, Inquiry, Communism’, by Kolinko
Guragon Workers News

Call centres were the archetype of a workplace for the capitalist cycle between the early 1990s and late 2000s. Located in the dominant sectors of the cycle in the global north, e.g. banking, insurances and personal services, they were able to absorb and combine both surplus capital (which had escaped the shrinking profit margins in the industries); and surplus labour (in form of the unemployed graduate and dismissed industrial worker). Call centres became de facto outsourced university departments where students were forced to work off their student debts and get used to their future perspective as precarious wage dependents. The call centres’ outer-face resembled less the factories of the past; but rather their culture of ‘work-time/leisure-time’-balance was supposed to turn the collective experience of work into a question of individual life-management. They formed part of the general propaganda proclaiming the ‘end of the working class’, which prevailed since the 1980s – while at the same time concentrating and ‘proletarianising’ large sections of previously ‘white-collar’ workers under one roof and subjecting them to a Taylorised ‘factory-mode’ of production. Instead of individualising neo-liberal subjects, call centres simply extended the industrial system into the office world and collectivised a section of the working class who previously saw themselves as ‘educated employees’, such as bank clerks or administrators. As a labour intensive and mobile industry, call centres quickly combined labour in different parts of the globe.

We published the German version of this book in 2002 as a balance-sheet of three years of collective efforts. In hindsight it is astonishing that at the time we mentioned little about call centres in India. Only two years later this would have been impossible – see below. Call centres were as much the embodiment of the hailed ‘post-industrial’ boom of capitalism, as they were subjected to its ephemeral nature. In 2001, the bursting ‘New Ecomomy’-bubble sent shock-waves through the sector and washed call centre jobs towards the lower wage regions of the globe. With the financial crisis in 2008, ‘off-shored’ call centres in the English-speaking global south were equally shaken, new geographical shifts and technological re-structuring took place. Since then the ‘wage competition’ between call centres in impoverished and deprived regions in the crisis-ridden global north (rust-belts) and in the small pockets of development in India, the Philippines or South Africa has intensified.

However, the struggles of an emerging global working class have also intensified. After more than a decade of defensive struggles in the sector, automobile workers at Honda in China in 2010 and their colleagues at Maruti Suzuki in India in 2011 pushed things forward. Their struggles over-lap with emerging movements against the impact of the crisis in the USA and Western Europe (occupy-movement, large scale mobilisations in Greece, Spain etc.) and the uprisings against ‘neo-liberal dictatorships’ in Northern Africa. So far these struggles only over-lap on the common background of a global crisis; they don’t yet communicate directly. During the late 1990s call centre jobs had been re-located from France to the French speaking ex-colonies, like Morocco and Tunisia. But they only absorbed a faction of the unemployed local youth – the generation that lead the social explosions of 2011. For us the question remains whether call centres, as part of the global industrial structure, can become the ‘telegraph stations’ of this emerging global strike movement [http://www.wildcat-www.de/en/wildcat/90/e_w90_in_our_hands.html]. This question will not be answered through distant research, but active participation in workers’ struggles.

This is why we are pleased that friends in Delhi re-publish this book. At first, call centres in India were criticised only for being part of a ‘cultural degradation’ and ‘westernisation’. Soon enough the focus turned on the actual working conditions and the fact that, once seen not as a temporary stop-gap between graduation and future career, but as a life-time wage-prison, call centre jobs become less attractive. This book is only partially about call centres; and mostly about the relation between communist theory/inquiry and practice. It documents an attempt to reconcile both, based on our own proletarian subjectivity. In India, due to the specific class constellation, the gaps between professional political activism, ‘the conditions in one’s own class situation’ (as students or intellectual workers) and ‘working class reality’ are still huge. We hope that the book can contribute to the debate on how to overcome these separations.

Since this book has been published our collective efforts changed with the world around us. We distributed leaflets in front of the Hewlett Packard call centre in Holland in 2002. Five years later we stood in front of a call centre of the same company in Gurgaon, India, distributing a small pamphlet which summarised some of the call centre workers’ struggle experiences in Europe. We worked in market research call centres in London in 2003 and in 2007 re-located ourselves to a market research call centre in Gurgaon, where real wages were significantly higher at the time. Between 2003 and 2007 we tried to extend the ‘inquiry and collaboration’ of communist collectives through a newsletter; [http://libcom.org/tags/prol-position]. We attended international meetings and took part in the translation and debate on Beverly Silver’s book ‘Forces of Labor’ [http://www.wildcat www.de/dossiers/forcesoflabor/fol_preface.htm], which inspired us to relate practically to the emerging global character of the working class. Some of us went to China [http://www.gongchao.org], others to India [www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com]. We kept in touch within the political collective of German ‘wildcat’ [www.wildcat-www.de].

By the end of the decade times started to rock again… In these times we need collectives engaged in working class reality, with open minds and hearts. Get a job together, read Marx, write job diaries, share your experiences and let’s meet in the future…

Stay tuned!
Kapashera, Gurgaon, India – May 2012
gurgaon_workers_news@yahoo.co.uk

The Big Shift…

After the crisis slump of the ‘New Economy’ at the beginning of the 2000s the international re-location of call centre jobs accelerated. The public media, political representatives and national trade unions presented this as ‘job losses’. Before looking at the actual geographical shifts within the sector, we first question this nationalist-protectionist position. Call centres themselves are in many ways result and ‘accelerators’ of ‘job losses’. From the 1980s onwards, General Motors earned more money by selling credit schemes than by manufacturing cars. The company down-sized factories. Thousands of industrial jobs were wiped out, while a smaller number of jobs were created in the more profitable banking sector where call centres were situated. Call centres themselves reduced the numbers of workers employed in offices and bank branches by introducing ‘labour saving’ organisation of work and technology, which turned formerly skilled white collar work in taylorized jobs.

Within the ‘national framework’ call centres were put into regions of ‘under-development’, such as old industrial or mining areas with high unemployment. This is the general process of capitalist expansion – none of those ‘saviours of labour’, from protectionist politicians to trade union institutions criticised this general process, they only started to cry once ‘jobs went abroad’. Here we also see one of the main shortcomings of the ‘anti-globalisation’ movement; this global ‘movement’ never questioned the protectionist ideology of the labour movement or social democracy by developing a new ‘proletarian internationalism’.
The following summary of a Los Angeles Times article from 2004 illustrates the problems of re-location at the time:

“Clintwood, Va. – This remote Appalachian town doesn’t get many visitors, but every day it sends thousands of travellers on their way.
If you buy an airline ticket off the Travelocity website and need to call with a change or a question, the phone rings here. (…) The Travelocity call centre brought 250 jobs to a community wounded by the decline of coal mining, its mainstay for a century. It plugged the town’s 1,500 residents into the global high-tech economy, offering the prospect of a secure future. That illusion crumbled last month when
Travelocity fired Clintwood, saying it would close the call centre by year-end and move all the jobs to India. (…) The call centre clerks in Clintwood start at $8 an hour. In India, their replacements will earn less than a quarter of that. (…). More than a quarter of the 2.25 million call-centre jobs in the U.S. are expected to go offshore. (…)”.

It had taken the garment textile industry about a century to move from the UK to the US to Asia. Under the conditions of micro-electronics and a more integrated world market the call centre industry went global within a couple of years. The following examples of early summer 2005 represent well the atmosphere at the time.

“Datamonitor predicts that more firms are set to follow the likes of British Airways, Citibank, General Electric and HSBC, all of which have spun off a part or all of their operations to India.” [Datamonitor - 21st of March 2005] “350 call center jobs to go at British Gas: Workers in Oldham have been told that 350 of them will lose their jobs because a new £430 million computer system can do their work better. The company is considering transferring any remaining clerical work that cannot be done by the computer to workers in India.” [www.oldhamadvertiser.co.uk - 21st of July 2005]
“IBM shifts jobs from USA to India: Even as it proceeds with layoffs of up to 13,000 workers in Europe and the United States, IBM plans to increase its payroll in India this year by more than 14,000 workers, according to an internal company document.” [The New York Times - 8th of July 2005]
“NAB shifts call center jobs: NAB outlined the plans to axe 4,200 jobs from its Australian and UK operations as it revealed its half-year financial results. At the same time Lloyds TSB announced it intended to have 2,500 staff in India by the end of this year.” [The Times - 12th of May 2005]
“Call centre operator Sykes Enterprises shrank its U.S. operations and last year added close to 10,000 call centre workstations in Costa Rica and the Philippines.” [Times Business - 2nd of May 2005]

As in the garment sector, capital compared global absolute wage levels for a global product like ‘back office calls’ and was drawn towards the lower wage regions. “Per agent cost in USA is approximately $40,000 while in India it is only $5,000.” ['Outsourcing' - 7th of February 2004]. “Average call centre salaries in the UK are about £12,500 ($22,000) a year, compared with £1,200 ($2,100) in India.” [BBC - 11th of December 2003]. In case of the call centre sector, capital does not even have to take into account the transportation costs for the finished commodity. With call centres, the pre-condition for global re-locations is the stable supply of english-speaking work-force able to use computers and to adjust to the alienation of market research standards and customer services. In addition a certain infrastructure both for the operation (office space, communication networks etc.) and the work-force (accommodation, attractive surrounding) is necessary. In the case of India we can say that in the process of re-location actually more jobs were created, given that you find a much higher share of auxiliary workers in Indian call centres than in the UK such as ‘housekeeping workers’, and huge fleets of company cabs driving people between home and work-place.
These are additional wage costs – with increasing rent prices in the metropolis of the global south and wage pressure from below the difference of ‘per agent cost’ between the US/UK and India will have become much less pronounced than as stated above. Most of the (union) initiatives about of re-location were limited to protectionist propaganda for the ‘defence of our jobs’. We can recall the ‘Pink Elephant’ campaign of the CWO [Communication Workers Union, UK] when British Telecom announced to slash jobs in the UK to shift them to India. We don’t criticise the fact that workers fight against redundancies and threats of relocation, like at Wanadoo in France in 2005, when the management planned to shift work to Morocco. But too often unions tried to conjure up nationalist sentiments; talking about ‘British quality’ of call centre services and similar bull-shit. “We already know the answer to any survey that the government has commissioned and so do the British consumers,” said David Fleming, the national secretary of Amicus [trade union, UK]. “Services will suffer, cost savings will not be transferred to the consumer, poor business decisions will be made in pursuit of short-term cost savings and company brands will be damaged by outsourcing” [BBC - 12th of February 2005]. There have only been a few campaigns where activists tried to break down the national perspective of their unions, e.g. when a US- delegation of unionists visited colleagues in India or campaigns of Spanish and Argentinean activists in the early 2000s, when the Spanish telecommunication company Telefonica tried to play workers off against each other on both continents.

The New Workers…

Call centre companies shifted jobs in space, but not only the absolute wage levels dropped on the way, also the class composition of the work- force changed. The English-speaking call centre workers in India were mainly recruited from young graduates of the ‘middle-waged’ class, with a clear social and cultural division to the general working class. This has not been the case in the US and Europe. This entailed that although the wages paid in Indian call centres were very low compared to those in the global north, the wages compared to the general wage level in India were high. This and the general working conditions (night-shifts, male and female employment etc.) created the material basis for a fundamental shake-up of generational and gender relations. Working in a call centre, the nineteen-year-old daughter of a teacher or hospital doctor earns more than her father. The fact of having the first job after school or university in a call centre, the night- shifts, the technological control and general pressure, the shared flats, the purchasing power, the expensive food in the neighboring shopping malls, the long hours in cabs, the frequent job changes, the more open gender relations at work, the burn out, the difficulty to keep the perspective of an academic career or to find jobs as academics… are experiences of a new proletarianised middle-class generation. To these general experiences others are added. We had gatherings with call centre workers in their flats, they arrived in Gurgaon coming from various states in India and they worked in different call centres in the area. One guy had been put into an Australian detention centre for several months and has not seen his two-year-old son for a year, since being deported. Another guy, a heavy metal guitarist, originally from Mizoram grew up under a militarised state of emergency. Someone was about to open his own small call centre, having worked four years night-shift he has the money and business connections. Our conversations mainly evolved about the sense of this new life, the question of love-relationships opposed to classical married life, the shattered illusion that a well paid work is a fulfilling one, the threatening perspective of depending on call centre jobs, the lack of other opportunities, migration. The following working life story of a work-mate we met in one of Gurgaon’s call centres during lunch breaks expresses the experiences of this new generation of workers.

(Female worker, 22 years old – May 2006)

“In April 2004 I was still living in Bhopal when I had my first job interview with a call centre company in Gurgaon. After a first interview over the phone I was invited for a second interview in Gurgaon. I went with my mother. The company said that they were interested, but that they currently had no job, that I should wait another week. A friend of mine arranged me a different job, so I moved from Bhopal to Gurgaon. I first had to convince my family, but when my father saw that the flat is fine, they let me go. It was for the first time that I went to a big town. In the following one and a half years, I worked in fourteen different call centers and by changing jobs I increased my monthly wage from 8,000 rupees that I earned at my first job to 20,000 rupees, my current wage. All jobs were outbound, I was calling the US, Canada or the UK. First I had a quite glamorous picture of call centers, you know, free cabs and meals and all. But all that changed after a while, after working six days a week from 2.30 am to 12.30 pm plus travel-time. I started working in small call centre with ten employees, later I worked in companies with up to 2,000 employees. The smaller call centers are less organised, they often do not give you a contract, and they do not pay in time. And do not get promised incentives as well. They also often do not pay the Provident Fund (unemployed/pension insurance), they do not give you a PF-number, although it is obligatory. They also hire more or less anyone who can speak a little English.

In the smaller units I called for Rogers Canada, they do business in telecommunications, or I called trying to convince people in the US to make use of the Government Grant Profit. They are supposed to pay 299 USD into this scheme, but often it turns out to be a con-trick. The shift-times for the US are tough; you work from 11 pm. to 6.30 am. I called for Three-G-Network or OneTel, selling mobile phones to private households in the UK. A lot of call centers here call for telecommunication companies.

Most of the call centers had automatic dialers, meaning that you cannot influence when a call is made. Sometimes you have to make 400 to 500 calls per shift. Bigger companies like Infovision or Technova sometimes share a building, so that you have one row of Infovision workers the next from Technova. Big companies have their own buildings, unlike smaller companies, which often share a single one. It can happen that in one row there are people working for seven different companies. Infovision also has several branches, one still in the US, three or four in India. Some people start working while they are still living with their parents. For them it is pocket-money for party or gadgets. For them it is also not such a problem if wages are not paid on time. But I guess that 60 to 70 per cent of the people actually have to pay rent, they came from various places in the North, if there is no money, they are in trouble.

Once at Icode Customer Management wages were not paid in time. It is a small call centre, only 25 people worked there. The management made cheap excuses, said that the client was not paying, that money will come in soon. That happened several times before people got despondent. During a night-shift people decided not to work as long as they were not given their wages. The manager actually went and got cash money from the bank and paid people the next morning. Later several people left this company, now there are only ten workers left. Similar things happen at bigger call centers, as well.
There was trouble in taking leave also. For example my brother was ill and I had to go back to Bhopal. The team leader said it was fine, but when I came back he asked me “Who allowed you to take holiday?” Sometimes I just left the job because I needed a holiday; and took a new job on returning. You can find jobs through internet, newspapers or you hear about them from friends. There are call centers like Wipro or Convergys which are seen as better and more established call centers, also because they have good clientele, for example BT or Orange. The problem is that they are far away from Gurgaon, one has to travel at least two hours plus and then work a ten hours shift. The atmosphere in the call centers is a bit like in college. There is a culture of parties, people share flats, keep in contact via google-groups. Sometimes it is fun, people come to work after a party still drunk, falling asleep, waking each other up when a CIO comes. Sometimes it is childish, even embarrassing. Boys play their games, make jokes about girls. We are also mistreated when calling the US, but mainly from private people, not from employees. We do not know much about working conditions in call centers in the US, also we did not talk about it much. We have only seen the senior US managers from time to time; that is it. When I observed that more and more people are entering into the call centre business I felt that only speaking English was not enough, because so many people could speak English. I learnt French. In call centers you mainly learn about working time and discipline, you are physically busy, but mentally free. You do your task. I also tried to get a job teaching French, but that is difficult and the wages are not that good. I finally joined Evalueserve, here you are under less pressure. In a call centre, if you do not sell, you are fired. A lot of people try to continue their studies while working in a call centre, about 40 per cent study through correspondence. But it is difficult, a lot of people stop after a while. Also for managers working in a call centre is not a step towards career, they can stay within the industry, but outside, the call centre experience is not valued.”

The lines of divisions…

Although the experiences of workers in English speaking call centers seem fairly homogeneous, the experiences and conditions in the wider sector are not. We see main lines of segmentation within the sector: between in-house call centers and outsourced processes; between English speaking international call centers and Hindi speaking domestic ones; between call centre agents and ‘service workers’ (cleaning, driving); between the call centre workers and the other industrial workers situated in the same industrial zones.

Most of the bigger companies not only off-shore their work to India, but outsource it to tele-service companies like Wipro, Convergys, Genpact, IBM. American Express in Gurgaon, for example, has an outsourced process at Convergys, at the same time and just across the street it runs its own in-house call centre. IBM has an in-house call centre and at the same time acts as a service provider for Amazon and various bigger airlines and travel agencies. Wipro employs 1,200 people in the Dell process while Dell is opening its own centre only few kilometres away. It is unclear yet whether Dell will keep on running both processes parallel, but during conversations we heard that workers in the area are also affected by re-locations of their work. Some workers reported that the process they had worked was re-located to a call centre in Hyderabad in South of India.

While workers in English speaking call centers start with monthly wages of Rs.17, 000 and can earn up to Rs.30, 000, workers in domestic Hindi speaking centers earn between Rs. 7,000 and 11,000. There is a parallel boom of English schools and American accent learning classes. Many workers feel compelled to learn another European language in order to compete on the market and counter-act the pressure on wages.

Another major wage gap exists between call centre agents and service workers (canteen, security, drivers. cleaners). Their wages are extremely low and their service work is supposed to keep the call centre workers content despite stress and night-shift burden. Most of the perks of call centre employees, such as free food, transport, leisure activities, are based on the shoulders of low-paid manual workers. In January 2010 housekeeping workers hired through contractors at FIS call centre (handling calls for American Express) were paid a basic wage of Rs 3,300 per month, Rs 12 per hour overtime, they received no ESI health insurance card, no Provident Fund – as statutory.

The spatial proximity between call centre and factory is obvious, as obvious as the social abyss that still opens between them. The work in call centers has lost its ‘intellectual’ attractions, it consists basically of industrial mouth movements and Taylorised emotions, but the social gap between different sections of working class is significant and can also be expressed in monetary terms: in 2007, while call centre workers earned around Rs. 20,000, an unskilled building worker in the Dell call centre building site earned 1,000 to 1,500 Rupees per month, working 80 hours a week; a textile or metal worker employed through a contractor earned about 1,500 to 2,500 Rupees for the same working hours; the official minimum wage for unskilled worker in Haryana for a 48 hours week was about 3,000 Rupees, a contract worker at Maruti or Honda was paid between 3,000 and 5,000 Rupees for 50 to 60 hours per week; a guy at Pizza Hut serving the call centre agents got 3,700 Rupees for a 60 hours week. Pre-condition for bridging of this gap, is that call centre workers start to act as workers, which they have started to do within their sector, but which rarely crosses it and becomes visible to other industrial proletarians.

The new aspirations…

Capital moves, looking for profitable conditions, trying to escape the contradiction of workers’ collective aspirations and resistance within profit production. In its flight it re-establishes the contradictions on a higher and wider social level. Call centers are no exceptions from that rule. The sheen of call centre jobs in India wore off quickly, so did the illusion of the representatives of capital to have found an investment paradise of docile and cheap labour. As during the times of industrial revolution, it was the ‘middle-class’ which first voiced the already existing discontent amongst workers, and they voiced it in their narrow-minded moralist ways:

“Author Praful Bidwai said that in effect the centers reduced the young Indian undergraduates to ‘cyber-coolies’.”They work extremely long hours badly paid, in extremely stressful conditions, and most have absolutely no opportunities for any kind of advancement in their careers,” Mr Bidwai told BBC. “It’s a dead end, it’s a complete cul-de-sac. It’s a perfect sweatshop scenario, except that you’re working with computers and electronic equipment rather than looms or whatever.” [BBC - 11th of December 2003]

Meanwhile call centre workers ‘voted with their feet’. “Staff turnover at Indian call centers is worse than that at UK operations, with Indian graduates only willing to stay in a job for an average of 11 months, compared with three years in the UK.” [BBC - 12th of February 2005] “An annual attrition rate of 50 per cent plus is par for the course and a company that boasts of an attrition rate of 30 per cent struts about like a prima donna. The attrition is forcing BPO companies to pay more. Wages have risen so quickly in India that it’s not much cheaper in comparison to Canada as an off shoring location. [The Telegraph - 20th of April 2005] “Indian back-office firms are facing a growing challenge of holding on to employees, even as they hire tens of thousands every quarter. Staff tends to account for half of a back-office operation’s costs and the battle for talent has led to an annual 10-15% rise in employee’s salaries. Employees often hop to new jobs for slightly more money, and many do not view back-office work as a career. Companies provide free transport, subsidised meals and housing to retain staff, and try to enliven the environment with musical entertainment, yoga classes and costume contests.” [The Hindu - 08th of July 2004]

This workers’ behaviour was common in Europe, as well, during the time of the boom. We only rarely hear of collective steps of workers within the call centers to improve conditions – which does not mean that they don’t happen. The following example from August 2005 illustrates the collective and creative nature of possible steps:
“Not satisfied with their earnings, some BPO employees feel they can outsmart technology and earn bonuses for themselves. Some employees at Convergys were sacked because they managed to ‘create’ fake favourable ratings apparently from customers of SBC Yahoo, a popular ISP in the USA who has outsourced customer services to Convergys. The employees created new email IDs in the name of SBC Yahoo customers they were sent a positive feedback to their company from this email ID. Apparently this was discovered when Convergys noted unusual patterns of excellent ratings for some employees. On pinging, it was found that these feedback forms had been originating from an Indian server (used by Convergys, Gurgaon) rather than from the US servers from where they actually should have come. Money seems to have been the greatest lure for such employees, as an excellent rating can get them bonuses of up to Rs 4,000 a week”. [Times of India, 21st of August 2005]

The new struggles…

There have been open collective struggles in call centers in India in particular once wages were not paid in time or workers were sacked. In May 2005, three cops were injured when call centre workers threw stones during a strike at Hope India Ltd. in Mumbai – unfortunately we never found out more about this unrest. In July 2007 workers at Gnome Business Solutions call centre in Gurgaon protested against being dismissed from one day to the other. “After a round of slogan-shouting outside the office of the BPO – Gnome Business Solutions at the Global Business Park on MG Road, Gurgaon – the management issued the sacked workers post-dated cheques by way of a final settlement. For many among the retrenched, this wasn’t the first jolt of their young careers. “Many in this group were earlier working with another call centre, Avancore. Last Diwali, it declared a two-day holiday. When they returned to work, the call centre had vanished.” Industry leaders say the episode is part of a larger trend. According to Deepak Kapoor of BPO News, an industry-related website, a study done by the organisation shows more than 60% of small BPOs in India – those employing between 20 and 100 people – close down within months of their launch.” [Times News Network, 4th of July 2007] A similar incident took place in NOIDA on 10th of January 2010, when a fake BPO company took money for employment from some students. When the students noticed the scam they did not allow the company owners to move out the building till they paid them back. Eight students suffered minor injuries in a subsequent clash with the police personnel at Knowledge Park-I. The students alleged that the police was helping the company and ignoring their complaints. We documented an actual collective strike at a domestic call centre in Gurgaon in the Hindi workers’ newspaper Faridabad Majdoor Samachar no.267:

Sparsh BPO Service Worker
(409 Udyog Vihar Phase 3)

“We currently operate through 20 state-of-the art facilities across nine locations in India. Our dedicated workforce of over 16,000 motivated professionals provides qualitative solutions in the areas of transaction processing and calls centre services, aiming to achieve excellence in every transaction.”(From company web-site: http://www.sparshindia.com/)
The call centre is in a 12-floor building, several thousand workers are on the phone 24 hours on three shifts, phoning for BSNL, Airtel, Airsale, Reliance Com, Orient Bank of Commerce. For 26 working days per month they get Rs. 4,800 after 8-hours shift they are often made to stay two hours longer, for which they are not paid. The company does not pay for transportation and those workers who use the ‘employee cabs’, 1,000 Rs per month is deducted from their wages. In addition Rs.210 is deducted for PF and Rs. 80 for ESI – but no ESI card is given. The food break is only for 15 minutes – there are two 5 minutes breaks for tea. There is never enough time, but no matter what, you are suppose to work. You cannot make the customer wait, that’s what they say. Against this the workers stopped working at the end of March 2009, they stopped it for three days. They went inside the office, but they did not log in. The management reacted by smashing 4-5 computers and trying to blame the workers for it, saying that they will file a police case and send them to jail. Bit by bit they started to kick people out – in the end there must have been about 2,000 workers. Actually a lot of workers handed their resignation, but the company refused to take it – instead they said that the workers just left the job. After having worked there for more than two years employee went to the office in order to get his PF form signed, but just threw it away and said that he left the job without giving notice and he won’t get the PF. The company keeps 200 workers for housekeeping. They work 12-hours shifts, 30 days per month and get only Rs. 4,887 – no ESI and no PF. The company has another office at 195 Udyog Vihar Phase 1. The employees work for Vodafone, Shubh Yatra, Bhartiya a Jivan Bima Nigam and some others.
[Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar no. 267]

Here things gets even more interesting. Sparsh closed down the Gurgaon call centre soon after this strike and re-located it to a small town in Rajasthan. About two years later several hundred kilometres away Sparsh again faced workers’ anger: “AJMER: Employees of state’s first call centre – BSNL – went on strike alleging the organization for illegal deduction of money. They said they got payments lower than what was promised to them during their appointment. The call center was inaugurated by union IT and telecom state minister Sachin Pilot. About thirty people working with call centre ‘Sparsh’ walked out of the office on Friday morning. They shouted slogan against the officials. “They promised to pay Rs 5,500 at the time of appointment but they are paying us Rs 3, 700 only,” Minali, an employee, said. They also accused the HR and operation officials of harassment, “They have zero tolerance. Even when the system fails they deduct half day’s salary,” another employee said. When contacted, the officials refused to talk and said there was some misunderstanding, which they were trying to solve.” [Times of India - 22nd of June 2011]

Another dispute at the other end of the globe expressed the increasing internationalisation of call centre companies in concrete and – taking companies like Mittal and Tata into account – the development of an intertwined multinational management of capital. In November 2009, in Timisoara, Romania, the French telecom giant Alcatel-Lucent announced that one third of the work-force will be outsourced to the ‘Indian’ It-service giant Wipro by early 2010. Wipro runs major call centres in Gurgaon and other cities in India. The workers in Romania then formed union to defend their rights and ‘terms and conditions’. On 10th of November 2009 a joint-action of Alcatel workers in France, Germany, Italy and Romania took place against job cuts. In September 2009 Wipro shut down an IT research and development-centre in Sophia Antipolis, France. About 60 engineers got the sacked.

Blog of the Wipro/Alcatel union in Romania

http://blog.sindicatalu.ro/?p=117

Article on Wipro job cuts in France

http://www.humanite.fr/2009-09-16_Politique-_-Social-Economie_Hold-up-a-...

The flight into the desert…

We can see two main current structural problems of capitalist: where to find a fresh supply of labour which could be combined with a new mode of production, a new productivity regime? By the mid 2000s capitalist started to complain about wage pressure and labour shortage in China and other Asian countries. This is obviously a shortage of a certain kind of labour. Capitalist wanted to fly forward, to capture a new virgin section of working class (peasant workers) which can be subjected to intensified conditions of exploitation, but the regions of the globe where capital could find such a working class have become sparse. Similarly, the hailed ‘Toyotism’ of the 1990s, which was supposed to revolutionise the old ‘Fordist’ mode of assembly-line manufacturing of the ‘American century’, had lost its ‘lean sheen’ by the turn of the millenium. Manufacturing today is more dependent on the brutal contradictory pace of the line than ever before.

Call centers ran into this structural problem of fresh labour supply and production model with full speed. By the mid-2000s the propagandist of capital announced that call centers will move away from towns like Gurgaon, Bangalore or Manila – where call centers had just arrived – and settle down in smaller towns and rural areas in order to cope with wage pressures and ‘high office rents’. This could never happen due to, only, theoretical availability of skilled mass labour in these areas. The desperation of capitalist to find these untouched reservoirs of labour turned farcical when trying to re-valorise fields of social disintegration and decaying dictatorships:
“Now, India’s IT revolution has arrived in Kashmir with the opening of the state’s first call centre, in the city of Srinagar. With 500,000 unemployed, there is no shortage of willing job applicants, while wages in Kashmir are among the lowest in India.” [Economic times - 12th of August 2011 ET]
“We believe that our country is an ideal destination to start a BPO because of the conducive atmosphere we have. To begin with, we have a stable government that is eager to set up an outsourcing industry. Apart from Genpact, we are also in talks with Wipro and few other players to start their operations in Bhutan,” said Kezang, executive director, ministry of information and communications.”
[Financial Express - 24th of August 2011]

Similarly the call centre industry in India repeated the propaganda of ‘tele/home-work’ as an alternative mode of production to the mass concentration of call centre workers under one roof. The industry had churned out the futile talk and had failed to turn it into practice in the US and Europe before.
“With just one laptop or desktop computer with internet and phone connections, people could operate from their rooms, attend to inbound calls that otherwise land at the call centre. With this, housewives, who would never otherwise dream of joining a BPO, would be able to take jobs and do it from their homes,” said Mike Manson, director of the ‘Innovative Company’. “Virtualisation of voice technology would help setting up of one-seater or 3-5 seater micro BPOs in tier 3 and 4 cities from where the BPO companies are drawing talent pool,” said Sriram Srinivas, vice-president. “This would not only benefit the employee to save on overheads such as rentals and high cost of living in metros like Gurgaon but also helps the company reduce cost on things such as employee transportation expenses.” [Financial Express - 13th of May 2011]
Experiences in the US and Western Europe taught us that even in call centers, capitalist production is still mainly a ‘socially enforced’ type of productivity: despite rent costs the mass office is still more productive due to mass cooperation, flow of creativity, discipline and surveillance.

Having to face up to lack of fresh labour supply and the general absence of new modes of production, capital’s flight ahead became more and more of a disoriented stumbling. And then approached the big crunch – and Gurgaon’s call centre workers have been the first who saw big shit hitting the global fan:
“In a glass tower on the outskirts of New Delhi, dozens of young Indians are on the telephone, calling America’s out of work, forgetful and debt-stricken and asking for cash. ‘Are you sure that’s all you can afford?’ one operator in a row of cubicles asks politely. ‘Well, how do you take care of your everyday expenses?’ presses another. Americans are used to receiving calls from India for insurance claims and credit card sales. But debt collection represents a growing business for outsourcing companies. Armed with a sophisticated automated system that dials tens of thousands of Americans every hour, and puts confidential information like Social Security numbers, addresses and credit history at operators’ fingertips, this new breed of collectors is chasing down late car payments, overdue credit card debt and lapsed installment loans. Debt collectors in India often cost about one-quarter the price of their American counterparts, and are often better at the job, debt collection company executives say.”
[Economic Times - 24th of April 2008]

The big bang October 2008…

The financial crash of autumn 2008 shook the main sectors of call centre work in particular and the global wage cascade in general. In the glass-towers of Gurgaon’s industrial areas the impact of the melt-down was direct: the conditions of the call centre workers phoning for the US and European market worsened suddenly. And not only the call centre workers felt the blow, also their unknown brothers and sisters in the garment sector were very much aware of the dwindling numbers orders coming from the export markets. The political climate changed and one of the populist reactions of the Obama US-government – apart from demonstrative vegetable growing on the lawn of the White House teaching the unemployed working class in the USA their future modes of survival – was the protectionist promise that ‘jobs will stay in the US in future’. Was it a promise or a threat? Actually the crisis pushed down wages in the global north to such an extent that they became close to competitive again compared with IT-service related wages in the south. The division of labour had to be re-configured and capitalist had to transform the pressure of the crisis into a new global wage scale.

The Union of Information Technology Enabled Services (UNITES) estimates in January 2009 that between September and December 2008 10,000 jobs were lost in the IT industry and anticipates a further 50,000 cuts in the first half of 2009. As if to mimic the US Enron scandal that buried the new-economy bubble in the US, the Satyam scandal came at the right time to finish off the last doubts about the state of the sector in India.
“Rajeev, a Senior Customer Care Executive at Convergys has worked at five different call centers in the last seven years. He’s looking for a change again, but this time not out of choice. “This is the first time I feel I am heading nowhere. I have been asked to leave because of something I haven’t done,” he said. Rajeev is one of the 450 employees fired in the last two weeks by a Gurgaon BPO called 24/7 Customers. Reason being that this UK-based mobile phone company has decided to cut back its India operations. The Orange crisis has led to lay-offs at two other Call Centers, Convergys and EXL services. And this comes after 400 people were let go last month by another BPO giant, Keane India, after a merger and a scaling down of size.”
[NDTV - 13th of July 2008]
“Mid-tier IT company Hexaware Technologies is in the process of shutting down its Gurgaon centre where about 130 employees currently work.”[Sify - 14th of August 2008]
“Convergys is shutting down its Malad facility in Mumbai which employs around 400 people, Patni Computer Systems laid off 400 people citing non-performance, while Fidelity Management and Research Company India plans to shut down its Gurgaon facility by September this year which employs around 350 people.”
[Economic Times - 17th of August 2008]

We spoke to a call centre worker during his cigarette break in front of Convergys in June 2009, asking him about the impact of the crisis: “Since this recession has started, companies are not offering more than Rs. 16.000 – 17.000. Before this, they were offering Rs 20.000 plus. And apart from this they are making people to work for longer hours. If 50 companies were hiring, now only 10 or 15 companies are hiring. American Express, for example, chucked out a large sum of employees and they hired new batch, but they are paying very less to them. Even we have seen, in our company also there are a process of layoffs. Recently 50 people have been asked to leave because of the recession. They were getting very good salary. They weren’t new, but still they had to leave. The situation is not as bad as compared to US or England. At least the people are able to manage – able to survive. And I think, as the recession is getting over very soon – another 5-6 months, things will definitely change.” They did not. In November 2011 in Gurgaon alone around 2,500 workers at Nokia-Siemens Networks lost their job, most of them paid salaries only slightly above the minimum wage. Globally the company cut over 20,000 jobs between November 2011 and February 2012. In Germany 3,000 workers were sacked. Blamed for the job loss was the ‘price war’ with Chinese vendors.

Call centre companies in India tried to translate the (credit) crunch into a (literal) squeeze of their workers, by reducing space per person in call centers and cabs, by cutting wages and additional perks. “The IT-enabled services (ITeS) firms are taking stringent measures to cut costs. They are reducing space per employee, and decreasing the size of common areas like cafeterias and conference rooms. At a Gurgaon offshore office, space per employee has been reduced to 60 sq ft from 100 sq ft; at large IT companies, 125 sq ft per employee is a standard. Workstation width has dropped from 3-4 feet earlier to 2 feet. All this is leading to severe work related stress. “I can’t move my hands in the fear of hurting someone. And all day one has to hear colleagues talking about issues from boyfriends to food recipes to childcare, which is not just distracting, but irritating,” says Rajsekhar. (…) Margins in business process outsourcing (BPO) have been stagnating at 18% for the past years even as revenues declined in 2011. For IT services the drop in profitability is worse: margins have plunged from 32% in 2006 to 18% in fiscal year 2011.”
[Financial Express - 3rd of August 2011]

On-Shoring? What the f…

Talk about ‘on-shoring’ made the rounds from 2010 onwards, meaning that US or UK companies closed their call centers in India and re-opened them in the US/UK. Most of these cases were blown up and didn’t represent a major trend. The reasons given for the ‘on-shoring’ are often populist, catering to both the patriotic sentiments and the ‘client pride’ (local accents, ‘good quality’ etc.). In general the share of IT-BPO service work done in India still increased, the global market share stood at about 55 per cent in 2010. Nevertheless, with the crisis deepening in the north some shifts were taking place. High unemployment levels have driven down wages for some low-skilled outsourcing services in some parts of the US, particularly among the Hispanic population. Genpact, India’s main call centre operator employed around 1,500 call centre workers in the US in 2010 and announced that “company expected to treble its workforce in the US over the next two years.” “”We need to be very aware [of what's available] as people [in the US] are open to working at home and working at lower salaries than they were used to,” said Mr Bhasin, the chief executive of Genpact. Wipro, the Bangalore-based IT outsourcing company, started to recruit workers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa during the global economic downturn.” [Financial Times - 17th of August 2010]

Similar news came in from the UK. In June 2011 the banking giant Santander announced to bring its call centers ‘back’ to the UK: 500 jobs would be created by the switch of call centre work from India to staff based in the UK cities of Glasgow, Leicester and Liverpool. “This year, BT has also created several hundreds of jobs in the West Midlands through the opening of a new call centre in Sandwell in the West Midlands. UK insurer Aviva moved back some jobs from its Indian BPO partner WNS to Norwich, UK, earlier this year. Although it did not give a reason, people familiar with the matter said it was facing quality issues. In June 2011 the Indian firm Aegis announced to create 600 jobs by opening call centre in Manchester, UK.”
[Economic times - 4th of July 2011]

Not only ‘jobs’ come ‘back home’ to the US, in some cases call centre workers are brought over from India, employed by ‘Indian’ call centre operators within the US. “Companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Genpact and Infosys are the largest users of the US-American H-1B visa program and have collectively brought as many as 30,000 workers into the country in 2010. The workers are often paid “home-country wages” in America. That’s as low as $8,000 a year with housing allowance. Similar to the situation in the UAE, employers keep the visas – so the workers can’t bargain for wages, and if they lose their job they have to leave the country.” [Financial times - 20th of May 2011] We can see the whole dimension of current shifts of actual work-places and workers.

The future potentials for class re-composition…

As we have read on the walls of Athens after the riots: “The Future is Unwritten!”. We will not be able to tell how exactly the global crisis will develop, but we can anticipate its impact on the specific class composition [http://www.wildcat-www.de/wildcat/64/w64opera.htm] in the garment, manufacturing and call centre zones in Gurgaon and other industrial metropolis in India.

While having a stroll through Gurgaon, the main revelation is that the planners of the industrial zones have not studied European revolutionary periods in the late sixties, or the struggles in Latin America or the movements in South Korea in the 80s. Or they think that due to the general deeper divisions in Indian society, putting call centers with ‘student-workers’ right next to huge motorcycle and garment factories will not create explosive potentials in case of bigger turmoil. While we were distributing a call centre workers’ brochure in 2007, the temp workers of the Hero Honda factory organised a wild occupation of the plant which went on for five days [http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no4/#fn2]. Right opposite the factory is a bigger call centre with 1,000 young students, capable of communicating in international languages and with access to modern means of communication, having to work ten hours night-shifts under severe pressure, while looking at the police sleeping in the shadows of the occupied factory. Only a couple of weeks later we heard of trouble in the call centre because incentives were not paid in time. We were not able to verify the rumours but during a visit at the site a lot of young workers complained about having to travel and wait for two hours in cabs before shift starts and about delays in wage payment. During times of revolutionary upheavals the students first had to “discover” the workers, here they work right next to each other and are in similar ways connected to the global movement of capital, e.g. the IBM call centre is right next to the Delphi plant, the world’s biggest car supplier, and in the US both companies are in deep economical shit.

In October 2008, at one point in time, workers in one space – who might otherwise have thought that they have little in common but chai stalls – faced a common situation: cut in bonuses or piece-rates, suspension of free company meals and transportation in call centers, threat of job cuts. The potential for a socially explosive tea-party of english-speaking call centre night-shift youth, migrant garment and construction workers and young skilled workers in the car part plants entered the Industrial Model Towns – a mass base of actual ‘internal threat’. If call centre workers and other industrial workers would come closer together in movement, this would be a true cultural revolution of the hierarchical relationship between intellectual and manual labour in India and give the working class struggle a whole different dimension and potentiality. What would be the material condition for such a coming-together, apart from the crisis impact?

We think that the workers in domestic call centers could play a specific role. Their wages are low, often even lower than the wage of (skilled) garment workers – but they use the same means of production as the international call centre agents and could therefore ‘explain’ the form of exploitation to other industrial proletarians who otherwise see call centre ‘staff’ just as the better-dressed middle-class youth. Another direct (international) link between call centers and other sections of workers is outsourced ‘admin-work’. Workers in these ‘back-offices’ not only handle ‘private consumers’, but form part of an actual global productive cooperation. For example a back-office in Gurgaon organises all shift-shedules for the German railways ‘Deutsche Bank’. In June 2011 India’s largest IT-related service provider Genpact got a seven-year contract from Nissan. The centre in Gurgaon will “provide payroll, benefits, staffing, training and other key HR services to Nissan’s 54,000 employees. Genpact already manages procurement for Nissan from its offices in Gurgaon.” In July 2011 Capgemini opened a back-office in Gurgaon with 4,500 seats, amongst others the centre will “deliver Global Order Management services to Nokia Siemens Networks to support the company’s global Supply Chain Management.” [Economic Times - 27th of July 2011]

Apart from this we can also refer to the development of a global (proletarian) youth movement, expressed in various ways, from university occupations in the UK and Chile, to Tahrir and Tottenham riots and the ‘Occupy’-movement. This movement will find some repercussions within the open-space offices and reverberate under the head-sets of the global call centre generation. During 2007 we distributed about 1,000 pamphlets in front of call centers in Gurgaon – at the time workers surely complained about the general boredom of the job, but their anger seemed to be rather individual. Since then the world has changed, the global crisis has given a mighty blow to the relation between individual fate and fate of society. Based on these material connections of the production process (global back-offices) and based on the developing youthful anger, organised efforts around this existing international communication network are necessary and possible. Let’s organise around the proletarian conditions within it. Let’s help turning it into the ‘telegraph stations’ of the currently emerging global strike wave.

For Workers’ Self-Emancipation – For Communism!

*** Relocated… – Report by a Computer Worker from India on Work-Visa in the UK

I come from a poorer working class background. My family makes and sells sweets. I was the only child which received higher education. In the early 2000s I received my BETEC graduation, after a four years course. We learned C-language programming, Java. The whole course had cost my family around 300,000 Rs. Companies came to the college in order to recruit workers. I found a job in NOIDA two months after my graduation.

When starting to work I had to learn a lot of new things, mainly web-development. We programmed web-sites and web-applications for Indian medium-seized companies. We worked between 9 and 9.5 hours per day, every second Saturday off. Initially the company had offered 250,000 Rs per year, but after joining they said the actual wage was 180,000 Rs. That was in 2006. The company employed about 500 to 600 workers. There where little discussions about wages on a collective level. People negotiated about wages individually or looked for better jobs. Young workers look for jobs all over India. I stayed with the company for four months, then found a job in Hyderabad.

I went alone to Hyderabad, but found people from Delhi area there. In Hyderabad the work again was different. We had to start as freshers again. The company did programming jobs for multi-national clients. They gave us two and a half months training. During this period we were living in company flats, they paid us 14,000 Rs. After the training they paid 18,000 Rs, but we had to pay for rent ourselves. In Hyderabad the main client was an US energy and gas company. I worked for this client for two years, after that we worked for Philip Morris, from the company’s branch in Gurgaon. We programmed an application for Philip Morris which enabled them to process company data, e.g. the accounts and exchanges with small shops and retailers.

The company in India likes to send people to work with clients abroad. They make more money then. The client companies want workers from India to come to work at their place in US or the UK usually when a new process starts and things have to be developed. There is a lot of communication and coordination necessary, this is better done under direct surveillance and cooperation, rather than through the net communication. Recently the company in India signed a two and a half contract with a UK bank. During the initial transition period they wanted workers from India as ‘coordinators’ in the UK bank office. We were sent on one year work visas. We are still employed by the Indian company, but work in the offices of the client.

In India my last wage was 35,000 Rs per month. Here in the UK, a small town of the UK, I get 1,800 pounds per month. We have to pay rent from that. The control is higher here, if the client management wants changes, they have to happen immediately. I coordinate with my work colleages and supervisors in India, mainly through mail and video-conferences. We work 10 to 10.5 hours a day. Every four weeks we are on ‘night-call duty’, meaning that if something is wrong with the process we get a call and have to come out at night. During that week that happens during on average three nights. It disturbs your sleep, even if you only expect a call.

In the office there are 60 locals and 40 workers from India. Some of the locals also work for the outsourced company, but most of them work for the UK client, a bank, directly. The local workers get between 200 to 300 pounds per day, our client company gets 100 pounds for us per day, we get around 60 pounds. There are no comments from the locals saying: “You work for so little money” or “You take our jobs”. Relationships are formal, they relate only to the work. We program applications which increase the speed of certain services, by making them automatic. For example if people want to switch bank accounts. I live with Indian work colleagues. Two of us share a room. There is not much to do after work. It is a small town.

The guys from India are ‘happy’ to be here, because the pay is better, although they miss friends and family and although ‘the place is silent’. We all remember the slight shock in 2008, when after the financial crash a lot of programmers temporarily lost their job. The companies in India said: ‘the client did not send any money, you have to go’. There was no resistance. During the last six years, I would guess that 60 per cent of my class mates from college have been working abroad at some point. Wages in India have not really increased since I graduated, going abroad is the only chance to earn money, also in order to pay back the debts of education.

*** Leaflet by Mouvement Communiste on Closure of Ford Factory in Genk, Belgium

Ford Genk: FIGHT AGAINST CLOSURE?

LET’S FIGHT HARDER TO MAKE THE BOSS AND THE STATE PAY!

On 24 October, Ford announced the closure of the factory in Genk and probably those in Southampton and Dagenham as well. Ford is restructuring all of its production sites in Europe. In Belgium, that’s 4,300 working at Ford Genk and close to 6,000 working for subcontractors who’ll lose their jobs some time in 2013/2014. In Britain close to 1400 workers are under threat. Once again, the unions, the town hall bigwigs, the MPs, the Flemish Region officials, the ministers are “astonished” and “scandalised” by this decision and act like it’s a case of vile treason by some nasty boss, “foreign” as well… who scarcely two months ago gave them a “guarantee” that the new model of the Mondeo would be produced in 2013 !!!

It is “a veritable catastrophe”, a “social bloodbath”…, there are no words strong enough. While the situation of the car industry in Europe, and particularly that of Ford, never ceases to get worse, they moan, organise symbolic “citizens’” protests, and promise some crumbs as consolation, planned redundancy schemes, redeployment, while above all calling on the workers to remain calm and “responsible” and to stay at home, while they negotiate with Ford. It’s not like this that we can fight effectively against the consequences of closures and redundancies.
Workers, comrades, all these people are FALSE FRIENDS !

The boss is not going to change his mind! Before even making vehicles, Ford, as a good capitalist business, must make profits. With a posted loss of close to 1.5 billion dollars in Europe this year, Ford has to do something. The rate of utilisation of its sites in Europe is only 50 to 60%, while to make a profit a car factory needs to be running at at least 80% of its capacity. At Ford Genk, this rate is only 48%, far behind the Spanish and German sites (Saarlouis and Cologne, which are comparable in terms of costs of production). And the vehicles produced at Genk are coming to the end of their life. Briefly stated, an analyst (Colin Lagan of UBS) has calculated that the cost of closing Ford Genk will be 1.1 billion dollars, but will save between 500 and 700 million dollars per year. This is the implacable logic of capital, but Ford can’t hide the fact that restructuring is essentially happening on the backs of the
workers. First and foremost, you can only count on yourselves, on organising yourselves, among yourselves with your workmates and with people from the sub-contractors which are also affected by the long process of restructuring of the car industry. After having accepted wage cuts and a speed up of work two years ago – to save jobs! -, your backs are to the wall and there is no other solution than struggle, to go on strike. You need to keep the stock of parts and cars under your control to use as a bargaining chip so as to screw as much money out of Ford as possible. After the announcement of the closure of Volkswagen-Forest, in November 2006, it was enough for a work stoppage and the fear which it created for those laid off to get millions in redundancy money. The workers of Volkswagen-Forest got, on average, 144,000 euros each, and those of Opel Anvers, 153,000 euros.

The operating profit of Ford will be more than 2 billion dollars in the third quarter of this year. So there’s plenty of margin for more than the 77,000 euros redundancy money proposed, which will be less than 50,000 euros net, because the state which “supports” the workers is going to take its cut in the form of taxes. We have to fight against the state to make it drop the taxes imposed on redundancy payments. The state and the region, completely “mired in debt”, are not going to come to your aid. The capitalists and their state prefer to save the banks rather than the companies which don’t make enough profit. You must not consider yourselves as only car workers but as workers who face the attack of the bosses seen by other workers, above all in the Belgian context where all the nationalisms and regionalisms are there to divide us. Whether workers are Flemish or Walloon, factory closures will have the same consequences for everyone. Nationalism, in Flanders like anywhere else, is not the solution. The workers have no country: the “nationality” of the workers is their class.

The government has been ready to help the Belgian car industry financially, but not the workers expelled from production. What we propose is the opposite: wages must be guaranteed by the bosses and by the state whatever happens to their factories. And this goes for all the staff affected directly or indirectly by the restructuring plans. The objective is ambitious and political, but this is what is at stake here.
Take your struggle into your own hands, without waiting for a hypothetical and illusory “trade union solution”. What compromise can they propose, faced with the final stage of closures? We have to make them pay! Only struggle can do it!

Mouvement Communiste/Kolektivn proti kapitálu, 4 November 2012

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GurgaonWorkersNews no.51 – Towards a Workers’ Organisation (Part Two) – Material on Maruti Suzuki Struggle
September 21, 2012

The struggle continues…

Towards a Workers’ Organisation (Part Two) / Material on Struggle at Maruti Suzuki – GurgaonWorkersNews no.51

1) Introduction

2) On Organisation and Inquiry

3) Material on Class Composition at Maruti Suzuki

3.1) State of Workers’ Collectivity one Year after the Occupations (June 2012)
3.2) State and Limitations of the Trade Union at Maruti Suzuki
3.3) Preliminary Thoughts on the Unrest of the 18th of July 2012
3.4) Theses for the Future Armament of Workers’ Struggle at Maruti and Beyond

4) Workers’ Reports

4.1) Reports from Maruti Manesar Workers

4.1.1) Press-Shop Worker
4.1.2) Weld-Shop Workers
4.1.3) Paint-Shop Workers
4.1.4) Bumper-Shop Worker
4.1.5) Final Assembly Workers
4.1.6) Canteen and Housekeeping Workers

4.2) Reports from Suzuki Powertrain Workers (Engine and Gearbox)

4.3) Report from Maruti Gurgaon Worker (Engine-Shop)

4.4) Reports from Maruti Supply-Chain Workers
4.4.1) Asti Electronics Worker
4.4.2) Sanden Vikas Worker

4.5) Report on Life in Aliyar, a Workers’ Village in Manesar Industrial Zone

5) Conversation with Comrade on Practical Engagement during the Maruti Struggle in 2011

6) Comments on and Relevant Parts of “The Maruti Story”, Biography of the Gurgaon Factory by R.C Bhargava, Maruti Chairman

7) Material on situation at Suzuki in Hungary

8) Appendix

8.1) Open Letter on Maruti by Mouvement Communiste to Comrades in Delhi
8.2) Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle and Leaflet on Struggle at Citroen PSA in France
8.3) Proposal for Critical Debate on ‘Academic Research’
8.4) Phd by Bose on Automobile Industry in Delhi
8.5) Links to Future Readings

———–

1) Introduction

Mobile Tea Stall in Manesar – A Workers’ Meeting Place…

The current repression against Maruti workers is severe – since the unrest on 18th of July 2012 over 150 workers have been arrested, more than 500 permanent workers have been fired, more than 1,500 temporary workers might have lost their – or rather ‘this’ – job and over a thousand state and private cops have been stationed in and around the Maruti factory in order to secure industrial ‘peace’. Repression tends to focus our view and acts on itself – it forces us to react, instead of acting ourselves. These are difficult times for engaging in critical analysis of the struggles of our own class. To criticise our own activities while the enemy attacks seems rather paradox or untimely – but we think it is necessary.

In this newsletter we want to continue the debate about ‘workers’ organisation’, based on what we see as both pre-condition and process of organisation: workers’ self-inquiry into the production process, how it constitutes the working class and how it can be transformed into the basis of self-organised attack on the existing social relations. We present some general and historical thoughts about the relationship between inquiry and workers’ organisation, but our focus is concrete material on the conditions at Maruti after the waves of struggle in 2011 – and a proposal to engage in a process of workers’ inquiry in Manesar.

Between April and June 2012 we asked workers at Maruti and automobile suppliers the following questions: how does your collectivity look like now, a few months after the strike? which changes took places since then, which either weakened or strengthened your collectivity? what did management do in order to undermine your collectivity? what did workers do or can do in order to strengthen and extend the collectivity? which role does the new union play in this process of de- and re-composing workers’ organisational basis?

We summarised a preliminary balance-sheet based on these conversations, which forms the core-part of this newsletter. In addition there is further material: workers’ reports from various departments at Maruti and its suppliers; an interview with a comrade of a Marxist-Leninist group reflecting on his experiences during the 2011 struggles; a summary of ‘The Maruti Story’, written by the Maruti chairman, about the history of the Maruti Gurgaon plant, from the enemy’s perspective. A comrade summarise material on the Suzuki Hungary plant, which supplies the global markets with the same models which are produced in Manesar – and in 2005 workers showed their discontent about the working conditions. To illustrate the newsletter we took some photographs in Manesar and surrounding villages.

Friends of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar distribute the workers’ newspaper every month, both in front of the Maruti Manesar and Maruti Gurgaon plant – we hope you will help out with distribution and/or contribute to the debate. We hope this newsletter provides some instigating material.

Auto Slaves (Graveyard Shift – Stamping Plant)

With automatic movements timed to great
Machines, these metal-workers seem to reel
In some weird dance. Like marionettes they wheel
With some insane music at a maddening rate.

Automatons… What if they learn to hate
Machines whose hungry maws demand a meal
Of metal-piece upon piece of sweat-stained steel?
They work. Monotony and madness wait…

For these are human beings racked with pain,
Grotesquely hued by blue-green mercury lights…
Monotony within this noisy hell
Will breed maggots of madness in the brain
Stop the tongue so it never tell
Of torturing toil through these unending nights

(from: Industrial Worker, IWW Newspaper, 1930)

2) Organisation and Inquiry

Over 2,000 Trucks come and go daily from the Maruti Manesar plant…

The question of communism is the question of collective criticism of the existing state of being, the class power to change it and the social productivity to create an alternative. Answers can only be found in the material process which re-produces at the same time (but contradictively) both society and class relations and the subjective experience of organisation of the working class within. In other words: between potentials and their realisation. The process of organisation of collective power and the process of analysis of these objective and subjective conditions are therefore one.

Most of the leftist balance-sheets of the 2011 Maruti struggle remain on the surface of things. Groups of radical left are caged within their usual categorisation of ‘political and economical’ struggle depending on their own influence on the struggle. Those who had a closer influence on ‘the leadership’ declare that the Maruti struggle was a ‘political advancement’, given that workers’ did not fight primarily for higher wages and other economical demands, but for the political (and ‘constitutional’) right to be organised in a trade union. The historical problem of workers’ struggle and the concrete weak-point of the Maruti dispute – the development of institutionalisation and formalisation of ‘leadership’ – is glorified as ‘political expression of advanced consciousness’, when they claim that after the ‘sell-out’ of the old leadership the new union leadership emerged without major transitional problems. Even less serious are the ways that other groups discard the struggle as ‘economical’ with lack of political leadership. In this way the potentials and limitations of the struggle won’t be understood.

“The extend to which the Maruti struggle should have recomposed the left, it did not. There are some structural limitations for that. The vision of organisation which is distant from workers’ life and struggles inhibits to take lessons from struggles. This cannot be subjectively dissolved, this depends on the development of working class struggle, on reflections on it and the review of Indian left movements. That depends on the fact how we deal with erstwhile successful strategies which now become more and more problematic. The critique of left groups is an internal criticism, a self-critical approach – of the left movement vis-a-vis the working class movement.” (Interview with comrade -see this newsletter)

The underlying motivations and driving forces of the struggle – which surface officially as a common slogan and demand for ‘union’ – are not easily to be categorised as ‘economical or political’, if at all, they have to defined seen as systemical.
a) it was a struggle against the factory system, both against its personal and impersonal disciplinary agents (supervisors and machinery) – under the specific situation of Maruti pushing work-loads to limits before being able to leap into expansion (B- and C-plant), driven by the post-2008 global squeeze and race into over-capacities
b) it was a struggle of workers who felt their collective power of being in the centre of both the current economical regime in India (industrial development, integration into the global market on basis of highly productive cheap labour) and the productive cooperation of hundred thousand workers in the automobile supply-chain
c) it was a struggle about the political question of workers’ consumption: current wage-levels do not allow workers in the most advanced industrial sectors to reproduce themselves and their families and/or to take part in the wider society around them; a claim towards higher wages under these conditions is also a political claim for ‘equality’ and in struggle turns into a measure of class power
d) the struggle was driven by the temporary status of workers, which forms a systemic part of the current regime: temporary not only in terms of employment, but also in terms of the urban-rural status of the workers; workers can not be disciplined anymore with the prospect of a ‘rural petty bourgeois / peasant future’ (small trader, peasant, artisan), but the current set-up does not allow them to ‘save money for a settled urban future’ either; the current state of being is symbolised in the division of the working day into ‘stress of the assembly-line’ and ‘boredom of the dormitory villages’, whose main offer of leisure are cheap multi-media mobile-phones of Chinese brand
e) the struggle created a new collectivity which broke with previous limitations and divisions; in the course of the struggle workers had to confront and break the law; the focus on the official demand of union recognition did not help to realise the potentials of generalisation of the struggle: the general discontent in the area;

Instead of crying about victimisation of workers and the denial of rights we have to analyse the systemic tension – the unability of the current system to offer anything else and the collective power of workers not to accept this. The struggle at Maruti asked systemic questions and through wildcat occupations engaged in practical criticism, but workers did not find a collective language towards other workers beyond Maruti. An organised workers’ inquiry into the current conditions within and beyond Maruti is necessary – see also the contribution and open letter of comrades of the collective Mouvement Communiste from France after a visit in Manesar (appendix).

The Historical Legacy of Workers’ Inquiry

For this effort we can refer to historical experiences within the communist movement, from Marx’s workers’ questionaire to the initiatives of the Italian Operaismo in the early and late 1960s. The comrades back then were confronted with a double crisis of the communist movement. By 1956 it was clear for most workers that the emancipative elements of the ‘old communist movement’ in form of the CPs were finally dead: disarmament of workers after 1945 through the Italian CPI, official party line ‘participation on parliamentary level and national development’, massacre of struggling workers in Berlin 1953 and Hungary 1956 through the ‘workers’ state’. At the same time the material base of the ‘old communist movement’ (peasants and skilled workers in the manufacturing industries) were undermined by social re-structuring. The workers in the north of Italy were confronted with the introduction of assembly line production and the ability of capital to employ peasant-workers from the poorer south. Both unions and political parties had given up the shop-floor as a space of social struggle and provided therefore no answers for the new composition of old skilled workers and seemingly ‘unorganised’ migrant industrial workers. In this situation dissidents of the CPI and PSI (Socialist Party) engaged in a collective effort of workers inquiry, in rounds of workers reporting about the new conditions, trying to formulate political strategies and to circulate it amongst other workers. Following are passages from a longer article on workers’ inquiry and the legacy of Operaismo, we then formulate some practical conclusions for their current relevance at Maruti and in Gurgaon/Manesar area.

“In the introduction to the Italian edition of the Diary of the Renault Worker, Daniel Mothé, Panzieri expanded on the antagonism in the production relation. »The book [...] goes beyond the usual testimonies of the conditions of the worker, testimonies that mostly merely express sympathy with the situation of the factory worker (and no more that this). In Mothé’s diary the problems of the working class in a large modern factory, in all their complexities and specific reality, are shown step by step through the keen and thoughtful observations of the everyday life in one department. The book deals with the beginning of the rational organisation of work. There is a contradiction between on the one hand the attempt at a rational organisation of work that isolates the workers more and more; and on the other hand the conditions within which the work has to develop, that themselves lead to the constant breaking of the rules in order that the production can run and has a sense. The worker has to fight against the implementation of these ›rationalisations‹ that have to shut out any human qualified experience in order to be put into practice: even before the legitimate need to connect to the colleague next to him – a need within which appears the value of an unshakeable solidarity – and the experience of work itself which brings the worker to understand his own problems as collective ones. (Panzieri)

The industrial sociological analyses also discover conflicts everywhere. But usually the bourgeois sociologists examine these conflicts as problems that are there to be solved in order to guarantee the smooth functioning of the factory. And the ›critical‹ sociologists expose the conflicts to prove that the factory does not function perfectly. In contrast to this the comrades, schooled on Marx, took the contradiction of the work process as the starting point of the inquiry. Thereby they could understand how conflicts could also be functional for the valorisation and which functions of the hierarchy are there to prevent these conflicts turning into a united struggle.

“From a revolutionary standpoint, the act of gathering this kind of information could enable us to show how a worker fuses with his class and whether his relationship with his social group is different from a petit-bourgeois’ or bourgeois’ relationship with his or her own group. Does the proletarian connect his fate, on all levels of his existence, consciously or not, with the fate of his class? Classic expressions like class consciousness and class behaviour are often too abstract: Can we check them concretely? According to Marx, the proletarian, in contrast to the bourgeois, is not simply member of his class, he is an individual, a member of a community, and he is conscious of the fact that he can only liberate himself collectively. Can we concretely verify this Marxist assumption?” (Lefort)

›Biographical approach‹, ›intensive interviews‹… today everyone from Feminists to left Sociologists practices these inquiry methods. The difference of the ›workers’ inquiry‹ is that they started from a collective dimension: the self-constitution of the class, the detection of communism in the movement of the working class itself. »Porto Marghera [location of the petrochemical industry on the mainland across from Venice] was the laboratory in which we verified the situation with scientific methods. One could not begin to have a political discourse without what we called ›workers’ inquiry‹. We were determined to clarify once again what the workers standpoint was in concrete, because they were the social figures that were strategically relevant in the process towards the ›new‹. (Guido Bianchini)

There was a serious political confrontation within the group around the fundamental question of whether the instrument of sociology could be applied critically. This went from the tendency which reduced Marxism to a mere sociology, through the critical application of sociological instruments up to an attempt at a full abolition [Aufhebung] of the difference between inquirer and the objects of the inquiry, the workers, with the aim of ›workers’ self-inquiry‹. Both the last two positions called their practice ›Conricerca‹, word-for-word meaning; ›with-inquiry‹. Liliana Lanzardo explained in November 1994 in Turin, that today it is much clearer to see the difference between those who wanted to do an academic inquiry and those for whom it was about a political project; at the time there was no terminology at all. A few of their fellow fighters of the time are today recognised industrial sociologies in the worst sense.”
for full text: http://www.wildcat-www.de/en/wildcat/64_65/w64opera_en.htm

Negation of Academic Research

Today, more then ever, a criticism of ‘academic research’ is necessary. There are very apparent problems with academic research: material and formal dependence on state institutions, individualistic academic knowledge production, reproduction of divisions between intellectual professional and working class which leads to instrumentalisation – which applies similarly to other ‘movement professions’ such as trade union organising, labour-NGOs and labour journalism. The challenge will be to go beyond an individualistic criticism of ‘academic comrades’ – which nevertheless remains necessary – in order to ask the question of how the working class movement itself can develop collective intellectual processes and, last but not least, find the material resources for it, independent from the educational state institutions. Since trouble in Gurgaon started the area is flooded with labour NGOs and ‘researchers’. The International Metal Workers Federation (international organisation of the main institutionalised trade unions) offered larger sums of money to the new Maruti workers’ union – at a moment where the influence of the established trade unions was at a low and spaces were opened for independent generalisation of the conflict. There needs to be an open debate ‘within the movement’ about academic work, ‘revolutionary activities’ – the relation between ‘individual aspirations, recognition and wish for material security’ and collective work. Here the ‘academic comrades’ are asked, not to justify, but to explain themselves. For the time being we refer to an older text on the question of ‘union organisers’ and to a ‘letter of questions’ written for the debate with ‘academic comrades’ researching automobile workers in India – see appendix.

http://libcom.org/library/unions-new-grounds-when-work-mate-becomes-client

Towards a Workers’ Inquiry at Maruti and Beyond

The workers’ reports in this newsletter do not reflect the situations from which they emerged. Most of the Maruti workers we spoke to are workers who friends of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar and of Inqualabi Mazdoor Kendra met during the occupations in 2011 – and engaged with in discussions about their struggle. We usually meet after the distribution of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in Aliyar or other villages in Manesar. Particularly the temporary workers, trainees and apprentices live together, four share a room, forty or more workers share a common backyard, latrine, tap. What bourgeois media describe as ‘miserable living conditions’, we see as potential and actual base-camps of proletarian collectivity. Workers of different departments, of different supplying companies, of different sectors live together. Our conversations take place in groups of five or ten. Most workers have experiences of working in other companies in Manesar or Gurgaon, everyone has friends in other factories. The temporary paint-shop workers have actively taken part in the occupations, they see the need to extend the organisational forms and to strengthen direct contacts between workers. This is the material and organic base for an organisational process.

Since the Maruti struggle in 2011 the atmosphere in Manesar has changed and in some cases workers make active use of their connectedness beyond company walls. A small, but very important example was the direct solidarity action of temporary Maruti workers of various departments for an injured temp workers at Allied Nippon, a supplying company who some of them had shared a room with – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.44/45 – and the spontaneous intervention of Maruti workers during the lock-out at nearby Senior Felxtronics – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.50. In embryonic form workers create an organisational structure – the challenge of a process of workers’ inquiry would be to turn it into a workers’ coordination. We made the following suggestions to the workers we met: put the question ‘what happened to our collectivity since October 2011′ in front of all Maruti workers. What has changed, what did management do, what did we do, how does the union help or not? Answer the questions on the level of your own department or company and invite others to do the same. Find an adequate form to pose this question: leaflet, newspaper, informal meetings. Refer to the experience of the occupations and succesful actions like like at Allied Nippon to demonstrate that the coordination can and must go beyond Maruti and can and must have practical results.

We suggest to working class activists to shift the focus from the sphere of ‘formal representation’ (small union body, negotiations, legal back-and-forth, repression) to this daily form of organisation within the production process and within the wider industrial area. Longer conversations are necessary in order to understand the set-up of Maruti, the management strategies, the potentials and difficulties for workers to form collectives on the shop-floor and to coordinate beyond. We have to see Maruti and Manesar as ‘a workers’ organisation’ in itself, with material and ideological divisions, with regional and international ties, with connections to the rural sphere. This is the organisation we have to work within and to turn into a base of workers’ power – instead of seeing it as a recruitment ground for ‘membership’. Maruti dominates the class relation not only in a material sense, dictating paces of development right into the sphere of slum production, it also dominates the political landscape in its collaboration with Haryana and central state power. The results of workers struggle at Maruti will open or close space for the struggle in the wider industrial landscape, not only in the Delhi industrial belt, but in the whole of the subcontinent. As we have seen, the challenge will be to establish organisational link from this centre of unrest to its productive periphery.

In concrete this would mean to form an initial group of five to ten comrades who are willing to focus on the situation in Manesar for at least half a year to a year, until a structure is established which maintains itself. Rounds of documented conversations with workers from different departments and suppliers are a first step. These conversations have the aim to look for ways to increase collective power and to de-mystify capitalist organisation of work – where it hides its class character behind the seeming neutrality of technology, efficiency, quality, knowledge, science. In the centre of the conversations are the following questions:

* how did you experience the struggle in 2011 and 2012, which internal and informal form of organisation did you experience and how did this relate to the official form of organisation?
* which changes in daily production and life in Manesar do you see since 2011?
* how does the work-step you perform relate to others? on whose work do you depend on and who is dependent on your work-step in order to be able to work?
* in which other departments or companies or sectors do you know workers? how did you get to know them? what do you know about their conditions?
* what kind of experiences do you have of collective forms of resistance on the shop-floor, as little as they might be? what would be ways to extend this collectivity, what would be necessary?
* how could meetings of workers be organised, taking into account both the lack of time and space resources and the question of security
* in case of future conflicts either at Maruti or at other companies in Manesar, how can we support them and/or take part in them in terms of breaking out of isolation and out of the control of institutionalised unions? how can we prepare ourselves at our daily work-place and beyond?

The conversations should be organised and documented in a way which reveals the already existent contacts and knowledge to other workers – face-to-face if possible, through leaflets and newspapers if necessary. General political aim of the process should be:

* making future struggles independent of institutional mediation and making formal leadership unnecessary
* making use of the productive connectedness of production in order to hit the company most and in order to extend the struggle
* find ways of extending the struggle or spread the news about it through the already existing channels of communication that workers have (work-place, life in Manesar)
* develop an understanding of self-organisation (informal committees and coordinations) to plan steps ahead
* be aware of other disputes which go on in other companies and areas at the same time and try to relate to these workers directly
* generalise the issue of the struggle to a wider level: question of more money and less work, general question of existence as proletarians in Delhi area
* establish a political coordination of workers in Manesar which survive single conflicts
* find ways to get in touch with workers outside Delhi region, first of all with those who will play an important role in future disputes, e.g. FIAT workers manufacturing Maruti engines in Maharashtra

Following some preliminary material which can be used as the basis of this process of inquiry…

3) Material on Class Composition at Maruti Suzuki

Trade union flag in front of Suzuki Powertrain – Symbol of institutionalisation…

3.1) Current Situation: State of Workers’ Collectivity one Year after the Occupations (June 2012)

After the occupation in October 2011 Maruti management had to deal with an emerged collective of 3,000 workers in the assembly plant and their extended collective of workers in Suzuki Powertrain and other suppliers. Modern capitalist factory production and this degree of workers’ collectivity don’t go together. Management therefore faces the question how to undermine the collectivity and re-establish control over the shop-floor and the wider productive system. The required control can neither be enforced by brute repression, nor by ‘divide-and-rule’-tactics alone, the material transformation of the production process, the physical change of the cooperation between workers of different departments and productive units is required. From management point of view, concessions given to workers have to contain future potentials of re-division and productivity increase. The productive cooperation – the working side-by-side – was the fundament of workers’ togetherness in 2011, so consequently it has to be changed.

Within the left the understanding of these types of shifts within the productive system are only rarely seen as political measures of re-establishing the rule of capital, focus is on the more obviously ‘political’ measures of management repression against workers. Workers in turn face similar questions. If the Maruti assembly plant and its closest suppliers has been the basis of our collective power so far, and if management is planning strategically to undermine this basis, what can our answer be? These are in noway abstract contemplations, but very concrete facts, moulded in metal: (also) in order to undermine the power of Suzuku Powertrain workers as sole suppliers of diesel engines for the Maruti Gurgaon plant, Suzuki management ordered engines from FIAT factory based in Maharashtra. Since October 2011 the Gurgaon plant is not only supplied by Suzuki Powertrain in Manesar, but also receives 350 engines from FIAT each day, confirming the tendency of capital to react to workers’ struggle by expanding the socialisation and re-division of labour. In their future struggles Maruti workers will have to face up to this fundamental change in their material cooperation, which now includes FIAT workers.

On the background of these questions we have to soberly analyse the role of the newly established unions at Powertrain and Maruti Suzuki. Being structured by the framework of labour law and formal representation, is the union able to counteract the material changes imposed by management? Can the union strengthen workers’ power and expand their collectivity? In the following we will try to draw some preliminary conclusions, based on conversations with workers of different departments and suppliers in April to June 2012. What did management do after October 2011 in order to re-compose the work-force and re-gain control.

Police presence

Management kept around 100 police stationed 24 hours in the Maruti Suzuki assembly plant till December 2011. At Suzuki Castings and Powertrain the police had tents on the factory premises, with 50 to 60 police and 15 police respectively, till at least June 2012. After the riots of the 18th of July a 600-head strong special police battalion was stationed permanently in the industrial zone of Industrial Model Town Manesar. These are the most obvious expressions of the fact that management does not trust their own power in the factory and that for a re-composition this presence of state violence is necessary.

Shifting of workforce

Obviously the management’s attempt of a major shift of work-force was defeated by the workers when they re-occupied the factory in early October 2011 after 1,200 temporary workers were not taken back. This move of re-occupation was not so much due to the ‘political consciousness of unity’ of the union leadership, but due to the enormous (physical) pressure of the temporary workers on their permanent work-mates. After October 2011 management shifted those 800 workers who were hired as ‘scabs’ during the ‘lock-out’ to the new B-plant, which became operational in September 2011. This creates a plant-level division between workers of different histories. In addition management shifted individual workers from A-plant to B-plant, whenever it seemed appropriate and possible to isolate individual workers.

Arbitrary dismissals

Between April and May 2012 management started a campaign against ‘faked’ ITI certificates in all departments. They accused workers who had been employed at Maruti since several years of having presented a faked professional qualification (around 25,000 Rs in UP) and kicked them out. In total only 70 workers became victims of this campaign, but they were employed in nearly all departments, so the campaign created a certain atmosphere throughout the plant. There were only few incidents of collective resistance by workers on line level, see for example workers’ report from the weld-shop. Other workers reported about an increase of dismissals of temporary workers due to minor mistakes and fabricated reasons from April 2012 onwards.

Arbitrary trainee tests

In order to filter the workforce and to give the decision ‘who gets on the company pay-roll and how many’ a seemingly objective touch, companies like Maruti make use of ‘trainee tests’. Workers hired through contractors, after several years of employment, have to pass a test in order to become trainees. Trainees have to go through three years of trainee-status in order to get the chance to become permanents. At Honda HMSI management used the trainee status to re-compose the workforce after the 2005 struggle, Maruti Suzuki in Manesar will very likely modify the trainee status after the unrest 2011/12. A trainee from the bumper department said in June 2012: “Some of us try to become trainees, we have to pass a test. Around 500 questions, mostly on health and safety and quality, also “where have you been during the strike period in 2011″. We have to undergo a medical test, too. In the bumper-shop 24 workers went for the test in early 2012, only 7 were taken on as trainees.”

Uneven work-load distribution

What is common in other big companies, such as neighbouring Honda HMSI, that permanent workers are given ‘better’ jobs (maintenance, quality, supervision) and temporary workers do the main productive work has not been the case yet at Maruti Suzuki Manesar. But things start to change. A permanent worker employed in the weld-shop said in June 2012: “There is a clear policy to divide permanents from temporary workers. Supervisors don’t put any pressure on permanents, you can do your job, you can walk around. Pressure is solely on temporary workers. These workers obviously complain, but they don’t complain in front of the supervisor, they express their anger towards the permanent workers – they in turn tell the temporary workers to shut up and work.”

Increasing wage gap

First reaction of management after the occupation in October 2011 was to give a considerable wage increase to temporary workers and apprentices, without formal agreement or negotiations – see workers’ report from the final assembly department. Since then wage developments were tied to formal negotiations. The wage gap between temporary and permanent workers has increased significantly after the wage agreement settled by the recently established trade union at Suzuki Powertrain. According to permanent workers close to the union leadership, the demand notice put forward at Maruti Suzuki assembly plant puts a strong emphasis on productivity bonus, which is only available for permanent workers. If Maruti wage dynamics follow the general trend, then the wage settlement will most likely result in productivity-related wage increase for permanents and relative wage stagnation for the temporary work-force.

Changes in the supply-chain

We already mentioned the most significant change introduced in October 2011 concerning the supply of 100,000 diesel engine annually from FIAT plant in Ranjangaon, Maharashtra. FIAT India has considerable over-capacities and Maruti Suzuki needs to undermine the position of Suzuki Powertrain workers – Management had to realise in 2011 that two days strike at Powertrain suffices to stop production at the ‘appeased’ Maruti Gurgaon plant. Apart from that the struggle in 2011 forced Maruti to re-think their supply-chain lay-out. While the spacial distance between the assembly plant and most of the suppliers prevented copy-cat effects during the strikes in 2011, workers at companies like Bellsonica, FMI, Krishna Maruti, SKH Metal [], which operate on the Maruti premises, might be too close to the centre. Another major change in the near future will affect hundreds of truck drivers and loaders – some of them took part in the strikes in 2011. With the development of the industrial corridor connecting Delhi industrial area with port-towns in Gujarat and Maharashtra Maruti management intends to increase the finished car transport by rail from currently 5 to 35 per cent. Every day around 500 trucks leave Maruti Gurgaon plant with finished cars, the number will be only slightly smaller in Manesar.

Carrot of the C-Plant – Threat of Gujarat

Maruti management will try to use current investments and fusions in order to undermine workers’ position. In June 2012 Maruti announced the fusion with Suzuki Powertrain, which leaves scope for speculation about future conditions of workers in both companies. Similarly the speculation about the future of assembly work at Gurgaon plant. In March 2012 newspapers announced management decison to reduce the Gurgaon capacity from currently 700,000 cars to 400,000 cars and to increase diesel engine production – production start by mid-2013, around 150,000 units. The new engine-shop will need less workers than the shutting down of the assembly-departments will make redundant. Investments into the C-plant in Manesar and the R&D centre (and expanded Suzuki Motorcycles factory with 4,000 new workers) in ‘the new auto-export-hub’ Rohtak (also in Haryana) and the resulting ‘creation of 1,900 new Maruti jobs’ in the region will be used as a carrot and as a possibility to re-shuffle the workforce – while the construction of the Gujarat plant (estimated production-start 2015) will be instrumentalised as a means of black-mailing against the ‘workers in Haryana’.

These are just some superficial snapshots of current and imminent changes of the conditions at Maruti which will impact on workers’ collectivity and structural power. It is obvious that most of the changes reach beyond the formal boundaries of the trade union frame-work.

3.2) State and Limitations of the Trade Union at Maruti Suzuki

Union demonstration during lock-out at Senior Flexonics automobile supplier…

The question whether workers are able to use the trade union structure as a vehicle to counteract these significant material changes (or attacks) imposed by management depends on objective conditions (who can the union formally represent, what can the union legally do) and subjective factors (how engaged are workers within the union framework).

Most of our conversations with Maruti Manesar workers took place in March 2012 to June 2012, less than a year after an enormously intensive wave of struggle, after a struggle which meant considerable risk and (monetary) sacrifice, but which also created an atmosphere of collective excitement and enthusiasm. Official goal of the struggle was the recognition of an independent trade union. Less than a year after the struggle and after the union got registered in early 2012, the interest and engagement of workers in the trade union seemed close to zero, not only amongst the temporary workers, also amongst the permanents. This reminds us of the participation level in the parliamentary elections in Egypt, which hovered around 20 per cent, after a mass wave of struggle ‘against the dictatorship’, and officially for the right to vote a different government. The union was a symbol of struggle and unity, which brought the Maruti workers together, but also under certain illusions – e.g. many temporary workers were little aware of the fact that they will not be represented – which now come out into the open of ‘normal and formal industrial relations’.

Some of the permanent workers express the hope that a ‘recognition on paper’, either of the union itself or of agreements concerning pay and conditions, will secure the gains now that the immediate pressure of the struggle has decreased.

“We can struggle, we can gain something. But without union recognition the gains are lost, the company will turn back the wheel within three months and we are back at start. Once we have the union we will also take care of the temporary workers”. (Permanent Worker, assembly department, March 2012)

The actual form of organisation excludes the majority of workers. Apprentices, trainees and temporary workers don’t fulfill the official norms as ‘workmen’ and are therefore excluded from membership in the permanent employees union. At Maruti the composition looks like this: 850 permanents (potential union members), 1,000 trainees (no members of union), 300 apprentice (no members of union), over 1,200 workers hired through contractor (no members of union).

“The temporary workers in the paint-shop haven’t seen the demand notice. There are rumours that ‘wage demands for workers hired through contractors’ are included. We heard about 17,000 Rs for non-ITI and 22,000 Rs for ITI workers. Also the permanent workers in the paint-shop haven’t seen the demand notice. There hasn’t been a union general meeting for two months. During the struggle itself we should have put forward our own demands directly: at least 10,000 Rs per month, bus service for everyone and so on.”
(Temporary worker, paint-shop, April and May 2012)

One of the most important questions is obviously whether the form of delegation, which developed during the struggles in 2011 is still intact and alive. During the struggle decisions about the direction of the struggle were announced by line coordinators, one line-coordinator representing around 15 co-workers, in total there were around 150 coordinators. These workers worked together day by day and sat together during the occupations and during the lock-out – it was the basic unit of the struggle. It seemed in hindsight that the line-coordinators were not ‘representing the debate of their co-workers’, but were rather used as disseminators of the decision of the leadership.

“Since October 2011 the line coordinators have no function anymore, apart from being the extended hands of the union body. If any line coordinator talks or acts in a way which does not please the union body, they have ways to shut him up. The demand notice has not been discussed, it is not based on debate. In this sense the whole physical confrontation between union president and HR manager was a show – they suspended the president afterwards, the union guys walked through the plant saying that if the suspension is not withdrawn there will be violence and the HR managers will be beaten up, then the HR withdrew the suspension. We tried to organise Sunday meetings amongst active permanent workers to debate the situation, but these meetings stopped – they had no results.”
(Permanent worker, weld-shop, June 2012)

“The line coordinators in the paint-shop have been elected by everyone, but they had to be permanent workers. They take care of ‘problems’, if the AC does not work or similar things. If they can’t solve it with the supervisor, they go to the ‘union body’. Some line-coordinators are more like the right-hand of the supervisor. Normal workers can also go to the ‘union body members’ on an individual level, that’s no problem.”
(Temporary worker, paint-shop, May 2012)

The usual leftist response to these problems would be to demand more ‘internal democracy’. A permanent worker, union body member since the first hour of the struggle, criticises the attitude of the current union body, but also questions whether union elections would actually benefit workers’ unity.

“The ‘union body’ (eleven members) has not been elected. After the ‘sell-out’ of the 30 union leaders union members initially demanded ‘more control’, for example people said that before an agreement is signed by the union all members should see and sign it; they said to the ‘union body’ that ‘you first have to prove, before we can trust’. After registration of the union in early 2012 the question of elections came up. The constitution requires elections after registration of the union. The eleven member union body tried to avoid having elections, they also asked workers to sign agreements that they don’t wish to have elections at that point. But actually, if there were elections now, it would not have a positive result. It would rather create more divisions between workers due to struggle over posts and votes.”
(Permanent worker, press-shop, June 2012)

At Suzuki Powertrain, where workers refer to the union as the ‘union of the locals’ (workers from Haryana and Rajasthan), as opposed to the ‘outsiders’ (Bihar, UP etc.) it can be seen how quickly ‘the union’ can turn from a symbol of workers’ togetherness in struggle into a medium of ‘managing the status quo’ and therefore managing and re-producing divisions within the work-force. This description of the ‘local workers’ union’ might be superficially true, but does not explain the underlying reasons for why unions tend to represent a smaller or bigger minority of workers. Under the current economic pressure (profit-squeeze, market crisis etc.) and given the legal constrains unions are only able to survive if they offer some benefits to a minoritarian section of the working class, which they have to mobilise every now and then, and manage the division between them and other workers responsibly. Only then management will accept them as ‘representatives’. At Suzuki Powertrain, apart from the division into permanents and temporary workers, the division took regionalistic forms. Following a short summary of the development of the union at Suzuki Powertrain.

“After the joint occupation of Maruti Suzuki and Suzuki Powertrain in October 2011, negotiations took place between Powertrain management and recently established union (HMS) on 19th of October. Three representatives of Suzuki Powertrain were kept separate from the rest of the union leader-ship (HMS) during negotiations. These three leaders had pushed the joint-occupation with the Maruti Suzuki workers. The remaining Powertrain union leadership signed an agreement on 21st of October. The three Powertrain leaders remained suspended and were finally sacked on 17th of April.

On 10th of November 2011 permanent workers at Suzuki Powertrain debated during a general union assembly. Despite having been called several times, the union leadership did not come to the general assembly. The debate had mainly evolved around the issue of the three suspended [more militant] leaders. Workers called for a general union election, and said that no 3-years agreement will be signed with management before the three suspended are taken back. But then it became clear that the union leadership had already signed a three years agreement on the 9th of November. The inquiry against the three suspended was finished on 2nd of December.

In early 2012 around 500 Powertrain workers signed a letter complaining about the agreement settled by the union, one point of conflict was the link of wages to productivity increase. Workers decided last minute not to go forward with this protest in order to ‘keep the unity’. By then the union leadership, in order to deal with the ‘competition’ of the more ‘radical’ suspended leaders turned towards a certain kind of regionalism, presenting themselves as the representatives of the ‘locals’. The fact that Powertrain management announced in June 2012 that in future it will hire only ITI apprentices from ITI’s in Haryana is very likely not by chance.

In order to put pressure on management to take the suspended leaders back on workers refused company tea on 30th and 31st of January 2012 and company canteen food on 1st and 2nd of February 2012. After the food boycot management threatened workers with ‘accusation of undisciplin’ (a formal accusation which can lead to suspensions). On 1st of February 2012 20 to 25 workers were accused of having engaged in physical violence and against two workers a FIR case was filed by police. At the time, around 23rd of March 2012, there were similar protests (food-boycot) at Suzuki Motorcycles in Kherki Dhaula after three leaders had been suspended by management. These conflicts remained isolated from each other.

At Suzuki Motorcycles, the company had revised a new wage settlement for three years around July 2011, but in March 2012 management refused to implement some pending demands. On 21st of March 2012, when a union delegation went and discussed the issues with management, the HR Vice President Anil Munjal and the union General Secretary clashed in the canteen. Next day the three union leaders were suspended without charges. The company called in a large number of police personnel outside the premises.

At Powertrain, the union ordered another a food boycott on 10th and 13th of April, on 17th of April Powertrain management sacked the three leaders. On 17th of April 2012, after having heard that three permanent workers (union leaders) had been sacked, the B- and C-shift gathered at 00:30 am. At 1:30 am one of the union body members (HMS) arrived and said that the union will not be able to support any suspended or sacked (as result of this protest) workers. The B-shift workers went home and the C-shift workers started work. About half of the workers had supported the strike, the other half not. Many of us apprentices joint the strike, although we are not directly concerned, while a lot of the permanents remained passive.

On 21st of April the union leadership removed these three workers from their union posts and gave the posts to new people. On 27th of April HMS regional leadership under leadership of the union president of JCB called for meeting in support for sacked leaders, but the HMS union section from Powertrain did not attend. With Suzuki Powertrain now being ‘under control’ it will be very likely that Maruti Suzuki will try to use the fact that the two companies will fuse by end 2012 in order to ‘import the union agreements and structure’. On 12th of June Powertrain union body members return to work in production department after having mainly been in union office ‘off work’ during the last months. They probably felt the urge to ‘keep in touch’ with the workers as much as the union leadership at Maruti Suzuki felt the need to demonstrate its ‘militancy’, e.g. when the union president slapped a supervisor in mid-June 2012.”
(Based on conversations with Powertrain apprentices and dismissed Powertrain permanent worker, June 2012)

At Maruti Suzuki the MSWU union, though largely absent from the shop-floor, handed over their demand notice on 18th of April 2012. The media reported mainly on a propagandistic level that the union ‘demands a five-fold wage increase’, while most (temporary) workers were largely unaware about the actual content of the demand notice. A large share of the ‘wage hike’ would be linked to production level. “The PPRA (productivity and attendance bonus) forms 50 per cent of our wage. In the current demand notice there is a demand that the bonus should be attached to the amount of cars produced, e.g. if Manesar produces 900 cars per day, the bonus should be 4 Rs per car, if between 900 and 1,200 then 6 Rs, if over 1,200 then 8 Rs.” (Permanent worker, weld-shop, June 2012)

It remained unclear whether this bonus would apply only to the permanent workers wage. The union leadership made an attempt during negotiations to include temporary workers in the long-term agreement and offered to renounce one year of wage increase (for the period from April 2011 to 2012) if the temporary workers would be included. Management did not budge and the ‘preemptive renouncement’ probably also did not help to strengthen the unity between permanents and temporary workers. On 14th of June the union met with HR-head Siddiqui for negotiations about the payment of the annual spare parts bonus. The HR management said that the 53 days of strike in 2011 will be reduced from the bonus, so that permanent workers who took part in the strike get 27,900 Rs bonus, while the non-strikers get 44,000 Rs. The union agreed, which also did not help to build up more pressure for the wage negotiations.

The union was unable to enforce a wage settlement and unwilling or unable to mobilise workers for collective actions (how to mobilise after the main union structure had been paralysed for months? Would the temporary workers have gone on strike for an unclear demand notice? Would the union have been able to call for a legal strike during period of negotiations?) The pressure on the union leadership ‘to prove itself’ and to demonstrate that it is not ‘management-friendly’ increased. That might explain incidences like in mid-May, when a ‘physical’ confrontation between Maruti Suzuki union president and HR manager took place in the final assembly. Workers had complaint about lack of air, faulty cooling system, but there was no reaction from the side of management at all. Only when the union president came out of a meeting, supervisors and managers reacted, there was a back-and-forth and the union president hit a member of staff. Management suspended him, but after a tension grew amongst workers they revoked the measure.

If we return to our initial question whether the union frame work helped to strengthen and expand the workers’ collectivity which emerged out of the 2011 movement we will have to say that the union framework is not sufficient. It focussed the attention of workers onto the sphere of negotiations, suspensions, election politics, while management took material steps to transform the productive cooperation of workers in order to undermine their subversive cooperation. The legal framework of union representation is too narrow in order to organise ourselves on the same level as the company is trying to disorganise us. For the production system, management combines workers of various areas, sectors, companies, categories, from work in slum huts to robot-weldshops, from Delhi to Tokyo, while we are supposed to be organised as the small faction of ‘permanent workers in Manesar’. If we don’t reflect the totality of this productive structure and its constant changes in our coordination of workers (canteen, contracts, suppliers), we will end up in isolation and the paper of agreements and recognition will turn into dust for the majority of workers.

At Honda HMSI it took only two years before a major rupture within the work-force emerged: from the 2005 bloody united struggle for union recognition to the wildcat strike of temporary workers opposed by the union in 2007. Will this process repeat itself at Maruti Suzuki or will both permanent and temporary workers find a different organisational structure to re-compose themselves and re-establish their collectivity on a higher level? These were our questions before the 18th of July 2012…

A valuable weapon in workers’ hands…

3.3) Preliminary Thoughts on the Unrest of the 18th of July 2012

On 18th of July a group of workers and management clashed in the Maruti Manesar factory, a manager got killed and around 100 others were injured by workers using automobile parts. Most Maruti workers fled Manesar after the incident, also as result of severe police raids. Maruti declared a lock-out which continued at least till mid-August.

We are not in the position to ‘provide any evidence’ about what actually happened. The general background of the incident is clear, the living and working conditions of workers in Delhi industrial area produce regular outbursts of ‘violence’. About the specific background and possible outcome of the violence at Maruti there is a controversy within our collective. This is also due to the fact that some of us are currently ‘out of town’ and followed the events from afar, while others are in Faridabad, Manesar and Gurgaon area, distributing Faridabad Majdoor Samachar newspaper amongst workers after the riot took place.

End of July, before the announcement of the mass dismissals, comrades in Faridabad said about the 18th of July incident that “Something new has happened, a shift took place. The management of the entire area is terrorised. Maruti has to announce that it will not use contract labour in the future. The head-manager of Shell had to admit that ‘it is perverse that a top-manager earns 820 times the wage of his worker’. While Maruti CEO has to talk publicly about ‘class-war’, the left keeps on talking about constitutional rights, proper legal inquiry and demand a ‘return to normalcy’. Workers are way ahead of them, they don’t care about their jobs anymore. Maruti will have to re-hire most of the workers, they cannot produce without them. There will obviously be some arrests and some people will be kicked out, but at large the workers have shifted the situation and atmosphere in the area. Management knows that a small trifle like suspensions of two workers can kick off anything now. During distribution, Maruti workers at Gurgaon plant told us that management is shit-scared indeed.”

From afar we raise further questions. In August 2011 a supervisor also attacked a worker inside the plant, but in reaction all workers of the department went on a wildcat strike together and forced the supervisor to apologise in front of them. Soon after police came inside the plant in order to arrest some people, but workers again went on strike and forced the police to return the workers. Since October 2011 the collectivity of workers has suffered. As we have seen, the union leadership was not able to maintain the collectivity and therefore was also not able to enforce themselves against management. In order to prove themselves despite their structurally weak position they resorted to ‘strong men attitude’. Instead of struggling as productive workers as part of a wide industrial network they created a position, mainly amongst permanent workers, that ‘we are 1,000 strong guys’. In mid-May 2012 the union president, who was seen as a ‘softy’, slapped a supervisor on the shop-floor, which has to be seen mainly as a show-act. The desperation of the union leadership of not being able to fulfill the large expectations of workers might have contributed to the ‘show-down’ on the 18th of July. We don’t know how collectively prepared and involved the mass of workers were, but we know that now they are dispersed. As Maruti workers they did not come out stronger out of the incident – although, and this can be true at the same time – the violence might have shifted the general atmosphere in the area in favour of the wider working class. Maruti workers have shown that management is not able to control them, but the difference to the wildcat occupations in 2011 is that a riot leaves less space for generalisation of workers’ autonomy. Maruti will continue to produce and will have no other option but to reproduce the same contradictions which led to the violence.

Two months after the incident the situation looks less bleak. Maruti had to take back a lot of the old workers, but promised better conditions. The 500 sacked workers continue their mobilisation with their family members and form some kind of ‘collective of the discontent’ in various towns in Haryana – the initial dispersion can turn into spreading the conflict. It will have to be seen whether a fruitful relationship can be formed between the situation in Manesar plant, between the ‘sacked workers agitations’ and the Gurgaon plant, where young workers force the union to take some kind of action in support of the Manesar workers – several hundred workers went to the union office to demand steps. Workers and working-class communists have to analyse how the collectivity can be expanded throughout the productive territory around Manesar and how they can hit management the hardest while at the same time keep their own harm at a minimum. The two suspensions at neighbouring Honda HMSI shortly after the 18th of July, which were issued after the Maruti riot, show that not all managers are scared enough yet. Below a very superficial chronology of the events of the 18th of July 2012.

16th of July
The union distributes a document amongst workers which had been handed to them by management, saying that management are not agreeing to union demands, which includes education allowance of 200 Rs for employee’s children.

17th of July
A-shift and B-shift workers boycott their pre-shift meetings with supervisors as protest against management’s non-compromising attitude during the ongoing negotiations about the demand notice.

18th of July
During A-shift a supervisor stopped some workers when they were returning from their tea break and told them to stop boycotting the pre-shift meeting. A dispute took place. The worker alleges that the supervisor engaged in casteist remarks, management alleges that the worker attacked the supervisor and decided to suspend him. B-shift workers continued production while A-shift workers decided to stay back in the plant at the end of their shift. Negotiations took place in the management office. Management alleges that the union leaders called workers in who were armed with auto-parts and who started beating management personnel, destroyed CCTV systems, destroyed parked cars and set control room and offices on fire. The media reports about a 1,200 men strong ‘mob’. One manager died in the fire, 100 others had injuries from being beaten. The union alleges that during the talks management called a group of 100 armed bouncers who started attacking the workers. Later during the night troops of police started raiding the area, but most Maruti workers had already fled from the places where they lived. Police arrested workers randomly, seeing that they were wearing a Maruti uniform. Two company buses with Honda HMSI workers were stopped and searched by the police and held over night.

19th of July
Further arrests, main target are union members. The media repeats management version of events.

21st of July
The company declared a lockout at the Manesar plant. Work at the Gurgaon plant continues. During distribution of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar at gurgaon plant workers say that “management is shit-scared”, similar voices from workers in other companies in Gurgaon and Faridabad. Powertrain reduces work from three to two shifts in engine department. Police conducted raids at various places in Haridwar, Ranchi, Rajasthan and Haryana, a total of 97 workers arrested. Haryana Government announced to permanently deploy a 600-strong police division of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) in Manesar industrial area, 10 acres of land required.

23rd of July
The First Information Report (FIR) issued by Maruti management reportedly names 55 workers and has added 600 others. Reports about local villagares aiding police to find workers and hand them over – comrades deny that this is a mass phenomena.

24th of July
Maruti HR-head Siddiqui announced: “We have received instructions from the parent, Suzuki Motor Corporation, to not compromise on issues of violence. We will derecognise the union at the Manesar plant. All those identified in connection with the incident will be dismissed immediately.Maruti announced to shift supervisors and senior workers from its Gurgaon facility to Manesar and to hire 1,000 new workers for re-start of production. The media circulated reports claiming Maoist infiltration of Maruti workers, a Naxal conspiracy.

25th of July
Union members from Maruti’s Gurgaon plant, Suzuki Powertrain, Suzuki Castings, Suzuki Motocycle, Lumax Auto Technologies, Satyam Auto Components, Endurance Technologies, Hi-Lex India Pvt Ltd, Rico and others attended the memorial meeting of police attack on Honda HMSI workers in 2005 despite imposition of Section 144 at the MSIL plant. The 144 order bars assembly of five or more persons within two km from the boundaries of IMT Manesar. Media reported about gathering of village leaders of 75 villages around Manesar in support of Maruti Suzuki. During the meeting in Dhana, Gurgaon Zila Parishad chairman Rao Abhay Singh said to the press: ” Our local boys could have never done this” and claimed that the ‘mob’ were ‘outsiders’.

26th of July
Maruti declared that they will go ahead with planned investments in Haryana, given that the “immediate arrest of 90-odd workers, shows sincere intentions of the government”. The investments include a Research and Development Centre at Rohtak and a new diesel engine-shop at Gurgaon.

27th of July
Maruti makes an announcement not to use contract labour from March 2013 onwards. they also announce the non-payment of monthly wages for 2,000 workers at Manesar; “No one working at the Manesar plant will be given salary. According to the rule, after the company’s lockout, workers are not paid till the time it (lockout) is revoked.” Siddiqui. Maruti has exhausted the inventory of Swift cars, around 15,000 parked in Manesar and Gurgaon.

30th of July
The price of Maruti shares has fallen by 8.5 percent since the 18th of July. Maruti announced that they expect to fire approximately 500 workers who were involved in the Manesar plant clashes.

31st of july
A tripartite meeting of Maruti officials, workers’ representatives and Government is supposed to “help in creating conditions to restart production at the locked-out plant in Manesar”. Reports claimed 114 arrests so far, a good number among them were apprentices. Accoprding to the press Maruti Suzuki “has sought the help of a vedic astrologer from Bangalore to help sort out the vaastu at the Haryana unit. As part of the vaastu-correction process, “all negative energy” that exists on the land needs to be removed by conducting an extensive puja. Only after two to three weeks from the rituals, the land will be rid of “all negative energy” , an astrologer said.”

3rd of August
Maruti announced to increase production of diesel cars in Gurgaon plant in order to counteract impact of lock-out, which causes a daily loss of Rs 90 crore. Meanwhile, representatives of the workers’ union at Suzuki Powertrain India said with production cut about 30 per cent, many contract workers had been asked to leave. “About 250 contract workers, whose initial tenure came to a end, were asked to leave. The company has decided not to recruit fresh workers at present.”

4th of August
A joint trade union forum met in in Gurgaon, debating the lock-out at Maruti.

7th of August
Tension at Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India’s Manesar facility following suspension of two workers after alleged manhandling of a manager (according to management). Police is stationed at the factory: “We are keeping a close watch,” SHO Manesar Om Prakash Bishnoi.

8th of August
So far 116 workers have been arrested and a list of 162 ‘wanted’ workers is circulated. Police visit homes of these workers and put pressure on their family, threaten them with arrest of family members if the worker is not handed over. Reports on police custody torture of arrested workers are published.

9th of August
Gurgaon police states that the ‘mob’ which ‘rioted’ at Maruti on 19th of July was only 100 people strong, not 1,200 as first claimed and not 650, as claimed later on. Criticism of MUKU Maruti union president, who asks, why the 70 police officers stationed at Maruti Manesar plant were not able to stop the ‘mob’. In the meantime talks on Honda HMSI dispute fail at city labour department in Gurgaon as main company management did not turn up. Unions declare that they will organise a protest during ‘workers’ rights day’ on 17th of August in case no solutions are found for Maruti lock-out and situation of Eastern Medikit workers, who are left without wages since several months.

10th of August
Gurgaon police hastened to add that 100 workers were involved in the incidences inside the office building. but “the violence later spread to the ground floor as well. There were around 2,000 workers armed with metal objects and police priority was to rescue the managerial staff. Even the reports of there being about 1,200 workers are an underestimation of the size of the crowd,” (DCP Daya)l. Their report also states that the ‘violence was not planned’. Further arrests, now a total of 142 workers. Extension of police remand of 17 union leaders.

11th of August
Management announced that the plant might open in the following week. the press wrote about “pressure from vendors to re-open”. A worker said on a mainstream television channel: “Our workers did not have faith in the union body. They were apprehensive about the union cheating them again…. [Yet they wanted that] the management should at least value and listen to the union body.” (NDTV)

16th of August
Maruti announced the dismissal of 546 permanent workers, including the 154 who had been arrested. According to media all workers hired through contractors will remain outside the factory, Maruti will look into re-hiring during mid-September. Maruti deposited 50,000 to 70,000 Rs in sacked workers bank accounts (not in those of the 150 arrested),saying these payments represent the workers’ wages for July plus three months’ salary and an additional 15 days of salary for each year of service.

17th of August
Around 7,000 union members employed at various companies hold a protest-rally in Gurgaon.

19th of August
Maruti announced to employ a security division of retired armymen headed by a top-ranking (retired lieutenant-general rank) ex-officer at the Manesar plant.

20th of August
CPI and CPI(M) announced to make Maruti and the dismissals an issue in parliament and to hold a protest rally in Delhi.

21st of August
The lock-out got lifted. Only few workers entered the Manesar plant, over 1,000 cops in Manesar industrial area. the media claimed that Maruti suffered 250 million USD loss since 18th of July.

22nd of August
Maruti announced to have produced 186 cars, in combined production of A- and B-plant. Other sources claim that only the B-plant started production in the press-shop and weld-shop, while assembly work is done in the Gurgaon plant. Maruti Chairman told during a shareholder general meeting that the conversion of contract workers into permanent workers would increase the labour costs only slightly, “as the starting salary of a permanent worker is only about 10 percent more than a contractor’s pay.” Managers who have been ‘traumatised’ are sent to Brahma Kumaris spiritual centre and to self-defense courses.

30th of August
Maruti announced to re-hire 1,000 out of 1,800 former contract workers, talks to turn them into permanent employees are supposed to take place in early September. Maruti claimed an output of 427 cars per shift, compared to 950 cars before the unrest. Current workforce at Manesar plant allegedly 2,000 workers, compared to 3,000 before. “We’re increasing output on a day-to-day basis, but would need at least 1,000 more people to be closer to full output. Right now, even the 400 supervisors are working on the line and they need to go back to their original roles,” a company official said. “After this, the 3,000 contract workers at the Gurgaon facility will also be given a chance to become permanent at Manesar.”

31st of August
Protest rally in Gurgaon, apart from members of main trade unions around 400 sacked Maruti workers took part.

3rd of September
Maruti announced that monthly sales in August were down by 40 per cent compared to previous year. The company also claimed to increase automation in Manesar: “In over a decade, the company has doubled the number of robots used in its plants to around 1,500. It will add another 50-100 new robots in the older plant at Manesar to increase automation to 99 per cent from the current 90 per cent. [in the press-shop department]”

2nd of September
400 Maruti workers and family members demonstrated in Rohtak, complaining about dismissals, repression and police torture.

4th of September
The main trade unions hold a convention in Delhi, proposed actions only include symbolic and legal protests, no strikes.

6th of September
Maruti announced to manufacture the model Dzire at Gurgaon plant in order to deal with backlog. The Dzire had only been produced in Manesar plant before the unrest.

8th of September
Maruti management acknowledged that they have difficulties finding ‘fresh skilled workers’. Suzuki chairmen announced simultaneously that they don’t intend to abolish the contract system in their plants, but that they will change the ratio and subject contract workers to a more severe check during the hiring process. “About half of the workers at the facility will now be completely fresh hires from vocational schools such as Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), with another 20 per cent coming from other companies. In all, Maruti expects to have 3,750 workers (earlier 3,300) at the plant, of which about 1,000 permanent workers have already joined. About 20 per cent of the workforce will abe temporary hires who will receive similar pay as permanent workers, but have a limited work contract of 8-9 months.”

11th of September
Haryana government approves hiring 11,000 new police constables, out of which a major share will be placed in Gurgaon.

3.4) Theses for the Future Armament of Workers’ Struggle

Industrial desert IMT Manesar…

The following is a political summary of the workers’ reports…

*** Going beyond formal ‘international solidarity’ – starting from the material connections and divisions of a global working class war

The automobile industry is the most intertwined and integrated global industry and therefore the main organisational base of the emerging global working class. Struggles in the sector take place simultaneously in the global north and south. Some of the the struggles directly impact on each other, but at large the working class has to face up to the fact that the discontinuity of conjunctural cycles and uneven development still enforce a ‘political disjuncture in the direct communication of struggles’. The discontinuity can be described quantitatively: while in the US car production between 2000 and 2009 decreased by 50 per cent and in Japan by 25 per cent, it increased by 700 per cent in China – adding a manufacturing capacity of 2 million cars per year. This geographical shift expresses itself in the form workers’ struggles take: struggles for better conditions and against the factory despotism in the ‘automobile boom regions’ in the south (Honda in China 2010, Suzuki in India 2011), struggles to maintain certain standards achieved during struggles since the 1980s in countries of the ‘second wave’ of automobile expansion (South Korea, Brazil) and struggles against redundancies and severe attacks on conditions in the old centres in the US and Western Europe.

While the struggle is on at Maruti Suzuki we witness mass redundancies (8,000) at PSA-group in Europe and struggles around the closure of the factory in Aulnay (see leaflet by MC in appendix), Renault complains about slump in car sales during the first half of 2012 of nearly 15 per cent, in Italy the car sales decreased by 21.5 per cent during the same period. Since 2007 around 800,000 workers in the European automobile industry lost their job. In 2011, while Maruti was occupied, FIAT enforced a mass deterioration of conditions in collaboration with the main trade unions. General Motors closed its factory in Belgium, in the remaining 12 European factory the number of workers has been reduced by 8.000 workers to now 40.000, currently the General Motors factory in Bochum, Germany is under severe attack. Since 2008 General Motors sacked over 30.000 workers in US factories. On 24th of July 2012, three days after Maruti Suzuki declared lock-out in Manesar, General Motors declared a lock out at São José dos Campos plant in Brasil, undermining the protest of workers against 2,000 redundancies. At the same time production of General Motors in St.Petersburg, Russia is increased from 90.000 to 200.000 cars per year and production units in China are expanded. In July 2012 workers at General Motors in South Korea went on strike for higher wages (demand of a monthly increase of around 100 Euro, 6,500 Rs), together with workers at Hyundai and Kia. In March 2011. workers at General Motors in Halol, India, engaged in struggles with similar characteristics to the Maruti Suzuki dispute. In September 2011, simultaneously to the unrest at Maruti Suzuki, about 4,000 workers at the PT Suzuki Indomobil car and motorcycle assembly plant in West Java, Indonesia, went on strike, demanding year-end bonuses, meal allowances, health expenses and overtime payments. Struggles in the automobile sector in India are permanent and wide-spread, but in most cases we know only superficially about them:

“Among the prominent instances are: Mahindra (Nashik), May 2009 and March 2011; Sunbeam Auto (Gurgaon), May 2009; Bosch Chassis (Pune), July 2009; Honda Motorcycle (Manesar), August 2009; Rico Auto (Gurgaon), August 2009, including a one-day strike of the entire auto industry in Gurgaon; Pricol (Coimbatore), September 2009; Volvo (Hoskote, Karnataka), August 2010; MRF Tyres (Chennai), October 2010 and June 2011; General Motors (Halol, Gujarat), March 2011; Maruti Suzuki (Manesar), June-October 2011; Bosch (Bangalore), September 2011; Dunlop (Hooghly), October 2011; Caparo (Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu), December 2011; Dunlop (Ambattur, Tamil Nadu), February 2012; Hyundai (Chennai) April and December 2011, Ford (Chennai) March 2012.” (Rupe) We can add many more examples, e.g. the struggle at Rockman and Satyam Auto in Haridwar in 2011.

In parallel process to these seemingly dis-jointed struggles ‘North and South’, the actual global productive cooperation between these regions is intensified, e.g. the export of car parts manufactured in India, used in the assembly departments in the global north increases much faster than the export of complete cars. At the same time imports of parts manufactured in China to India increased rapidly. We can also see a deeper capital-integration of companies. Maruti Suzuki engaging in engine production with FIAT, which officially has a joint-venture with Tata, the main ‘competitor’ of Maruti Suzuki on the Indian market – the FIAT factory in India runs only on one-third of its capacity, which forced the companies into the collaboration. One of the share-holders of Suzuki are Volkswagen and General Motors, which also enter the Indian car market by expanding their factory base. FIAT subsidiary Magneti Marelli, which supplies Maruti Suzuki from two factories in Manesar recently engaged in a joint-venture with Motherson Sumi, while in early 2012 Continental bought 100 per cent of Rico Auto Ltd. The Rico factory in Gurgaon was engaged in a one month dispute in 2009, which interrupted supply of parts for General Motors and Ford factories in the US, while in those factories a dispute about the introduction of a two-tier wage system (half the entry wage for new workers) was going on.

This quick glance at some of the global developments of the last month demonstrate that obviously ‘formal international solidarity’ and exchange between workers in the sector is necessary, but workers collectives will have to focus on the actual material relations between workers in different regions, which first of all means to analyse how capital in the automobile sector makes use of the global wage cascade and uneven economic cycles in order to re-structure the industry and to undermine the direct solidarity of struggles. In the organisation of actual direct solidarity it will become more and more difficult to rely on the established union federations, what if for example the UAW (main automobile workers’ union in the US) having become a significant share-holder of General Motors since 2008 (17.5 per cent) and unions in Europe being mainly confined to ‘their national framework’, defending ‘national jobs’.

*** Demonstrating the cohesion between global crisis and development of wages and conditions in India – determined by relation of power between capital and workers

Most automobile suppliers and manufactuers faced first a credit squeeze after the 2008 financial crash and since then the devaluation of the Rupee increased costs for import of main raw materials and petrol. With petrol prices increasing (e.g. prices were raised by Rs.7.54 a litre, or 11.5 per cent, to Rs.73.18 in 25 May) and costs for credits expanding, car sales in India slowed down. The diesel price hike by 14 per cent announced by the government in September 2012 will increase the pressure on the industry. Car manufacturers are forced to squeeze the main resource they think they have the control over: the work force. The comrade from Rupe India analysed the relation between wages and productivity increase in the car industry in India, as one of the main determinants for the current unrest:

“Passenger car production has risen from 1.2 million vehicles in 2004-05 to 3 million in 2010-11. Real wages in the auto industry fell 18.9 per cent between 2000-01 and 2009-10. On the other hand, net value added per auto worker has been rising. Each worker added value of Rs 2.9 lakh in 2000-01; this figure rose by 2009-10 to Rs 7.9 lakh. In 2000-01 workers’ wages were 27.4 per cent of value added. By 2009-10, the ratio had fallen to 15.4 per cent. At Maruti workers’ real wages increase by just 5.5% when the consumer price index rose by 50% (2007-11).”

The fact that real wages of workers decline does not mean that company profits automatically increase. Profit margins per manufactured part or car are squeezed. A short glance at the official 2010 Annual Report of Maruti supplier Omax shows that net profits decreased from 2,366 lakh Rs to 2,143 lakh Rs between 2007 and 2011 while capital employed increased from 20,262 lakh Rs to 34,983 lakh Rs. Personnel costs, which includes wages and bonus for managers, was 11,000 lakh Rs in 2010, while general expenses stood at 108,000 lakh.
gwn50_components

In the debates with workers we have to make clear that in their struggles over ‘more money, less work’ they do not mainly face ‘profit greedy (foreign) capitalists’, but a global system and wage [hierarchy]. The wage developments are determined by global developments and also reflect a relation of power between labour and capital. Under these conditions, to tie wages to productivity and to three years agreements – like most of the trade union agreements in Gurgaon area do – can only result in benefits for a small section of workers, and even for them only on a precarious level: “Since May 2012 the production of petrol cars in Gurgaon plant is down. For example there are four engine shops, each of them runs on two shifts. Normally we produce 450 engines per shift, since May 2012 only between 240 and 270. In the assembly department the assembly lines are also stopped for one or one and a half hours everyday, which did not happen before. Some casual workers have been kicked out, due to this overcapacity.”
(Permanent Worker, Engine-Shop, Gurgaon plant)

*** Generalising workers’ organisation on the basis of workers’ wider social existence – turning seeming atomisation into a collective weapon

Modern HR departments obviously have strategical recruitment patterns, e.g. they prefer to hire workers from distant areas in order to cut the ties between shop-floor and sphere of subsistence (patch of land, bigger joint-families) and thereby increase dependency of the worker on the company (wage) – which make long strikes near to impossible; Maruti initially refused to hire workers from other car manufacturers, because they try to avoid importing already made experiences of collective resistance. A deeper analysis of these strategies would be necessary in order to see the potential for turning the seeming weakness of workers into a strength. Historically, organisations which manage to turn the social existence and background of workers into a new form collective power had an enormously fruitful impact on workers’ struggles, such as the early Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which turned the seeming weakness of seasonal and migrant workers into a mobile, international organisation of direct workers’ action.

Apart from being together on the shop floor the most obvious possibility of turning the social existence into organisation is in the living sphere – see report on life in Aliyar in this newsletter. By cutting workers off from their original villages and families, capital brings them together in new groups, which have the potential of re-creating collective bonds on a more emancipated level. In GurgaonWorkersNews no.48 we reported about a spontaneous solidarity action of several dozen temporary Maruti workers for an injured colleague at Allied Nippon – a connection which were established through living in the same house in a Manesar village. Nevertheless, the fact remains that being away from family and other ties forced many temporary workers, particularly in the suppliers, to leave the area during the Maruti dispute – or they were forced to work: “During the first occupation the 150 housekeeping workers stayed inside with the other workers, but during the one month ‘lock-out’ (good conduct bond dispute in September 2011) around 140 out of 150 went inside and worked. These workers have very little resources to stay without wages and management promised to increase wages if we work.” (Maruti Canteen Worker). Here the relation between ‘locals’ and workers will be crucial in order to survive a longer dispute, and political initiatives will have to break the state and company attempt to buy the consent of the local ex-peasantry.

Maruti needed the strong ties with the ITI sector in order to hire fresh workers in preparation for the ‘lock-out’ in August 2011 – the campus being one of the main pools of skilled industrial reserve army. In May 2012 officially ‘adopted’ 12 ITI’s in Gujarat, promising substantial financial support, as part of their future recruitment strategies for the Gujarat plant. Most of the 1,000 ‘technicians’ hired by Maruti for the expansion of Manesar in 2012 will have come from ITIs. Here again, political initiatives ideally keep in touch with workers already before they get hired. Experiences in this regard – debating and agitating with ITI students – have been made by various comrades, but they have to be thrown in the wider debate.

In the regard of work-force composition the suppliers of electronic parts and electrical harnesses, such as Asti or Motherson Sumi are of particular importance for two reasons. First of all they have the highest level of femal employment in the industrial areas of Delhi, which will in the long run impact on the sexist gender relations within the working class – see report on Asti Electronics. Secondly, at least at Motherson Sumi Gurgaon plant we find a quite exceptional case of manual ‘student workers’. Given the shorter working-hours and the less ‘dirty and heavy’ character of work (electrical wiring) there are many workers at Motherson who study part-time. What is normal in other industrial countries, the mixing of factory and university in workers’ experiences, is quite exceptional in India. A workers organisation should explore whether this situation bears potentials for organic links between the two centres of social unrest.

*** Drawing a battle-map based on the productive cooperation of workers and turning the process of discovering the lines of cooperation into an organisational effort itself

We encourage to read the reports by Maruti workers in this newsletter not as accounts of miserable conditions requiring pity, but as material to draw up future collective strategies of attack. In GurgaonWorkersNews no.50 we wrote:
“As far as possible a workers’ organisation has to make use of regional and global productive interdependence of the labour process. A workers’ organisation would be able to turn this structure into a weapon in the interest of all workers in the chain, disregarding their specific categories. An organisation would make strategical use of the strongest position of workers in the chain (or to find the weakest link), e.g. central suppliers, transport chains etc. and at the same time takes into account the conditions and difficulties of workers in the weakest position. It would use pressure in the strong points to undermine the divisions and differences imposed by management, not due to charity, but need for collective power. A workers’ organisation would be able to coordinate actions disrupting the long chain of production with minimal effort and harm for us and maximal impact on company management. As preparational work we would have to dig out recent historical examples of how workers organised such kind of steps, e.g. during the so-called chess-board strikes at FIAT, Italy, during the 1960s and 1970s, but also during the Gurgaon plant strikes in 2000/2001″

There is nothing new or surprising about the fact that production at Maruti Suzuki depends on a very fragile, spaced-out chain of cooperation between different departments and companies, bridging different categories of workers, wage segments and levels of development. Here the passages of “The Maruti Story” about the setting up of the Gurgaon plant supply-chain – see summary in this newsletter – are quite revealing. The surprising fact is that the local working class so far has not been able to turn this structure against their dead enemy and its representatives.

“Sheet-metal is cut and pressed only ‘one day in advance’, meaning what is pressed today will be assembled tomorrow. The job of the guys in production planning is to make sure that all parts for the next day – around 60,000 different parts – are ready and in right order for the coming production day. A single part missing can cause trouble and production stoppages. If there is an emergency or the sheet-metal cutting machines at the Maruti press-shop cannot supply for ‘over-capacity work’, sheet-metal is cut for Maruti at other companies, such as Manesar Steel Processing” (Permanent Worker, Press-Shop)
“The outer-body press-parts like roof, doors, hood etc. mainly come from Maruti’s own press-shop. The inner-body parts come from about 20 different suppliers, such as JBM, Caparo, Krishna Maruti etc.. Of the bigger parts there is a stock of may be one hour.” (Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
“There is a 100 car storage between paint-shop and further assembly.”
(Temp Worker – Paint-Shop)
All parts used at the engine plant at Powertrain arrive more or less on a daily basis, in particular the bigger parts.The raw engine blocks arrive at Powertrain from three different suppliers, one of them is Amtek. Trucks come constantly from Amtek, you probably can fit 100 engines on a truck, daily production is around 1,100 engines, they all go to Maruti Gurgaon plant. There is no proper storage for engines, but in the dispatch area you can store around 200 engines. The engines are used at Maruti more or less immediately, there is no storage on their side either. If they find quality problems with engines they tell Powertrain during the same shift during which the problems occurred.
(Apprentice – Powertrain)

The supplying companies are kept in a relative distance, which might make direct contact between workers a logistical problem. Around 70 per cent of parts are manufactured in the wider Delhi industrial belt, some parts (e.g. like wheel-rims from Patiala, Punjab) come from further away. One potential facilitator in establishing connections between workers at Maruti and those in the supply-chain are workers of suppliers who permanently work in the Maruti Suzuki plant, mainly engaged in logistics and quality check. These workers know the situation at Maruti due to their daily presence on the shop-floor and they know the conditions in their ‘formal companies’, through work-mates, truck-drivers, regular visits. These workers, also due to their everything but privileged conditions, can play a hinge role.
“Suppliers keep workers permanently in the weld-shop, mainly for handling and quality work. Five suppliers jointly keep one worker for handling and one for quality, meaning that per shift there are about eight workers from suppliers on the shop-floor.” (Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
“Workers of supplying companies bring parts to the lines, for example the seats from Bharat Seats or Krishna Maruti company. The parts arrive in trucks from the supplying factory, which is in about 2 to 3 km. The workers from Krishna Maruti put the seats at the line and they have to put them in the right sequence of car models. There used to happen occasional problems with supply, but now they keep two trucks with seats extra near the line. The Krishna Maruti workers will get the same wage as we get.”
(Temp – Worker, Final Assembly)
“Some Denso and Lumax workers fit their own parts at the assembly line, but that is an exception.”
(Permanent Worker, Engine-Shop, Gurgaon plant)
“Compressors are assembled at assembly lines, the pipes for the AC’s are dispatched separately. Parts for compressors come from Japan. The pipes come from Korea. The rubber hose pipes come from Bridgestone. There is no storage, trucks leave continuously. The AC-components are delivered directly to the assembly lines at Maruti Suzuki, there is no storage neither at Sanden, nor at Maruti. There are four Sanden Vikas workers permanently employed at Maruti, Manesar, they also live in Manesar. Two for quality check, two for unloading trucks and dispatching AC’s to lines. About six trucks leave Sanden per day, the guys at Manesar plant work 18 hours shifts. Although they work permanently in Maruti they have to pay 30 Rs for a meal at the Maruti canteen. These workers know that there has been a strike at Sanden in 2010 and that there is still trouble. Since March 2012 there have been problems of completing the dispatch to Maruti, not enough or faulty AC’s arrived at Maruti. The problems emerged at a time when a new model was introduced. Maruti made Sanden pay penalties, if dispatches were not complete. In order to find out what the problem was Sanden ordered higher management people to stay during night-shifts and analyse the work process. The situation is that permanent workers only work on A-shift and since 4 permanents have been kicked out in 2009, permanent workers refuse working overtime. So workers hired through contractor employed on B-shift work from 2:30 pm till next morning 6:30 am – this is 16-hours on stretch. While on A-shift they work 8.5 hours. The solution of management for problems of dispatch: B-shift workers must be tired after 15 hours of work, so they changed shift patterns and introduced two 12-hours shifts instead. This also means that when shift changes on Saturday, workers have to work a 24 hours-shift, as ‘compensation’ workers get 50 Rs extra for food and two ‘breakfasts’.”
(Permanent Worker, Sanden Vikas, Faridabad)

Obviously the supply-chain does not stop at this first level of suppliers and it is well known that workers’ conditions deteriorate once we enter second- or third-tier suppliers.
“As an illustration of the three-tiered structure of subcontracting, we can mention that Maruti-Suzuki subcontracts to Munjal Showa which subcontracts to Mod Serap which in turn subcontracts to Modern High Tech Auto. Or, Maruti Suzuki subcontracts to Automax or Mark Exhaust which in turn subcontract to Hema Engineering which in turn subcontracts to Kiran Auto. As an example of first and second level of subcontracting combined, Jay Bharat Maruti, Plant 1 supplies directly to MarutiSuzuki, and indirectly via supplying to Delphi which is a first level subcontractor of Maruti.”
(Bose on Automobile Industry in Delhi – see appendix)
“There are 200 permanents and 400 workers hired through three different contractors. We work 12 hours shifts and manufacture parts for automobile suppliers like Napino, Denso, JNS, Pricol, Delphi. When shift changes on Sunday then workers in the plastic moulding department and in the copper press shop department have to work 20 hours on stretch, from 8 pm Saturday till 4 pm on Sunday. The newly hired helpers hired through contractor get 4,500 Rs.”
(Temporary Worker, Vinay Auto, Manesar)
“Bundy is a fuel-pipe manufacturer for Maruti Suzuki. Bundy has one worker permanently working ‘between’ Bundy and Maruti Suzuki doing quality check and coordination. Bundy itself employs about 550 workers out of which 300 through contractor. The workers are paid on piece rate, there is no basic wage. Workers have to operate bending machines, burring machines etc. and are paid between 10 and 30 paise per piece. daily target is around 3,000 pieces. One truck leaves Bundy for Maruti per day.”
(Bundy Company Worker, Manesar)
“The factory employs 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts. The company manufactures die-casting products for Honda, Hero motorcycles and Maruti Suzuki cars. During the weekly shift change the Saturday night-shift has to work 20 hours on stretch and the Sunday day shift 16 hours. Over-time is paid single rate.”
(Temporary Worker, Kiran Udyog, Manesar)

There are situations when workers can (and are forced) to discover their inter-dependence within the production process: once there is an interruption of part supply. This might be caused by workers’ struggles or other – from the perspective of capital – ‘natural disasters’, e.g. Honda Siel (India) sources several electronic and underbody parts from its Thailand plant, due to floods in Thailand in December 2011 parts supply was irregular. Politically workers were not able to make use of the fact that during the Maruti dispute and the current lock-out since 21st of July most suppliers were effected, many of them shutting down production completely. During this time conscious connections between workers could have been created. On the other way round there are daily conflicts in one of the 800, 900, … suppliers of Maruti, which have the potential to cause ripple-effects. A workers’ collective should make efforts to find out about these conflicts and encourage to develop their potential.
“In the factory 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts manufacture steering locks and keys for Mahindra, Tata Sumo, Toyota Inova and Maruti Suzuki. The overtime is paid at single rate. A first installment of 15 days of overtime payment for December was paid on 15th of February 2012, workers demanded that the rest should be paid by 25th of February – in response the company called the police and one worker was arrested. This worker was sacked and the company refused to pay him the outstanding overtime payment from December to February. The director said that he had to pay the police and that he now won’t pay any money to the worker.”
(Jay Switch Worker, Gurgaon)

In the 1990 the latest hype of ‘capitalist innovation’ which was supposed to overcome the industrial illnesses of the huge factory complexes of the 1970s was the so-called ‘Benetton’-model – a model of outsourcing of textile orders to smallest specialised textile units combined by big garment companies, which was set-up in the north of Italy. In the end it was clear that even with micro-electronics and flexible transport most of the industrial production requires close cooperation and concentration of capital. What was not possible in Western Europe in the 1990s seems a little more realistic in Delhi’s industrial areas in the 2000s. The combination of extremely low wages encouraging labour intensive production, of supply of over-used machinery from the industrial decadence in the global north, a hinterland of slum-production and flexible smallest-scale transport units (self-employed three-wheelers etc.) combined and coordinated by modern logistic management in the bigger plants seem to enable the local industry – at least in times of emergency – to enforce a very flexible exploitation of a network of small manufacturing units. For example during the lock-out at Senior Flexonics supplier – see GurgaonWorkersNews no.50 – management was not only able to hire temp workers within a few days and keep production running. They were also able to outsource within the first two weeks the more skilled work (CNC and power-press operations) to smaller units like Lakki Enterprises, Gurgaon and Ajay Engineering, Faridabad and limited the work in the ‘battled’ factory in Manesar to assembling operations. In this regard, current efforts of organising in the ‘workshop-territory’, such as the strike organised by almond workers in the north of Delhi, using a street-wise delegation system, will become important experiences once they are seen as part of a wider context of centres and productive periphery.

Last, but not least, this type of supply-chain requires a flexible transport organisation. There are at least 2,500 trucks, which enter the Maruti Gurgaon facility everyday with components, and at least 500 leave the factory premises with manufactured vehicles. In addition a similar amount of trucks for the Maruti Manesar plant. Even if we take into account that trucks might go back and forth six to eight times a day and that not all trucks have two drivers, we still speak of another department of several thousand workers.

The conditions of truck-drivers are well known. Two drivers drive three days non-stop from Manesar to ports in Bombay and back. Long-distance workers live in the trucks for weeks. Maruti relies on an army of workers who spend most of their time out of direct control of supervisors and other officials, and a generally volatile sector (strikes against petrol price hikes, road conditions etc.). Currently Maruti tries to deal with the emerging problems by ‘centralisation’ and rationalisation through shifting transport of finished cars onto tracks and by extending the electronic control to the time when workers are on the road. The shift onto tracks is a major infrastructural and therefore political operation – the plans to increase rail-transport from currently 5 to 35 per cent within the next two years seems ambitious. Up to now Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corp. Ltd (HSIIDC) hasn’t been able to acquire the land needed to lay dedicated tracks from Patli station in Manesar to the company’s plant 18km away. With a growing importance of export markets the assembly lines of Maruti will catapult over-produced cars from Delhi towards the sea ports in Gujarat and Maharashtra, thereby ploughing an industrial corridor through Rajasthan, connecting existing and emerging industrial centres on the way – see: http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-22/#fn62

The other focus is electronic armament to maintain control over the transport department. Maruti engaged in a contract with US-company Trimble in early 2012. From a company statement:
“Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) is deploying the Trimble trako Visual Cargo solution in outbound logistics trucks that transport new cars from the factory to Maruti Suzuki dealers across India. Trimble’s trako Visual Cargo is a software as a service solution that provides on-demand visibility — from loading to delivery location — of cargo vehicles using Trimble GPS devices. Trimble applies technology to make field and mobile workers in businesses and government significantly more productive. Solutions are focused on applications requiring position or location — including surveying, construction, agriculture, fleet and asset management, public safety and mapping. In addition to utilizing positioning technologies, such as GPS, lasers and optics, Wireless technologies are utilized to deliver the solution to the user and to ensure a tight coupling of the field and the back office.” Deeper conversations with truck drivers about the actual impact of these technological shackles onto their work have to form part of a militant research of the changing relation between living and dead labour.

*** Destroying the despotism of systemic and strategical uneven technological development

The struggles at the A-plant in 2011 hastened Maruti to take the B-plant into operation, since then management confronts workers not only with a divided workforce – the workers hired during the lockout were shifted to the B-plant – but also with uneven development on plant level. The degree of automation is higher in the B-plant. This creates a cascade of uneven development within Maruti, if we take into account the technological difference between the old plant in Gurgaon and Manesar A-plant. These differences in development are systemic, but used strategically, as Maruti chairman points out in “The Maruti Story”, his account of the development at Maruti.
“A new site was needed for future expansion and Manesar was selected. [...] SMC wanted this plant to be very similar to the plant in Kosai, Japan, so that there could be a high level of automation, and the best SMC practice could be established here from the start. Suzuki did not want this plant to become an extension of the Gurgaon plant, which had been built over twenty years and had much more manual operations. He wanted the plants at Gurgaon and Manesar to compete with each other in areas like productivity and quality, with each being a benchmark for the other.”

Workers in the A-plant have to face that in 200 metres distance their job is performed by machinery – they have to face their potential replacement.
“By now the B-plant has started production. There most of the workers are newly hired. The work load is higher, compared to the A-plant. In the A-plant there are 76 workers in the axle department, in the B-plant only 51.”
(Temporary Worker, Final Assembly)
“Since 2006 the numbers of work-stations came down from 16 to 8, to 4 since June 2011 – this happened through increased automation and usage of robots. So far work had been re-distributed in a way that workers numbers did not come down as much as work was replaced (one robot replaces about ten workers). Workers initially operated three hand-welding tools, now one workers operates only one. The work-load has become less in the A-plant.”
(Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
It is also important to note that with increasing automation the ratio of temporary workers also increase. This is most prominent in the weld-shop:
“In A-plant around 25 per cent of the workers are permanent, 10 per cent are trainees, 10 per cent are apprentices and 55 per cent are hired through contractor. In the B-plant the ratio is 10 per cent permanent and 70 per cent temporary, while at the same time there the level of automation is much higher. In the A-plant there are still 250 to 300 workers doing spot-welding by hand, in B-plant there is full automation.” We find similar situations in the paint-shop.

The question of when to introduce machinery and to replace living labour is only seemingly an economic question of ‘productivity’. First of all, capitalist productivity is not mainly defined by the question whether running a machine (which still requires living labour for operation) instead of engaging in manual work saves ‘labour-time’ to such an extend that the time to construct and maintain a machine (and to deal with social and ecological consequences) is made up for. Being a society based on wage labour and commodity production, ‘capitalist productivity’ is rather determined by ‘saving labour costs per produced commodity’. Workers directly compete with machines, as long as wages are relatively low enough, workers are employed despite the ‘technological possibility’ to replace their labour. This is the reason why unlike in the global north, the automobile supply-chain in India still reaches into the home-based production of the slum-areas. We can also see that before making the investment into new machinery, capital tries to squeeze living labour as much as possible. The phase before the opening of a new plant at Maruti is characterised by increase in exploitation, again a quote from “The Maruti Story”:
“The work on expanding capacity and establishing a second plant at the same site, started about the end of 1992 and was completed in 1994. With the plant, production rapidly increased to 278,000 in 1995-96, and the need for another plant was obvious. One of the reasons for Maruti being able to keep prices of cars low – and make profits – was the ability to run both these plants at about 140 per cent of the rated capacity. This was achieved by a combination of balancing facilities, innovative practices and full cooperation from the workers.”
During the phase before the B-plant got operational, workers in Manesar had to work double-shifts, there was an ‘off-line’ car assembly section without conveyor belt system, the A-plant was running on similar ‘extra-capacity’ but his time “the full cooperation from the workers” snapped.

This ‘illogical’ use of human energy and creativity creates a constant tension within the production process. Workers not only have to face up to ‘be made into a cog of a machine’ they are also confronted with this ‘political-social’ absurdity. Therefore the other ‘political aspect’ of capitalist use of machinery relates to the question of whether machinery creates a higher degree of productivity by being both means of control/segmentation of workers and means of combination of labour. Without the element of controlling despotism of machinery no capitalist productivity. Within the plant workers can see the contradiction of capitalist use of machinery every day.
“One one side are 12 painting robots. On the other, are workers carrying 25 kilo headloads of used screens up two flights of stairs and returning with a 30 kilo load of clean screens. Each worker has to carry 70-80 screens up and down the stairs, working an extra hour without pay if the job is not done by the end of the shift.”
(Temp Worker – Paint-Shop)

Despite the Manesar plant being a modern plant according to global standards there are still operations which are done manually, which in other plants would be automatised – a potential trump-card in the sleeve of management. It will be part of our work to identify these operations and to be prepared for battle. In a certain way related to this lower degree of automation is another major difference to most passenger car assembly plants in the global north – the fact that the assembly plants in Gurgaon and Manesar don’t run 24 hours, which has become a standard in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s.
“In the A-plant, at the work-station where the chassis meets engine and gearbox, the engine is fitted manually to the chassis. Similarly, the front-shield is put in by hand, not by a robot. At the station where the doors are fitted you get 45 sec for a door. If you are quick you can make it in 30 sec and work ahead. There were occasional night-shifts in the assembly-department, but now night-shifts are only run in the press-, and weld-shop and in the bumper-shop at the machine stations.”
(Temp Worker – Final Assembly)

In these regards the relation between workers and machines express the political power relation between working class and capital, the political contradiction between social potentials and the misery of class society. Alquati claimed that collective ‘workers’ science’ would be able to read machinery like a geology of class struggle, the conflicts of the past and the productive knowledge of workers of the past now moulded into the apparatus – appearing as features of power of capital. A more in depth debate with workers about the changing character of this relation will have to take place. Some have taken place:
“Most workers in the subcontracting chain have 1:1 interface with machines. Where there are U-shaped production lines such as in Clutch Auto, Gabriel, Echlin, BTR Wadco, and Sona Koyo, workers do multi-machining in terms of 1:2 to even 1:10 interface with machines. Gabriel is famous for cellular manufacturing. Tier 2 units such as Sona Okegawa, Sona Somic and Vital Castings have U-shaped cells with multi-machining in terms of 1:4 interface with machines. In some units, workers talk about multi-machining even on straight production lines. Multi-machining causes a lot of stress to the workers.”
(Bose – see appendix)

*** Destroying the veil of capitalist hierarchy: monopoly over machinery and information, fetish of quality and qualification

Obviously a mere technological control of workers is not sufficient, the control has to be maintained through personal hierarchy, which is first of all a hierarchical division of labour. Similar to the attempt to disguise the systemically despotic character of machinery behind ‘technological neutrality’, also the hierarchy between workers and supervisory staff is justified by the fetish of ‘qualification’.

“The promotion system in some of the units is as follows: from senior operator to supervisor in Automax; operator to line supervisor to shift-in-charge at Caparo; semi-skilled to skilled to supervisor at Engineers Combine; associate to section head to supervisor to executive at Motherson Sumi; operator to line monitor to supervisor to junior engineer at QH Talbros; and assistant to operator to senior operator to foreman at Subros.”
(Bose – see appendix)

First of all, a certain position in the production process is less determined by individual seniority, knowledge, skills, but by the hierarchical requirements of the production process: not everyone can become a foreman, department manager or engineer, because by definition a position within a hierarchy is exclusive. Who gets promoted is therefore a process of selection. Capital combines hierarchical functions (control, putting pressure to work etc.) with productive functions: if workers have to ask the supervisor for certain information necessary to perform their tasks, they will be more likely to accept the orders he gives them; if a foreman can criticise the ‘quality’ on ‘objective grounds’, he is more likely to be able to enforce higher levels of quantity. The capitalist production process isolates collective knowledge into individual functions as its material and ideological basis for hierarchy, in particular knowledge about machinery. At the same time ‘general knowledge’ of workers is not formalised and therefore degraded:
“Permanent workers get one day training how to program the robots, the temporary workers don’t get this training.” (Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop)
“Within your area at the assembly-line, which usually includes 5 to 10 work-stations, they change you around on a daily level. Even if you know how to work at five different stations, you might still be paid helper rate.”
(Temp-Worker, Final Assembly)

The capitalist contradiction between quantity and quality, between exchange and use value creates constant frustration. The ‘quality’ of a product is used in order to black-mail workers into accepting company rules and hierarchy, at the same time the requirements of profit-production – output! – undermines any sensible consideration about quality and creative use of humans mental capabilities. This is already felt by workers in their ‘formal’ qualification process, which is mainly a formation process of a certain position within hierarchical division of labour:
“We are 245 apprentices in the factory, coming from different ITIs. We have been sent here to see our trade in practice, to observe it closely, to make experiences and to learn. But here things run according to the will of Suzuki company. According to the needs of the companies we employed in the car engine plant, transmission plant or the two-wheeler engine plant and we have to perform work different from our ITI trade. We work in A, B and C-shift, not in general shift how it is officially said. Instead of observing-learning-making experiences we work as normal production workers. There are no classes for apprentices, neither inside nor outside the plant. The work load is so high that the apprentices have no chance to see the whole plant, they have to stay at their station. “
(Apprentice – Suzuki Powertrain)

Another hierarchical distinction is created by formal distinction between productive and reproductive labour. In a modern plant the work of housekeeping workers, cleaners, loaders, canteen workers and so on are essential for the workers in the production department to perform their tasks on a continuous basis. With the re-structuring process of the 1980s capital made an effort to segment these essential tasks of the production process as ‘service work’, which degrades the work performed even on a linguistic level. Attached to the segmentation and categorisation of ‘service work’ was an attack on workers’ conditions. At Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant the canteen workers work 12-hours-shifts plus unpaid over-time, they are not paid the minimum wage and are not included in the ‘official struggle – see workers’ report.

4) Workers’ Reports

Gate at Maruti Suzuki Manesar…

4.1) Reports from Maruti Manesar Workers

4.1.1) Press-Shop Worker
4.1.2) Weld-Shop Workers
4.1.3) Paint-Shop Workers
4.1.4) Bumper-Shop Worker
4.1.5) Final Assembly Workers
4.1.6) Canteen and Housekeeping Workers

4.2) Reports from Suzuki Powertrain Workers (Engine and Gearbox)

4.3) Report from Maruti Gurgaon Worker (Engine-Shop)

4.4) Reports from Maruti Supply-Chain Workers
4.4.1) Asti Electronics Worker
4.4.2) Sanden Vikas Worker

4.5) Report on Life in Aliyar, a Workers’ Village in Manesar Industrial Zone

———————

4.1) Reports from Maruti Manesar Workers

4.1.1) Permanent Worker, Press-Shop, Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant (May 2012)

Aliyar auto-stand – New source of income for local ex-peasants…

There are 40 permanents working on one shift in the press-shop – which includes apprentices and trainees – plus 30 workers hired through contractor. The press-shop runs on three shifts. The harder work, such as taking pressed parts out of the machines, is done by workers hired through contractor and apprentices. In general the work in the press-shop is less hard, because most work-stations are machine-stations, meaning that you have a little breathing space while the machine works. In the weld-shop and assembly workers have a harder time.

When the union was formed workers in the press-shop were sure that they would be able to stop work and production, but they were not entirely sure whether workers in other departments – mainly the assembly department where a lot of workers hired through contractors were not informed about the union process – would support them. Six out of eleven current union body members are from the press-shop.

The production sequence changes every day, meaning that every day the ratio between different models changes and therefore supply of different parts is necessary. The supply of the right parts in the right sequence is the job of the PPC (Production Planning and Control) department.

In the press-shop the sheet-metal arrives in big coils. The companies which supply the sheet metal are:

Tata Steel Faridabad
TSPDL is equipped with processing plants at Jamshedpur, Faridabad, Pune, Tada, Pantnagar with a processing capacity of 2.5 Million tones per annum. TSPDL as Tier 1 supplier is using Roll Forming and Stretch Bending technology.

http://www.tspdl.com/

Essar Steel

http://www.essarsteel.com/

Nippon Steel

http://www.nipponsteels.com/contact.html

JP Steel
Sumimoto

Maruti Suzuki keeps a strict ‘no single source’-policy. There is a storage for normal sheet-metal for nearly two month [?!], but certain types of steel, e.g. galvanised steel for export cars like the A-Star is not stored in such volume. The sheet metal is then cut to size. Different parts of the car require different sizes, and parts for different models also vary in size, meaning that there are about 200 different sizes of sheet metal. If there is an emergency or the sheet-metal cutting machines at the Maruti press-shop cannot supply for ‘over-capacity work’, sheet-metal is cut for Maruti at other companies, such as:

Manesar Steel Processing

http://www.mtlo.co.jp/us/news/2010/101115.html

Manesar Steel Procvessing is a joint-venture between Metal One Corporation of Japan and Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL). The company handles and cuts steel coil to carry out slitting, leveling, shearing, blanking, warehousing and supplying to fufil mainly Maruti’s vendor’s requirements. Main facilities: 1 large slitter line, 1 large leveler line, 1 mini leveler line, and 3 shearing lines. Processing capacity 13,000 tonnes per month.

Then there are six lines of power presses. The press-tools of these machines change automatically, according to different form of parts to be pressed. Sheet-metal is cut and pressed only ‘one day in advance’, meaning what is pressed today will be assembled tomorrow. The job of the guys in production planning is to make sure that all parts for the next day – around 60,000 different parts – are ready and in right order for the coming production day. A single part missing can cause trouble and production stoppages. Per shift there is only one guy doing this job – he is an ITI worker and gets 18,000 Rs (24,000 Rs including annual bonuses). They have to count parts, e.g. they have to see that a trolley with 1,000 parts is filled, and then enter the data into the computer system for the weld-shop, which is the next production department in line. Containers with parts are moved by fork-lifts to a storage / warehouse situated between press- and weld-shop.

4.1.2) Permanent Worker, Weld-Shop Maruti Manesar (June 2012)

Empty public housing complex in Aliyar – The rents are too high…

The outer-body press-parts like roof, doors, hood etc. mainly come from Maruti’s own press-shop. The inner-body parts come from about 20 different suppliers, such as JBM, Caparo, Krishna Maruti, Bellsonica etc.. Of the bigger parts there is a stock of may be one hour. In the A-plant you still have a lot of hand-welding work. First the three parts of the underbody are joint by hand-welding, then finally welded by robot at the main line. Similarly the main-body, first manual work, then finalisation by robot. there is also manual assembly happening in the weld-shop, e.g. the two door panels are fixed together by screw-gun operation. Suppliers keep workers permanently in the weld-shop, mainly for handling and quality work. Five suppliers jointly keep one worker for handling and one for quality, meaning that per shift there are about eight workers from suppliers on the shop-floor. Permanent workers get one day training how to program the robots, the temporary workers to get this training.

In A-plant around 25 per cent of the workers are permanent, 10 per cent are trainees, 10 per cent are apprentices and 55 per cent are hired through contractor. In the B-plant the ratio is 10 per cent permanent and 70 per cent temporary, while at the same time there the level of automation is much higher. While in the A-plant there are still 250 to 300 workers doing spot-welding by hand, there is full automation in B-plant. In the A-plant around 200 out of 300 workers are hired through contractor. Since 2006 the numbers of work-stations came down from 16 to 8, to 4 since June 2011 – this happened through increased automation and usage of robots. So far work had been re-distributed in a way that workers numbers did not come down as much as work was replaced (one robot replaces about ten workers). Workers initially operated three hand-welding tools, now one workers operates only one. The work-load has become less in the A-plant.

The PPRA (productivity and attendance bonus) forms 50 per cent of our wage. In the current demand notice there is a demand that the bonus should be attached to the amount of cars produced, e.g. if Manesar produces 900 cars per day, the bonus should be 4 Rs per car, if between 900 and 1,200 then 6 Rs, if over 1,200 then 8 Rs.

There is a clear policy to divide permanents from temporary workers. Supervisors don’t put any pressure on permanents, you can do your job, you can walk around. Pressure is solely on temporary workers. These workers obviously complain, but they don’t complain in front of the supervisor, they express their anger towards the permanent workers – they in turn tell the temporary workers to shut up and work.

At my line there are around 15 temporary workers out of which 6 did not have an original ITI. Last month the contractor said that they should return their gate-pass and that they will not be let to work again. I objected and enforced that the guys can continue working.

4.1.3) Temporary Worker, Paint-Shop, Manesar A-Plant (July 2011)

Entrance to Aliyar Gaon…

I work at the sealer-line, the cars arrive there from the weld-shop. There are about 38 work-stations at the sealer line, two workers at each station. I work with a hand-gun. Most of the workers at the line are temporary or casual workers, trainees. The permanent workers still do the same work here, it is not that they only do the easy work. There is a 100 car storage between paint-shop and further assembly.

One one side are 12 painting robots. On the other, are workers carrying 25 kilo headloads of used screens up two flights of stairs and returning with a 30 kilo load of clean screens. Each worker has to carry 70-80 screens up and down the stairs, working an extra hour without pay if the job is not done by the end of the shift. The lunch-break (30 minutes) and tea break (15 minutes) are not counted as part of the working time on the shift.

The Quality Maintenance Unit employs 95 workers hired through a labour contractor. Their job includes cleaning out the tanks that hold thinners and solvents. They are always on the C-shift – from 12.30 in the night to 8.30 the next morning. Workers on the C-shift work non-stop. There are no breaks for food or tea. The food allowance of Rs.44/- that they used to be given has now been slashed to half. By the end of the shift, they are exhausted, giddy and nauseous from the chemical fumes they inhale. Workers in the Quality Maintenance Unit put in 32 to 192 hours of overtime every month, for which they are paid only Rs.28/- per hour, well short of the legal minimum of 1.5 times the normal wage. For many of these workers, the shift can extend to 17.5 hours of non-stop work without breaks or food.

For A-plant workers there has never been a realistic promise that they will get a permanent job in B- or C-plant. Those workers who had been hired during lock-out still work through contractor in B-plant.

4.1.4) Trainee, Bumper-Shop (June 2012)

The immaculate cold face of capital – Factories bordering Aliyar…

The plastic moulding of bumpers takes place in the department itself, lights and other devices are attached to the bumpers, then ‘bumper-shop’ workers attach the bumper to the car at the assembly line. Out of 250 workers in the department only 20 are permanent, most are trainees and workers hired through contractor. Some of us try to become trainees, we have to pass a test. Around 500 questions, mostly on health and safety and quality, also “where have you been during the strike period”. We have to undergo a medical test, too. In the bumper-shop 24 workers went for the test in early 2012, only 7 were taken on as trainees.

4.1.5) Temporary Worker, Final Assembly (June 2012)

Workers’ rooms in Aliyar – One shared by four, five…

On Situation after Settlement in October 2011

After the first wage increase for workers hired through contractors and apprentices the company pays those workers hired through contractor with ITI qualification 238.38 Rs per day, plus 75 Rs attendance allowance, 4 Rs allowance for cleaning working clothes, 19.62 Rs medical allowance, and 19.62 transport allowance, which sums up to 356.62 Rs per day. Compared to before the dispute this means an average wage increase from 6,500 Rs to about 8,500 Rs per month. The workers hired through contractor without ITI qualification receive 280.93 Rs per day. On bank holidays only the basic wage is paid, without the allowances. Now workers can take two holidays within three months – before the dispute it was only one holiday which also had to be approved by the supervisor – which hardly happened. The permanent workers can take 4 holidays within three months.

You still have to be at your workplace 15 minutes before official start of shift, otherwise you are marked as absent for half of the day.If you go to early into meal break or come back 5 minutes late, the same happens. Now, as before, in case you are ill you are supposed to take medicine and start working immediately – but at least now the worker can go himself and take medicine, before the supervisor came and gave it to you.

During the time when workers occupied the factory – or removed the occupation through the company – there was only the A-plant in operation. By now the B-plant has started production. There most of the workers are newly hired. The work load is higher, compared to the A-plant. In the A-plant there are 76 workers in the axle department, in the B-plant only 51. There are reliefers [replacement workers] in the A-, but not in the B-plant. In both A- and B-plant, out of the 127 workers in the MX department non is permanent, all hired through contractor. Where there should be 8 people employed, you will find 4 workers. The line is still holy, it’s not supposed to stop. Yes, before the dispute they called you ‘Eh, you’, now they call you ‘son’, but the threats continue. Difficulties have not decreased through the fact that there are now two canteens, because with the B-plant the number of workers has increased.

They do nothing for the workers hired through contractors. The new union leaders told us to hold back until 4th of February, until the union will be recognised. Now they say, wait till the 24th of February.

Temporary Worker, Final Assembly, Manesar B-Plant

Within your area at the assembly-line, which usually includes 5 to 10 work-stations, they change you around on a daily level. Even if you know how to work at five different stations, you might still be paid helper rate. You used to have problems with toilet breaks, this got better. If you have to go, the reliever takes over and does your work. The reliever tends to be a permanent worker. If both relievers are busy, the supervisor takes over. Supervisors went through special training at Maruti and they tend to have a diploma.Their behaviour changed a bit after October 2011, they tend to be friendlier.

Workers of supplying companies bring parts to the lines, for example the seats from Bharat Seats or Krishna Maruti company. The parts arrive in trucks from the supplying factory, which is in about 2 to 3 km. The workers from Krishna Maruti put the seats at the line and they have to put them in the right sequence of car models. There used to happen occasional problems with supply, but now they keep two trucks with seats extra near the line. The Krishna Maruti workers will get the same wage as we get.

In general there are not too many stoppages of the line. may be once or twice per day, if at all, and usually not longer than for a minute or two. Sometimes Japanese workers come to the plant in order to fix machinery. There is little to no contact with these workers, also due to language problems.

In the A-plant, at the work-station where the chassis meets engine and gearbox, the engine is fitted manually to the chassis. Similarly, the front-shield is put in by hand, not by a robot. At the station where the doors are fitted you get 45 sec for a door. If you are quick you can make it in 30 sec and work ahead. There were occasional night-shifts in the assembly-department, but now night-shifts are only run in the press-, and weld-shop and in the bumper-shop at the machine stations. The ‘off-line’ [without conveyor-belt system] production in the final assembly has been stopped in October 2011, after the occupation and after the B-plant came into operation.

From a Press Report:

“When I first began working for Maruti, assembly lines used to run right through my dreams,” said a worker with a laugh, “These days I suppose I’m so tired that I don’t get dreams anymore.”
In Manesar, Maruti produces about 180 variants of three basic models. When a car rolls in, the worker looks at a large matrix pasted on the vehicle that indicates if the car is a left or right hand drive, powered by petrol, diesel or compressed natural gas engines intended for the domestic, European or general export market. Depending on his work station the worker chooses from 32 different upholstered seats, 90 tyre and wheel assemblies, and innumerable kinds of wire-harnesses, air conditioning tubes, steering wheels, dashboard trims, gearboxes, switches, locks, and door trims, in an average time of 50 seconds per car. For parts like air conditioning tubes, the worker stands between a set of parts racks. As a particular car variant rolls in, a light above the corresponding parts rack blinks with increasing urgency as the worker runs to it, grabs a part and pulls a cord to acknowledge he has chosen the right part. He then steps onto the conveyor belt, fits the part and rushes back to match the next car to the next blinking parts rack before an alarm rings. If the line halts, signboards across the shop floor light up – flashing the number of the workstation where the line has stopped and the duration of the stoppage. Another board displays the total time ‘lost’ during the shift; a scrolling ticker lists the production targets at a given time of the day, the actual cars produced and the variance. “For every fault, the feedback is recorded and the worker has to sign against it… it goes into his record,” said a worker, speaking on condition of anonymity as every Maruti worker must sign ‘Standing Orders’ that, among 100 other conditions, bar them from slowing down work, singing, gossiping, spreading rumours and making derogatory statements against the company and management. The work record is examined during yearly appraisals. (Gone in 50 seconds, Aman Sethi, The Hindu)

4.1.6) Temporary Worker, Canteen and Housekeeping, A-Plant (May 2012)

Workers’ rooms in Aliyar…

There are now two canteens in the factory, in both of them workers work on two 12-hours shifts. the A-canteen is huge. there are `16 counters to take food, two canteen workers take care of one counter. then there are workers who cut the vegetables, others who cook the food, others who bring it to the counters, who clean the dishes, who clean the canteen, who make tea and who bring the tea to the departments. At 8:30 am workers get tea and snacks, at 10:30 am again tea, at 2:30 pm again tea and biscuits, at 3:30 pm tea and biscuits for the general shift and staff, at 6 pm tea and snacks. For the different shifts and categories of workers one meal-time break follows the other in a constant flow from 11 am till 3 pm. This is the work of the canteen workers of the 8 am to 8 pm shift. the same work is done by the night-shift. the A-Canteen supplies food for the assembly departments of both A- and B-plant, for the paint-shop workers of both plants, for Sand D (drivers and repair workers) and for the 2,500 construction workers of Larsen and Toubro who work on the construction of the third plant. In the A-canteen there are 350 workers for each shift, in the B-canteen more than 150 per shift. The shift of the canteen workers does not change – the night-shift workers work nights constantly. The contractor of the canteen changes frequently, but the canteen workers remain more or less the same. On 1st of March the contractor changed and the new one promised a wage increase. The old contractor paid the chef 19,000 Rs, the new contractor only pays 13,500 Rs. The workers who make samosa, roti and who operate the kneading machines used to be paid 5,000 Rs for 26 days of work of 12 hours each. the rest of the canteen workers used to be paid 4,000 Rs for the same amount of work of which 250 Rs is cut for ESI and PF. Now the new contractor announced that he will pay 4,400 Rs. For the 500 canteen workers per shift there are one general manager, five managers and 30 supervisors in both canteens. None of the canteen workers has an ESI card. Canteen workers don’t receive a pay-slip. When workers are forced to stay two to four hours longer after a 12-hours shift the managers say that they will be paid for this work, but actually they are not. the work load is high. If some workers take a day off you are supposed to take over their work and work at three different places the same time. Expecting trouble and abuses from the manager you run back-and-forth, supplying the production workers with tea. The factory is spread out on 600 acres – it’s quite an effort to supply all production workers with tea. At Suzuki Powertrain canteen the situation is the same, they just start and finish an hour later.

‘During the first occupation the 150 housekeeping workers stayed inside with the other workers, but during the one month ‘lock-out’ (good conduct bond dispute in September 2011) around 140 out of 150 went inside and worked. These workers have very little resources to stay without wages and management promised to increase wages if we work.

4.2) Apprentice, Suzuki Powertrain, Engine-Shop (January 2012)

Shops in Aliyar…

(Plot 1, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)

Maruti Suzuki only started gearbox production in 2007, before that most gears were imported from Japan, because localisation was not seen as profitable as long as production volume was below 700,00 cars. Around 2010 Suzuki Powertrain in Manesar was actually able to produce gears cheaper than the imported gears (landed costs) and Maruti decided to fuse with Powertrain by end of 2012, also partly due the fact that at Powertrain the trouble with the workers now seems under control with the new trade union arrangement.

We are 245 apprentices in the factory, coming from different ITIs. We have been sent here to see our trade in practice, to observe it closely, to make experiences and to learn. This is why we are not given ESI and we are supposed to work only the general shift and go to a nearby ITI for theoretical lessons once a week. But here things run according to the will of Suzuki company. According to the needs of the companies we employed in the car engine plant, transmission plant or the two-wheeler engine plant and we have to perform work different from our ITI trade. We work in A, B and C-shift, not in general shift how it is officially said. Instead of observing-learning-making experiences we work as normal production workers. We are given the normal targets and have to meet them. Some supervisors swear at us a lot. During the 7 am shift you are supposed to be in the department at 6:45 and at the line at 6:58 am. At the work-stations you work standing upright all the time. To do the same job not only for 8 hours, but every day for 8 hours is oppressing. You only endure this because one can joke with the permanent workers, trainees and workers hired through contractor who work next to you. Since the agreement between union and management, which increased wages and production levels, the work load has increased a lot, also for us. Many of the permanent workers don’t find a single minute of time to catch their breath – the assembly line in the transmission plant is one of such places, we consider it as the worst place. There the canteen food is also bad and you have to cue up in six long lines, swallow your food and hurry back – because if you are a minute late you are in trouble. In the factories there are various injustices going on. The wage of the apprentices are cut by 16 Rs a day for food and tea, the wage of the workers hired through contractors is not cut. The permanent workers, trainees and apprentices get a night-shift bonus of 35 Rs in the B-shift and 50 Rs in the C-shift, but the workers hired through contractor does not get this bonus. The permanent workers on C-shift can leave at 7 am, while the apprentices have to work one and a half hours longer till 8:30 am. There are big differences between wages, and also when it comes to the company bus service. There are no classes for apprentices, neither inside nor outside the plant. The work load is so high that the apprentices have no chance to see the whole plant, they have to stay at their station. Eight hours overtime used to be paid 150 Rs, now they pay 240 Rs and you can also take time of in lieu – in order to visit home in your village you accumulate overtime. Now they don’t give you a permanent job after having finished your apprenticeship. Only few are re-hired as trainees or through contractor after finishing the apprenticeship. In the form of apprentices we are very cheap workers for the company.

Normally they give workers hired through contractors a break after six months of employment, which they don’t do at Maruti Suzuki. At Powertrain you might be able to re-apply after three months, but it will be difficult to get the job back. The contractors for Powertrain and Maruti Suzuki are different, at Powertrain there are three main contractors, at Maruti Suzuki there are four. They tend to stand at the Maruti Suzuki gate, they take your resume and ID. You are then invited to one day of safety training, you are not paid for this, then you go to Gate One in order to obtain your gate pass. This is how you get hired, normally you don’t need personal connections.

Before the strike we had to manufacture 500 engines at the short-block line, after the strike this came down to 419 currently. Another change since May 2012 is that Powertrain will only hire apprentices from ITI’s in Haryana, may be that’s a policy developed together with the new union.

Apprentice, Suzuki Powertrain, Engine-Shop (May 2012)

We, five apprentices and a temporary Powertrain worker, share a room in Aliyar. The apprenticeship finishes in August 2012 and we currently try to find jobs for time after apprenticeship. We don’t want to work through contractor, but then most workers hired through contractor are former ITI apprentices, some of them even have a diploma.

Engine plant
Gearbox plant
Two-wheeler engines
Casting plant (aluminum parts for engines)

All parts used at the engine plant at Powertrain arrive more or less on a daily basis, in particular the bigger parts.The raw engine blocks arrive at Powertrain from three different suppliers, one of them is

Amtek.

http://www.amtek.com/

Amtek Auto Group, comprised of Amtek Auto, Amtek India and Ahmednagar Forgings, is one of the largest component manufacturers in India. It has 43 manufacturing facilities located in India (39) and Europe (4).

Trucks come constantly from Amtek, you probably can fit 100 engines on a truck, daily production is around 1,100 engines, they all go to Maruti Gurgaon plant. There is no proper storage for engines, but in the dispatch area you can store around 200 engines. The engines are used at Maruti more or less immediately, there is no storage on their side either. If they find quality problems with engines they tell Powertrain during the same shift during which the problems occurred.

On the long-block assembly -line there are about 200 work-stations, manned by one worker each. For the short-block you need about half the amount of work-stations. After the engine block arrived it is washed. A worker makes use of a crane, clamps the engine block, operates the washing machine, takes the engine out. That’s the job of one worker. Then different data entry has to happen, according to eight different engine models. That’s another work-station. Then you have to attach a bar-code and do the engine number punching. After that you fit the crank-shafts – they are also first checked, then washed, then fitted. The crank-shafts arrive from

Oriental Engine Pvt. Ltd.

The crank-shaft are fitted manually, this is physically the most demanding work, they weigh 15 to 20 kg.

The pistons come from

Sansera

http://www.sanseraindia.com/aboutus.html

Supplier for Maruti, HMSI and Hero, amongst others. Manufacturing facilities at Bangalore, Manesar (New Delhi), Pune and Panthnagar.

Amtek

Subros

http://www.subros.com/

Capacity of the Manesar plant 700,000 Air-Con Kits, total capacity of Subros including Chennai plant 1,5 million.

Sebros

http://www.sebrosgroup.com/website/

At the dressing-line there are around 12 stations, one worker per station. Here ‘attachments’ are fitted, such compressors or starter motors. these parts come from companies like

Bosch
Bolio

The heavy work, such as taking crank-shafts out of the trolley and testing it mechanically is mainly done by casual workers (hired through contractors). The relatively lighter work, such as data entry or final check, is mainly done by permanent workers.

Powertrain stopped producing the Euro V engine, but that did not reduce the total volume of production.

Since October 2011 there are more workers employed, meaning that you have a reliever, if you want to go to the toilet. At the dressing line they increased the number of workers, so the work-load is a little less. Since October 2011 the morning gymnastic to Japanese music has stopped.

4.3) Permanent Worker, Engine Shop, Maruti Gurgaon plant (June 2012)

Workers’ rooms…

In June 2011, when workers occupied the Manesar plant, the atmosphere heated up in Gurgaon. Mainly the young workers (hired through contractors, trainees, apprentices) were agitated and they were also in touch with Manesar workers. The older permanent workers expressed some passive sympathy for the action, the layer of older workers with supervisory functions were largely hostile. younger workers gathered at Maruti Gurgaon parking lot to discuss. They went in groups of 20 to 150 to the MUKU union office in order to press the union to take some form of action. When management sensed the discontent they called for MUKU union election in July, mainly to channel the anger into orderly directions. In 2009 there had been some action and gate meetings of casual workers to demand higher wages, but their leaders were sacked. Since then there had been little open conflict in Gurgaon plant. Workers started to collect money for the Manesar workers. They did this independently from MUKU and they did it secretly – collections were organised on assembly line and department level, a total of 86,000 Rs was collected. Only when in Manesar workers were supposed to vote whether they would accept MUKU Gurgaon union as a representative body in the negotiations for the settlement after the ‘good conduct undertaking’, MUKU sent three buses of Gurgaon workers in order to ‘show’ support and thereby to influence the vote. An independent gate meeting in Gurgaon was planned, but when the shooting happened at Suzuki Cycle-plant the meeting was cancelled. Since then MUKU has been approached by the 1,500 trainees at Gurgaon plant, but MUKU says they can’t do anything for them, not even make them members. Between 1999 and 2007 no worker has been hired on permanent basis in Gurgaon, in 2007 workers were hired as trainees. After three years of being trainee, some of them have been made permanent. These workers were the closest to the Maruti Manesar union.”

“Since May 2012 the production of petrol cars in Gurgaon plant is down. For example there are four engine shops, each of them runs on two shifts. Normally we produce 450 engines per shift, since May 2012 only between 240 and 270. In one shop around 150 workers are employed on two shifts, half of them through contractor.In the assembly department the assembly lines are also stopped for one or one and a half hours everyday, which did not happen before. Some casual workers have been kicked out, due to this overcapacity. Like in Manesar assembly department runs on only two shifts, 16 hours a day. There are rumours that all assembly work will be stopped at Gurgaon plant and that only diesel engines will be produced. they set up a new diesel plant on Gurgaon premises. So far these ‘future plans’ do not impact much on the atmosphere inside the plant. This is also due to the high share of contract workers in most departments, e.g. in the paint-shop on one shift there are eight permanents, four trainees, three apprentices and 59 workers hired through contractor. Some Denso and Lumax workers fit their own parts at the assembly line, but that is an exception.

4.4) Reports from Maruti Supply-Chain Workers

Industrial desert IMT Manesar – In front of the Maruti Suzuki plant…

Ju-Shin Worker
(Plot 4, Sector III, IMT Manesar)
There are 2,500 female [!?] and 500 male workers employed, manufacturing locks for Honda, Suzuki and Hero two-wheelers. The women work from 9 am till 8 pm – they get 75 Rs for the ‘two hours overtime’ as declared by the company. The male workers worl from 9 am till 10 pm, often they are forced to work till 6 am next morning. After three hours of rest they are supposed to start working again at 9 am. They are only paid 17 Rs per hour overtime and that only for 100 hours per months, when people actually have worked 150 to 200 hours. Wages are paid with delay. The company has recently added a floor to the factory building, which has resulted in the whole building becoming unstable. They propped it up with steel pillars, but the situation is unsafe. Eight trucks leave the plant and drive to Maruti per day, four to eight workers are permanently kept at Maruti for loading and quality check. The company has four factories in India, two in Manesar and Gurgaon, two near Chennai.

http://jpmgroup.co.in/milestones.html

Vinay Auto Worker
(Plot 42, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 200 permanents and 400 workers hired through three different contractors. We work 12 hours shifts and manufacture parts for automobile suppliers like Napino, Denso, JNS, Pricol, Delphi. When shift changes on Sunday then workers in the plastic moulding department and in the copper press shop department have to work 20 hours on stretch, from 8 pm Saturday till 4 pm on Sunday. The newly hired helpers hired through contractor get 4,500 Rs.

Annu Auto Worker
(Plot 52, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 30 to 35 permanent workers in the factory and 300 workers hired through three different contractors. We manufacture plastic parts for Honda, Hero, Hyundai on 12 hours shifts. Also on Sundays 12 hours shifts. They pay only 18 Rs for an hour overtime. They embezzle 200 to 400 Rs each month. There is no place to take food in the factory. The park is just for show and taking pictures, we are not allowed to sit there. The toilets are dirty.

Shriram Engineers Worker
(Plot 54, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
Around 250 workers on two 12 hours shifts manufacture parts for Maruti Suzuki four-wheelers and Honda motorbikes. The workers hired through contractors are paid only single rate overtime.

http://shriramengg.trade-india.com/

Indo Autotech Worker
(Plot 338, Sector 24, Faridabad)
Here, around 1,000 workers manufacture parts for Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha motorcycles. In the power-press department workers are employed on two 12-hour shifts, this is where a lot of hands get cut. In the welding department around 50 out of 400 workers have ESI and PF – on the punch card there is neither name nor photo, just a number. Those 50 welders who work on Honda parts work on 12 hours shifts. The other 350 welders work 12, 14, 15 hours a day. The work load is high, you have to stand upright the whole time, they abuse you verbally and make you stay longer after 12 hours of work. Overtime is paid at single rate. There is no canteen or place to eat your food, you have to sit next to the machine and eat. Indo Autotech has other factories in Manesar, Bhiwari, Pune and another one in Faridabad, Sector 24, where they make parts for JCB.
The press-shop has presses from 10-400 tons, there are CNC machines for wire cutting and pipe bending and CAD/CAM facilities. Apart from Maruti and JCB, Indotech supplies Honda, yamaha, Recaro and FCC Rico.

http://www.indoautotech.com/

DS Buhin Worker
(Plot 88, Sector 24, Faridabad)
Workers here work two 12 hours shift, manufacturing parts for Maruti Suzuki, Honda and Tata Nano. Only 35 workers are permanent, 350 workers are hired through five different contractors. There are 30 power-presses in the plant. Fingers get cut, there are a lot of accidents. In a year 150 hands get mutilated. The company does not fill in the accident form. They don’t take workers to an ESI hospital. They sack the injured worker after having brought him to a private clinic. The helpers hired through contractors get 3,600 to 3,800 Rs. Two to three day wages get embezzled each month. Managers swear at us.
DS also manufactures parts for General Motors and Maruti suppliers JBM and Caparo. The press-shop consists of 27 pneumatic and 12 mechanical presses. Most of the hinge components are manufactured by the progressive tools from Nagata Auto Parts Ltd. Japan. The Assembly Shop has 6 Pneumatic Special Purpose Machines for the assembly of hinges with a capacity of 20,000 hinges per day on two shift basis. DS manufactures parts for both Gurgaon and Manesar plant, such as radiator and seat brackets for the Swift.

http://www.dsbuhin.com/clients.html

Omax Worker
(Plot 6, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 1,000 workers hired through five different contractors employed in the factory, plus 50 casual and 250 permanent workers. In the paint-shop workers work 150 to 200 hours overtime per month, in the weld-shop 115 to 130 hours, in the power press-shop 100 to 125 hours – the payment is single rate and in the paint-shop the contractors embezzle 50 hours each month. ESI and PF contributions are cut from workers wages, but none of the workers hired through contractor get ESI and only few get PF fund when quitting the job. The company declares some Sundays as festival / bank holidays and thereby reduces the statutory paid holidays by 10 to 12 days per year. the wages of the helpers hired through contractor is 4,300 to 4,800 Rs.
Omax runs ten factories in India. The company claims to have the largest sprocket manufacturing capacity (11 Million pa) in South East Asia and the largest welding facility in India with 800 machines (100 Km welding capacity per day). Omax supplies parts to Hero MotoCorp Ltd., Maruti Udyog Ltd., Honda Motorcycle & Scooters India Pvt. Ltd., Honda Siel Cars India Ltd., TVS Motors Ltd. Suzuki Motorcycle Ltd., New Holland Tractors (India) Pvt. Ltd., Yamaha Motors India Pvt. Ltd., Delphi Automotives Denso India Ltd., Indian Railways, Tata Motors Limited, Ashok Leyland Limited, IKEA, Magneti Marelli, Wabco.
In 2004 the company started exporting auto-parts to the US and Europe, amongst others to bigger automobile suppliers like Delphi or Cummins. Since 2009 Omax also supplies IKEA.

http://www.omaxauto.com/contact.htm

Krishna Group Worker
(Plot 47, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
There are 200 workers employed, they work on 10.5 hours and 13.5 hours shifts, manufacturing parts for Mahindra, Honda, Maruti Suzuki cars and Svaraj mini-buses – mainly roof inner-linings. Workers operate with all kind of chemicals, they develop skin problems. Only 40 to 50 out of 150 workers hired through contractor get ESI or PF.
Krishna Group manufactures seating systems, rear mirrors, door Trims, roofliners & moulded carpets. The weld shop for the seat-frames is equipped with CNC machines, the paint-shop for the seat-frame is fully automatic and conveyorised. Assembly is performed on conveyorised lines using SNIC ‘s technology.

http://www.krishnamaruti.com/gr_prof.html

Jay Switch Worker
(Plot 407, Udyog Vihar Phase 3, Gurgaon)
In the factory 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts manufacture steering locks and keys for Mahindra, Tata Sumo, Toyota Inova and Maruti Suzuki. The overtime is paid at single rate. A first installment of 15 days of overtime payment for December was paid on 15th of February 2012, workers demanded that the rest should be paid by 25th of February – in response the company called the police and one worker was arrested. This worker was sacked and the company refused to pay him the outstanding overtime payment from December to February. The director said that he had to pay the police and that he now won’t pay any money to the worker.

Kiran Udyog Worker
(Plot 23, Sector 3, IMT Manesar)
The factory employs 300 workers on two 12-hours shifts. The factory manufactures die-casting products for Honda, Hero motorcycles and Maruti Suzuki cars. During the weekly shift change the Saturday night-shift has to work 20 hours on stretch and the Sunday day shift 16 hours. Over-time is paid single rate.
Kiran Udyog supplies Maruti Udyog Ltd, Sona Koyo Steering System ltd, Suzuki Motorcycle India (P) Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd, Regal Beloit- U.S.A, Daimler Chrysler – Germany, Koyo Steering Systems – France, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter (I) Pvt Ltd, General Motors India, Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai. They have six plants in Gurgaon and Delhi area. Main products are cylinder blocks, motor frames.

http://www.kiranudyogindia.com/

Bundy Company Worker, Manesar, NH8
A fuel-pipe manufacturer for Maruti Suzuki. Bundy has one worker permanently working ‘between’ Bundy and Maruti Suzuki: quality check, coordination. Bundy itself employs about 550 workers out of which 300 through contractor. The workers are paid on piece rate, there is no basic wage. Workers have to operate bending machines, burring machines etc. and are paid between 10 and 30 paise per piece. daily target is around 3,000 pieces. One truck leaves Bundy for Maruti per day.

JBM Worker, Maruti Suzuki Manesar Premises
There are about 350 permanent and 700 workers hired through contractor, divided up amongst three departments: powerpress-department, axle-shop and paintshop). We manufacture around 30 to 40 smaller press-parts for Maruti and around 1,000 axles per day on two 12-hours shifts. This is a production of axles for 500 cars, meaning that it is not sufficient to cover the full production in Manesar.
JBM is a joint-venture of Maruti Suzuki. JBM has plants in Manesar, Noida and Faridabad, components are also exported to truck manufacturers in Europe. JBM Auto Systems, a sister company, was founded to supply sheet metal components to Ford India and supplies for export to South Africa and Mexico and China. Next door to the JBM Manesar plant Bellsonica-workers operate 2,500 ton presses, imported from Japan. A temporary worker at Bellsonica told us that he went home to his village for a month during the Maruti dispute, he did not have the money to stay in Manesar.

http://www.jbm-group.com/gc-group-jay.asp?lk=gc2d

http://www.bellsonica.co.jp/english/c_subsidiaries.html

Energy Ltd. Worker, Maruti Suzuki Manesar Premises
Since one and a half years Energy Ltd. manufactures plastic-fuel tanks on Maruti premises. There are 64 workers in the production department, working on three shifts and 25 logistics workers. Around 90 per cent of the workers are hired through contractor. Before that Maruti got steel-tanks from a different supplier.

4.4.1) Asti Electronics Worker

Women (House-)Workers…

Asti Electronics Private Ltd.
(IMT Manesar, Sector 8, Plot 402)
Around 600 workers are employed in the factory, out of which 400 are female. Only 100 to 150 out of 600 workers are hired by the company directly, the remaining through three different contractors. Permanent workers basically do the same work, although they tend to do more supervisory jobs, machine setting, quality control. The company manufactures cable harnesses for Maruti Suzuki, Minda and Hero Motorcycles. Harnesses means that the company cuts cables for electrical appliances of the vehicle, joints them with the necessary plugs and connectors and tapes the cables into a bundle which can easily be installed and connected at Maruti Suzuki’s assembly line, mainly at Maruti Manesar plant. There are at least two more companies in IMT Manesar which do this kind of work, Motherson Sumi and JNS.

The production at Asti is divided into different departments (NSK, PCB). One is the machine shop, where cable are cut at length and fitted with plugs, terminals and connectors. The raw material comes from other Asian countries, either Japan or China. There are five automatic and eight manual machines in the machine-shop, all of them of ‘Japanese’ make. With the automatic machines you basically have to enter the right dimensions for the cables, the length of the cable, length of stripped insulation etc. This does not take much longer than 10 minutes. Then you have to supply the machine with the right type of cable. The machine will run for about 20 minutes in order to cut 1,000 cables and strip them. you have to check the quality and tape the cables in bundles of 100. The permanent workers usually show workers how to set the machine, they check the quality. At the manual machine workers mainly fit terminals and plugs onto the cables. The machine-shop runs on three shifts, only in the A-shift there are female workers employed. The A-shift is 9 hours, the B-shift 8 hours and the C-shift (night) is 6 hours. Target for the C-shift is 10,000 pieces at the automatic machines, for the A-shift 18,000. Workers say that targets have increased continuously. In the machine-shop there are around 20 workers and one supervisor. The supervisor reminds workers on a daily basis: “Check the quality, there have been complaints from Maruti”.

Most of the female workers work on the assembly line, which is separated from the machine shop by racks for material. The assembly line runs only on A-shift. Women workers are of all ages, mostly between 18 and 40 years old. The young female workers live with their parents, the older women with their family. Work at the assembly line required speed, the line runs automatically, women workers have to pull cables into a type of frame, other workers then put plugs on their ends, other workers tape the cables into different branches. The assembly line has about 6 to 8 different stations in sequence, then there is a final quality check and dispatch. there is a line leader which is in a hierarchical position between workers and supervisor. There is no storage space, the manufactured goods leave the factory more or less immediately.

In the machine shop workers can talk to each other, work at the assembly line is more rapid, talking is more difficult. If younger male and female workers talk too much to each other, the male worker might be transfered to other work-station. In the canteen male and female workers can sit together, but they often set apart. Workers work A-shift on Sundays, which is called ‘overtime’. Workers also often work B- and C- double-shifts on Sundays, meaning 14 hours on stretch. They are paid 500 Rs for 14 hours. If people take too much holiday, for example a week or two on stretch, they have to ‘re-join’, meaning their seniority is lost. If you take four days holiday in a week you also lose the Sunday pay (normally a day of which is ‘paid’).

Wages are very low at Asti. Machine operators and assembly line workers only get the helper grade. In March 2012 workers hired through contractor got 4,750 Rs per month, plus 1,000 Rs attendance bonus. Workers with ITI received around 7,000 Rs. Women workers on A-shift receive the same amount as workers on B- and C-shift, although they work one hour longer. In March/April 2012 an annual wage increase was given. Those workers who worked at Asti since one to three months got something between 100 and 200 Rs increase, those with three to eigth months 200 to 300 Rs, those over eight months 600 to 800 Rs, only a handful of permanents with long seniority got 1,500 Rs. Workers were rather angry about the miniscule hike.

The ASTI Corporation and Group Companies are located in Japan, China, Vietnam and India. The plant at IMT Manesar was started in October 2005 and at the same time supplies to Suzuki Motorcycle India started. Asti started supplies to Subros Ltd. in May 2006 and since June 2007 to Maruti Suzuki.

http://www.astiindia.com/index_files/groupcompanies.html

4.4.2) Sanden Vikas Worker

Family members of Maruti workers protesting after mass-dismissals…

Sanden Vikas Worker
(Plot 65, Sector A, Faridabad)

There are 60 permanents employed by the company and 950 workers are hired through four different contractors. Sanden Vikas is a major manufacturer of car AC systems in India, together with companies like Delphi or Subros. The factory in Faridabad supplies AC systems mainly to Maruti Suzuki (Nissan, Honda, Mahindra, Tata, Hind Motors)

Parts for compressors come from Japan. The pipes come from Korea. The rubber hose pipes come from

Bridgestone

Other parts come from other companies of the corporate group:

Pranav Vikas
Kenmore Vikas
Sata
RPS
Gele

Compressors are assembled at assembly lines, the pipes for the AC’s are dispatched separately. There is no storage, trucks leave continuously. The AC-components are delivered directly to the assembly lines at Maruti Suzuki, there is no storage neither at Sanden, nor at Maruti. There are four Sanden Vikas workers permanently employed at Maruti, Manesar, they also live in Manesar. Two for quality check, two for unloading trucks and dispatching AC’s to lines. About six trucks leave Sanden per day, the guys at manesar plant work 18 hours shifts. Although they work permanently in Maruti they have to pay 30 Rs for a meal at the Maruti canteen. These workers know that there has been a strike at Sanden in 2010 and that there is still trouble. They know that the dispatch problem of parts, the incomplete dispatch is due to wage trouble and over-work at the Faridabad plant. At Sanden in Faridabad there was no major problem during the Maruti Suzuki struggle, management expanded production for other car companies. The component parts for AC’s can be used for different car models.

Management claims that they the factory runs only 17 hours a day on A- and B- shift, but actually it runs 24 hours – only on Sunday production stops at 7 pm. The work-load is high, every day more than 4,000 AC’s are dispatched. Where their own time study has fixed 500 piece targets, managers ask to produce 1,000 piece
- they employ unskilled workers at CNC bending machines. After accidents workers are sacked, workers hired through contractor have no ESI card.

Since March 2012 there have been problems of completing the dispatch to Maruti, not enough or faulty AC’s arrived at Maruti. The problems emerged at a time when a new model was introduced. Maruti made Sanden pay penalties, if dispatches were not complete. In order to find out what the problem was Sanden ordered higher management people to stay during night-shifts and analyse the work process.

The situation is that permanent workers only work on A-shift and since 4 permanents have been kicked out in 2009, permanent workers refuse working overtime. So workers hired through contractor employed on B-shift work from 2:30 pm till next morning 6:30 am – this is 16-hours on stretch. While on A-shift they work 8.5 hours. The solution of management for problems of dispatch: B-shift workers must be tired after 15 hours of work, so they changed shift patterns and introduced two 12-hours shifts instead. This also means that when shift changes on Saturday, workers have to work a 24 hours-shift, as ‘compensation’ workers get 50 Rs extra for food and two ‘breakfasts’.

4.5) Report on Life in Aliyar, a Workers’ Village in Manesar Industrial Zone

On the way to Aliyar in IMT Manesar…

Living conditions in villages like Aliyar and other villages around IMT Manesar are not worse than those in other places in Delhi region, which is bad enough. Main thing is the isolation, being far away from Gurgaon. There is the huge and sterile industrial zone with hardly any public spaces and there are the small rooms in the villages, nothing more. There is no time and no space for ‘leisure’. A bit of television, if workers have one, and more recently a bit of fiddling with the chinese touch-screen mobile. “What do you do on a Sunday, if you have a day off?” “I go to listen to religious functions in Manesar. Most workers wash clothes and hang out, rest, have a drink, play cards, may be go to the gym. There is nothing to do.” Locals complain about an increase of prostitution in Manesar, but workers say that prices for sex work are mostly out of reach, 50 Rs for a fuck, 200 Rs for an hour.

There are 500 local inhabitants on the vote list in Aliyar, meaning 500 adult original residents, poorer peasant families. Peasants had to sell their land for the industrial development, this started in 2001. At the time Haryana government paid 3.5 lakh Rs per acre compensation. Some years later Haryana state gave permission to private developers to buy land for ‘housing projects’. The private developers paid between 2 and 11 crore per acre. Families who were forced to sell for ‘industrial development’ filed a legal case and demanded higher compensation, a compromise was found and they now get now get 36 lakh. The land deals has created major income differences between the peasant families. Some invest in more land further down the NH8 towards Rajasthan. Others invest the money into ‘education of their sons’. Others buy a three wheeler and get engaged in transport between Manesar and Gurgaon. At least in Aliyar local ex-peasants don’t get engaged in labour contracting, they mainly rent out rooms for workers. They complain that their sons won’t get permanent jobs in the local factories.

These 500 original ‘peasant inhabitants’ built rooms and rent them out to about 10,000 plus workers. Due to the closeness of Aliyar to Maruti Suzuki, due to the rigid ‘punctuality regime’, land-lords in Aliyar can demand higher rents than in other workers housing areas in Gurgaon or Faridabad. While a room rent is 1,600 Rs in Kapashera, in Aliyar you will pay 2,500 Rs to 3,000 Rs. The state built a ‘workers housing colony’ as a show-piece in the early 2000s, but 80 per cent of the 100 or so flats are empty due to high rent of 6,000 Rs per room. Also prices for vegetables and other food items is much higher in Aliyar. Some workers organise collective trips to markets in Gurgaon, but that takes extra-time. Attached to the land-lordism of the locals is also a certain social and patriarchal control. “We wanted to use the roof of our house as a leisure space, to hang out in the evening. The local owner of the neighbouring house said that he does not want to see us on the roof. We had to accept this, otherwise there would have been trouble”. On one floor of an average workers’ house you will find between 40 and 100 workers of different categories (trainees, temps, apprentices), although permanent workers tend to stay in slightly better accommodation apart. Workers from different departments and companies live together they exchange experiences.

During the Maruti Suzuki dispute the media presented the ‘locals’ as supporters of the company, their village council leaders met up and issued a declaration, stating that ‘Maruti did so much for the region and this labour unrest is sparked by outsiders’. Actually there is a lot of discontent amongst the locals, despite their land-lord position. Most of them see that their children have little chance to participate in the ‘boom’, they see the impact of social decomposition, such as drugs and petty crime amongst the local youth. On 22nd of May 2012, for example, local villagers blocked roads within the industrial zone of Manesar in roder to protest against water and electricity shortage. The protest was mainly organised by the BJP, a fair share of the villagers took part. They blocked the main roads towards the Maruti Suzuki plant, but did not block the entrances to the huge car-park, which meant that trucks with parts could still enter the factory and production was not effected. A symbolic protest, also symbolising their helpless and dependent position.

(based on conversations with workers and local inhabitants, May 2012)

5) Conversation with Comrade on Practical Engagement during the Maruti Struggle in 2011 – Recorded June 2012

Workers’ kitchen…

6) Comments on and Relevant Parts of “The Maruti Story”, Biography of the Gurgaon Factory by R.C Bhargava, Maruti Chairman

Workers’ at Maruti supplier…

Below you can find some more relevant passages from “The Maruti Story”, by Maruti chairman R.C Bhargava,published by Collins Business in 2010. The book is obviously annoying, having been written by a top-manager, with the usual arrogance and, which is probably more painful, ignorance of the representatives of capital. But even more painful is the fact that it was a representative of capital and not a revolutionary workers’ collective who wrote a book which, however biased and characterised by blind-spots, analyses the development of a major factory, the problems of getting workers to work, of imposing control on the shop-floor through the production system itself, of organising a fragile supply-chain and actively counter-acting workers’ unrest.

Here we see a parallel to the workers’ historiography in Italy. Initially it were mainly bourgeois sociologist and intelligent factions of capital who got engaged in analysing industrial history and contemporary developments. Only with the re-emergence of workers’ struggles and a dissident communist faction in the early 1960s, workers took the analysis of their material world into their own hands and turned it into a weapon. See Sergio Bologna: ‘The Theory and History of the Mass Worker in Italy’

http://libcom.org/library/theory-history-mass-worker-italy-sergio-bologna

On 350 pages, R.C Bhargava deals with the structure of the early automobile industry in India (Hindustan Motors), with the early attempt of setting up Maruti by Sanjay Gandhi and the close connection between the developmental dictatorship of the State of Emergency and his vision of a people’s car. One has to plough through long passages about the composition of the early management, about the difficult balance-act between being attached to the state and its burocracy and looking for foreign investors. He describes the discussions and negotiations with various international automobile companies and how they chose Suzuki as a partner. For future GurgaonWorkersNews we might type up some historical nuggets, but here we want to concentrate on passages which are relevant for our understanding of the situation today and see them as an incentive to dig deeper from a workers’ perspective as part of workers’ armed struggle.

a) Maruti and Supply-Chain
b) Maruti and Unions
c) Maruti and Expansion of Gurgaon and Manesar

a) Maruti and Supply-Chain

Here we first of all are able to see how capital creates its own fetish. In order to avoid a huge concentration of workers in a single ‘automobile factory’, which would easily need a 100,000 workers, Maruti wants to create the semblance of formally separate units of suppliers around a central ‘Maruti assembly plant’. The reasons they give for this decision are seemingly ‘economic’: aversion of risk, share of investment, competition. Obviously Maruti depends on the smooth cooperation within a production process, so they basically set-up the suppliers with their own engineers, impose clear hierarchy of orders, supply them with necessary capital. It is clear that on the level of ‘use value production’ Maruti and the suppliers are one and that the formal and spacial distinctions are in the end political measures against the working class.

“Chapter 7: Preparing the Vendors

The first 192 cars to roll out of the factory in December 1983 were almost entirely Japanese cars, with only the tyres and the batteries being Indian, supplies coming from Chennai-based MRF and Kolkata-based Chloride India (later renamed Exide Industries). The indigenization percentage was a mere 2.76666 per cent and it stayed at less than 10 per cent till March 1984. [...] Maruti had committed to achieving 95 per cent indigenization in five years. [...]

At that time [1985], the Indian automobile manufacturers produced close to 50 per cent of the components of a vehicle in-house. SMC, and Japanese manufacturers in general, followed a different policy. In-house production of components was limited to only those that were critical for performance and appearance, like the engine, gearbox and outer body panels. All other components were outsourced to vendors. This reduced investment costs, and thus risk, for the vehicle manufacturer. It also reduced cost of manufacturing components, as vendors could supply to more than one manufacturer, attain higher volumes and derive benefits of scale.[...] Thus the dependence on vendors was to be to the extent of about 75 per cent of the value of all components, excluding steel, paints and similar items.

Interested parties had to submit full information about themselves, including what facilities they had, their experience in manufacturing and management set-up. [...] A group of engineers then visited the factories of the applicants to verify the information given and also to judge their capabilities. [...] Another difficult decision in respect of each part was to decide when it should be deleted from the CKD kit [kit with imported parts coming from Japan for assembling at Maruti]. The contents of a CKD kit had to be decided and orders placed with SMC five months before the month in which the imported parts would be used on Maruti production lines. Maruti had to anticipate which parts, and in what quantities a vendor would be able to produce six months in advance, in order to decide to delete those parts from the import list. Given the somewhat disorganized state of many vendors, this was not an easy task and often created situations of crisis, as many vendors failed to meet their commitments. [...]

Maruti acted virtually as a midwife to a large number of vendors, handholding them at every stage. Maruti was often involved in helping them find the right collaborator, aiding with joint venture agreements and getting approvals and licences, arranging financial assistance and negotiating with financial institutions for providing working capital, persuading state governments to allot land, giving short-term advances to them to pay customs duties and importing tooling, and sending Maruti engineers to help them with their production system. [...] As a result, close to forty joint ventures and technical agreements between Indian and Japanese component manufacturers were signed in a short period of time, and this greatly facilitated the process of localization.

Mathur and the late Dr. R.D. Deshpande, who was the first head of engineering, were in charge of developing Maruti vendors. Mathur describes it graphically: “Ensuring that the production line was not disrupted was like feeding a shark which eats around the clock. We were buying 1,200 or 1,300 components. Even if we had a crisis on one of the components every three years, it was still a crisis every day for us”. The crisis could take the form of a quality problem, disruption of production due to shortage of raw materials or imported sub-components, labour unrest or disruption in the transportation system [...].

Many vendors would change their manufacturing process in some area, thinking it would not matter. Maruti had to make them realize that the key to quality lay in consistently, without any deviations, following the approved procedures for manufacture [...]. If any change was to be made anywhere, it had to be first approved by Maruti.

As a result of all these problems, more parts had to be imported and the indigenization programme had to be revised downward. The target of 31.5 per cent indigenization up to March 1985 was brought down to 23 per cent. [...] Maruti then decided to get even more involved with its vendors, forming joint-ventures to manufacture components that were critical to the quality of the vehicles, or were to bulky to transport, or required high technology and large investments, or where the economies of scale dictated a single source. [...] Having a stake in the companies enabled Maruti to be involved in all aspects of the establishment of the production facilities and the process of manufacture. [...] Initially five joint-ventures were formed. These were to manufacture seats (Bharat Seats), glass (Asahi India Glass), sheet metal parts (Mark Auto), plastic moulding (Machino Plastics) and steering components (Sona Steering) and accounted for 24 per cent of the value of the car.

Three of the joint-ventures – Bharat Seats, Machino Plastics and Mark Auto – were located within the Maruti factory complex, while Asahi Glass and Sona Steering took land nearby. [...] Later, to bring in an element of competition and as a fallback arrangement, three more joint ventures were set up – Sona Car Seats (renamed Krishna Maruti) for seats in 1993, and Jay Bharat Maruti and Caparo Maruti for sheet metal components in 1988 and 1994 respectively. [...] The management control was with Maruti’s partner, as the company did not want to get involved in the day-to-day management of so many companies. If Maruti had assumed control over the joint ventures, there would soon have been demands from the employees that they should have the same terms and conditions as Maruti employees. [...] All this would have diverted attention from the main task of building Maruti and the objective of having vendors would have got defeated. [...] to give comofort to the partner, it was provided that for the first seven years or so, pricing would be on a cost plus basis, with an assured return on equity. Maruti had the right to go into details of all costs of manufacture and procurement of materials.

Kumar had to point out to many vendors (other than the joint venture partners)who wanted to persist with the traditional way of using Indian-made tools that they were ignoring the fact that if the components were rejected, they would lose all Maruti business, and suffer a total loss of their investment. Further, since the Maruti pricing policy took into account the tooling cost, buying tooling from Japan would not adversely impact on their profitability. [...] The procurement of raw materials and bought-outs had to be from sources who would follow the laid-down processes and systems, [...] and no change in the source of procurement should be made without getting Maruti’s approval first.[...] Maruti engineers working in the purchase and vendor development department would spent at least half a day on the shop floor of suppliers.”

By that time Maruti had established a certain competition amongst different suppliers. They imposed a rating system about just-in-time and quality and suppliers were supposed to compete in order to get the next order once a new Maruti model was introduced.

“Logistics posed another headache. [...] The rear axles too came by truck from Chennai. This was one of the few cases where Maruti had a single supplier. Trucks would break down or be stranded by floods during the monsoon. [...] Truck drivers were not trained to keep Maruti, or even their own management, informed of what was happening. Though they were supposed to call from every major twon on the route, few did this. [...] During the 1984 anti-Sikh riots [...], several Sikh drivers disappeared and there was no way of knowing whether they were hiding to save themselves or had been killed. On such occasions the rear axleshad to be transported by train [...] to ensure they reached the factory in forty-eight hours and production lines could be kept running”.

We added the quote below, which does not directly concern the supply-chain, but the so-called ‘after-service’, the Maruti repair and service work-shops. We can see how the big industry shapes and re-structures the so-called service and informal sector, such as car repairing – through direct intervention, technological impostion and ‘training’ of the work-force.

“As with showrooms, Maruti also provided guidance on how to establish workshops – number of bays, equipment, paint-shop layout, storage and handling of spare parts, among other things. Maruti personnel had to approve the workshop site and the layout (the drawings for which bwere prepared with SMC’s help). [...] Some of the equipment – computerised engine diagnostic equipment, wheel alignment systems, and brake tester, to name a few – was a first for dealers in India. [...] Workshop practices also needed a major change. Traditionally each mechanic was a specialist who would do work in his area only. [...] In addition, each mechanic had one or two helpers, to do the less skilled work like washing and cleaning parts, fetching tools or oil and teightening nuts and bolts. Most of the employees were underutilised and never worked anywhere near eight hours in a shift. The specialist mechanics often sat idlewhen parts were washed and cleaned. [...] SMC, quite rightly, did not want these practices to continue.Thei basic principle was that one mechanic should do all the work required for sservicing a car [...]. Further he should have to do the entire servicing of a car himself, with no helpers. [...] Implementing this was not easy. The older and more experienced mechanics were most unlikely to agree to the change. [...] It was decided that , by and large, it would be better to train fresh pass-outs from ITIs [...].Thuis a training centre for mechanics was established in the service centre at the Maruti factory, [...] regional training centres were established.The young workers from the ITIs were without hang-ups and were quite happy to work in accordance with the new system.”

b) Maruti and Unions

‘The Maruti Story’ contains longer sections about the run-up of the 2000/2001 strike and the subsequent VRS scheme, but most of the details are already provided in GurgaonWorkersNews no.8. Following just some initial quotes concerning the management thought concerning workers’ representation.

“It was realized that continuous training of workers was necessary if their attitude towards work, the company and its management was to be changed. [...] Krishnamurthy decided that this could best de done through a union which had a positive approach. [...] As a first step, Krishnamurthy promoted a trade union at Maruti before political parties and outsiders could establish one. K.K. Datta, who was a union leader at BHEL [where Krishnamurthy had been a leading manager] was given employment in maruti, and became general secretary of the Maruti Udyog Employees Union (MUEU), which was affiliated with the Indian National trade Union Congress (INTUC). Workers were encouraged to become member of this union [...]. But first the credibility of the union had to be established, and this was done by consulting the union and involving it in framing policies and taking decisions in matters affecting the workers. Thus, the policy regarding uniforms, and its colour and design, was settled in consultation with the union. . [...] After each union meeting each [union] executive was required to interact with his constituency and share the information with the workers. The management believed that this would be the most effective way of reaching all the workers, and this could not be done successfully by the management trying to interact directly with them.”

Incentive Scheme

“The scheme was notified in November 1989. Productivity levels and sales started to rise rapidly. The bonus pool grew and in a few years the workers were getting a bonus which was approximately one and a half times their basic salary. One benefit of the scheme was that workers never opposed automation or other methods to improve productivity. [...] Getting worker cooperation on contentious issues, therefore, became easier, as the management found out in the mid-1990s. The company had a large number of casual/temporary labourers on its rolls and Abraham, who had again become the general secretary of the union, insisted that their service be regularized. Since these people were doing work which was not related to the main activity of the company, like cleaning, sweeping and unpacking crates, and outsourcing was the accepted way to get such tasks done, it would not have been in Maruti’s interest to regularize them. The management talked to other union leaders, and the managers also talked directly to employees on the shop-floor, and pointed out that accepting this demand would lead to a larger number of employees, lesser labour savings and a drop in the bonus pool. The smaller pool would have to be shared between larger numbers. Hence each regular worker would see a big drop in his take-home pay. With the majority of the workers unwilling to let this happen, the union quietly dropped this demand.”

The quite below is actually not from “The Maruti Story”, but from the Phd by Bose – see Appendix. We thought it would be interesting to document the attempt to set up a contract workers union at Maruti Gurgaon plant in the late 1980s.

“Maruti gets license from the Labour Commissioner’s office to use contract labour. We are not given any appointement letter. Initially, Maruti officers used to issue identity cards with their signature on it. But from June 2000 onwards Maruti officers have not been signing on the identity cards, which are changed every six months. Earlier, contractors and Maruti officers used to sit together to pay us wages but now contractors pay on their own within the company. The labour contractors are registered ones and come from local areas, and are well connected to Maruti management. There are now 72 big contractors and many small contractors. They have two yearly agreement with management. Competition among them forces them to quote lower bulk payment so that we do not get even official minimum wages. No equal wages for equal work we do. We do not get any allowance. We have no hospital facility. The entire Maruti Gypsy production line work is subcontracted out. Contract workers are doing the subassembly and final assembly within Maruti premises. We do not get any help from contractors in terms of advance or loan. We are forced to work long hours. We work on Sunday and we do not get any leave. If the worker absents without telling the contractor, they get penalized in terms of no work for three or four days. We face high incidence of injuries and accidents due to too much work pressures and lack of rest. No payment is made. Contractors are told to take us away even as the others are told to clean the blood on the running machines. The permanents look down upon us. Most of us were earlier apprentice workers in this factory. We are doubly f…ed…both management and union exploit us.

In 1989 we struggled with a 9-day strike for our union recognition, and in 1990 we were on a 37-day strike. We are registered as Maruti Contract Workers Union. Our registration number is 1150. We have received no support from Maruti union even as they seek our support which we give in terms of tool down, etc. Both Maruti management and Maruti union have cooperated with the labour contractors to dismiss 20 to 25 activists of our union. We lodge court cases through permanent workers union and the Joint Labour Commissioner wants proof of employment from Maruti or permanent workers but they do not extend any help. Who will save us in this country? Even God is sold out. We have not become criminals. We have not become rapists. Why is the society not grateful to us? Are we not the backbone of this country’s economy? “Note that the President of the Clutch Auto Employees Union has been blessed by the management with press shop subcontract work, and how can he fight for the workers?

c) Maruti and Expansion of Gurgaon and Manesar

We see a parallel here. During the expansion phase of the Gurgaon plant management forced workers to work ‘over-capacity’, and management knew that it depended on workers’ collaboration during this phase. The same thing happened in Manesar in 2011, shortly before the B-plant becoming operational. In order to save investment and to stretch ‘living and dead labour’ as far as possible, the A-plant operated on over-capacity (off-line car assembly etc.) for a long period. Only this time workers were not willing to cooperate.

“The work on expanding capacity and establishing a second plant at the same site, started about the end of 1992 and was completed in 1994. This plant, which was to produce the Zen, had a rated capacity of 100,000 units, like the first plant. In November 1993, the government issued an ad hoc exemption order allowing Maruti to import plant and machinery for the Zen project at nil custom duty on taking an obligation to export 140,000 cars over seven years.The funds were secured through a loan raised in Japan, as well as some internal resources. With the plant, production rapidly increased to 278,000 in 1995-96, and the need for another plant was obvious. One of the reasons for Maruti being able to keep prices of cars low – and make profits – was the ability to run both these plants at about 140 per cent of the rated capacity. This was achieved by a combination of balancing facilities, innovative practices and full cooperation from the workers.”

Here we read about the conception of the Manesar plant: a fresh start without the ‘old labour’ of Gurgaon, a higher degree of automation, a comparable set-up to the already existing plant in Japan. Suzuki wanted Manesar to compete with Gurgaon. It now remains a question for us how to turn this around, from a workers’ perspective. How can the unrest of a young generation at Manesar plant break up the heavy silence in the ‘old core’ Gurgaon?

“There was a history to the establishment of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. The Gurgaon site had been fully developed with the establishment of the three manufacturing plants. [...] A new site was needed for future expansion and Manesar was selected. Khattar was successful in negotiating with the Haryana government to purchase 600 acres of land there, on very reasonable terms. [...] SMC wanted this plant to be very similar to the plant in Kosai, Japan, so that there could be a high level of automation, and the best SMC practice could be established here from the start. Suzuki did not want this plant to become an extension of the Gurgaon plant, which had been built over twenty years and had much more manual operations. He wanted the plants at Gurgaon and Manesar to compete with each other in areas like productivity and quality, with each being a benchmark for the other. At the same time, it was always the intention that in areas like human resource management, supply chain and sales and marketing the two plants should work as one.”

7) Material on situation at Suzuki in Hungary

House of an ex-peasant, now landlord in Rampura village near Manesar…

The export of Suzuki passenger cars from Gurgaon to Europe increased over the years both absolutely and relatively. The best-seller Swift is at the same time manufactured in a Suzuki factory in Hungary, which was hailed after the end of the Eastern Block, hailed as the new investment paradise for global car manufacturers, together with the Czech Republic. Both the Suzuki Manesar and the Esztergom plant supply the European market, the different wage levels, levels of general ‘development’ and geographical location will be the objective factors for Suzuki to integrate both plants into their global structure. For workers it will be a challenge to establish a basic form of exchange of experience. A comrade from Hungary summarised following general overview on the Suzuki plant in Esztergom and the workers’ struggle of 2005:

Suzuki Factory in Hungary and International Market

Suzuki accounts for 2.2 per cent of all exports from Hungary in 2008. The factory in Esztergom was built and started production in 1992. Back then it was the only Japanese investment in Hungary. The government and all political forces were promoting the slogan of attracting foreign capital in the country, as there has been a 30 per cent employment loss (with special regard on industry) after the fall of state socialism. Initially most parts for the Suzuki Alto came from the Maruti Suzuki plant in India. In 1993, leaders of Suzuki Corporation and Hungary agreed on settling the production of most car parts (except the engine, gears and wheelwork) in Hungary and/or other countries in the region – but in 1994, when the 25,000th car was made in Hungary, the proportion of european-produced parts was only 60 per cent. From 1994 on, car parts were also made for export to Japan, and whole cars for the Chinese, Dutch and Italian markets. In 1996, the 100,000th car was made, and at the domestic market of new made cars Suzuki had a 20 per cent share in Hungary. In 1999 100,000 cars were sold on the Hungarian market, while total annual production was over 250,000. The integration with other manufacturers continues: the WagonR model consists mainly of parts manufactured by Opel/GM in Poland. The SX4 is, like in India, manufactured in close cooperation with FIAT.

In 2011, Magyar Suzuki Zrt. 171,700 vehicles were made in the factory (+1% compared to 2010), out of which 168,555 were sold abroad (!), out of which 61,123 were Swift, 61,864 were SX4, main export target country is Italy. In 2011 around 3400 people worked directly at Suzuki, total workforce is around 4,200. Exports go not only to Europe but also Japan, Russie, Ukraine, some Middle Eastern and North African countries. There was a significant growth in profits at MS Zrt. (+26.6 million euro). Analysts say it could be because of strengthening the production of own supplies (growth in the value of locally owned supplies: 25 million euro in 2010 to 33.5 million in 2011).

In May 2011 – for a short time (few weeks) only one shift was at work because of “supply problems”, from July on two shifts are working again. Probably because of this, May showed a -0.8% in total industrial output of Hungary compared to April. In November and December 2012, only one shift will work in Esztergom. Management hopes they can restore the 2-shifts setup from January 2013.

Workers’ Struggle

By the end of 2005, tensions arise at Suzuki Esztergom, because of forced overtime, cancelled holidays and weekends (2111 people were given only 7 days instead of 8 days a month; 403 workers didn’t get their 2004 vacations; further 19 were given money instead of their annual leave), additional daily working time “to replace” lunchbreaks, missing toilets in the new facilities. In August, an anonymous letter was sent to the management, describing all these conditions. In December about 150 activists of the “Liga Szakszervezetek” (Unions of “The League”, a lesser trade union confederation) demonstrate at the entrance, also involving workers of the Pét Nitrochemical Works, pedagogues, uniformed officials of armed state bodies. Nationalist separation between slovakian and hungarian workers seems to bleach, although racist resentments towards the “yellow” (japanese management) still present. However, at the handover of the petition and at the distribution of the union flyers the union accepted the restriction given by the management to be no more than 10 persons in action at the gate.

In early 2006 workers of Suzuki Esztergom form a union (Independent Union of Automobile Manufacturers in Esztergom) outside of the fence, but just at the factory gate, in a bus that they rent for this purpose. Since the demonstration in December 2005 they gathered 68 members, 30% of which are slovakian citizens. Some new members join during this first public meeting (held for the election of officials). Police shows up, records the organizers’ data and tries to push them to remove their banner demanding the respect of labour law at Suzuki. In February, a month after forming the union, their leader gets dismissed. The “factory council” [a legally codified but in Hungary very rare form of representation] denies legitimacy of the new union (based on legal formalities) and connection between its leader’s union activity and sacking. The management adds: 70 members are 2% of the total 3200 workers… Based on these points, they don’t admit the union as negotiating partner. The fired union leader made a speech in a TV broadcast that “damaged the good image of the company”. He talks about how the management framed him: some closed bottles of alcohol were found in his locker (which was opened forcefully on the weekend before by an unknown person) – the allegation of having alcohol at the workplace was used for a reason to sack him. Eleven days after he got kicked out, a strike happened: 50 workers walked out spontaneously in protest against unpaid overtime.

In March 2007 the court finds that dismissing the union leader was illegal, although his demand for the wage of the past year is still in question.

In December 2008 management announced that 1200 out of 5523 workers must leave Suzuki from the 8th December on, due to the reduction of orders in the crisis, from 3 shifts only 2 remain. First the outsourced, then those on probation time, then those working there for less than 3 years are to be dismissed. Workers put on “technical leave” get only the basic wage (no “bonus”), this means 20-25’000 HUF less than usual. Those leaving “on their own” by the middle of December are offered to gain 2 more months’ salary instead of the legally prescribed severance pay/compensation of 1 months payment per 3 years spent at work. (About 800 people were tricked by Suzuki again: they left by themselves, only to learn that this compensation offer was meant only for those living out of 30 km radius around the factory. In order to replace these workers leaving in masses, many of those put on “technical leave” were called back to work.) Buses to transport workers to work are cancelled from the 5th January 2009.

8) Appendix

Maruti Wall…

8.1) Open Letter on Maruti by Mouvement Communiste to Comrades in Delhi
8.2) Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle
8.3) Proposal for Critical Debate on ‘Academic Research’
8.4) Phd by Bose on Automobile Industry in Delhi
8.5) Further readings

8.1) Open Letter on Maruti by Mouvement Communiste to Comrades in Delhi

Workers on their way to shift in Gurgaon industrial area…

Open letter from afar to comrades in India

We went to India some weeks ago and we met many comrades of various tendencies in a friendly and open-minded way. We also met workers in some plants.

The situation of the working class in India, mainly in the automotive industry, shows that a new generation of workers is rising and expressing discontent, not only inside but also outside the factories.

Before the Maruti Suzuki strike (from June to October 2011), other strikes took place, successful or not, with both contract workers and sometimes casual workers, taking part.

We feel that the conditions – both objective and subjective – are ripe for something to happen. There is a hidden potential strength close to emergence. And militants must contribute to the birth of the first stage of workers self-organisation.

Obviously we are writing this letter from a long way away, so we don’t expect you to just follow our recipe – the intention is to open discussion. But if we were militants in India, this would be our proposal.

It is necessary to know more about factory organisation (along with Suzuki operations).

It is necessary to discuss to the greatest possible extent with workers from Suzuki to check that common political goals are both understood and shared.

So, a kind of workers’ inquiry must be launched.

This has to be made visible to other workers, not only to those working for local sub-contractors, but to the workers of the whole Delhi area.

In order to do this, we need “human resources” and basic organisation. This implies clearly advocating for workers autonomy. It does not mean political merger or hiding political differences. But those to which this letter is addressed share, from our point of view, a common will to dedicate their political energy towards working class self-organization, giving it the highest priority.

We are not against any attempt by workers to organise themselves to fight for their interests, even into rank and file unions, but we are very cautious about the evolution of such unions (here we are thinking about what happened at Honda, but not only that). This is a practical point produced by class struggle itself. So a basic point of agreement or disagreement.

There is already an existing medium: FMS (Faridabad Majdoor Samachar). It must become the common political paper. It must be extensively distributed among workers. It must become a tool for workers.

Class struggle never stops, but it often has lower phases and slightly higher ones. We think that now could be the beginning of a higher phase of struggle in the Delhi area, and maybe even other industrial centres across India.

This is an occasion not to be missed. It won’t come again quickly. Taking on the responsibility of this situation is the purpose of this open letter.

Mouvement Communiste/Kolektivn_ proti kapitálu

25th April 2012
About workers’ inquiry

This method was used in Italy, starting in the early 1960′s, by a specific political current, Operaismo.
It was needed to understand Capital’s organisation and Class composition.

A knowledge of the organisation of capital means understanding the production process, not only within factories but also geographically, understanding productive units and their links between factories. The goal is to identify weak points and bottlenecks but above all, capital’s logic and means.

A knowledge of class composition allows the analysis of differences in working class structure between jobs and skill levels, not from a static sociological perspective but from the potentialities and dynamics of struggle. Class composition analysis is intended to discover the underground forces that trigger workers’ struggles and workers’ organisations.

To bring out those key elements, Operaismo brightens up an old method, the workers’ inquiry, in reference to a short questionnaire written by Marx in April 1880.

Workers’ inquiry is both a means of knowledge and a tool for the use and profit of workers themselves.

Workers’ inquiry can be a success only if it gets rid of the static method of bourgeois sociology through common research within factories with workers or, best of all, directly by workers themselves.

8.2) Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle

Tea stall out of Aliyar…

Pamphlet by Mouvement Communiste on Maruti Struggle

http://mouvement-communiste.com/documents/MC/Booklets/BR5_India_EN_vF_co...

http://mouvement-communiste.com/documents/MC/Booklets/BR5_India_FR_vF_co...

8.3) Proposal for Critical Debate on ‘Academic Research’

Public note in IMT Manesar…

Proposal for an Open Debate on ‘Research on Automobile Workers in the Global South Today’

Dear friends,

This proposal goes out to you four, but is not necessarily constricted to this circle. If you can think of comrades who work in a similar field and who might be interested in the exchange, let us know. I assume you have heard from or about each other, nevertheless a short introduction.

L. studies in London, she has done fieldwork at FIAT in Italy and various automobile companies in India.
A. studies in Delhi, engaged in research of automobile industry in India. He is a political activist who has been closely involved with the Maruti Suzuki workers’ strike.
F. studies in London, he researches conditions and struggles in automobile industry in China and Mexico, he has done fieldwork in both places.
T. is at university in Australia, he has written on class formation in India and did fieldwork on automobile industry in Gurgaon.

Let me shortly say something about the background of this proposal. On an individual level we had discussions about ‘research work’/'academic knowledge production’ in relation to industrial changes, the emergence of a new generation of automobile workers and their promising struggles in China 2010 and India 2011 and, last but not least’ the question of ‘political organisational activities’ amongst these workers.

I have to admit that I know very little about research work and the academic mode of production, but it seems clear to me that a more collective debate about ‘research and organisation’ is necessary and could be fruitful. I am not sure how to structure the debate or how to organise it – the questions below have to be seen as a preliminary structure open for comments and changes. What could be the aim of the debate? On one side an exchange of positions about the ‘actual developments’ in research, industry and struggles – on the other side a debate on the current relation and ‘potential/traps’ of ‘academic form of research’ and ‘political organisational activity’. I think this debate is relevant for a wider circle, though unfortunately it is so far often confined to individual and often rhetorical discussions.

Stay tuned
M.

Preliminary Structure / Questions

1) Introduction

* What is your research focussing on and why? Where do you see the ‘political relevance’?
* What empirical sources do you rely on?
* How did the fieldwork look like? Who were you able to talk to and how did this relationship look like?
* What kind of political activity are you engaged in (even on minimalistic level) and how does your research work relate to this?

2) General Condition of the Automobile Sector

* Could you briefly (!) describe the general global trends you see in the automobile sector, the specific relation between the industry in north and south and the concrete relation between your focus of research (region, specific perspective) and these general tendencies?
* What is the current focus of mainstream research into automobile sector and automobile workers mobilisations? How would you describe the current material relation (resources, methods etc.) between the academic apparatus and the research into development of the automobile sector and work-force?
* How do you see the current relation between ‘academic research’ in the sector and the official ‘labour movement’ (trade unions, labour NGOs etc.)?

3) Workers’ Struggles

* Briefly, how do you interpret the recent automobile workers’ struggles in China 2010 and India 2011? Is there a ‘general trend’ in the global south? How do these struggles relate to the situation in the ‘older’ regions? Is there a material basis for generalisation both within the respective regions (India, China) and on a more global scale?
* What impact did recent movements of workers in the automobile sector have on both the ‘official labour movement’ and the academic sphere, in terms of research focus and methods and ‘internal contradictions’?
* Do you see any tendencies of ‘organisational political activity’ in relation to these mobilisations which have the potential to go beyond institutionalisation and immediate conflict?

4) Current Potentials and Limitations of Academic Research

* What could be a ‘fruitful’ relationship between ‘academic research’ and ‘political organisational activities’ within current class movements? Do you see any examples?
* How does your work concretely depend on the academic apparatus (finance, access to resources, debate etc.)?
* What does usually happen with the ‘product’ of your work? How do you and / or the academic apparatus make it public or uses it? Do you get anything out of it, in terms of debate, responses, which lead to ‘clarification’?
* From your own concrete experience: what kind of restrictions does the academic mode of production impose on the relationship between ‘researcher’ and workers or political activities – or between ‘researchers’? How do you deal with these restrictions?
* Why do you think comrades currently try to ‘do research’ through the academic despite these restrictions? Do you see any form of individual or collective alternatives, concrete examples of alternatives?
* How do you see the near future: do you have concrete ideas or projects which bring together ‘research work’ and ‘political activity’?
* Do you have any concrete comments, criticisms and / or suggestions concerning the practice of FaridabadMajdoorSamachar and / or GurgaonWorkersNews?

8.4) Phd by Bose on Automobile Industry and Workers in Delhi area

Maruti truck driver…

Phd thesis by Bose on Delhi automobile industry
Full thesis in PDF

8.5) For further Reading

Workers…

Below a list of relevant further sources on automobile workers struggles and the Maruti Suzuki dispute.

Mainstream news video on 18th of July unrest in Manesar:

http://profit.ndtv.com/videos/india-insight/video-marutis-manesar-plant-...

Collection on articles concerning Maruti Suzuki from Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in Hindi:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-TeLh1FWjh6WHlQdjFnZzdyWEU/edit?pli=1

Longer journalistic article on ‘workers’ view’ on Maruti Manesar dispute:

http://fountainink.in/?p=2660&all=1

Article by comrades of radicalnotes.com on relevance of Maruti struggle:

http://radicalnotes.com/content/view/171/39/

———————-

Material in GurgaonWorkersNews relating to the local automobile industry:

GurgaonWorkersNews no.3 on the automobile supply chain:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no3/#fn1

GurgaonWorkersNews no.3 on dispute at Amtek:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no3/#fn5

GurgaonWorkersNews no.5 on conditions of a truck driver in the supply-chain:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no5/#fn2

GurgaonWorkersNews no.6 on conditions at supplier Motherson and gender relations on the shop-floor:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no6/#fn1

GurgaonWorkersNews no.6 Conditions and struggle at supplier Delphi:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no6/#fn3

GurgaonWorkersNews no.8 reports from workers in the supply-chain:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no8/#fn1

GurgaonWorkersNews no.8 on wildcat-strike at supplier Delphi:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no8/#fn4

GurgaonWorkersNews no.8 on struggle at Maruti in 2000:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no8/#fn5

GurgaonWorkersNews no.11 on struggle at supplier Automax:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no911/#fn5

GurgaonWorkersNews no.13/14 on struggle at supplier Graziano:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no913/#fn6

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no914/#fn3

GurgaonWorkersNews no.18 on struggle at supplier Boni:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-918/#fn5

GurgaonWorkersNews no.18 on struggle at supplier Mushashi:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-918/#fn6

GurgaonWorkersNews no.19 reports from supply-chain workers and worker at Motherson:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-919/#fn4

GurgaonWorkersNews no.21 on struggle at Rico and the condition of the automobile sector in India

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-921/#fn6

GurgaonWorkersNews no.22 on struggle at supplier Rico

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-22/#fn4

GurgaonWorkersNews no.23 on struggle/lock-out at supplier Denso:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-923/#fn5

GurgaonWorkersNews no.24 on lock-out at supplier Denso:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-924/#fn5

GurgaonWorkersNews no.26 conditions and struggle at supplier Sanden Vikas:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-926/#fn3

GurgaonWorkersNews no.30 on conditions of workers in the supply-chain:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-930/#fn2

GurgaonWorkersNews no.31 interview with CNC operator at supplier:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-931/#fn4

GurgaonWorkersNews no.32 on situation within the supply chain:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-932/#fn1

GurgaonWorkersNews no.33 on the supply-chain mix of welding robots and slum production:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-933/#fn1

GurgaonWorkersNews no.35 on the supply-chain of Maruti

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-935/#fn1

GurgaonWorkersNews no.36 on the supply-chain of Maruti

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-936/#fn1

GurgaonWorkersNews no.41 on the Maruti occupation in June 2011

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-941/

GurgaonWorkersNews no.44 on Maruti struggles in 2011

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-944/

GurgaonWorkersNews no.45 on Maruti struggle update

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-945/#fn3

GurgaonWorkersNews no.48 on Maruti struggle update

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-948/#fn1

GurgaonWorkersNews no.50 on lock-out at supplier Senior

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-950/#fn2

————————–

Article by wildcat car worker on the ‘end of the automobile’:

http://www.wildcat-www.de/en/wildcat/83/w83_auto_en.htm

Article by Marco Revelli on historic strike against layoffs at FIAT Italy:

http://libcom.org/tags/marco-revelli

Article on ‘political assembly’ of workers at Alfa Romeo:

http://libcom.org/history/against-state-boss-autonomous-assembly-alfa-romeo

Article on Lordstown struggle US:

http://libcom.org/library/lordstown-struggle-ken-weller

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Towards a Workers’ Organisation (Part One) – GurgaonWorkersNews May 2012
May 21, 2012

Towards a Workers’ Organisation (Part One) – GurgaonWorkersNews May 2012

In this and the following issue of GurgaonWorkersNews we debate the question of ‘workers’ organisations’: how do workers’ bodies formed in the daily struggle relate to ‘political’ coordinations of workers, in continuity with the struggle against the existing social relations?

This debate has to be firmly based on an analysis of a) the actual current workers’ experiences of struggle and the problematic and promising tendencies within; b) the relation between particular struggle and general conditions of the capitalist cycle; c) the changing composition of work-force and the relation of workers to the immediate and social production process – as material basis for self-organisation.

This first part consists of general political theses concerning the question of workers’ organisations and, in relation to this, we present six longer reports on recent struggles in Delhi-Faridabad-Gurgaon industrial areas. The second part will focus on current developments at Maruti Suzuki and its supply chain in relation to the re-composition of workers’ collectivity after the struggle in 2011. On this background we will raise general questions on the relation between workers’ organisations and workers’ inquiry. Please contribute to the debate.

www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com
gurgaon_workers_news@yahoo.co.uk

*** Bullet-Points for Debate on Workers’ Organisation -
The steps towards a workers’ organisation are based on political assumptions – one of them being that the classical distinction in ‘trade union struggle’ and ‘party struggle’, in ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle, has become a stumbling block.

*** An Unnecessary Repetition – Struggle at Harsoria Healthcare, Gurgaon -
On 24th of April 2012 workers at Harsoria Healthcare, a manufacturer of cannula and catheters for the medical sector, engaged in a sit-down strike before once more ending up in dead-ends of symbolic and legalistic protest.

*** Lock-Out at Automobile Supplier Senior Flexonics, Manesar -
Workers at multinational Senior Flexonics in Manesar registered a trade union and put forward a demand notice. Subsequently they were locked out from early January till late February 2012.

*** Riots at Orient Craft and Larsen&Tubro Construction Site, Gurgaon -
On 19th of March workers at garment exporter Orient Craft rioted after a work-mate had been attacked by a contractor. On 23rd of March construction workers attacked company property in response to the death of a colleague after a work-accident.

*** Workers’ Sirens at Lakhani Vardan Samuh, Faridabad -
From December 2011 till April 2012 Lakhani workers in Faridabad were engaged in various forms of struggle about delay of wage payments: from direct action on factory grounds to wildcat strikes, to street blockades and demonstrations to governmental institutions.

*** Unrest at Theme Export Garment Factory, Okhla -
Successful direct collective step by garment workers in Okhla on 16th of April about delayed wages, which attracted workers in surrounding factories and workers’ settlements.

*** Revealing Potentials – Struggle at Globe Capacitor, Faridabad -
During April 2012 workers undertook various collectively planned steps to enforce higher wages, which forced management to give concessions. the struggle was influenced workers in the supplying company and by workers in a neighbouring factory.

*** Delhi Calling: Get Involved in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel -
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute around 10,000 copies of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi and try to organise local workers’ meetings.

*** Bullet-Points for Debate on Workers’ Coordinations -

We first present general considerations concerning the question of workers’ organisations. We then turn to the reports on current struggles in Delhi’s industrial area and formulate preliminary conclusions regarding the question of organisation. We finally outline concrete steps towards a workers’ organisation under present conditions.

1) On Workers’ Organisations – General Thoughts
2) On Current Struggles
3) On Concrete Tasks and Steps

1) On Workers’ Organisations – General Thoughts

a) Intro

The proposal for a workers’ organisation is based on political assumptions – one of them being that the classical distinction in ‘trade union struggle’ and ‘party struggle’, in ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle, which is still prevalent amongst us, has become a stumbling block. This ‘party/union’-perspective allows ‘tactical’ participation in ‘institutional’ trade union work despite the obvious problematic results for the development of collective workers’ power. The clear shortcomings of ‘institutional’ trade union work can be justified as a problem of the ‘first stage of workers’ struggles’, which will be solved by the party politics waiting in the second stage.

The ‘union/party’-perspective also allows us to abstain from deeper analysis in material conditions and internal tendencies of workers’ struggles which would be necessary in order to explain current limitations. Instead, limitations are ‘explained’ by declaring the struggles as ‘economist’ and lacking ‘political consciousness and leadership’. These are tautological explanations which are meant to give final credit to one’s own ‘external role and position towards workers’ struggle. They are of as little use for the development of workers’ collective power as the general appeals towards workers’ unity. Workers’ unity is not the question of ‘umbrella organisations’, but arises only out of the struggle within the contradictive nature of capitalist production process, which at the same time combines and segments workers. Workers’ have to find forms of organisations which materially undermines the segmentation imposed by the production process – they cannot just step out and ‘generalise externally’.

The following theses won’t say anything new, they are meant to summarise a general position as a background for the debate on current struggles and future tasks – mainly with comrades and friends in Marxist-Leninist organisations, active in the regional industrial areas.

b) Class Composition and Class Movement

The form of social production determines the form of social struggle and the vision of a ‘social alternative’. Although this is generally accepted, most political proposals of ‘how to organise’ and most ‘communist programs’ remain rather unhistoric or attached to the last century. Capitalist social production changes rapidly, the regional centres, dominating industrial sectores and ‘workers figures’ are transformed with each cycle. Within this process ‘the working class’ changes, we have to talk about specific ‘class compositions during specific cycles. The ‘technical class composition’, as the historically dominating form of the social production process, contains the process and potential of ‘political class composition’ – the form of class movement. [1]

By ‘technical composition’ we mean the actual historical form of how workers cooperate within a process of division of labour mediated by machinery and shaped by different levels of development; how the immediate production process relates to the wider social process of (re-)production and forms and levels of consumption; how formal individual skills relate to wider social skills of workers necessary to perform labour; how different categories and sections of workers are brought together and are segmented; how the class conflict is mediated institutionally and culturally.

By ‘political composition’ we mean the process of how ‘working class’ and ‘workers unity’ actually forms out of material conditions and experiences of struggles: the concrete form of organisation of struggle workers develop based on the collective nature of the capitalist production process, overcoming it’s segmenting nature; the concrete demands and wider social critique which springs up from concrete conditions and ‘aspirations of productivity’ – a historically specific relation between living and dead labour; the form of how particular struggles relate to each other and turn into a generalised movement due to the social dimension of production and general conditions within a capitalist cycle; how this generalisation tends to happen through struggles within central industries which can express an advanced stage of conflict between capital and workers; based on this relation between central sectors and wider society, specific forms of ‘economical and political’ organisations (councils, assemblies) of the class movement are formed and can express a specific ‘social alternative’, a historically specific communism.

c) Class Composition and Periodisation

Although historical periodisation contains a certain danger of becoming schematic we can state that, e.g. the cycle of transformation from agricultural labour and small peasantry to urban and industrial work corresponded to formation of ‘communist parties’ as bridge organisations [2], the early stage of skilled industrial manufacturing work gave birth to ‘councilist’ and ‘revolutionary syndicalist’ workers’ organisations, and the period of large-scale ‘Fordist’ industries, which were more integrated into general society brought forth organisational forms of ‘mass workers’, such as general assemblies and wider political coordinations with a quite different ‘communist vision’ from earlier perspectives of ‘self-management’. [3]

In this sense the ‘revolutionary potentials’ of struggles and movements are inscribed within the actual social production process. Communist activities have to relate to the ‘gaps’ between these given material social potentials and the concrete ongoing struggles – last, but not least by referring to the experiences in other regions or of the near past. The challenge obviously lies in the fact that the ‘technical composition’ is in constant change and that a dynamic relation exists between technical and political composition. The overwhelming rapidness and spacial vastness of these changes partly explains the leftist retreat into ‘fixed organisational models’, from ‘parties’ to ‘syndicalism’. What we then have to propose to the living working class today is dead weight of past times.

d) Class Composition and Capitalist Development

The forms of collective power which workers develop based on their combination within the production process is constantly undermined by capital’s attempt to ‘de-compose’: outsourcing, dismantling, introduction of new technologies and production methods requiring new skills, re-location to other regions of the globe, introduction of new categories of workers with different backgrounds etc.. The dynamic character of capitalism and ‘development’ in general is less explained out of ‘market-forces’ or ‘abstract greed for super-profits’, but by this dynamic relation-ship between struggle and changes in production as response. Capitalism contains class conflict through developmental leaps. This entails that the ‘de-composition’ (the segmentation of the working class in the production process) is done in a way which re-composes them on a higher level of social productivity. Capitalism is not merely ‘isolating’ workers in response to their ‘united efforts’ – it is isolating them through specific form of socialisation.

e) Economical – Political Contradiction of Productive Cooperation

Capital is forced to accumulate, less due to ‘internal competition’, but in order to be able to respond to workers’ struggle with an raise of workers’ consumption levels while at the same time increase in their exploitation. In order to ‘de-compose’ workers strong-holds and to re-combine social labour on a higher level, the general costs for machinery increase. The increased use of machinery and its increased share in total production costs is an expression of how capital intends to contain class struggle. Here we find the ‘economical’ and ‘political’ contradiction combined in the production process, in front of workers’ eyes and contained in their experiences: from an ‘economical’ point of view a smooth and close cooperation between workers is necessary in order to increase social productivity. Under given social class relations the ‘productive closeness’ of the social producer contains a ‘political danger’. Despite the fact that it hampers social productivity, which any worker is well aware of, capital has to segment the production process ‘politically’, be it through immediate division of labour, division between intellectual and manual labour, between sectors, between regions, different spheres of production and reproduction, between developed and underdeveloped regions, private and state sector and between nations. This is the sphere of communist theory, understanding and revealing the ‘political systemic forms’ based on workers’ direct experiences.

The ‘political segmentation’ of the social production process is not merely a question of control and domination of the working class. It is also a political requirement for capital in order to obtain its major social legitimation and ‘fetish’: to be seen as pre-condition of social production. Capital brings together individual workers within an industrial production process which cannot be put into motion unless labour is combined. Combination happens ‘under capital’, the resulting social productivity seems the productivity of capital. The working class remains separated from both product and means of production through the ‘separated’ nature of thr production process itself: the material form of production (division of labour, capitalist technology) keeps the individual workers from their collective nature and therefore from their product. This is the fundament of (state) capitalist class relations.The fact that millions of new connections of global production are established only ‘through capital’ is the major social backbone of exploitation. What seems like cunning tactics of divide-and-rule – the political divisions within production – creates thousands of little hick-ups in the production process, thousands of problems and mis-coordinations. That things run smoothly despite all the imposed barriers largely depends on workers (improvisation, creativity, overcoming problems) – who individually might perceive these problems as problems of ‘mis-management’. Here again workers’ organisations have to reveal the systemic nature.

This ‘capital fetish’ (capital as precondition of production) can only be undermined through revealing the social and political dimension of production process – by interrupting it in struggle. In order to obtain even the most minimal ‘victories’ and economic gains workers are increasingly forced to push beyond their immediate company level. If the daily grind of global supply chains start to stumble, because workers in one link interrupt the flow of production, this gives us a moment to create direct relationships. Communist activities have to refer to the ‘practical existence’ of the ‘collective worker’ – the totality of social cooperation necessary in order to produce, the antagonistic living force within capitalist relation of production. The ‘collective worker’ is necessary reference point in order to gain in power in any struggle for immediate demands and material basis for general radical social transformation on a world-scale. In this sense the ‘collective worker’ is a more historical, material and dynamic concept to analyse the process between particular struggles and political potential of change than the notion of ‘class in and for itself’, which leaves a gap in the transformation, generally filled with vague terms of consciousness.

f) Generalisation and Capitalist Cycle: Boom and Crisis

There has been little historical debate about the relation between class struggle, change of production system and wider capitalist cycle in terms of ‘boom and crisis’. [4] Debates have evolved separately about product or technological cycles, about cycles of ‘expansion’ and financialisation. The question of whether workers face boom or crisis, partly expressed through the conditions on the labour market, obviously impacts on the question of how they can struggle, of how their struggles can generalise and pose the question of a social alternative. Systemic questions mainly arise at times when the working class still contains the structural power and aspirations of a period of ‘expansion’, which also opened space for widespread critique of the ‘alienating and despotic form of expansion’, but faces a crisis which eradicates the hope for ‘a better future’, despite the still blatant potentials of social productivity. The period between 1968 and 1977 is an example, we most likely face a similar situation on a more global scale today.

With the current global crisis it becomes more and more difficult for capital to portray itself as a pre-condition and coordinator of production: capitalist social productive cooperation has to pass through the fragile channels of companies, markets, money. Under condition of crisis the cooperation rips, small links in the chain go bust, millions thrown into unemployment, millions are made to work till total exhaustion. ‘Managers’ supposed to be responsible to ‘coordinate’ the cooperation of billions, but they are increasingly trapped within their ‘small links in the chain’, be it sectorial or regional. Their only answer to the crisis – bail out followed by austerity – aggravates the conditions.

The managers of capital try to enforce austerity against the overt potential for abundance. They can only succeed as long as they are able to separate the social experience of over-productive labour from the poverty of un-/underemployment. Obviously this separation does not take a pure form of ‘employed working-class’ on one side, ‘impoverished proletariat’ on the other. This separation appears in its various shades of development and underdevelopment, of high-tech and labour intensity, of regional deprivation and boom centres, of respectable workmen and lumpen, of hire and fire. This separation will appear in all imaginable ethnic colours. With the disappearance of the old buffer-classes, with the social death of peasantry and artisans in the global South, the demise of the self-employed educated middle-classes and petty bourgeoisie, capital has to face up to it’s living self. While being in it’s essence the violent coordinator of social labour – ‘globalisation’, international supply-chains etc. – in this crisis more than ever capital has to hide and segment the global character of social cooperation from the emerging global working class. In the attempt to segment and re-combinate capital becomes a burden to social cooperation. It gets in its own way. Therefore the challenge for working-class communists is to point-out the ‘political separation’ of development (social productivity) and underdevelopment (poverty), the potential of abundance in the face of stark misery. In order to do this we will have to re-consider old concepts used to describe the relation between centre and periphery, e.g. the concept of ‘imperialism’, ‘Third World’ etc., which seem to blunt in order to analyse the emerging global class composition.

g) Union Question

On the background of the process of ‘class de-composition and re-composition’ we can easily see that the problem with trade union struggle is not merely its ‘burocratic undemocratic forms’ or limited ‘economic demands’. The formal and legal framework of trade union organisation does not allow workers to organise on the same level and scope as capital is trying to both combine and disorganise them. While modern companies combine workers beyond categories, company, sector and national boundaries, trade unions can neither reflect this scope nor the rapidness of changes. In addition they have to stick to legally prescribed forms of struggle which by definition will keep workers subjugated to the playing field of state and capital. Amongst communist there will not be much disagreement about these facts.

The disagreement rather concerns the question of the relation between ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle, between ‘trade union struggle’ and ‘party or political organisation’. [5] Without going into detail we can state that the position which perceives the ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle of the working class as two separate stages – and therefore the ‘party’ as a kind of political complement to the trade unions – has its origins in a historically specific stage of development of capitalist class relations: an early one. The traditional Leninist conception is based on social conditions where industrial production and working class was still marginal, where the state was not majorly involved in industrial relations, where there existed still a major gap between ‘factory and wider social reproduction (schools, science), where the ‘immediate production process could be seen as a mainly ‘economic sphere’ with little connection to the rest of society and ‘politics’.

Since Lenin, with the development of a ‘planning state’ (state industries, direct intervention in industrial planning and relations etc.) as the extension of planning from factory into society, with the extension of ‘scientific’ industrial form of production into all spheres of social life and with the working class becoming a social majority, the question of what is ‘economical’ about the social production process and what is ‘political’ has obviously changed. With these changes also the institutional role of trade unions has transformed drastically. From a ‘school’ of workers in a seemingly gradual process towards ‘political consciousness’, they have been reduced to institutions which – confronted with the vast extension of the social production process – are legally and formally confined to a very narrow social sphere. Their main influence is based on the necessity of capital to control the wage-productivity development. Under these conditions, to maintain Lenin’s classical notion of a rather schematic distinction in economic and political struggle will have negative results.

h) From Workers’ Struggle to Social Transformation

The classical two-stage model of ‘trade union’ and ‘political party’ formation makes it impossible to discover the ‘revolutionary contradictions’ within the social productive cooperation. It is a disjointing, rather then elevating on a higher level of consciousness: limited to the trade union framework workers will not be able to generalise their struggles along the lines of their already existing productive relationships and the ‘political generalisation’ through the party is in most cases happening detached from social production in the ‘political sphere’ (campagnes, mobilisations etc.).

The generalisation within social production itself is the main precondition to materially undermine segmentations and the ‘capital fetish’ (capital as the organiser of society). It is ‘economic struggle’ through which workers have to discover the political nature of capitalist production – the class content of science, technology, institutions. This mass process of discovery cannot be by-passed, the ‘generalisation’ cannot be short-cut through the various channels bourgeois politics have to over: from trade unionism to parliamentarism, from identity politics to regionalism or nationalism.

The class movement will have to develop its organisation along the lines of global productive connections and materially change these connections: in its intensive stage class struggle will simultaneously have to create the (pre-)conditions for ‘the production of communism’. Workers’ struggles will not only ‘attack capital and the state’ by withdrawing social labour – strikes will interrupt social reproduction to an existential degree and thereby force the class movement to re-organise production and circulation while fighting. In this stage of class struggle we will be able to discover not only how social labour is globally integrated, but also that most social labour in capitalism is superfluous – no one will complain about the lack of market research calls or supply of Tata Nanos. A huge mass of human energy and creativity will be set free. At the same time the class movement will face the question of how to re-organise production in a form which not only guarantees effective subsistence, but also extends the ‘self-organisation of struggle’ into a self-organisation of social production: abolishment of hierarchical division of labour and uneven development. The revolution is not only an act of ‘smashing/taking power’, but of revolutionising social relationships, of getting rid of the contradiction between individual and social by materially transforming how we (re-)produce our social existence. In this sense is only logical that the ‘trade union/party’-perspective also disjoints ‘revolution’ from ‘production of communism’ and sees communism rather as a ‘policy’ which can be introduced.

The Leninist conception of ‘trade union’ and ‘party’-struggle was based on a less developed industrial/agricultural society. The practical expression of this notion revealed itself when the new (Bolchevique) state dismantled the Sowjets, the workers’ economical-political organisations, during the first years after the Russian Revolution. [6] The ‘New Economic Policies’ (Fordist industrialisation plus ‘market’ incentives) at the time required to impose ‘a strict centralised regime on factory and society’. We can argue about the ‘historic necessity’ of this policy, e.g. the historic necessity to appease the emerging middle-peasantry or maintain a standing army, fact is that in order to impose this regime the new state forced workers to give up their economical-political power in form of the sowjets. The new state strategically re-introduced a separation: workers were supposed to turn to ‘trade unions’ for their ‘economical needs’ and to ‘the party’ for political direction. In this way workers’ productive collective power was undermined and the driving force of revolution extinct. This was the degeneration.

i) Tasks and Continuity of Workers’ Organisations

On this background we maintain that their is a continuity between ‘economical-political’ organisations today – from the the most minute level of shop-floors and industrial areas – and these future ‘economical-political’ organisations of communist revolution. [7] In a modern capitalist society there can’t be a conceptual-organisational gap between the embryonic and developed forms. Workers’ organisations have to find practical collective answers within daily workers’ struggles in a way which always keeps open the possibility of expansion and generalisation – towards the ‘collective worker’. The coordinated collective steps have to be able to ‘give some relief’ to workers here and now by helping to gain concrete ‘victories’, while at the same time referring organisationally and conceptually to the necessity of social revolution. They have to use the minute scope of ‘anticipation’ (question of which forms of struggles or demands could help catalysing and generalising struggles in concrete time and space) based on the knowledge about current struggles and their position within wider social production. They have to use the current global scope of struggles to build international links which survive the ebb and flow of particular struggles and can come to a truely global perspective and organised practice. Workers’ organisations in that sense are not the ‘organisations through which the working class struggles’, they are rather organisations which support the tendencies towards self-organisation and emancipation in the struggles and movements as they happen.

In the following we will try to refer the questions raised above to the current regional struggles and then formulate some ‘concrete proposals’ concerning steps towards a workers’ organisation.

Footnotes:

[1] For the historical debate about these concepts see:

http://libcom.org/library/renascence-operaismo-wildcat

http://libcom.org/library/storming-heaven-class-composition-struggle-ita...

[2] Loren Goldner argues this thesis in his text concerning the general relation between capitalist development and agrarian revolution:

http://libcom.org/library/communism-is-the-material-human-community-amad...

[3] Two essential texts on the question of changing class compositions and changing forms of ‘communist movement’:

http://libcom.org/library/class-composition-sergio-bologna

http://libcom.org/library/tribe-of-moles-sergio-bologna

[4] One of the few attempts has been undertaken in ‘Forces of Labor’, by Beverly Silver.

http://www.wildcat-www.de/dossiers/forcesoflabor/fol_preface.htm

http://www.wildcat-www.de/dossiers/forcesoflabor/fol_dossier.htm

[5] Essential text by Mouvement Communiste on the ‘union question’:

http://mouvement-communiste.com/documents/MC/Letters/LTMC0311EN.pdf

[6] On the relation between ‘Bolshevik’ state and workers’ sowjets:

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/1977/08/communist_left

http://libcom.org/files/The%20Russian%20revolution%20in%20retreat.pdf

http://libcom.org/library/bolsheviks-workers-control-solidarity-introduc...

[7]
The experience of workers’ coordinations in Italy in the 1960s – 1970s illustrate the ‘economic-political’ character and the cohesion between direct struggle and revolutionary organisation:

http://libcom.org/history/porto-marghera-%E2%80%93-last-firebrands

2) On Current Struggles

Concerning the overall ‘class composition’ and ‘conditions for generalisation of struggle’ in Gurgaon area we have published two papers for debate. In the first paper [1] we outlined briefly the main industrial sectors (automobile, garments, IT-related services) and their different degrees of integration into social and global production and ‘market/production’-rhythms. In the second paper [2] in April 2011 we described the general conditions in terms of labour market and inflation, hinting at the possibility of a wider wave of ‘egalitarian wage struggles’ with the potential for generalisation. Since then the struggle at Maruti Suzuki in June – October 2011 has provided us with a vast amount of experiences, which we tried to analyse in various newsletters – the second part of this paper ‘on organisation’ will consist of a ‘balance-sheet’ eight months after the end of the dispute. Regarding the recent struggles at Harsoria, Flexonics, Orient Craft, Theme Export, Lakhani and Globe Capacitor we can only formulate preliminary thoughts:

* First of all we can state a common background of these struggles. The struggles took place in factories with 500 plus workers. Despite the fact that these belong to different sector we think that there exists a certain relation between ‘quantitative concentration’ of workers and their potential to take collective steps under given conditions – or at least collective steps which make themselves known beyond the factory wall. As always the question remains how workers in the ‘centre’ can relate to workers in the ‘periphery’, e.g. in small industries.

* The struggles in the more productively more integrated manufacturing companies – Harsoria, Flexonics and Globe Capacitor – displayed a higher degree of ‘organisation’ in terms of necessary coordination in order to undertake collective steps. Here we can see a difference between two dominating sectors in the area, the automobile and garment sector. It was not by chance that the Maruti struggle (two collective wildcat occupations) took place in the automobile sector and the more ‘impulsive struggles’ tend to shake the garment sector.

* The fact that Harsoria workers opted to stay inside the factory (sit-down strike) is a result of experiences of past defeats. Workers in the area know that they are in a less favourable position towards company and (police) state once they are outside. In this sense the Maruti struggle has entered something like a ‘collective subconsciousness’ of the working class in the area. The fact that the Harsoria workers stayed inside but remained awkwardly attached to the legalistic positions can mainly be explained by the domination of the struggle by permanent workers and their trade union. Similar to Senior Flexonics the dead-ends of trade union form of struggle show themselves very clearly, the tragic element in case of Harsoria is that workers opted to enter the same dead-end twice within a year.

* The struggle at Globe Capacitors reveals some dormant potentials. Workers undertook planned collective steps with direct impacts. They tried to avoid traps of presenting ‘leaders’, who could be bought or crushed. They also avoided the legalistic swamp. The example also demonstrates that the company reacted swiftly after having had to give concessions – management hired new 100 workers through contractor and ‘gave some relieve’ to permanent workers. The short struggles and Superelectro Films and Abhirashi Impex gave an impulse to workers at Globe Capacitor. This was possible due to the mutual dependency with the production system and general similarities in condition in the industrial area. Globe Capacitor workers will have to go a step beyond merely ‘receiving impulses’ from other workers, but form conscious and direct relationships with them – in order to undermine management’s counter-attack on the company ground.

* The Globe Capacitor example also contains the double character of global supply-chains. The company manufactures capacitors for export and for multinationals like L&G or Samsung. Senior Flexonics itself is a multinational company with factories around the globe. In the Gurgaon area, in most cases the global dimension of production has been used against workers, rather than workers having appropriated it for their own collective efforts. In the case of Denso automobile supplier in 2010, management prepared for a lock-out by ordering extra amounts of parts from Denso Thailand plant. When the dispute at automobile supplier in Gurgaon interrupted assembly-lines at general Motors and Ford in the US due to lack of parts the regional representative of the UAW (United Automobile Workers Union – USA) only expressed the hope that ‘the problem at the supplier’ will be solved soon. Neither workers in the US, who were battling with a UAW agreed wage cut ‘for jobs’, nor the Rico workers were able to make conscious use of their productive links.

* It is not by chance that the recent riots at Orient Craft and Larsen&Tubro took place in the textile and construction sector. Garment export workers are subjected to a quick succession of ups and downs of orders from clients, while orders come in they work 12 to 24 hours a day, while orders are down they often have to wait or look for work. The quick wildcat strikes at the time of new orders to enforce higher piece rates have their equivalent in the seemingly spontaneous outbursts after repression. Looking back into history we can see that workers struggles in the garment industry have always been rather violent and to a certain extend erratic. In this sense, regarding the short-term nature of a specific product cycle, the situation of construction workers is not much different.

* The riots at Orient Craft and Larsen&Tubro construction site express a general discontent amongst workers – they also express the general knowledge of workers that the usual ‘grievances channels’, such as trade union protest, legal procedures at labour courts or petitioning of political leaders have become increasingly irrelevant for the majority of workers. The riot is therefore not an ‘unreflected’ reaction of workers. Compared to long-term legalistic efforts within the garment sector, focussing on the illusion of stable agreements and ‘fair trade and jobs’, these outbursts actually have a higher likelihood for workers to force management to ‘give concessions’ – though these concessions will never appear as a ‘formal success’ of negotiations and therefore remain invisible for large sections of the well-meaning left.

* The rather idealistic criticism of many leftist, that workers should focus on ‘true organisation and unity’, instead of engaging in ‘anarchic’ violence is at best helpless. While it is true that riots can at best give an impulse to wider unrest and only open a very limited space to create deeper organisational links, our task is not to condemn them on the basis of our picture book ‘of how workers are supposed to fight’. Rather we have to ask the question of how to imagine an ‘organic’ link between different ‘forms of struggle’ (determined by their position in social production), partly given through the material connection across sectors, mainly due to the mobile character of the modern work-force.

* One of the ‘generalisation of conditions’ between garment and automobile sector in the area is the ongoing transformation from ‘skilled artisan/taylor work’ (full peace production) to chain systems and increased mechanisation (CNC-embroidery), which ‘industrialises’ the sector and introduces a work-force which is less skilled on an individual level, but more integrated on a collective level. The intensifying competition for jobs and the drop in wages in the sector is the current negative outcome. The further introduction of the chain-system takes place at a point where most of the garment export companies are in a severe credit squeeze, which puts further pressure on wages.

* In terms of conditions on the labour market and problems with wage payments we can see a slight gap opening between garment and automobile sector. Many (skilled) garment workers report that it becomes more difficult to find jobs within the sector. Struggles about delayed payment of wages such as those at Theme Export and Lakhani are more pressing in the garment sector than in automobile companies of similar size. Mainly workers in the bigger manufacturing companies are currently able to put forward more offensive demands for less work and more money.

What kind of conclusions can we draw from these struggles regarding potential and necessity of a workers’ organisation? First of all we have to see that the reports themselves, their sketchy and random character, expresses one of the main challenges for future organisational efforts: we have to state honestly that we know too little about what is happening and how. We get to know about ‘official struggles’ or ‘spectacular events’ – in most cases once workers’ are victimised and defeated – but little about workers collective steps in the factories and territory. Our reports and analysis focus more on the role of various political forces (often on the role of our own organisation), than on the material basis of struggles, their internal potentials and limitations.

The lack of insight and analysis is not only a problem of our own limited capacity and lack of ‘contacts’, it is a political problem within the working class itself. Workers’, too, underestimate the importance of their experiences in general and the need for deeper analysis and sharing of these experiences in concrete. Obviously workers will ask and rightly so: how does the exchange of experience change anything, how does it relate to concrete betterment of our situation? This is a question which has to be answered – by turning experience into conclusions for practical coordinated efforts. What could that mean in concrete relating to these recent struggles?

* An organised presence within the struggles at Harsoria and Flexonics armed with a) the experience of struggles which ended in similar situations (individual ‘good conduct’- declarations, lock-out, isolation in front of plant, legalistic traps) and b) practical suggestions how to avoid the dead-ends (expansion of the dispute within area, e.g. through circulating workers’ groups, and along supply-lines) could have shifted things.

* In the case of Harsoria analysis of the wider conditions in companies in the same sector (medical equipment) might open space for generalisation: at the five factories of Eastern Medikit in Gurgaon casuals are under permanent pressure and wages had not been paid for some time. Direct visits and steps independently from the HMS presence in both companies could have increased the pressure on both managements. Harsoria mainly exports to the EU – the current economical crisis will impact in one way or the other on the company and would have to be taken in consideration in the debate with workers.

* In the case of Senior Flexonics direct exchange could have been established to Flexonics workers in the US, UK, France, Germany and Czech Republic. The relationships to workers’ organisations in these countries are weak, but a concrete effort could fortify them. Senior Flexonics is one of the worlds biggest manufacturer for certain diesel engine parts. A more detailed analysis of company strategies and market developments could reveal quite general tendencies and contradictions of the global industrial system – which could re-enter in the proletarian debate.

* In the case of Globe Capacitor a workers’ organisation would suggest to make conscious use of the existing links to workers in other factories, both in the area (Abhirashi Impex) and the supply-chain (Superelectro Films), to make special efforts to relate to the 100 newly hired workers and to re-examine the relationship with the permanents. Additional efforts should be made to find out about current conditions at Orient Fan, L&G etc.

* The cases of Lakhani, Theme Export and to a certain extend the unrest at Orient Craft ask the question of how direct actions around the question of non-payment of wages can be coordinated on a wider industrial area level. Pre-condition is a collective knowledge about where exactly conflicts are brewing at the same time. Common activities of workers of different companies within dense industrial areas will make an impact – management of other companies will put pressure on the ‘non-paying’ management to solve the problem. Additional pressure can be exerted directly on international buyers.

* The riots at Orient Craft ask for a reconsideration of the ‘internal organisation’ of riots. The common view of ‘chaotic violence’ is in most cases superficial and wrong, dealing with social situations like they were natural disasters. Which scope for ‘organised direction’ does exist during situations like at Orient Craft? What can we do and what should we avoid during these situations?

* The fact that all these struggles took place close to each other in terms of space and time raises the question of ‘regular assemblies’ of workers involved in concrete struggles, disregarding specific issues or sectors. The current material conditions of workers (6 to 7 days work per week, 12 hours shifts) will require a special creativity regarding organisation of these assemblies (rotating, mobile). The assembly could also be space to debate current struggle experiences in other regions.

* In the May issue of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar we published the struggle reports in Hindi, introduced by general considerations concerning ‘how to struggle’. the paper will be circulated in Delhi-Faridabad-Gurgaon-Manesar industrial areas. Given our current limited personal capacities we are not able to make the next step towards ‘practical consequences’.

Footnotes:

[1] Paper on class composition in Gurgaon:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-925/

[2] Paper on potential for general wage struggle in the area:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-937/

3) On Concrete Tasks and Steps

Facing the seemingly gaping abyss between the ‘general role of a communist organisation’ and the ‘mundaneness’ of concrete tasks thrown up by day to day struggles we often confirm the seeming disjuncture in our activity. We either reduce our activities to ‘general debate’ (crisis, communist tradition etc.) or get bogged down in ‘activity’ – losing sight of a wider picture or leaving it to ‘the party leadership’ to re-establish a superficial link between practice and theory in hindsight.

In the following we summarise what ‘workers’ organisation’ could mean in concrete and formulate steps towards it, based on our current stage of practice. The ‘elements’ of a workers’ organisation are put in a seemingly schematic order. We don’t see them as ‘chronological’ or ‘progressive, meaning that we should attempt to see them as a ‘totality’ – the actual limitation of our capacities will nevertheless force us to concentrate on certain aspects.

I) What do we see as the basis of a workers’ organisation
II) Where are we now in this process
III) How could we get further

I) What do we see as the basis of a workers’ organisation

a) Develop Common Understanding

We think that a broad common position towards the following questions is necessary in order to collaborate on a continuous bases:
* ‘what is the main characteristic of the current system’?
* ‘what would be a social alternative’?
* ‘what is the material link between the existing and the alternative’?
* ‘who is the transforming subject’?
* ‘how do we relate to it’?
The answers are never established once and for all – things change. This means to debate things beyond the immediate experience of workers. For that we need ‘new forms’ of internal organisation and debate which do not reproduce the hierarchical devision between ‘educated/uneducated’, between people who have time and resources to read global news and historical texts and those who don’t. In this sense part of the ‘common understanding’ has to relate on the ‘form of how to organise’, e.g. the attempt to abolish formal and informal hierarchies, to remain independent from (non-) state institutions and other social layers who have an interest in the status quo.

b) Relate to Workers’ Experiences

We have already stated that we ourselves know too little about daily conflicts and changes in factories and territory. Workers themselves give little importance to their (individual) experiences – both in terms of daily practice and acts of resistance. It is part of the political debate to challenge this – in order to discover the social nature of individual experiences. The modern industrial system combines labour by individualising it. We have to focus on the question of the social dimension of what appears as isolated labour: which other labour is necessary so that I can perform my work-task, from the direct supply of material I use, to canteen workers, to housework. On a second level we have to ask what similarities and differences in terms of ‘form of work’ and conditions there are within this social cooperation and why. On a third level we have to discuss how state and capital changes this social cooperation and conditions within and how workers could make use of it. This will already go beyond the individual experience. We don’t think that an organisation forms gradually by ‘convincing’ or ‘recruiting’ individual workers. Class struggle develops in leap and bounds and the concept of ‘advanced workers’, who could be ‘organised and conserved’ individually, will turn into an illusion once separated from the actual collective dispute they are/were part of.

c) Debate General Context

Apart from constant conversations and discussions about the situation in companies and wider proletarian life there is a need for relating these experiences to general and historical tendencies. This requires collective debates and empirical research – again a question of time and resources. In the last decades the relation between theoretical and practical efforts have transformed into a social separation between ‘academic research’ and ‘political activities’. A workers’ organisation should try to challenge this separation by putting forward concrete proposals of ‘workers’ inquiry’ as a re-composition of theory and practice.

d) Develop Means of Exchange

Proletarian experiences and reflection on experiences have to circulate. If possible the ‘means of circulation’ itself should become a ‘means of exchange of experiences’ and create the potential for direct relationships. The form itself is political, we have to re-think the means of exchange: leaflets, ‘reports’, newspapers, internet, public meetings, assemblies. The question has to be addressed of who can participate in the production of the means and how.

e) Engage in Concrete Struggles

The actual struggles are the basis and reference-point of any workers’ organisation. We have to fight the tendency of ‘political organisations’ instrumentalising struggles for their ‘own interests’ (which is allegedly in the wider interest of the working class). Not mainly because we think that workers’ could be led astray, but these organisations tend to glorify struggles and turn them into ‘victories’ in order to make them useful for propaganda (with the best intentions). The struggle is the only chance of collective experience and learning. Therefore a deep analysis and sharp criticism is in the actual interest of the wider working class, even if it means to have to pronounce ‘defeats’. We need a political debate of how to analyse struggles – in the appendix [1] you can find a rather naive and preliminary questionaire ‘on struggles’ which could serve as a basis for debate.

The question whether we are able to make practical contributions to struggles depends a) on our insight into the actual situation, the internal organisation of both company and struggle and b) on the question whether we have established close enough relationships within the workers in order to put proposals into practice. Let’s be honest, in many cases neither the first nor the second precondition is given. In some cases this leads us to rather desperate acts, e.g. relating to the workers mainly through their official leaders, hoping that through ‘practical, more radical advice’ – often limited within the terrain of labour law and formal representation politics – the struggle can be ‘influenced’. The results are obvious, but have to be debated.

So what to do instead, accepting our own limitations? Basically we have to check ourselves: do we make our suggestions based on concrete enough knowledge about either the dispute of concern or similar disputes in the recent past? Do the practical suggestions increase a) the tendencies of self-organisation within the struggle; b) the material power/pressure of the struggle towards company and state; c) widens the possibility of generalisation beyond the current sphere? For concrete debate of these questions see the struggle reports in this newsletter and the ‘preliminary conclusions’.

f) Advance Analysis of Strategical Tendencies

As already stated, class struggle does not develop evenly or gradually, instead it mirrors the uneven nature of capitalist production process and cycles. A strategical analysis is therefore of major importance, not in order to find ‘the possible centres’ of future workers’ struggles and power – which would be an easy task – but to anticipate how these centres will relate to the periphery (or other centres) and along which lines struggles will be able to generalise. These lines of generalisation are not necessarily confined to the connections through the social production process, they can be created by certain economical and political developments which impact on wider sections of the class. Here again, debate is necessary about the relation between ‘productive’ and ‘conditional’ links between sections of workers. Our political activities should focus on these potentially generalising sectors and tendencies. In Gurgaon this could mean to focus some activity on the relation between call centre workers and manual industrial workers, between urban experience of workers and conditions in their villages, between Maruti Suzuki and other centres and the wider productive terrain as will be proposed in concrete in the second part. the rapidness of changes in capitalism leave only little scope for ‘preparation’ or ‘anticipation’ – but based on a deeper understanding of production system and proletarian conditions we might be able to push for certain ‘catalysing’ steps during concrete struggles.

g) Relate to / Create Factory Collectives

Prime objective of any workers’ organisation should be the development of collectives (or the establishing of relations to existing collectives) within workplaces, which are able to act. At the current stage of class struggle the question of the relation between ‘shop-floor’ activities and wider ‘political’ coordination seems to be a question of either – or. Without wider struggles workers’ collectives within factories don’t ‘find’ other group of workers outside. For the same reason ‘political groups’ remain small and can chose either to act on the ‘general terrain’ (going from struggle to struggle, publishing general newspapers) or concentrate on building work-place based activities. One reaction to this dilemma is that once we come across active groups of workers, due to lack of time and energy (and may be reflection) we propose quick solutions, such as setting up of company unions – instead of engaging in a common process of analysis as a precondition for more fruitful collective steps. At this point we can only refer to the historic experience of ‘factory activity’ in Faridabad during the 1980s and 1990s as reference for deeper debate.

http://libcom.org/library/self-activity-wage-workers-kamunist-kranti

h) Coordinate Beyond Factory Level

A workers’ organisation cannot be formed on sectorial or professional basis, but the concrete forms of how workers can coordinate their efforts beyond the company boundary differ. Currently within our circles there exists a rather schematic debate whether an ‘area wide union’ would solve the problem of ‘work-placed based isolation’. At this point we can only encourage to base the debate more on the concrete material constitution of the relation between single and wider production sphere:
… in a huge factory like Maruti Suzuki a rotating system of line or department delegation will make sense, which has to relate to a coordination with workers’ in the immediate supply-chain
… living and working conditions in IMT Manesar might be cohesive enough to propose an area wide assembly
… the small-scale nature of certain (home) industries or industrial areas might enforce an area wide delegation system
… the internal productive integration within the garment sector might be too weak in order to base a coordinated steps on direct links, the ‘generalisation’ might happen around the question of ‘wage payments/order overtime’ and take the form of circulating assemblies
… in some areas workers live close to their workplace, there conditions in the living sphere can more easily be raised by factory coordinations, in other areas ‘neighbourhood organisations’ might be necessary
… during certain times struggles will happen in quick succession in a dense space, general ‘struggle assemblies’ might be feasible

Answering these questions would require a very honest re-capitulation of experiences under different conditions, e.g. in the small-scale industry in Ludhiana, the recent anti-eviction movement in slum areas in Kolkota, our own attempts to set up ‘workers’ meeting places’ (see below) etc.. The further challenge will be not to conceptualise these ‘different forms’ as ‘parallel forms’, but as a ‘proletarian continuum’ with a tendency towards generalisation. This will be a constant ‘contradictive balance’: self-organisation of workers is based on their specific productive basis, generalisation which abstracts from this basis without transforming it will lead to undermining workers’ collective power, e.g. many ‘general strikes’ have this feature. In the end it is not the ‘growing organisation’ which generalises, but the emergence of new class movements – again the question of the relation between both. To spell this out a bit more:

As far as possible a workers’ organisation has to make use of regional and global productive interdependence of the labour process. A workers’ organisation would be able to turn this structure into a weapon in the interest of all workers in the chain, disregarding their specific categories. An organisation would make strategical use of the strongest position of workers in the chain (or to find the weakest link), e.g. central suppliers, transport chains etc. and at the same time takes into account the conditions and difficulties of workers in the weakest position. It would use pressure in the strong points to undermine the divisions and differences imposed by management, not due to charity, but need for collective power. A workers’ organisation would be able to coordinate actions disrupting the long chain of production with minimal effort and harm for us and maximal impact on company management. As preparational work we would have to dig out recent historical examples of how workers’ organised such kind of steps, e.g. during the so-called chess-board strikes at FIAT, Italy, during the 1960s and 1970s.

Although workers in automobile (or wider manufacturing sector) and garment are in most cases neither connected through direct productive links nor through ‘immediate demands’ (wage payment), a workers’ organisation will have to explore all possibilities of ‘connections’ apart from rather unsubstantial ‘external unity as proletarians’. Here we have to debate the mobility of a certain section of workers between both sectors, the spacial proximity in dense industrial areas, the increasing similarity in labour process with introduction of chain system, certain general similarities in conditions (12-hours shifts, repressive regime), wider conditions in the reproductive sphere etc.. A workers’ organisation would try to ‘generalise’ from the advanced points, this could mean, e.g. to spread the experience of changing gender relations in ‘mixed industries’ and the different social status of female workers within the more isolated sphere of female labour in the home industry.

i) Understand Relation between Factory and Society

The last decades have transformed those social categories which used to be mobilised as separate elements under the leadership of a ‘political alliance’: ‘worker’, ‘peasant’, ‘student’, ‘women’. Today we can broadly assume a common proletarian existence under very different circumstances – which require not an ‘alliance’, but a sophisticated process of common organisation. Today the probably more challenging separation is the separation between ‘employed’ and ‘unemployed’ proletarians, not as fixed categories, but forms of temporary existence – despite the flux and interfaces of migration and informal sector which connects both. A concrete analysis about emerging divisions and re-connections between rural-urban, employed-unemployed proletarians should be in the focus.

j) Organise on a Regional and Global Level

Together with the ‘workers and peasants’-alliance the old form of ‘international solidarity’ between ‘regional/national movements’ has expired. What remains is a rather folkloristic-formal ‘solidarity’ between sister parties. Meanwhile the global character of the system in terms of production chains, export markets, labour migration forces workers’ struggles to relate to the international terrain. As you can read from the struggle reports in this issue, any of the struggles asked the question how to relate to its international dimension, either on the level of ‘international buyers’ or supply-chains. We should make an extra-effort to take this international dimension into account – future international coordinations (or Internationals) between workers’ organisations will mainly be based on the experiences and debates during the collaboration around concrete workers’ struggles. The workers’ struggles themselves will have to re-compose the ‘communist movement’ on a global level. We should nevertheless try to anticipate the necessity and open the debate here and now, e.g. by making the effort of translating or writing regular ‘regional reports’ for the international debate.

II) Where are we now in this process

We briefly summarise the current effort of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar (Faridabad Workers’ News) and GurgaonWorkersNews as an embryonic form of workers’ organisation.

Since the mid-1980s Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – a workers’ newspaper in Hindi – is published once a month and distributed in industrial areas. Currently we distribute 10,000 copies in Faridabad, Okhla, Gurgaon, Manesar and send it to around a hundred people in different parts of India. The paper consists of four pages, most of the content are short workers’ reports concerning the situation in their factories. There are longer struggle reports, workers’ auto-biographies, reports from other regions, thoughts on the systemic nature on common proletarian problems such as (mental) health.

Since 2007 we publish GurgaonWorkersNews as an electronic newsletter in English, mainly consisting of translations from Faridabad Majdoor Samachar plus more general empirical research. The newsletter is sent out to around 4,000 individuals, mainly in the Subcontinent, Europe and the US. We see it as one potential contact-point between workers’ initiatives in Delhi and the ‘international space’.

Under the current conditions of about a dozen people actively involved in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar and GurgaonWorkersNews we just about manage to publish the paper and newsletter and distribute it. There is little scope for other, e.g. specific ‘workplace’ activities. Here we can see a certain contradiction, given that the main backbone of FMS came together as a ‘factory collective’ of permanent workers in the 1980s and 1990s. Today ‘single workplace’ activities have been undermined to a certain degree by the fact that 80 per cent of the work-force is temporary. To build long-term presence in one factory is an organisational challenge. The temporary status and long working hours also means that today only few workers have the time for ‘extra’-political activities, such as publishing a newspaper or organising meetings.

We can see further seeming contradictions. In the 1980s the group underwent a certain period of self-criticism regarding their political premises (‘Leninist’-framework) and relation to workers (‘preach-teach’). The language of the Hindi paper changed from ‘political jargon’ to more common language within the working class. Instead of ‘recruiting cadres’ the emphasise was put on ‘workers self-organisation’. Today we seem to have the problem to explain to younger activists/workers that our efforts aim towards an ‘organisation’ which requires active participation. Without the language and methods of ‘the old mode’ (party) we seem to have difficulties to ‘get people involved’.

What is the motivation and ‘result’ so far?

a) Develop Common Understanding

Most discussions develop ‘informally’ around the front-page articles of the newspaper or in the ‘Workers Library’ in Faridabad. There used to be organised ‘study circles’, but partly due to the format (emphasis on written word, ‘teaching’), partly due to the lack of time of workers these have been stopped. One of the last collectively produced ‘theoretical works’ were reflections of critique of political economy. http://libcom.org/library/refelctions-critique-political-economy

b) Relate to Workers’ Experiences and c) Debate General Context

The newspaper mainly consists of workers’ experiences and emphasises their importance. The front page article hints at the systemic and historical character of seemingly individual problems. In this sense the main content of the newspaper is the relation between workers individual experience, collective steps/struggles and the wider class society. The newspaper portrays a specific class position and position of ‘workers’ autonomy’, which has entered the wider area – the results don’t show up in membership.

d) Develop Means of Exchange

The newspaper cannot be seen as a purely ‘means of information’. It is mainly the maintenance of a potential: it is possible with more or less simple means to create an exchange and possible coordination between workers in a relatively vast industrial area. This does not need major resources or ‘political leaders’. Workers make use of this fact individually and collectively, e.g. by supplying reports for publication. Only rarely workers ask to get in touch with other workers in a specific company through the newspaper – but it remains a possibility open for everyone one’s it is needed.

e) Engage in Concrete Struggles

Over the years and through the regular distribution in various places a vast knowledge of ‘struggles in the area’ is present within the small circle of FMS and expressed in the newspapers. Whenever possible this experience and conclusions are presented to concrete struggles, although given the capacity this happens on a sporadic level. In many articles FMS raises the question ‘what to do, what not to do’ regarding struggles (avoid legal traps, company isolation – inform workers in the area etc.), but it remains a ‘position’. In few cases we manage to create direct contacts between workers engaged in struggles in different areas. In few cases we could make use of international contacts in order to support struggles practically. Focus is therefore also determined by our own strength: critical assessment of struggle experiences and their circulation.

f) Advance Analysis of Strategical Tendencies

Discussions about these tendencies are informal and sporadic. We distributed leaflets to call centre workers knowing that a potential fusion between this section of the working class with ‘traditional’ industrial workers would mean a qualitative shift. We try to emphasise the importance of supply-chain structures in the area and mention these in the workers’ reports.

g) Relate to / Create Factory Collectives

As mentioned there is no scope for systematic ‘work-place activities’ and it has become more difficult due to increased mobility. We try to discuss the potential of workers’ mobility and ‘non-attachment’ to specific jobs and sectors with workers, but this has not expressed itself yet in concrete organisational terms, rather in a general atmosphere of unrest. Sometimes groups of workers come and want to discuss concrete steps in their factories, which we try to debate as concretely as possible dependent on our own understanding.

h) Coordinate Beyond Factory Level

Through years of distribution and presence in the area there is a vast network of contacts, but they rarely ‘collectivise’, result in direct face-to-face meetings of larger groups of workers. In 2010 we undertook an effort to open workers’ meeting places in different locations in Delhi industrial belt. We can say that opening places and announcing them as possible meeting places in the newspaper itself is not enough in order to establish ‘workers’ meetings’. this is partly due to workers’ long working days, but mainly due to an uncertainty regarding ‘what to do’. The relationship between meeting place and individual and collective existence at work was not clear. We lacked time and capacity to organise a closer relationship between these two spheres.

http://www.faridabadmajdoorsamachar.blogspot.in/p/fms-talmel.html

i) Understand Relation between Factory and Society

Focus of the group is the industrial area of Delhi, whenever possible the ‘rural origin’ of workers form part of conversations and show up in articles in the newspaper, so does the situation of students and other workers outside the industry, the living situation (slums) etc. – but on a sporadic level.

j) Organise on a Regional and Global Level

In 1992 FMS comrades undertook an effort to encourage an India wide ‘workers’ newspaper’, which failed due to ‘political differences’ of the various groups. Since then there has been ‘written’ exchange between groups in different regions and countries, which only rarely has direct practical consequences. In some cases the degree of ‘international exchange’ is astonishing, e.g. the translation and publication of letters from inmates in US prisons in FMS. Similar the exchange via GurgaonWorkersNews, which generally happens on individual basis not between ‘active collectives’.

III) How could we get further

Struggles like the one at Maruti Suzuki and the practical experience of ‘political organisations’ within it ask for an open and honest debate within the ‘milieu’ about the current relationship between organisation and workers’ struggle. Groups within the ‘milieu’ can use the chance of re-composing itself around these experiences or they can chose to stick to their particular flags and programs and continue waving them.

For end of May 2012 comrades of Radicalnotes(.com) in Delhi invite to a debate about this question. The first meeting will deal with the attempts of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar during the early 1980s with the classical ‘union/party’-perspective and the development of both industry, class struggle and group politics since then. In the following meetings we will debate the experiences and involvement of different groups during the Maruti Suzuki strike. We hope for a fruitful outcome and will supply material and proposal for a common inquiry in the next GurgaonWorkersNews.

In the mid-term future it would be needed to hold a subcontinental meeting based on precise reports from different industrial and rural areas, relating to common political questions about specific and general tendencies in class struggle. If you are interested in developing ideas concerning such a meeting, please get in touch.

Apart from that we hope for further practical participation in and productive criticism of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar and GurgaonWorkersNews. Please feel free to comment on the general and concrete thoughts in this newsletter and tell us about your collective efforts in your area.

Appendix:

[1]

Questions – Struggles

Interviews and reports can then be circulated and used for further discussions. It is undeniably difficult to write a questionnaire that fits all situations. This one puts emphasis on the struggle in work places but if you want to use it at the university or in the neighbourhood, just change it a bit. Here it is:

The person who is asked / takes part in the conversation
1. What’s your job in the work place? What is your relation to the workers’ in struggle?
2. Do you have a position in the workers representation body (works council…) or the union? If yes, which?

Background
3. What was the starting point of the struggle? (management measures)
4. What happened just before this? (atmosphere amongst the workers, changes to the organisation of work)
5. What other struggles happened earlier, which could have had an influence? (in the same company, in others in the region, after state measures)
6. What are the official demands?
7. Who has made them or put them forward?

Conditions
8. Where exactly does the struggle take place? (company, department)
9. How important is the place of struggle for the company (group), the region? In what kind of ‘economical situation’ was the company? (re-structuring, boom/crisis etc.)
10. What kind of ‘productive connections’ are there to other areas? (suppliers)
11. Who is working in the company? (where are they from, which countries, young/old etc.)
12. What kinds of work contracts exist? (part time, temp work)
13. How do peoples nationalities, work contracts etc. influence the struggle?

Organising
14. Who took the initiative in the struggle? (workers, which kind of workerts, the union)
15. How is the conflict spreading? through which means? (within the company and beyond)
16. What kind of influence do single workers or groups amongst workers have on the struggle? (debates, assemblies)
17. What are the proposals for the forms of struggle? (strikes, blockades)
18. Who puts the suggestions forward?
19. Who gets their own way here and how?
20. Which kinds of attempts are made in order to include other people beyond the department or company? (rallies, demos)
21. Are the means of production being used/appropriated during the strike? (excavator, computer)
22. What role do the relations among the workers, based on the work organisation, play? (cooperation, including with other departments)
23. What kinds of attempts exist to undermine or disturb the struggle? By whom? (scabbing, police repression)
24. What role do organisations from outside play? (unions, parties, supporters)
25. What do these organisations do exactly? (money, leaflets, assemblies)
26. What do the workers say about these organisations?
27. What kinds of organising have the workers tried out? (committees)
28. What kinds of problems did they have with that?

Effects
29. What are the concrete effects of the struggle? (production stops, disturbance of the work in other areas)
30. What do the workers have to say about the effects? (on other workers, clients, patients)
31. What does the media say about the struggle? How does ‘the public’ react? (newspapers, television)

The course of the struggle
32. How can the struggle develop further? (actions, extending the struggleÖ)
33. What is the mood of the workers?
34. What kind of conflicts are there between the workers? (different positions, divisions based on origin or gender)
35. How do people deal with that? (discussions, arguments)
36. How have the conflicts between each other changed during the course of the struggle?
37. What’s the reaction of the bosses towards the struggle? (redundancies, lockouts, pressure)
38. What do the workers say about that?
39. What kinds of attempts of mediation and negotiation are there? How are these organised? (strike committee, works council, union)
40. Is the end of the struggle already in sight? Why?
41. What will or has happen(ed) afterwards? (return to work, more bosses’ measures, new struggles)

Assessment
42. What do the workers have to say about the experiences they are having? (strength, weaknesses)
43. What can be done better or differently next time?
44. What connections do the workers see between their struggle and the general situation of society?
45. What connections do the workers see between struggles in other sectors?
46. Where should reports on the struggle be distributed so people can learn from it?

*** An Unnecessary Repetition – Aborted Sit-Down Strike at Harsoria Healthcare, Gurgaon -

http://www.harsoria.com/

110-111, Phase IV, Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon,
Haryana-122015,
INDIA

On 24th of April 2012 workers at Harsoria Healthcare, a manufacturer of cannula and catheters for the medical sector, engaged in a sit-down strike. We first give a general over-view concerning production and back-ground of the dispute.

The Sector and the Factory

Harsoria mainly produces for export to the European Union via Singapore and South Korea. The annual value of EU imports of syringes, needles and catheters is around 7 billion Euro. Between 2002 and 2007 imports in terms of value increased by 10 per cent annually on average, faster than the production within the EU. Around 20 per cent of the imports come from the US, 9 per cent from Mexico, only a smaller share comes from Asia. The import from Singapore – the channel through which Harsoria markets its products – constituted 0.5 per cent of EU imports. The EU imports from ‘developing countries’ grew faster at a rate of 40 per cent increase per year.

The production at Harsoria in Gurgaon started in 2005. Workers say that the raw material and components come from China. They assemble the product, it is then shipped to Singapore and South Korea. From there the company Neotec exports the medical equipment to Europe, in particular to Denmark, France, Italy. The products are marketed, amongst others, under the name Healflon TM. During the time when the disputed broke out production was running on full steam and the Gurgaon plant is still the only manufacturing unit of Harsoria in India – the attacks of the company therefore are not aiming at downsizing work-force, but at bringing them under tighter control.

The average product, such as cannula with catheter, contains around ten components. Pre-assembling work happens both by hand and with machines. The components are then assembled at a moving conveyor line, around 25 people work at one line. The individual target is around 1050 pieces per hour. If workers don’t meet this target, they are verbally abused and they run danger to not receive payment for that day, according to ‘no work no pay’-rule of the company. Workers say that at least one day’s wage per month is cut that way. Workers are often shifted from one work-station to the other.

The background of the dispute

Workers at Harsoria joined a union in 2010, in March 2011 union and management engaged in a three year agreement. In April 2011 the company provoked workers, which lead to a sit-down strike. After union leaders asked workers to come out they were victimised by police and administration, see GurgaonWorkersNews no.45.

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/gurgaonworkersnews-no...

On 27th of April union and management came to an agreement concerning the dispute, which left nine of the sacked workers outside. many of the formerly ‘company casual workers’, were forced to be re-hired through contractors.

In April 2011 there had been 203 ‘company casuals’, meaning that workers are hired by the company directly, but as casual workers with lower wages and less ‘job security’. After April 2011 the company forced these casuals to sign contracts with a contractor, re-moving them from the company pay-roll. When the current dispute started there were only around 60 casuals left, of whom only 15 were working inside the factory, the rest were fighting cases for re-instatement after having been sacked or suspended.

On 16th of December 2011 the company accused workers to engage in a slow-down and suspended 9 permanent workers on 19th of December 2011. The company claimed that between June 2011 and January 2012 production levels had dropped by 31 per cent. The company reacted by cutting workers’ wages by around 35 per cent during the period from November 2011 to January 2012.
On 1st of January 2012 around 40 casual workers were dismissed by management. At the same time management forced permanents to become ‘staff’, which has a different legal status from being ‘workman’. Around 22 permanent workers accepted the shift, most of them in the tool room. In early 2012 union elections took place and three sacked permanent workers were elected as union leaders. The company refused to accept them. Other permanent workers were lected, the company also refused to recognise them.

The current dispute

On 22nd of April 2012 several workers received letters of termination. On 24th of April workers in A- and B-shift decided to stop work, sit-down in the factory and stay there, while the C-shift established a protest camp in front of the plant. At that time 252 permanent, 15 casuals and 400 to 500 workers hired through six contractors were employed at Harsoria. At the point the workers hired through contractor had not been paid their March wages yet. The demands of the workers included payment of Deepawali bonus and regularisation of the services of casual and contract workers. The workers were also protesting against the frequent change in their departments, delay in payment of salary, increased work intensity and non-payment of loyalty bonus of about Rs. 1500 per month on completion of 4 years with the company.

During the sit-down strike workers did not stop management from coming and going, meaning that 100 management people were inside the factory most of the time. Workers did not block the gates or tried to stop them otherwise – like Maruti Suzuki workers did during the occupation by controling the gates through forming ‘workers’ chains’. Workers hired through contractors who sat inside with their permanent colleagues started to leave the factory one by one. HMS union representatives declared that ‘sit-down strikes can legally only last 72 hours’. Management did not show up for the negotiations at the Labour Commissioner on 27th of April. Instead, at 11:30 pm the same day around 50 – 100 bouncers arrived in cars, armed with hockey bats. Management arrived with them and negotiations started with the factory union leaders. At the time around 200 workers were outside the factory, amongst them the HMS factory union leaders, and 400 workers were inside. The bouncers went inside the factory and threatened the workers. The police arrived one hour after having been called by the workers, but they just watched the scene. The bouncers left the factory shortly after arrival of the police – management sent them out through a back gate. Workers inside called the union leaders outside and asked for advice. They said that workers should not resist and answer to the provocation of the management, but come out peacefully. This is what the workers did, and according to workers there was no debate about the leaders decision. At the same day a court order had been issued that workers are not allowed to stay within 50 metres distance of the factory. On the 27th of April around 37 FIRs had been filed against workers for breaking this court order.

The HMS leaders decided to vacate the protest camp in front of the factory and leave the industrial area, instead stage a sit-down protest at the DLC, a rather isolated spot in the administrative district of old Gurgaon. At the same time management re-started production with 100 management people and 30 to 40 workers newly hired through contractor. On 28th of April a demonstration was organised in Gurgaon, around 600 Harsoria workers and 200 other HMS members took part, amongst others workers from LUMAX company. Another negotiation date on 30th of April lead to no result. On 2nd and 3rd of May, after some confrontation near the factory, FIR were filed by the police against 21 Harsoria workers. By 6th of May the number of suspended workers had increased to around 100 and 18 workers had been sacked. On 6th of May the police threatened workers in front of the DLC office. Workers’ leaders propose to go on hungerstrike.

Missed opportunities

The Harsoria factory is close to the rear-gate of the Maruti Gurgaon plant, there are many factories in the vicinity, also a huge Airtel call centre employing over 1,000 call centre workers. According to their own estimation Harsoria workers did not try to establish contacts with workers in neighbouring factories or tell them about their conflict. They were generally open to the idea of making placards in order to inform and debate with workers who arrive in thousands in Udyog Vihar for the morning shift – but no step was undertaken. One of the neighbouring factories is Anu Auto, an automobile supplier manufacturing parts for Maruti. Mainly young unmarried female workers are employed, they arrive in company buses, which makes communication more difficult. Harsoria workers told that when they started shouting slogans in front of the factory Anu Auto management got nervous and asked Harsoria management to make the workers stop shouting. According to one Harsoria worker, when one of the Anu Auto workers asked management why these workers were outside with a tent and shouting the manager responded that is was something related to the death of a family member of one of the Harsoria workers.

Another linkage both on the basis of sector and current tension could have been established with the many Eastern Medikit workers in the same industrial area. These workers also manufacture medical equipment and face wage delays and dismissals. One may think that the fact that both at Harsoria and Eastern Medikit a HMS union is active should have facilitated the linking up of workers, but it seems that the opposite is the case. At this point we can refer to the union position towards the wildcat strikes of casual workers at Medikit in 2007.

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no911/#fn4

The short report below published in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in April 2012 nevertheless demonstrated the missed chance.

Eastern Medikit Worker
The company has started to delay wage payments also to the permanent workers of its factories in Gurgaon. The casual workers protest in one form or the other every month in order to get paid. In the factory on Plot 292, Phase II the casual workers laid down tools at 2 pm on 21st of December – by 6 to 7 pm the emergency lights went on and they got their November wages. In order to keep workers under control management in the plant on Plot 196, Phase I called the police inside the factory. Until 24th of December, the November wages were not been paid. Eastern Medikit keeps so-called D-category workers in each factory, they work 12 hours a day, day in day out, but receive no PF. In April 2012 workers reported that the company had sacked many of the casual workers in factories on Plot 195-6 and 205-6 in Udyog Vihar Phase I and Plot 292, Phase II, only 200 to 250 casual workers are left. These workers have not been paid their March wages (27th of April). The permanent workers were paid between 21st and 25th of April. Since 15th of April also the permanent workers have to work on two 12-hours shifts.

*** Lock-Out at Automobile Supplier Senior Flexonics, Manesar -

Plot No.89, Sector 8
IMT Manesar
Gurgaon – 122050 (Haryana)
India
T: +91 124 438 7704
F: +91 124 438 7703
E: sipl@seniorauto.co.in
W: www.seniorauto.co.in

http://www.senior-flexonics.com/

Workers at multinational Senior Flexonics in Manesar registered a trade union and put forward a demand notice. Subsequently they were locked out from early January till late February 2012. In the factory workers manufacture parts for silencers used in vehicles of JCB, Tata, and Ashok Leyland. They also produce hose pipes for vehicles for export.

The company

Senior Flexonics (India) Ltd. belongs to the multinational Flexonics group, ‘originally’ based in the UK, a parts manufacturer for aerospace, marine, defence, energy and automobile industry. According to company sources Flexonics is the “largest manufacturer of flexible automotive components in the world, with manufacturing and distribution facilities on six continents.”Automobile parts manufacturing plants are situated, amongst others in/with Bartlett (USA), Blois (France), Canada (Canada), Cape Town (South Africa), Crumlin (UK), Kassel (Germany), New Delhi (India), Olomouc (Czech Republic), Pathway (USA), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Senior Hargreaves (UK). Flexonics manufactures exhaust connectors, decouplers, exhaust gas recirculating tubes generally for exhaust applications in passenger cars, SUV’s and light trucks; and diesel common rails and fuel pipes, for passenger cars and the heavy duty diesel engine market. In 2004, Flexonics workers in the South Wales UK factory engaged in a series of one day strikes over shift patterns. After lengthy negotiation an enhanced sick pay scheme was agreed but the company refused to budge on the shift pattern. The day shift was longer than the morning and afternoon shifts – and workers wanted equal length shifts. In 2004, Flexonics US plant in Tennessee sacked 50 out of 80 workers and shifted the factory to Texas. Workers in Tennessee had been locked out earlier on.

The dispute

Senior Flexonics Worker
(Plot 89, Sector 8, IMT Manesar)
In the factory workers manufacture parts for silencers used in vehicles of JCB, Tata, and Ashok Leyland. They also produce hose pipes for vehicles for export. The shift starts 6 am in the morning, if you arrive later than 5:55 am you are stopped at the gate. meal breaks are 25 minutes, though they say they are 30 minutes. There used to be three 8-hours shifts, since June 2011 there are two 12-hours shifts. They force you to work overtime – they give a call to the gate and tell them not to let you go. The general manager says things like: I hang you up by the feet, I remove your pants. A lot of hands get mutilated by the power-presses, the company does not fill in accident forms, they kick you out and you have to pay for treatment, 30 per cent of the workers don’t have an ESI card. In the factory there are 67 permanent workers, 40 casuals, and 200 workers hired through three different contractors. After working there for 10 years continuously, workers are still ‘temporary’. In February 2009 the factory shifted from Gurgaon Udyog Vihar to Manesar. During this transfer time management said that all temporary workers will be made permanent and that the company will operate buses. Neither happened. But they stopped paying work clothes cleaning allowances to the permanent workers, they stopped paying LTA and incentive bonus. The wages of the permanents are also low, after 15 years you earn only 6,340 Rs. The temporary and casual workers where never paid any bonuses. Yes, they pay double for overtime, but the contractor embezzles at least 400 to 500 Rs per month. Wages are paid delayed and irregularly. The permanent workers started a process to get a union recognised in the factory. The recognition was given on the 23rd of December 2011 – a demand letter had been given to the company already three month earlier. The labour department came to the company for negotiations several times, but stopped doing that in December. Apart from the demand for a wage increase for the permanent workers the list contained the demand that workers should be made permanent after a year of employment, buses should be provided, a canteen. On the 9th of January, after the weekly holiday, the workers found the gates of the company locked. When they asked management said that they should first sign the code of conduct and then they can enter. No worker signed, around 150 workers decided to stay outside. The same in the B-shift, so that 300 workers sat outside. Some went to the labour department. The company said that they will take back all workers except 27 of the permanents. We asked what they had done wrong, but got no answer. On 8th of February at night the company had started to hire new workers. Within 20 days their number increased to 100 to 125, they stayed inside the factory for 24 hours. Around 50 managers and engineers also worked in production. The factory ran on two 12 hours shifts. Middle management was driven from and back to their homes escorted by guards. The company sub-contracted work to Lakki Enterprises, Gurgaon and Ajay Engineering, Faridabad and to other companies. In the Manesar factory now only assembling work was done. During a meeting with the labour department on 11th of January management said that apart from 17 permanent workers they will take everyone back on. On 13th of January they said, everyone but 12 workers, on 16th of January everyone but 4 permanents. On 18th of January they said that these four workers were dismissed, a day later they said that they were only suspended. They repeated that till the 23rd of January. The workers demonstrated in front of the labour commissioners office on 17th of January. The company send letters to workers’ homes saying that they either come to work or they will receive a dismissal letter – this troubled the family at home. The labour official said that big fish will always eat the little fish. The company did not appear to the 27th january date for negotiations. On 30th of January the labour commissioner again said that everyone apart from the four should go inside, but the company also said that they will not take on 40 of the temporary workers, that they will be shifted, On 3rd of February the company representatives did not appear, negotiations happened over the phone. On 8th of February the company said that they will only take back 50 of the temporary workers, they others will be shifted, given that the newly hired workers work more. The labour commissioner did not issue a new date and said that company and workers should sit together and come to an agreement themselves. After complaining on 16th of January the company paid the December wages on19th of January, but two permanent workers were not paid, the company said there was a problem with book-keeping. Unions called for a meeting on 8th of February, around 5 to 6,000 workers from ten different factories gathered in front of the gate. Promises of economic and other forms of support. On 15th of February the union committee will gather in Kamla Nehru Park and think about how to support the Senior Flexonics workers. – On 27th of February we were forced to come to an agreement. Four of the permanents remained suspended, and only 60 out of 109 temporary workers were taken back on. Our own demands were not taken into consideration.

*** Riots at Orient Craft and Larsen and Tubro Construction Site, Gurgaon -

In mid-March 2012 workers’ anger irrupted twice within a week in Gurgaon. On 19th of March workers at garment exporter Orient Craft rioted after a work-mate had been attacked by a contractor. On 23rd of March construction workers attacked company property in response to the death of a colleague after a work-accident.

* Orient Craft

Orient Craft runs 21 factories in India, supplying clients in Europe and the US, such as Tommy Hilfinger, Mark and Spencers, DKNY and GAP. There are five units in Sector 37, Gurgaon and several others in other parts of Gurgaon and nearby IMT Manesar. Around 80 to 90 per cent of Orient Craft workers are hired through contractors. They work 12 to 16 hours shifts, helpers are paid 4,200 Rs, most tailors are employed on piece rate. The contractors take 3 per cent commission from the workers’ piece-rate wages. the company cuts workers wages by using the excuse of bad quality: 20 to 30 per cent pieces are ‘reject’. In this sense Orient Craft is a very normal garment export company in Gurgaon.

On 19th of March a dispute took place between some workers and a contractor inside the factory. Workers had taken the previous day (Sunday) off, which angered the contractor. Workers also complained about delayed wages and embezzlement. the contractor attacked workers with a pair of scissors and injured two of them. When other workers saw the injured they started expressing their anger. There are different versions regarding the question whether 100 workers were subsequently kicked out from the factory by management people or whether they left the factory. After 100 workers were gathered in front of the plant other Orient Craft workers also came out. They were joined by workers from other factories in the vicinity, in total a group of about 2,000 workers came together and started pelting stones at the Orient Craft factory glass-front and also at those of other factories. When management called the police and they arrived, a AASP police car was burnt. Three hours riot of commotion followed, between 12 and 20 bikes were burnt, two trucks, one SUV, another police car and a fire engine on fire. Police arrived in greater numbers and attacked tried to disperse the crowd by lathi (clubs) attack.

In the meantime management had brought the wounded workers to the nearby private Sunrise Hospital. They threatened them and offered money in order to move them to change their official version of the attack through the contractor. In the end the official version claimed that workers were injured by falling onto sharp pieces of glass while trying to flee from the commotion. According to some sources police filed case against 1,000 unknown people and against 9 workers for attempted murder. The contractor was released shortly after is now on bail.

After the riot management tried to appease workers. During the first three days after the riot the factory remained shut, then all workers are allowed to come back to work. According to some sources half of the work-force did not return to work, partly out of fear of the 80 to 100 police who were stationed in front of the factory at least till the 26th of April, one week after the incident. Inside the plant the company tried to normalise the situation. Workers said that for some days the work load was less and supervisors’ behaviour much better. Meanwhile riots are brewing in thousand other factories and hearts…

From: Faridabad Majdoor Samachar, January to March 2012

Minimum Wages (January – February 2012)
Delhi: 6,656 Rs (unskilled) / 8,112 Rs (skilled)
Haryana: 4,847 Rs (unskilled) / 5,497 Rs (skilled)

Orient Craft Worker
(Plot 15, Sector 5, IMT Manesar)
Around six months ago management told workers that they would be given a bicycle. The 3,000 workers hired through contractor were not promised anything. Around 200 permanent workers with over 1 year seniority were supposed to sign a form. They never received their bike. Normally we work from 9 am till 6 pm, on three or four days per week till midnight. They pay double rate overtime, but the management swears a lot at us.

Adigear International Worker
(Plot 189, Sector 4, IMT Manesar)
Around 700 workers manufacture garments for Adidas, Puma, Reebok and others – working from 9:30 am till 1 am every day. Management stops workers from leaving earlier. The general manager takes company cards away from workers who want to leave. After wages of the previous two months had not been paid workers stopped working on 15th of December. This lasted till 1 pm, then the company called goons from PSO Security. All worker left the factory and gathered outside. the company then paid wages in installments.

Astro Fashions Worker
(Plot 69, Sector 4, IMT Manesar)
There are around 150 workers, we work from 9 am till 8 pm and 20 times per months they make us work till 1 am. Wages are delayed every month. On 12th of January 2012 the workers in the finishing department asked for their December wages from the boss. The company management called thugs in cars as response. The workers were finally paid on 21st of January. Money for ESI and PF is cut from workers wages, but they don’t get the benefit.

Shahi Export House Worker
(Pot 1, Sector 28, Faridabad)
There are between 8,000 and 10,000 workers employed, half of them men, half women. In the sewing department there are 47 lines with more than 25 machines each. In the computer embroidery department they run two 12 hours shifts. In the cutting department they also cut the cloth for Shahi factories in NOIDA, Surajpur and Okhla. In the cutting department more than 2,000 workers are hired through contractor. They don’t get ESI or PF and once an inspector comes to the plant, they are kicked out before hand. The wages of the permanent workers are also low, even after 15 years of employment you get only the minimum wage. There is a lot of verbal abuse going on. There is always tension between workers and management – we have to see what we can do. In 2000 the women in the embroidery department were in the first line when we resisted management. During the strike in 2009 the workers in the sampling department were the first.

* Construction Site

Only four days after Orient craft riot, on 23rd of March 2012, as a response to a fatal work accident construction workers in Gurgaon, Sector 58 expressed their anger. From the main-stream media:

“Thousands of labourers went on a rampage on Friday when a worker died after falling from the sixth floor of a building under construction in Sector 58. Angry labourers working in the area torched a police Gypsy, damaged about a dozen more vehicles and demolished a section of the housing project. Labourers alleged that the contractor did not provide them with adequate safety equipment. “Hasan was breathing when he fell. The contractor and the management’s employees kept watching this instead of taking him to hospital,” said labourers Jeetu and Shamsher. As a worker confirmed that the injured labourer had died in hospital, around 4,000 labourers working at different sites in Sector 58 turned violent. They damaged Ireo’s site office and set it on fire. Some others demolished a portion of the housing project while many blocked the road and vandalized several vehicles, including a BMW.
The cops were rescued almost an hour later when a heavy contingent of police force reached the site and resorted to lathi-charge to disburse the crowd. Seven policemen and many labourers were injured. The 28-floor highrise is part of private builder IREO’s Grand Arch residential project. “The construction of the Grand Arch project is being undertaken by L&T Ltd,” the spokesperson said.”

Comrades who have been to the site reported that during the following three days police arrested up to 300 workers from nearby slums, 57 workers were charged with attempted murder – other sources speak of 23 arrests and 200 cases filed. they also said that workers in Beharmpur Sector 58 were aware of the events at Orient Craft some days before. Around ,500 of the construction workers are hired through contractor, one of them Alufit Private Limited. They work seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day. The deceased worker had worked without a day off since December 2011.

After the two riots the media has obviously full of reports, looking for reasons, trying to find responsibles, trying to understand this alien force, invisible during most of the time, frequently turning into scary uncontrolled masses…

(sources: Sangharshrat Mehnatkash no.7; Fact Finding by comrades of ‘Majdoor’ and Inqalabi Majdoor Kendra, Mazdoor Bigul, April 2012)

*** Workers’ Sirens at Lakhani Vardan Samuh, Faridabad -

From December 2011 till April 2012 Lakhani workers in Faridabad were engaged in various forms of struggle about delay of wage payments: from direct action on factory grounds to wildcat strikes, to street blockades and demonstrations to governmental institutions.

Lakhani Vardan Samuh Worker
(Plot 265, Sector 24, Faridabad)
The start of the shift at 8 am and at the end of the shift at 4:30 pm is marked by the sound of a hooter siren. The hooter also indicates the meal breaks at 12 and 12:30 pm. One day the hooter went of at 2:30 pm. What happened? the supervisors and managers told workers to gather at the HR department, everyone assembled. Around 1,500 to 2,000 male and female workers chatter amongst each other. A big commotion and noise. the general manager tries to give a speech, there are difficulties with the microphone. Even if one tried to listen attentively one had difficulties to understand what was said and why. It was a speech about fire safety and how to escape from fire. Then he talked about how to put out a fire. The fire officer showed a gas cylinder and asked: “Do you know what kind of gas is in this cylinder?”. None of the workers said a word. “This is CO2 gas,” the officer answered his question. “If the fire is related to electrical faults, if it is burning petrol or thinner, then you can use this gas to put out the fire”. “If cloth or rubber has caught fire, you can douse it with this gas. How does the cylinder work?”"Whenever you hear the hooter outside of the normal times, this means fire alarm and you have to leave the factory immediately, come outside and gather here.” The meeting went on for one hour. The next day suddenly the hooter went off at 10 am. It looked like a fire alarm, so workers stopped working and all came outside. Men and women workers gather at the HR department. People looked around, but there was no smoke to be seen. Then workers started to shout: “Give us our wages! Give us our wages!”.
When the hooter went of supervisors, managers and the genertal manager also left the factory. The general called the security guards over the phone. They arrived. the HR manager told the workers: “There is no fire he. Go back to your work now.” The officer who normally pays out the wages tried to scare the workers and shouted: “There is no fire. Move, go now!” The male and female workers just answered: “Pay out the wages!’. The general manager arrived on the scene: “the money will arrive. you will get your wage this evening. Now back tob work, the hooter is faulty, there is no fire.” The wages were not paid that evening. The next day workers stopped work at noon and production kept being halted till 4:30 pm. The wages were not paid. On the third day workers stopped working at 10 am and production did not resume till end of shift. On the fourth day the managers distributed the wages to the workers. At Lakhani Vardan Samuh factory workers don’t receive the complete wages and they receive them with ten days delay.

This hooter incident happened in December 2011. Since then the trouble continued. When February wages were not paid by 22nd of March 2012 the workers in the clothing department of the factory on Plot 265 in Sector 24 went on a slow down on 22nd and 23rd of March and stopped production again on 24th. After the weekly day off the wildcat strike continued on 26th and 27th. On the 28th the managers distributed wages in the factory. the factory manufactures, amongst others PUMA shoes. At the Lakhani Rubber Udyog factory on Plot 131 in Sector 24, 300 workers in the mixing department stopped work after they did not receive their Holi wages, but an advance instead. In this department workers where paid on 7th of March 2012, whereas payments are still outstanding in the other departments.

Again on 21st of April in the Lakhani factory on Plot 265 in Sector 24, when March wages were not paid, workers started to work slower. On 23rd of April workers entered the factory, but did not start work. None of the company officers said a word. Workers started to eat their lunch whenever and wherever they liked. A worker told the general manager: “The landlord asks for the rent. The ration shop-keeper asks for his money. So, pay our wages.” A female worker said: “My mother had an accident. Pay our wages.” The general manager responded: “There is no money. you will be paid within the next days.” Wages were not paid and production lay idle from 24th to 26th of April 2012. Workers started to fool around and on 27th of April a big group of workers went from one department to the other. They kicked around stools, played with the machines, used oil barrels as drums and walked towards the HR department. In order to stop workers the security guards let down the shutter. This game lasted from 8 am till about mid-day. At 3 pm the company put up a notice: “There is holiday from 28th of April till 6th of May. Return to work on 7th of May.” Workers left the factory at 4:30 pm. The night-shift workers found the notice and told the security guard to remove it. Who will pay our wages? The officer of the HR department said that all workers should arrive at 8 am as usual. The next day on 28th of April workers arrived and were not stopped at the gate. Those workers who did not come were called by phone and asked to come. Around 800 to 1,000 male and female workers were inside the factory. No one worked, there was quite some commotion. they went to the HR department, but there was no one, it was locked. Workers caused some disorder in the canteen. Workers from Lakhani factory, Plot 144 arrived at Plot 265 factory at 10 am. A lot of workers were together. Workers left the factory and blocked the street in front of it. Some police arrived. the street remained blocked for two hours, the the workers of 144 left in a demonstration to the labour minister of Haryana. After a negotiation meeting was promised by the labour minister, on 30th of April Lakhani workers found their factory on Plot 265 and 144 locked. Workers blocked the National Highway in response, but police was able to remove them fairly quickly. On 1st of May more demonstrations in town centre, while negotiations remained without result. Labour administration announced that Lakhani will pay the wages by 9th of May, but that till 8th of May the factory will remain closed. More demonstrations in front of administrations on 2nd and 3rd of May, during which demonstrators were attacked by company goons. As far as we know little steps were undertaken to relate to workers in other ‘running’ Lakhani factories or to other factory workers directly.

*** Unrest at Theme Export Garment Factory, Okhla -

Theme Export Worker
(Z-21, PH-2, Okhla Industrial Area, Delhi – 110020)
+(91)-(11)-40547861, 26301269

Worker employed at theme Export do not receive the minimum wage – helpers are paid 5,200 Rs, checkers are paid 6,500 Rs and tailors are paid 250 Rs day wages. None of the 300 workers get ESI or PF. The working hours are from 9:30 am till 1 am, sometimes workers have to work ‘full-nights’ till next day 6 am. Over-time is paid at single rate. The wages are paid with delay – when March wages were not paid by 16th of April workers asked the ‘production incharge’ about it. The incharge said that he will speak to the general manager about it and left. He returned and promised that wages will be paid by 4 pm that day. “If you start handing out the wages by 4 pm, how do you want to finish this task by 5:30 pm”, workers asked. On pay-day workers usually work only till 5:30 pm. Workers told the incharge to speak to the general manager again and he fled the production department. Workers in response started to leave the factory. When the security guards tried to stop them they were pushed aside. The factory on the neighbouring plot also belongs to Theme Export and the Head Office of the company is situated there. When the workers arrived there the security guards locked the gates from inside. People pushed against the gate, some workers jumped over the wall and opened the gate from the inside. The general manager tried to appease the situation and told workers that wages will arrive within the next days. When he saw that the situation was getting out of hand the manager called the police. two police men arrived and tried to get workers out, but during the attempt one of them fell to the ground. From the neighbouring police station two police cars with 20 police arrived. In the meanwhile workers from other factories and inhabitants of the nearby Sanjay Colony had joined the crowd. The street was blocked. People started to pick up stones from road works. the police got afraid and kept outside of the factory. The police chief then said that he will make sure that wages will be paid by 5:30 pm. The managers then went to the bank and started handing out wages by 5 pm, by 8 pm everyone was paid.

*** Revealing Potentials – Struggle at Globe Capacitor, Faridabad -

Globe Capacitor Ltd. Worker

H.O & WORKS: GLOBE CAPACITORS LTD.
Address : 30/8, Industrial Area, N.I.T,
Faridabad ñ 121001 (INDIA)
Ph. : +91-129-4275500
Fax : +91-129-4275555

http://www.globecapacitors.com/

Globe Capacitors production capacity has grown from 1 million pieces in 1987 to 28 million pieces per annum in 2011. The plant and machinery are imported from Korea, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, China. The factory manufactures capacitors from 1 MMD to 150 MMD for L&G, Samsung, GI Motor and Orient Pankha and for export (PSA, MEWE, Alco).

(Plot 30/8, Industrial Area, Faridabad)
The workers have to work 10.5 hours, but only 8 hours show on records and only 8 hours are paid. Out of 500 workers employed here around 50 female workers and 250 male workers don’t get ESI and PF and are not paid the statutory bank holidays. these 300 workers are paid 175 Rs for 8 hours, so their monthly wage for 26 days amounts to only 3,640 Rs. those workers who receive ESI and PF get between 4,644 and 5,650 Rs. the shift times are from 8 am till 8:30 pm and from 8 pm till 8 am. Of 12.5 hours the company calls 2 hours overtime, they pay single rate. On Sunday workers have to work till 6:30 pm. In a month the workers have to work 10 to 12 ‘full nights’, meaning workers have to work from 8 am till next morning 7:30 am, they then have half an hour break and work again from 8 am till 8 pm. The workers talk to each other while working at the line. They talk during the meal breaks. They decide to take a collective step in order to get higher wages, 8 hours working day, double payment for overtime. there are no (union) leaders. From 20th of March workers refuse to work full-nights. After receiving their February wages on 7th of March, workers from then on clock off at 6:30 pm. No worker stays till 8:30 pm – at 7:30 the middle management is forced to load the trucks themselves. All workers take a day off on Sundays. If the company decides to refuse the workers demand the workers will start to clock off at 4:30 pm.

On 8th of April, a Sunday, workers had refused to come to work. On the 9th of April they went inside the factory, went to their respective assembly lines, sat down and did not start work. The company chairman arrived, walked around the plant, but did not address the workers. Supervisors announced that a meeting will take place at 1 pm. At 1 pm, on the third floor in the wiring department all company officers and day shift workers assembled and the chairman talked for one hour: “We have taken loans of 60 crore Rs from the banks. Even our family house is on mortgage. We have to pay taxes. We take the risk of going to foreign countries to find clients and get orders. Give us time to think about the issue, give us time till 23rd of April.” Workers did not reply and went into lunch break. they then went back to the assembly lines, ‘resumed work’, but actually hardly worked at all. Workers left the factory early at 4:30 pm, they passed two gates, but the main gate was locked. The managing director, son of the company chairman arrived and said: “We asked to give time. We will also decide how many hours you will work. No please go back to work.” Workers went back to their work-stations, but hardly worked at all. At 6:30 pm they left the factory. On 10th of April production resumed. Three days later the managing director called workers again and said: “First increase production levels by 25 per cent, then we can think about your wages.” Workers said that there will be no production increase and that they will leave at 4:30 pm as long as their demands are not met: permanent contracts for all casual workers who worked in the factory for more than two years; ESI and PF for all; holiday pay; payment of minimum wages. Next day the same thing happened. Workers said that even now when they work less the work load is too high. “We won’t increase production in fixed percentage.” On 16th of April the company agreed to increase the wages of permanent workers by 1,900 to 2,200 Rs. The wages of the workers was increased from 3,640 Rs to the minimum wage of 4,8560 Rs. Though none of the 350 (company) casual workers have been given ESI and PF and no casual worker has been made permanent. the permanent workers now seem contented with their wage increase. From 23rd of April the managing director started standing at the main gate to see who leaves, also the cameras inside the factory have been made operative again. the company also has hired 100 additional workers through contractor. On the basis of small excuses around 10 to 12 casual workers were fired in April 2012. the shift times are again from 8 am till 8:30 pm and Sundays from 8 am till 6:30 pm.

Before the Globe Capacitor Workers undertook their collective steps production of the factory had been interrupted due to lack of films needed to manufacture capacitors. The film-manufacturing company Superelectro Films in Faridabad, Sector IV, plot 3A – in several kilometres distance from the Globe Capacitor plant – could not deliver the films due to wildcat strike of their workers. These workers were dissatisfied with the fact that, like at Globe Capacitor, the company management paid and documented only 8 hours of work though actually workers worked 10.5 hours. Shortly after the films arrived again, on 2nd of April 2012, 250 female workers at Abhirashi Impex factory right in front of Globe Capacitor plant refused to enter the factory, while 200 of their male work-mates went inside. The same problem: the company paid only 8 hours, while workers worked more than 10 hours. The managing director arrived shortly after and reassured the women workers that they will be paid 5,000 Rs for a 8-hours shift.

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GurgaonWorkersNews – For Debate on MGNREGS Work Scheme in India
March 20, 2012

Breaking Rocks as ‘Social Empowerment’? –
Thoughts on the Rural Employment Scheme MGNREGS, India -
For the International Debate on Work Schemes and Crisis Regimes

*** Intro
*** General Information on MGNREGS
*** MGNREGS on the Background of (Rural) Crisis in India

*** (Re-)Productive Functions of MGNREGS
* Reproduction of Labour Force
* Reproduction of Rural Class Divisions
* Regulation of General Wage Levels
* Regulation of Migration
* Integration of Proletarians as Individual ‘Citizens’
* Internal Re-figuration of the Global and Local State
* Invigorating the Dialog between Rural Proletariat and State

*** Current Struggles within MGNREGS and Preliminary Conclusions for the Communist Movement

————————

*** Intro

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in India is the world’s largest public work scheme. [1] In 2011 around 45 million workers were directly employed, half of them women. By decree, the scheme consists of labour intensive work, e.g. breaking rocks and digging earth for rural road construction.

With the deepening of the global crisis, the debate about ‘state-managed work schemes’ acquires a relevance, which goes beyond the national framework. [2] In symbolic terms the ‘multi-national’ character of MGNREGS was expressed during a recent G20 summit, when labour ministers applauded the ‘Indian’ work-scheme as an example of ‘innovative legislation’.

One of the features of modern work-schemes, which distinguishes them from labour schemes of the past, is the claim that they will strengthen the ‘community’, rather than being a mere work-house for the poor. Centrally designed work schemes are supposed to invigorate the local state and local ‘civil society’ structures – this reaches from the idea of the ‘Big Society’ community initiatives in the UK, to the gram panchayat (village council) and ‘social audit’ projects in India.

Whether seeing the scheme ‘as a battlefield for a rights-based movement’ or ‘critically co-managing’ them – there is a lack of debate on the left. I.e. one which could locate these schemes within wider capitalist re-production, the current crisis and unrest, and the state’s attempt to deal with the latter.

The starting point of a critique of the work scheme has to be the experience of workers themselves – and their fluid existence between being both ‘surplus population’ and ‘productive work-force’. In the following we summarise some material for the wider debate.

*** General Information on MGNREGS

MNREGS is not the first employment scheme in India. The announcements of ‘poverty alleviating’ schemes, such as the Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY) and National Food for Work Programme, followed more or less synchronously the cycles of (global) crisis: from the first dent in the early 1960s to the early 1970s, when the ‘garibi hatao’-campaign Indira Gandhi’s preceded the more drastic ‘poverty eradication’ schemes of the State of Emergency in form of mass slum evictions and (forced) sterilisation schemes, particularly targeting the rural poor. Since the 1970s the ‘employment schemes’ grew in size, due to an increase of a rural population mainly dependent on wage work and a parallel reduction of labour input necessary for agricultural production as a result of mechanisation etc..

It is no coincidence that the introduction of MGNREGS in 2006 was paralleled by a similarly far-reaching ‘welfare reform’ in Brazil. The Bolsa Familia, a type of social benefit payment for ‘the poor’, is said to be the world largest ‘conditional cash transfer program’. It is less important that both schemes were announced by ‘labour’-governments (PT/UPA), but rather that they have a similar origin in the particular character of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) boom at the time. This boom saw on one hand a considerable influx of foreign cash (through ‘liberalisation’ of investment regulations etc.), boosting state budgets and nominal GDP; but on the other hand it was described as ‘jobless growth’, increasing the number of under/unemployed in need of state benefits.

Under MGNREGS every ‘officially poor’ family in rural India is entitled to 100 days of paid work – for one family member. According to law, employment is supposed to start 15 days after handing in of an application, under condition that a defined number of people (currently between 20 and 50) are enrolled in the scheme in the local village. In order to apply for the scheme there are certain formal requirements (registration in the village, job card, in some cases a bank account). If the local village council is not able to provide work after 15 days the applicants are entitled to unemployment allowance. It is up to the (individual federal) state government to decide the amount of unemployment allowance, but it must not be less than 1/4 of the minimum wage for the first 30 days, and not less than 1/2 the minimum wage thereafter.

In 2010-11, officially between 40 and 45 million people were employed on MGNREGS worksites. Since the introduction in 2006, the share of women increased from around 40 to now 50 per cent – which indicates that MGNREGS is mainly an ‘additional income’, an extra-wage for the household. According to a survey in around 1,000 villages in 2011, MGNREGS contribution to household income through wages was 16.5 per cent in Rajasthan, 9.62 per cent in Andhra and 8.39 per cent in Bihar. If we assume an average of six members per household and take the household as a basic economic/wage unit, than MGNREGS entered into the income of around 250 million people, out of a total rural population of somewhere around 800 million. In 2011, the central state allocated around 8,9 billion USD of its budget for MGNREGS, 3.7 per cent out of a total budget of 240 billion.

Currently, the official daily wage under MGNREGS is 120 Rs per day, around 2.7 USD. The central government pays the wages and 3/4 of material cost and some percentage of administrative cost. The federal state governments meet the cost of unemployment allowance and 1/4 of material cost. In most Indian states the MGNREGS wage lies above the minimum wage fixed by the individual states, in about half a dozen states the local minimum wage is higher. There is an ongoing constitutional back and forth about this fact. There are other legally fixed conditions, such as a crèche for children of MGNREGS workers, transport facilities etc..

MGNREGS is supposed to be labour intensive, and it is so by decree. For the scheme a 60:40 wage and material ratio has been legally fixed and the usage of machinery is banned, so is (officially) the use of contractors as middlemen. The work performed is supposed to be ‘developmentally’ beneficial to ‘the village’, in form of road works, irrigation infrastructure like wells, canals, ponds etc.. The main work performed is road construction. MGNREGS work is allowed on private land of small and middle peasants. The management of the scheme lies mainly in the hands of the gram panchayat (village council), the lowest level of state power. There is a formally described role of so-called social audits, composed of administration and ‘civil society organisations’, which are supposed to check the correct implementation of MGNREGS. The following report of a MGNREGS worker summarises well the main social aspects of the scheme:

NREGS Worker
(Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – March 2009)
“I am from an artisan family from a village in Mathura district. I have an ITI qualification (two-three years of technical apprenticeship). I have done my internship. In order to find work I roamed Mathura, Agra, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon and Faridabad. I started work in a factory in Faridabad, but I was ‘given a break’ (kicked out in order to avoid having to give a permanent contract) after six months. After the lessons of having been unemployed for some time and the trouble it means, when I got unemployed again, I was ready to apply for a job with the NREGS.
The first work started in July 2008: digging earth out of a pond for the agriculture panchayat (village council/authority). The second job was in August and September: digging earth out from an irrigation canal of the irrigation department. In total I worked for 21 days, the documents showed 22 days. The work was done by 35 workers, but the documents showed 50 workers – the other 15 were sitting at home and faked attendance. A lot of earth moving work, all measured in cubic meters – done by us 35 workers instead of the shown 50 workers. No payment in November and December. They said that they will open a giro bank account for transferral. They took 20 to 50 Rs in order to open this account. When the first payment was due they kept the 200 Rs in this account. At the time of the second payment they also kept the 200 Rs “for keeping it in the account” – as some kind of fee.
After a significant delay our wages ‘arrived’. We had to sign with our finger-print and money was given to the local temporary school teacher and the official from Gram Vikas (Agriculture Institution). From that money 800 was paid to us 35 and 400 to those who stayed at home. The same happened with the second payment, just that this time they asked for 50 Rs instead of 20 Rs for expenses. When we resisted they started to threaten us – “you will come here again and want to work, and then we will see”. Our pay roll was kept with the guy from the bank, our job card was with the school teacher.
We had been promised a daily wage of 100 Rs, we were actually paid 70 Rs and only after several months of hassle. In the meantime we all took time off from the NREGS work, so that when there was gardening work offered in January, no worker in the village would lay their hands on it. The school-teacher and the official from Gram Vikas gave us to understand that we should give money to the area, district and block officials, because they have to drive around a lot on the motorcycles in order to arrange things for us – which obviously costs money. In December, when our wages were distributed, the school-teacher received his outstanding wages from the government – he had not been paid for the last ten months.”

The fact that the scheme had to be ‘enforced’ against the opposition of ‘neo-liberal hardliners within the political class and that, although legally sanctioned, hardly any of the legally determined conditions are met – e.g. that the average amount of days of labour in 2011 was not 100 (as legally statutory), but merely around 40 days – also contributes to the prevailing view amongst the left, that MGNREGS is a question of ‘proper implementation’, of ‘defending entitlements’. Before analysing this view, we first have to see MGNREGS in the wider context of capitalist development and the crisis management by the state.

*** MGNREGS on the Background of (Rural) Crisis in India

If we see the actual form and content of MGNREGS, the actual work performed (labour intensive construction of infrastructure), it resembles very much situations, which in other times of capitalist history required rather unfree forms of mediation, e.g. in form of semi-bonded labour or actually forced labour. The fact that MGNREGS (breaking rocks for wages which hardly guarantee reproduction) does not need armed guards or barbed-wire and can appear as a ‘welfare benefit’ and a ‘legal right or entitlement’ says much about the enormous brutality of rural poverty in India in 21st century capitalism. No one will deny the fact that the rural crisis in India is aggravating. According to official figures 238 million proletarians in India are undernourished, the majority of the rural poor has to survive on less than 20 RS a day. Since 1995, more than 253,000 farmers have committed suicide.

In order to determine the quality of MGNREGS we would first have to determine the origin of modern rural poverty in India. The question is whether ‘the misery’ on the countryside is result of an insufficient ‘productivity’ in terms of material production of goods (material output) or rather an expression of a ‘produced crisis’ in capitalist terms: increased general dependency on market and money economy (commodities, wages), increase in productivity of social labour, declining prices due to relative overproduction, further rationalisation (use of machinery etc.) leading to an increase in ‘relative surplus population’ (unemployment) and therefore to aggravated poverty.

If we look at both urban and rural relations in the ‘global north’, then the current global crisis openly questions a ‘developmentalist view’: everyone can see that falling living standards in the global north are not due to a lack of productivity, but due to a crisis of profitability (and therefore of employment) due to an increase of productivity (‘rationalisation’). If, in the face of this crisis, developmentalist in South Asia still uphold that a further integration into the market (‘diversification’, small business models, micro-finance etc.) and an increase in productivity (either through more elaborate agro-technology or through sustainable empowerment of ‘female resources’ on eco-cooperatives) will alleviate rural poverty, they do this by referring to the specific difference between agricultural development in the north and south.

We want to have a look at this question, because essentially, the idea that the rural poor will be able to make use of MGNREGS in order to return to ‘small scale market farming’ or ‘small scale artisan work’ is the main ‘progressive’ gloss on MGNREGS. Or in other words: MGNREGS can only be portrayed as ‘progressive’ by both state and civil-society leftists if the reason for the brutal poverty is seen in a ‘lack of development’ and MGNREGS not as a ‘permanent workhouse’ for the poor, but as part of ‘productivity development’ which eventually will alleviate poverty and make MGNREGS redundant.

Small Scale Farming and Capitalist Productivity

So what is portrayed as the main peculiarity of (agricultural) development in South Asia? The fact that unlike in the global north average land-holding decreased. During the three decades after 1970, farm size in the United States (US) from 157 to 178 ha. Farm size in India in the same period has declined from 1.84 ha to 1.32 ha (other figures say 1.08 ha). [3] Around 87 per cent of global small land-holdings (below 2 ha) are located in Asia. The two questions which arise consequently are: a) are small land-holdings under given local conditions less productive than large land holdings; b) would an increase in productivity under given conditions (market economy) be a way out of crisis for everyone?

We would claim that the market pressure on small peasants actually has increased productivity above the level of bigger land-holdings and intensified their adaptation to ‘market trends’. “Dyer (1997) argued that the inverse relationship [per hectar productivity increases the smaller the land holding is] is neither a product of superior efficiency on the part of small farms nor is it due to better quality land on the small farms but arises from the desperate struggle of poor peasants for survival” – leading to long-term drop in productivity, because soil gets exhausted by the desperate attempt to squeeze more from it.

In order to do this, small peasants have to invest heavily, double the amount of small land holdings have irrigation facilities (borewells etc.) compared to bigger land holdings. During 2001-02 marginal farmers used 2.6 times the fertiliser used by large farmers. On large farms HYVs (high-yielding varieties) occupied 42 per cent of the area. In the next five years the HYV coverage on marginal and smallholdings increased to 72 per cent and 68 per cent, but their coverage on large farms remained below 50 per cent. In 2001 the per hectare value of crop output was Rs 25,173 at holdings below 0.4 ha. As the farm size increased towards 2 ha, productivity declined to less than Rs 17,000 per hectare. In large farms (4 ha to 10 ha) the value of aggregate crop production declined to Rs 13,500 per hectare.” (Chand etc., EPW June 2011)

Small peasants are also much more desperate to satisfy the needs of the market by ‘diversification’ (horticulture etc.). Does this ‘market adaptation’ save the small peasants? The opposite is true: “the crop that witnessed the most rapid growth in yield in 1990s and 2000s was cotton (ECONOMIC SURVEY, 2010-11). But, ironically, this crop is also the one that led to the largest number of farmer suicides.” (Sanhati) The price decline in cotton and the subsequent bankruptcy of small peasants can also not easily explained by ‘influx of subsidised US cotton’, India has been one of the main exporters to China in recent years: the crisis is largely ‘home grown’, an expression of a contradiction which is as much global as local.

What about general productivity: is there hunger in India because the agricultural production is particularly unproductive? Despite the diversion from food-grain production to non-food cash-crop over the last decades – to a point where in 2007 around 40 per cent of land in India is used for non-food commercial crop – the actual food-grain production still increased:
1960 – 1975 100 million tonnes
1991 – 2009 228 million tonnes

This is confirmed by figures demonstrating that neither the per hectare productivity is particularly low in India (2001):
Rice (kg/ha): 3,370 (India), 4,309 (world average)
Wheat (kg/ha): 2,802 (India), 3,086 (world average)

We can summarise that the rural crisis in India is a capitalist crisis, a crisis of commodity production, not of absolute productivity. The small land holdings are ‘too small’ in terms of market survival, the (total) land is not ‘too small’ in terms of producing goods for (all) people. On this background the developmentalist propaganda that raising productivity and market adaptation will provide a way out for the impoverished masses only speaks the word for an acceleration of the suicidal wheel of ‘individual survival on the market’. Obviously, the very uneven land distribution still remains a field of struggle [4], but it can be seen more as a result of the general problem of commodity production.

What we can see in general terms is a combination of, on one side, a very desperate labour and input intensive ‘market-oriented family farming’ [5], which mainly continues due to the enormous level of self-exploitation; and, on the other side, the further ‘rationalisation’ of large-scale ‘agro and food chains’ (contract farming, sophisticated cooling and transport chains, large-scale retail distribution) as we can in formation in Punjab. [6]

On this background, the current ‘re-discovery’ of small scale farming by the institutions of global governance with the help of NGOs, seems either absurd/helpless or cunning. The revival of ‘small peasantry’ has to be seen in the context of the general crisis: rising unemployment, declining wages, volatile food prices and dwindling state budgets. It only exists as a sub-category of the failing existence as wage workers. It is the regime’s hope that people ‘farm their individual way through the crisis’ – that they stay hungry on their piece of land, blaming themselves and nature, instead of relating to the stark contrast of general global potentials of wealth production and mass misery. Small market peasants tend to kill themselves, while hungry proletarians tend to cause riot – this fact is very much in front of our and their eyes.

We have to see that the contradiction of ‘capitalist productivity’ is even more pronounced in the urban and urban-industrial area – which is supposed to provide an outlet for the impoverished rural masses. The IT-related services in India might create 20 per cent plus of the total income from exports, but they create 0.01 per cent in employment; all major automobile companies in India announced to step up automation in 2012; CNC-computer controlled stitching machines replace the remains of artisan labour all over India – just to name some symbolic examples.

We see an ever-increasing output of commodities requiring a decreasing amount of labour input, leading to mass underemployment and impoverishment – in the face of potential abundance. This is a rather unsophisticated ABC of ‘capitalist contradictions’ and it might seem abstract; but it is this contradiction as an underlying force, which has recently blown up the regimes in Northern Africa and is currently raging in Europe. The unemployed in Egypt or Tunisia had neither possibility to migrate ‘outwards’ nor to ‘fall-back’ into a ‘rural economy. It is on this background of the ‘historical character of poverty’ that we have to debate both the current attempts to revive ‘small scale farming’ and MGNREGS. [7]

*** (Re-)Productive Functions of MGNREGS

Rather than as a jumping board into a better existence as small scale market producer, MGNREGS can be seen as a social valve situated between the market pressure on the agricultural and wider rural sector, which ruins and expels increasing numbers of small peasants and artisans (proletarianisation), and the ‘labour expelling’ pressure of profit production resting on the rural and urban labour market (surplus population). It is a security valve in the sense that it is meant to control proletarian migration and is strategically placed in areas of rural unrest. But it is more than a mere valve, it acts at the same time as a pressure chamber which intends to keep up the pressure on rural and urban labour markets, by making clear that ‘surplus labour’ has to ‘toil hard for a minimal existence’ even in times of overproduction.

In this sense it is not an ‘evil scheme’, but an expression of the absurdity of capitalist productivity and wage labour: a huge modern apparatus, comprising all state levels, supranational developmental institutions, NGOs and other civil society organisations; an apparatus, which uses the most modern technologies (e-government, IT-integrated pay rolls and bio-metric ID-cards) of the current ‘productive forces’, in order to make poor women and men breaking rocks, using – by decree! – the most primitive tools, which have been around for thousands of years. And this absurd fact itself is portrayed as ‘welfare’ as ‘grassroots empowerment’, as a chance for ‘community based democracy’ and as a potential starting point for ‘building an existence’ as peasant or artisan. Back to start.

MGNREGS has a ‘productive function’, the creation of so-called ‘assets’ (rural infrastructure), but this aspect is not in the centre of MGNREGS. The scheme first of all is a scheme of social management. The productive element itself, the actual constructed infrastructure, has also the function of re-imposing divisional lines within the rural class relations. We see following general functions of the scheme:

* Reproduction of Labour Force
* Reproduction of Rural Class Divisions
* Regulation of General Wage Levels
* Regulation of Migration
* Integration of Proletarians as Individual ‘Citizens’
* Internal Re-figuration of the Global and Local State
* Invigorating the Dialog between Rural Proletariat and State

* Reproduction of Labour Force

First of all the existence of the MGNREGS is a proof of the demise of subsistence farming and the level of proletarianisation in rural India. Around 40 per cent of the rural population is landless, around 65 per cent of the income of ‘small peasant” household depend on ‘non-agricultural’ sources (wage work). Under the current condition of underemployment and food price inflation millions are facing starvation.

In the past masses of people actually starved to death in India and they still do in other areas of the world, despite the ability of the ruling elite to prevent this. The major difference between past and present is neither the intrusion of humanism into the minds of the ruling class nor the ‘achievement’ of a ‘right to work’ or ‘right to food’ etc., but that rural India is obviously less isolated from the systemic centres: family members of rural poor work in urban areas, there is a fair amount of rural industrial investment, there are means of communication and transport. Millions of desperate people cannot be just ‘locked away’ in the countryside. The ‘surplus population’ is intertwined with the productive working class, it does not exist in isolation. Last, but not least, the last wave of mass starvation in the 1960s was followed by the emergence of armed insurrection (Naxalites), driven by an alliance of rural poverty and urban class politics.

‘Counter-insurgency’ is not just an abstract or potential aspect of MGNREGS. Politicians don’t get tired of emphasising that the scheme is a direct answer to the ‘biggest internal threat’ – the Maoist uprising in the so-called red corridor, stretching from West-Bengal to Maharashtra. The scheme is over-proportionally located in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa – the main areas of rural unrest. The proto-state Maoist guerillas or parties relate differently to MGNREGS and similar state-run schemes, depending on the area of operation. Whereas in areas such as Telangana the Maoists were one of the few institutions which actually enforced central state programs against the local state representatives, in other areas, where their alliance with the ‘local bourgeoisie’ (construction contractors etc.) was more developed, they opposed the program, justifying their opposition by stating ‘military’ or even more obscure reasons. [8]

To summarise, the fact that starvation exists today is due to the increase of wage/market dependency at a time of over-accumulation related underemployment; the fact that the state sees itself obliged to save the poor from starving is due to the fact that poverty exists very closely linked to the centres of accumulation. But the state does not just want to prevent the poor from starving, the state wants to reproduce the poor as wage labourers and want to reproduce the general conditions of wage labour. Therefore the state does not just ‘pay for the poor’, the poor are supposed to work hard for their minimum wages. Small peasants who barely make ends meet by market farming have to be encouraged to continue to do so by demonstrating that if they join the proletarianised poor, they have to beg to be allowed to break rocks in the heat. Similarly, the rural labourer, who travels from harvest to harvest, working for low wages, has to be shown that the basic principle of capitalism is still based on the compulsion to sell one’s labour power – even if this labour power is as over-abundant as most other commodities.

Obviously, the general contradiction of wage labour does not stop at the door of a ‘state run’ work-scheme – as it didn’t stop at the border of ‘state socialist/capitalist’ regimes either. The fact that workers are surely forced to sell their labour power does not automatically mean that they are then happy to work hard for their meagre income. Subsequently, most state governments in India have shifted the MGNREGS wages to a piece rate system, which is supposed to enforce the desired work discipline – a measure which was also very well known amongst the ‘managing comrades’ of the ‘real socialism’. In Rajasthan, the state with one of the highest degree of implementation and ‘social audit’ (control through NGOs), the government introduced piece rate wage as early as February 2006. The contradiction subsequently changes its form: the struggle now evolves around the question of the definition of rates. [9] Rates have to be defined for different type of soil, tools, workers – and ‘objectiveness’ becomes very blurry, e.g. the official standard rate for excavation in soft soil for 1 cubic metre with a lead of 50 m and a lift of 2 m was 0.2 person days in Tamil Nadu and 0.75 person days in Andhra Pradesh.

If the whole scheme is an expression of absurdity, of the imposition of “primitive labour intensive wage work” in times of underemployment and over-productivity, then the absurdity continues through the ‘burocratization’ of the scheme: in order to administer wage payments, to engage in ever more minute mechanisms of ‘piece rate settings’ and supervision, large amounts of ‘burocratic’ labour emerges in order to rescue the wage form, a whole pyramid of admin-workers, time-keepers, NGO-controlers piles up on the shoulders of the shovel-swinging proletarian woman. On the lowest panchayat state level alone, 10 per cent of the ‘costs’ of MGNREGS go into administration. Here we can see that ‘burocratization’ is not primarily a result of mismanagement or ‘development of a self-interest of the burocrats’, but of ‘social management of wage labour’ itself. If you want to get an impression of this ‘pyramid of labour’, check out this government document on MGNREGS management: gwn48_nrega.

* Reproduction of Rural Class Divisions

The reproduction as reproduction of labour force includes the reproduction of the relation to other classes in the rural areas. Here we focus less on the question of ‘profiteers’ of MGNREGS in from of middlemen, e.g. local politicians or construction contractors, who, in many cases, are one and the same. We refer to the fact that ‘asset creation’ – the construction of roads or irrigation facilities – is more beneficial to the ‘landed’ than to the ‘landless’, the roads are more valuable to the local traders, than to the poor who walk on them.

We can see that, consciously intended by the regime or not, MGNREGS will confirm, if not fortify, the class distinction between those who already have’ assets’, and those who don’t. The small traders and small peasantry, who themselves are under huge systemic pressure (Second Green Revolution, concentration process in local and global retail) see that the state let’s the poor work and create infrastructure which has a at least short-term positive impact on their existence. We can assume that the state is not unaware of this dimension of ‘pleasing the middle-strata’ by making the poor work. This is confirmed by a recent change in the legislation, which now allows MGNREGS work to be performed on private land directly, in particular on cash-crop (horticulture etc.) of small peasants (general section). In other cases the MGNREGS work directly benefits the large-scale capitalist farmers.

Let’s look at the example of the Kalchini Tea Garden, West Bengal. Under the scheme for revival of closed tea garden, MGNREGS jobs were issued to all workers in the closed gardens in late 2010. The work included land development, drainage, irrigation channel, connectivity. From 13 December 2010 to 31 March 2011, all 2003 permanent workers of were put to work under the MGNREGS within the confines of the garden, to construct drainage systems. Workers at the various sites have been paid daily wages ranging between Rs. 30 and 50 on an average – the base wage as tea garden workers had been 65 Rs a day. (source: www.radicalsocialist.in)

* Regulation of General Wage Levels

The wage-levels of a state-run employment scheme, which comprises nearly 250 million rural households, will have some kind of impact on the general wage levels, even if it is just in a rather symbolic way of an ‘approximating/regulating guideline’. Advocates of the scheme claim that “As a result of NREGA, market wages increased everywhere as employers had to raise labor rates to keep up with NREGA wages”.
(http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/7832/1/Nayak_womenworkersinindia.pdf)

This claim seems to be confirmed by the complaint of farmers in areas of migrant labour dependent harvests, that due to MGNREGS fewer seasonal migrants make the trip to work in the harvest and that therefore a seasonal shortage of labour arises. The actual numbers (actual total amount of days allocated per year, actual wage levels etc.) question that MGNREGS practically push up wages: in most areas the days allocated will only supplement the ever decreasing days of paid labour people can find during harvest time due to increase of mechanisation or other ‘labour-saving’ mechanisms. On average male rural wage workers find between 100 and 150 days of paid work in the rural areas, which includes seasonal migration – with decreasing tendency. In this sense MGNREGS is rather a supplement. MGNREGS wages may lie above the payment small local peasants pay their agricultural labourers, but the official MGNREGS guideline also states that the work in the scheme is not supposed to clash with harvest and other labour intensive agricultural seasons. Many local studies revealed that MGNREGS jobs are more the bottom-line, if there is actually no other monetary income available:

“Initiated in Raichur in April 2006, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was intended to provide each household with 100 days of employment (…). Eleven group interviews and surveys of 81 households in six local villages in 2008 and 2010 revealed that each household had received on average slightly less than four days work per annum. Payments were routinely delayed for up to three months (surpassing delays in the payment of agricultural wages), and were often below the stipulated rate. In addition, NREGS work was routinely more intensive and for longer hours than was the norm for casual agricultural labour.” (Pattenden: Migrating Between Rural Raichur and Boomtown Bangalore)

The debate about the wage level of MGNREGS reflect the attempt of the state to establish a ‘dynamic’ minimum wage to a) understand minimum reproduction levels and varies sources of income of the rural poor; b) negotiate different wage levels paid by small and large peasants, also regulating the demise of small peasantry; c) establish wages in relation to different regions in India d) attempt to regulate labour migration. If the current ‘census’ is an attempt to establish a political-sociological overview of the vast proletarian masses in India, then the wage negotiations around MGNREGS can be seen as an attempt to establish an ‘economic’ census of proletarian rural India today.

Here the ‘central state’ acts as the ‘ideal general capitalist’ and finds itself in legal conflict with federal state governments and farmers’ lobbies. Currently the triangle of high-courts, federal and central state has to figure out whether a) there can be a difference between ‘centrally fixed minimum MGNREGS wage’ and ‘regional minimum wage fixed by the individual federal states’; and b) if formally there cannot be a difference, who would have to pay for the consequent regional increase of MGNREGS wages. So far the centre pays MGNREGS wages and regional states would have to prop up these wages if there minimum wages are higher – the limit here being also the considerable indebtedness of the federal states. The legal back-and-forth around this question has to be seen a) as a state-internal argument around the question of control over general and regional economic planning and b) as an expression of the increase of uneven development within India itself.

* Regulation of Migration

“One of the significant objectives of the NREGA is to arrest out-migration of unskilled, landless labour force from the rural areas to urban areas,” Mihir Shah, member of the governmental planning commission. “Where durable assets are created, water conservation happens, agriculture productivity is raised and all this is dovetailed with micro-finance, then out-migration from the area is reduced and people go back to farming or other livelihood created by NREGS.” As we have seen above, the ‘developmental’ capacity of MGNREGS, the possibility to inverse the trends of market farming and to create assets for a new layer of successful market participants, have to be put into question – what remains is the regime’s aim to regulate migration.

Despite relative early emergence of capitalist relations, the rural-urban migration in India happened at much slower pace than in other countries of the global south, even during the first decades after the end of colonial rule. Unlike in China there is no formal restriction of movement as such. Slow pace of rural-urban migration was rather due to the particular integration of the ‘village economy’, which also included forms of unfree labour (debt bondage) intertwined with caste-hierarchies, which prevailed to a significant degree until the 1970s and still persist.

Additionally, rural-urban migration had been curbed by the question of ‘land’: the landless often lacked resources to engage in long-term and long-distance migration and those who still owned land saw this as both reason and viable option not to leave for good. Throughout the 1970s the combination of struggle against the old village hierarchies and the further introduction of ‘Green Revolution’ technologies in agriculture, which shortened the need for hired labour, ‘casualised’ the conditions on the countryside. [10]

On this background of an ‘untied labour force’, we can see that cheaper means of transport and communication lead to an accelerated migration – to a point where due to ‘lack of absorption’ in the urban areas it threatens to undermine social stability. The ‘political’ (registered citizenship, fortification of village administration) and ‘economical’ (wage levels) aspects of MGNREGS have to be seen on this background to ‘re-tie’ the mobility of labour to the current needs and limitations of the regime. This does not mean that the aim is to ‘make people stay’ on the countryside, but to discourage permanent urban settlement and to foster – or at least allow – the continuation of the ‘migrating status’. The ‘migrant status’ of labour forms the backbone of most industrial and agricultural centres in India.

* Integration of Proletarians as Individual ‘Citizens’

Reproduction of a modern proletariat is not merely a reproduction of their labour force and their class position, it also entails the reproduction as a citizen – as an individual with a legal or illegal relationship with the political body of class relations, with the state. It is therefore not surprising that in India the world largest employment scheme MGNREGS is paralleled by and intertwined with the world largest census and biometric data-collection through introduction of the ‘unique identity scheme’ (UID), the issuing of a modern biometric ID-card.

The Census and the UID Scheme [11]

In January 2012 around 200 million people have been registered in the UID scheme. There has been a lot of debate about the political content of both current census and introduction of the ‘unique identity scheme’ (UID). The justification for gathering this data and its electronic combination in a database is that in future, the availability of this data for all kind of state (welfare) institutions (vaccination, health care, food aid, social benefits etc.) will deliver ‘better services’ and prevent corruption – ‘corruption’ in the sense of the state also means any ‘illegal’ appropriations by the working class. The UID scheme combines work by central and state governments and private companies which got sub-contracted to undertake the biometric-datacollection, amongst others Accenture and L-1 Identity Solutions (USA), Morpho (France) and Wipro (India). Wipro is paid 26 Rs by the state for each registration, the registration workers are supposed to register 40 to 50 people a day. The state allocated 614 million USD for the first five years of the scheme ending 2012, the budget for the next phase has more than doubled.

One of the criticism of the current census was that for the first tie since independence the questions of caste belonging was re-incorporated in the questions asked, in addition to general questions of the household income, seize, means of reproduction of the rural proletariat. In times of crisis, where ‘identity (caste) politics’ are less a means of upward mobility, but of ‘divide and rule’, such a formal and socially integrated official registration of caste is a potentially fatal information in the hands of our enemy. Whoever maintains the idea that the database is in ‘neutral democratic’ hands should remember the last time when the state ‘systematically’ dealt with rural and urban poverty after the major global crisis of 1973: despite their brutal consequences, the lists for (enforced) sterilisation programs, slum demolition/relocations and arrests during the Emergency (1975) seem scarily sketchy compared to the current integrated data-management of the state.

The link between ‘formalised citizenship’ and MGNREGS is direct in the sense that in order to enrol in MGNREGS you need to be registered in your village, you need an ID in order to get a job card or to open bank accounts. In general this combination of MGNREGS and ID-politics does not only allow the state more insight into the reproduction of the rural proletariat and increases the economic and political dependency of the ‘poor’, it also facilitates their further monetary/market integration, e.g. through shift from material entitlements (subsidised food, gas etc.) to cash transfers thanks to bank accounts. MGNREGS is the capitalist utopia of combining an ultra-light IT-based administration of proletarians as ‘transparent’ and participating citizens with their most labour intensive exploitation. [12]

* Internal Re-figuration of the Global and Local State

Obviously, the actual strength and stability of a class society is not measured in the degree of state control over individual proletarians, but rather whether it does not need to make use of too much force and control mechanisms in order to reproduce itself. In this sense the degree of ‘participation’ of wider layers of society (and working class) in the management of social labour (exploitation) can be seen as a much more decisive indicator for the condition of a class society. In this sense MGNREGS has another (re-)productive function, which is a) re-shaping the inter-state relations and b) invigorating the ideology and practice of ‘democratic participation’, meaning, strengthening the ties between state and society. First of all we can see how around MGNREGS – around the management of largely female rural labour in the poorest areas of the globe – it reveals itself what ‘the state’ is today; state not in a formal sense of ‘Indian public administration’, but ‘state’ in the sense of political coordinator and regulator of proletarian reproduction.

The Pyramid of the MGNREGS State Management

Who participates in shaping and managing the scheme? We clearly see that it starts on a supra-national level of ‘global governance’, the advisory function of developmental institutions of UN and World Bank and of the large global NGOs is direct, the financial involvement mediated. On the central and federal state level there exists a close cooperation between the governmental institutions, ‘civil society’ and academic apparatus in the development of the scheme.

Abstracted from the wider social context of the scheme, abstracted from the social pressure of thousands of suicides in the cotton zones of India and the dire prospect of millions of urban slum dwellings, MGNREGS becomes a playfield of ideologies and institutions who want to use the ‘human capital’ of (female) labour in order to save the planet or empower women (significant involvement of eco and women NGOs), or re-vive the Indian village community with their Gandhian thoughts. These organisations can only play out their well-intended ideas if they actually take part in management of the scheme and directly or not, in the financial resources attached to it. In this sense, from a systematic and not moralistic point of view, we can call this the actually most blatant form of ‘corruption’: a large amount of fairly cushy jobs, research careers etc. on the back of the rural proletariat. To get an impression: gwn48_manrega

From a systemic point of view, the productive function of this ‘managing strata’ is to deliver an ideological and practical framework for the ‘participation’ of the rural poor in the scheme – or at least to foster the participation of an emerging new layer of representatives on village level. Crucially, this ‘higher strata of stata/NGO management’ emphasises that for political reasons MGNREGS should based on and fortify the institution of the ‘gram panchayat’, the village council – in cooperation with ‘social audits’ of civil society organisations.

The Role of the Panchayat (Village Council)…

The focus of the central state machinery on these ‘village councils’ is not new. In India there are currently around 230,000 elected village councils. During colonial times these village councils’ relation with the central state was mainly characterised by tax transfer, not by direct political control – in many areas this did not change fundamentally during the first decades after ‘independence’. After the waves of rural turmoil of the 1970s the central state launched a campaign to intensify the central state’s control over the rural sphere by strengthening the ‘gram panchayat raj’. This was officially justified by saying that the ‘democratic panchayat’ would break the old patriarchal caste rule, which the ‘old panchayat’ was said to represent. Actually this old ‘caste rule’ had been put into question by struggle and changing rural economy previously – the state’s campaign to ‘democratize’ the village sphere was in this regard more a reaction to this turmoil and an attempt to re-integrate discontent into state politics.

Laws were passed which guaranteed women and members of lower castes half the seats in the council, certain elements of state decision were ‘handed over’ to the panchayat level. Many people, and many leftist, saw this as a move towards decentralisation and a return to ‘old (Gandhian) local egalitarianism’, when actually the ‘decentralisation went intertwined with an actual centralisation of control over village politics and economy (large agro-business, fiscal transfers etc.) and the integration into state machinery of a new layer of ‘representatives’ of the ‘lower castes’. It’s not by chance that this ‘(de)centralisation’ intensified after the 1990 crisis and subsequent ‘neoliberal reforms’.

…in the Management of Crisis

MGNREGS can be seen as a kind of ‘economic’ complement to this ‘political’ attempt to ‘grass-root’ state power. We can see the same combination of centralisation and decentralisation taking place. Today, the official justification and progressive gloss is not to break the stronghold of the upper-caste rule, but rather the rule of the ‘local corruption’, the alliance of local politicians, contractors, larger landholders. The management of MGNREGS is handed over to the panchayat – while the actual framework of the scheme, it’s narrow confinements, are set by the central state and the general conditions of capitalist crisis. This ‘handing down’ of the responsibility to self-manage the effects of crisis to ‘the local community’ has its counterparts all over the globe, e.g. in the ideology of the Big Society in the UK. [13]

Over the last years the central Indian state has cut money for both general rural/agricultural development schemes and public food distribution systems. MGNREGS can be seen as a partly substitute for these investments: the central state pays minimum wages for work-scheme, the gram panchayat is forced to use ‘it’s local labour’ to accomplish necessary ‘infrastructural development’ instead of relying on central state funding. The crisis should be managed on low-investment levels, in a combination of labour intensity, ‘voluntary sector activities’ and other forms of self-regulation and initiatives. Conflicts, which emerge due to general global contradictions, are supposed to be solved within the formal and financial frame-work of the ‘local community’.

* Invigorating the Dialog between Rural Proletariat and State

We have many examples of how MGNREGS is ‘corrupted’ by the alliance of local power (political caste, land-owners, contractors) in order to fortify their position to the disadvantage of the rural poor. [14] This gives reason and credibility to the struggle for the ‘proper implementation’ of MGNREGS. While the struggle against the local elite is obviously necessary, the problem arising is two-fold: a) focussing on the ‘legal framework’ of MGNREGS will not manage to understand the ‘systemic’ implication of central state in local power, it will burn itself out in the attempt of appealing to ‘central law’ against ‘local rule’, thereby creating unnecessary illusions within the rural proletariat; b) it will, wanted or not, provide MGNREGS with a ‘progressive’ aura, which objectively, as a hard labour scheme in late capitalism, it does not have.

To a certain extend the prescribed framework of MGNREGS encourages ‘disputes’ on the local state level, in order to re-balance the relation between general reproduction of the rural proletariat, general state crisis regime and interests of the local bourgeoisie. The state is aware that a ‘corrupt’ local elite would be overwhelmed with the task to socially manage the enormous pressures of rural crisis. In this sense MGNREGS and legal changes such as the ‘Right to Information Act’ can be seen as a kind of ‘cultural revolution’ – a re-structuring from above which takes the form of ‘controlled dispute’.

“Typically conducted in partnership with a local “people’s organisation”, a social audit involves the systematic review of documents related to NREGA works in a given locality. Files are scoured by teams of volunteer-auditors trained and overseen by facilitators with experience of similar audits elsewhere. Forms containing administrative clearances and technical sanctions are reviewed for procedural lapses. Financial records (muster rolls, job cards, material vouchers, expense ledgers, bank statements) are examined for inconsistencies. The audits culminate in public meetings where local people (particularly NREGA workers) are invited to comment orally on specific issues raised by the audit teams. Testimonies are based on their direct experience as workers or supervisors on NREGA projects or suppliers to particular worksites. Discrepancies between government records and oral accounts are scrutinised. Officials are asked to offer explanations for apparent violations of procedural norms. These meetings are held either as an extension to or, where local authorities are uncooperative, in lieu of – the gram sabha [village council assembly].” (EPW, March 2012)

The legally set boundaries of this ‘arena of struggle’ are able to contain most of the current ‘MGNREGS activism’. Following some quotations, which reflect the attitude of ‘critical participation’ on the left.

“I believe the primary stakeholder of NREGA has to be a social movement which organizes the end beneficiary (rural communities) around their right to work. If the political will is assumed to stay, we should start treating the government resources like venture capital for socio-political entrepreneurship by all the strategic stakeholders of NREGS.”
(http://nrega.nic.in/circular/So_Audit_I.pdf)

“Turning the mai-baap State on its head, holding it accountable to its people, rights-based legislations have the ability to politicize the population for a truly functional democracy. Already NREGA workers across the country are registering trade unions to mobilize and fight for their rights. There is immense potential in these unions – traditionally mobilization has taken place along divisive (and dead-end) issues like caste and religion – for political gain of vested interests but not politicization of the individual.”
(Ruchi Gupta: http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2011/01/3799)

“It is important that programs meant for the disadvantaged, the marginalized, the poor be monitored by Civil Society Organisations (CSO). Monitoring Reports with advocacy for change can generate pressure for corrective measures. But this depends on the initiative of the CSO. CSOs with required resources and commitment can make NREGA a great success.”
(http://www.ohchr.org/documents/publications/goodgovernance.pdf)

“The State provides employment, and by virtue of its scale effectively raises wage rates in the labor market. Finally through built-in transparency and penal provisions, the government is held accountable for both performance (timely employment, payment) and accounting (open muster rolls, social audit). This form of governance – large role of State, redistributive stance, grassroots political activism for state accountability – is firmly on the far left of the ideological divide.”

“NREGA In West Bengal: How To Ruin A Working Class Programme
On 2nd February 2006, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) finally became operational. It was the fruit of three decades of struggle by unions, political parties and people’s organisations all over the country. What actually underlies the non-performance of West Bengal in NREGA is the class character of the Government that we have. The Left Front may call itself a working class government; it has however become a government of the rich and powerful. Radicalization of NREGA is one of those many cumbersome mechanisms of extra-parliamentary democratic institutions in which left must intervene and play an active role.”
(http://khetmajoorsamity.blogspot.com)

*** Current Struggles within MGNREGS and Preliminary Conclusions for the Communist Movement

Most official struggles within MGNREGS we hear about are waged by trade unions [15] for the proper implementation of MGNREGS. A ‘trade union’ view imposes itself rather automatically, given the extreme ‘rights violations’ within the scheme: corruption through middle-men or faked job cards, non-implementation of the scheme or only little amount of days, wages not paid fully and delayed, wages based on piece rate which does not allow to earn minimum wage, non-payment of unemployment allowance in case scheme is delayed, work not within 5 km radius, no facilities (creche, toilets), not work according to physical abilities, sidelining of community and grassroot organisations when it comes to decision making etc.

There are large amounts of small scale actions, in particular about non-payment or low payment of wages.

In early 2011, in Keshabpur village in West Bengal workers started a dharna in front of the Panchayat office after having not been paid wages for 24 days of work for over two months. After staying there overnight, on the next day, they were informed that wages would be paid immediately – at the rate of Rs.22 per day for 8 hours of hard labour. When the workers refused to take such low payment, a revision of the piece rate took place – they were offered Rs.48 per day. The workers have still refused to take these low wages and have asked for a third count – in their presence.
In July 2011, 100 workers from Sewapuri block of Varanasi district in Uttar Pradesh got unemployment allowance under NREGA after a two year long struggle. After several protest demonstrations, the government was forced to order an enquiry into the matter, and finally gave orders for the payment of unemployment allowance to 107 workers. The workers who received an amount of approx Rs. 1400 individually were paid after they declared they would sit on an indefinite dharna.
On 22nd of September 2011, three members of Uttarakhand MNREGS Contract Employees Union have climbed on top of a telecommunication tower in Dehradun. One of them claimed that the junior engineer, computer operators and accountants are being provided jobs on contract through NGOs under MNREGS, but that these employees are not being paid whatever promised by the NGO officials. They demanded that junior engineer, accountants and computer operators should be considered as employee of DRDA (District Rural Development Agency), as public sector workers.
In December 2011, after 47 days of a protest sit-in in Jaipur by workers employed under MGNREGS the Rajasthan state government acceded to the worker’s demands on five issues, principal amongst which was payment of state minimum wages and inflation compensation.

Mass actions organised by established institutions tend to have rather symbolic character and address mainly the upper-level of the political class.

In February 2011, MGNREGA workers in West Bengal protested to draw attention to non-implementation issues. The protests held were part of a national programme organised by the New Trade Union Initiative, a national centre of independent trade unions. Nearly 150 members of the PBKMS and Shramajivi Mahila Samity (SMS) blocked the offices of the Minister of Panchayat and Rural Development and demanded better implementation of the programme.
On 12th of June 2011, several thousand NREGA workers crossed the borders of Punjab to demand work in the neighbouring state Haryana. They thereby protested against the lower MGNREGS wages in Punjab and wanted to show that there is not enough work under the scheme in Punjab.

What means do MGNREGS workers have in order to enforce their demand, apart from pressurising the political class to ‘stick to their own laws’? From general experience we can derive that it is not the ‘appeal to the law’ or the astute work of lawyers which ‘make the rulers stick to their rules’, but actual pressure and the threat that unrest in whatever form might spread from clearly defined boundaries of a welfare scheme into the wider sphere of rural production.

We can assume that ‘going on strike’ in classical terms will be more difficult in a work scheme, where ‘paid work’ is presented as a welfare benefit – though we should not exclude the possibility that under specific conditions local and wider ruling class might actually depend on MGNREGS work-force. A concrete analysis of the actual work performed under MGNREGS is a pre-condition for finding ways and means to fight back. Of equal significance is the analysis how workers in a MGNREGS scheme have other seasonal rural or urban labour experiences in common and whether struggle within MGNREGS can be based on this wider experience. We have to see whether proletarians can make use of the fact that during other times of the year their collective work-force is needed in harvests, brick-kilns, constructions sides or factories. We have to analyse whether the pressure which they are able to exert there can somehow be extended into the situation within MGNREGS – where larger numbers of people tend to work together on the same sites.

This is not completely abstract, given that workers act this way on an individual and perhaps more passive level. They quit MGNREGS jobs as soon as they find other work which is slightly higher paid. The fact that in most regions the regime was forced to introduce piece-rate systems also indicates at the fact that workers are not merely grateful receivers of benefits, but subjects, who are able to withhold their labour power.

Therefore the main problem with the ‘official trade union’ struggle is not so much that they ‘focus on the law’ and come up with mainly symbolic activities, but that they confine the arena of struggle very formally to the scheme itself, where the ability for workers to develop their full potential of collectivity and power is necessarily limited. This is also partly due to the fact that for the trade unions, to organise ‘MGNREGS workers as MGNREGS workers’ allows them to build up a mass base of rather dependent members in a short time – similar to many NGO’s within the scheme these representative institutions develop their own interest in keeping things running and keep the workers in the position they are in. Part of this separate logic of organisation is the propagandistic presentation of the scheme as ‘an achievement’ of struggles – which mystifies its actual content as part of the crisis regime. These organisations will not analyse and turn into a weapon the total experience and practice of the rural proletarians engaged in MGNREGS – from their experience of seasonal migration to acts of individual and collective sabotage and absenteeism.

To sum up, a communist position towards MGNREGS would mean to first of all call MGNREGS by its name, instead of disguising it as an achievement for the proletariat. It would mean to clearly abstain from any participation in designing or promoting the scheme or co-management. It would secondly mean to support practically any struggle for higher wages and less work within the scheme, by all means necessary, without restricting it to the symbolic or legal terrain and without developing a separate organisational interest from the workers. It would finally mean to analyse the organisational potential of workers’ actual movement between seasonal rural and urban labour, the experience of migration and the work within MGNREGS. Here the usual interpretation of ‘state run work-schemes’ prevailing on the left, which either demonise them as a ‘return to unfree forms of labour’ (prison economy) or mystify them as ‘a chance for non-market form of labour’, have to be overcome – through analytical and practical reference to the dimension of the ‘collective worker’.

Footnotes

[1]
If you happen to have the means and time you can watch the following documentary on the scheme, supported by the development organisation of the UN and the Indian Ministry for Rural Development, which provides a propagandistic, but fairly comprehensive overview.

http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/7585/NREGA-Reforms—Building-Rural-India

[2]
Some contributions to the debate about work-schemes in the UK.

http://libcom.org/blog/new-social-workhouse-16022012

http://thethirdestate.net/2012/02/workfare-in-context/

[3]
Exception here is the Punjab, the most advanced agricultural region, where the number and proportion of small-holdings has been declining over time. During the last decade, 1,28,000 small-holders leased out their land to larger holders and operators and opted out of farming. In addition, 72,000 sold their land to larger farmers. Of these 2,00,000 smallholders, about 22 per cent joined the ranks of agricultural or other labourers.

[4]
According to a NSS survey for the year 2003-04 , the top 5.2 per cent of rural households own 42.8 per cent of agricultural land, and the top 9.5 per cent own 56.6 per cent.

[5]
Agriculture, then, seems to be particularly ‘productive’ only when it is performed as a family enterprise and/or by employing migrant seasonal workers. Actually they are highly specialised – and only nominally ‘self-employed’ – as independent producers in the agro-processing industry. They form part of a very finely calibrated division of labour; the work methods they apply are prescribed by the processing industry, but they have to bear the entrepreneurial risk themselves.

http://www.wildcat-www.de/en/wildcat/89/e_w89_nahrungsmittel.html

[6]
Punjab has been corporatising its farming sector since the 1990s. Field Fresh – an equal partnership venture between Bharti Enterprises and Rothschild – has leased 4,000 acres of land and employs the former owner-cultivators as farm managers. Fresh fruits and vegetables from Field Fresh are exported to the European Union, eastern Europe, Asia. The company claims that the livelihoods of its lessors have improved compared to when they were owner-cultivators as it pays a minimum wage of Rs 80 a day.

Another example are the ‘Punjab potato kings’, who include three families who cultivate seed potato on 12,000 acres of leased land and have cold storage facilities that can store their entire produce. The largest of these three potato kings cultivates 5,500 acres and employs 5,000 labourers during peak periods, mostly migrant workers from Bihar who live in makeshift tents next to the potato fields. They are recruited through “contractors” and supervised by mangers specially hired for the purpose (Witsoe 2006).

More recently, the state government announced a subsidy for farmers for the purchase of transplantation machines. Based on recommendations of the farmers’ commission, it extended a subsidy of Rs 75,000 for each transplantation machine. With the help of these machines, about 5 acres can be planted in a day compared to five persons taking a day to plant one acre. (Singh)

[7]
As an example of a ‘developmentalist’ view on MGNREGS:
“What we need is a livelihood focus in NREGA and creation of livelihood opportunities in the local economy using NREGA funds. NREGA projects should not merely generate wages but should build livelihood assets for the community as well as the individual families that will make them self reliant over the short to medium term rather than be dependent on State doles year after year.”

http://sapplpp.org/openforum/developing-block-level-plans-for-livelihood...

[8]
One of the reasons given for why the Maoists oppose MGNREGS is that further construction of roads will facilitate the mobility of the Indian army in the area. In case of the killing of Niyamat Ansari, a MGNREGS activist the statemen issued by South Latehar Sub-zonal Committee of CPI (Maoist) not only claims the responsibility of the murder but also provides a motive for the act. According to the statement, Niyamat was killed because he did not report for a “people’s trial” conducted by CPI (Maoist) and turned police informer. There is actually more evidence for the case that local construction contractors close to the Maoists felt bothered by Ansari’s activities.

[9]
See following example from a MGNREGS report:
Deepening of village pond (NREGA)
in Thandrampattu
This work was sanctioned for an amount of Rs 50,000. the work involved excavation of earth. It was estimated that a total quantity of 1657 cubic metres of earth has to be excavated @Rs 25 per cubic metre. Including some other minor items the total estimate for the work was worked out at Rs 50,000 based on PWD schedule of rate. The work started on 17-2-06. The first measurement of work was carried out on 27-2-06. At that time it was recorded that 207 cubic metres of excavation has been completed. Accordingly, using the PWD schedule of rates the value of work turned out was arrived at Rs. 6693. As per the muster rolls 162 person days were required to achieve this work turn out. 90 per cent of the workers were women. Thus the payment per person per day worked out as 6693/162=Rs 41.31 per day.

[10]
“Why did the trickle of migration from these villages become a stream in the early 2000s? The reasons are to be found in two marked changes in the forces and relations of production – the casualisation of labour and the partial mechanisation of production. The casualisation of labour has taken two predominant forms: growing levels of individualised daily casual employment and group-based piece-rate work during times of peak labour demand. These changes in the relations of production have been accelerated by the partial mechanisation of agricultural production, e.g. the adoption of labour-saving rice harvesting machinery between 2002 and 2004.”
(Pattenden: Global Labour Journal 3)

[11]
There exists a lot of technological fetishism concerning UID, seen either as a purely neutral census measure or a technological fix for poverty:

“Poverty has many causes, and no simple cure. But one massive problem in India is that few poor people can prove who they are. Their lack of an identity excludes them from the modern economy. They cannot open bank accounts, and no one would be so foolish as to lend them money. If poor Indians each had an identity number tied to unique biometric markers, it would be much harder for the powerful to rob them.”
“Once recipients have bank accounts, India can follow the likes of Brazil and replace easily stolen benefits in kind, such as rations of cheap food and fuel, with direct cash transfers. Not only do these cut theft, but cash payments also let beneficiaries become mobile-for example so they can leave their state to seek work, while not jeopardising any benefits.”
“Last week Karnataka state claimed that by paying welfare direct to bank accounts it had cut some 2m ghost labourers from a rural public-works project.”
“Microfinance should start to work better, too. It enjoyed a huge boom in recent years, followed by a bust. Many poor people found they could borrow more than they could ever hope to repay by going to several lenders. As a result, some microfinance outfits collapsed. The UID scheme ought to allow for greater control over such small loans.”
(http://www.economist.com/node/21542763)

[12]
The end objective should be ‘Each village maintaining a picture database of job seeking families (or unemployed villagers seeking employment) and the information should be available online creating mirror image of the NREGS implementation process. One of the ways in which the government or the civil society can contribute to further strengthen NREGA is to train Mahila Mandals/SHG Federations/ CBOs/Youths/Individuals/Press etc on how to access these web pages at a local internet café to know about the work that is being proposed and completed in their villages.
IT/state: http://www.nrega.nic.in/netnrega/home.aspx

[13]
Here an example of the discourse:
“The panchayat balance sheets are dominated by grants from the state government and they are the source of funds for the bulk of expenditure on public works in these villages. If there are no clear guidelines on the “hardness” of fiscal budget constraints as they pertain to the flow of funds from higher-level governments to local ones, local governments will have the tendency to spend beyond their means in the expectation that they will be bailed out in times of need. What such “soft” budget constraints also imply is that local governments will slacken their efforts to levy and collect taxes and fees because, in addition to such moves being politically unpopular, they expect that their funding needs will be largely met by flows from higher-level governments.”

http://www.wotr.org/upload/Panchayat_Raj_on_the_Ground.pdf

[14]
A very accurate description of the coalition of local economical and political class:
The wide variety of development schemes launched by the TDP and Congress from the 1990s till today has strongly reinforced local political clientelism and the power of rural leaders, who control and redistribute profits (after taking a substantial percentage). Y.S.Rajasekhara Reddy, the Congress leader from 2004 to 2009, pursued such policies and launched a large number of development schemes related to pension, housing and health. He also pushed ahead with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Those are some of the schemes that have deeply reinforced competition and divisions in the village, between political parties as well as within castes. The access to ration cards and other schemes is not a right (as it should be, formally): access is provided through subtle and endless negotiations and manipulations of local micro-hierarchies, from caste to individual levels. To secure access to those programs after months in Hyderabad, migrant labourers have to display their support to the TDP party (who hold power at the village and district level), while henchmen of the party ensure the votes of the caste.

N. Reddy is one such goonda, the grandson of the village’s main moneylender, combining many activities. He is a close associate of the head of the village and the Village Development Officer, mobilises supporters for political meetings, collects migrants’ debts, and is in charge of collecting microcredit group funds at the Cluster level, which his mother directs. Through long-standing docility to the head of the village and a mixture of violence and protection towards the low-castes (Alm 2010), in 2009 he managed not only to become the manager of the shop for subsidized products (petrol, rice, etc.), products which he sells for own profit in the nearby town, but also became a main agent of NREGA. Within NREGA, on average 10 to 15 days of work is carried out per year, in contrast to the 100 days planned and charged. This clearly demonstrates the diversion of money within the scheme and its importance as a source of corruption.
(Migrant Labourers’ Struggles Between Village and Urban Migration Sites: Labour Standards, Rural Development and Politics in South India; David Picherit)

[15]
Some links to MGNREGS related unions:

http://www.mkssindia.org/about-us/

http://nrega.net.in/

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GurgaonWorkersNews no.48 – March 2012
February 25, 2012

Yanam is everywhere… …Orient Craft Workers Riot in Gurgaon

GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 48 (March 2012)

Gurgaon in the industrial belt of Delhi is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-waged classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised post-graduates lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh, China or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via:

www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com
gurgaon_workers_news@yahoo.co.uk

In the March 2012 issue you can read

*** Further Material on Struggle at Maruti Suzuki, Manesar -
We translated two ‘Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Diaries’, published in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in December 2011 and January 2012. The diaries demonstrate that negotiations, formally elected leaders or legal agreements are not needed in order for workers to improve their conditions. As a result of the unrest Maruti Suzuki offered higher wages, more holiday and much lower work loads. Not because they faced a negotiation partner who had a disciplined mass behind them; but because of the opposite, the management faced a confrontation with what appeared to them to be a rather unruly mass whose next step was not predictable. The Maruti Suzuki dispute also shows that the long-term result of the struggle depends on the ability of workers to go beyond the immediate sphere of their factory, without losing this base of daily relationships. The more recent wildcat support action of Maruti and Suzuki Powertrain workers for a workmate employed and injured at a supplier (see report) indicates that the Maruti struggle has changed the atmosphere amongst workers in Manesar in general. How closely related the conditions in Manesar are to those in automobile centres across the globe becomes visible in the current debates about EU-India trade pacts and discussions about automatisation in the industry in India (see summary).

*** Yanam is Everywhere: Trouble at Adidas/Reebock/Puma manufacturer Adigear, Manesar -
On 27th of January the police killed a worker at Regency Ceramics in Yanam, Andhra Pradesh, during a conflict with the locked-out workforce in a dispute over wages and regularisation of workers hired through contractors. In response workers attacked the factory and managements’ houses, during which a top manager was killed. Workers burnt down parts of the plant, the company college, lorries and other equipment. Workers living in the area used the opportunity to loot neighbouring companies, e.g. a cooking-gas bottle supplier. Yanam is potentially everywhere. Below you can find a short report about current disputes at Adigear in Manesar, a textile manufacturer for Adidas and other international sportswear brands. During one of the conflicts a top manager got beaten up. We see these incidents as an expression of the increasing pressure of crisis. You can find a short summary concerning the current threat of mass loan default of textile companies in India – and the utter perplexity of the representatives of capital – leaving the representatives of capital at a loss.

*** Delhi Calling: Get Involved in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute around 9,000 copies of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch. For more background on Faridabad Majdoor Talmel:

http://faridabadmajdoorsamachar.blogspot.com/p/fms-talmel.html

*** Further Material on Struggle at Maruti Suzuki, Manesar -

Between June and October 2011 around 3,500 workers at Maruti Suzuki car plant openly confront the factory regime and its institutional allies in Manesar, in the south of Delhi. Their struggle leaped over to other automobile factories in the industrial corridor, which brought the world’s third largest automobile assembly plant in nearby Gurgaon to a halt. In the most significant workers’ struggle in India in the last two decades the young workers managed to undermine the companies’ attempts to divide them along the lines of temporary and permanent contracts. So far we published three longer texts about this important experience and tried to formulate preliminary conclusions for a necessary open debate.

GWN no.45
GWN no.44
GWN no.41

In this newsletter you can find further material, mainly two ‘Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Diaries’ , published in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar in December 2011 and January 2012. The friends of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar take it seriously to discover and circulate this important experience, even if the official dispute is over. It lays outside of our capacity to summarise the slowly condensing experience into a comprehensive article. We can only generally state that the Maruti Suzuki dispute confirmed the importance of the ‘centrality of the factory’, as a place of direct confrontation between the essence of capitalist relations and workers’ collective power, as a place where the antagonistic elements of the productive cooperation (‘working together under capitalist division of labour’) of workers is concentrated: productive cooperation as the main source of capitalist productivity and power and at the same time the material bases for workers’ self-organisation as an ‘proletarian inversion of cooperation’. The workers at Maruti themselves are not different from the migrant workers in hundreds and thousands of other factories in Gurgaon or Faridabad, and they themselves have been working in these factories. Therefore it is not their particularly ‘advanced consciousness’, which developed a struggle with the most advanced forms of collective activity, questioning of legality etc., but their specific condition in the centre of production.

We have also seen that it does not need negotiations, formally elected leaders or legal agreements in order to translate workers’ unrest into material improvements. Maruti Suzuki offered higher wages, more holiday and much lower work loads, not because they faced a negotiation partner who had a disciplined mass behind him (sic!), but because of the opposite, the confrontation with a – seemingly from the perspective of management – rather unruly mass whose next step was not predictable. The Maruti Suzuki dispute also shows that the long-term result of the struggle depends on the ability of workers to go beyond the immediate sphere of their factory, without losing the base of daily relationships. Their often temporary status forces them to act towards this direction. The example of the wildcat support action of Maruti and Suzuki Powertrain workers for a work-mate employed at a supplier on 13th of January 2012 – see below – shows that the Maruti struggle has changed the atmosphere amongst workers in Manesar in general. How closely related the conditions in Manesar are to those in automobile centres across the globe becomes visible in the current debates about EU-India trade pacts and discussions about automatisation in the industry in India.

*** Maruti Suzuki Manesar Workers’ Diary – December 2011 -
*** Maruti Suzuki Manesar Workers’ Diary – January 2012 -
*** Wildcat Solidarity Action for Injured Automobile Worker -
*** Update on General Situation of Automobile Industry in India -

*** Maruti Suzuki Manesar Workers’ Diary – December 2011 -

* Before June 2011 the A-shift had to start work at 6 am, instead of 7 am, and the B-shift had to work till 1:40 am, instead till midnight. These daily two hours overtime were not officially recorded by Maruti Suzuki management and the overtime was paid at single rate, instead of the statutory double rate. Maruti’s official production capacity was 1 million per year, produced and sold were 1.27 million cars last year. After the 13-days occupation of the factory in June the workers stopped working overtime.

* A supervisor said: “After the workers had occupied the factory for a second time they forced the company to reinstall the company bus transport. This was good, it was an enormous effort to get to work without the busses.

* After the second agreement was settled workers signed the good-conduct undertaking and went inside the factory on the 3rd of October. We were scared of re-entering the factory, but the supervisors and management were twice as scared. In all the departments workers first listened to the sermons of the leading management and then arrived at the production lines at 9 am. Around 30 per cent of workers were shifted from their previous work-station to a new one. Then phone calls of workers hired through contractors came in saying that although permanent workers and trainees were taken back in, the workers hired through contractors were denied entry and told to take their final dues from the contractor. People trusted the (non-recognised) union committee, whose members had been suspended and kept outside, people listened to their instructions. The committee said that they gave management two to three days to take the workers hired through contractor back on.

* On the 7th of October, when the B-shift entered the factory, people said that “something is going to happen”. Suddenly at 3:30 pm we assembled, the decision was made to get people together from all departments as quickly as possible and not to leave a single person there. All workers from the ‘old’ assembly line gathered together. In addition there were around 170 permanent workers from the Manesar factory, around 700 workers from the Maruti Gurgaon plant and more than 600 newly hired workers from ITI’s in Kanpur, Riwa, Himanchal, Bihar, Delhi, who management had all kept inside the plant since beginning of September. Of these workers many had been employed at the ‘new’ assembly line. Most of these workers left the factory at that point on their own accord. The workers immediately formed chains at all entries and exists of the factory.

* At that point there had already been 400 police on the factory premises. At 8 pm the chief of the local police station arrived and said: “Those people who you force to stay, let them go”. People from management stood further away and called individual workers by name to come forward. Some of the workers refused to leave the factory out of fear. The next morning the police chief returned together with contractors and made 30 to 40 rounds on the premises.

* On the night of the 7th of October we prepared ourselves to sleep – we gathered together all blankets and pillows and distributed them. The company had provided these pillows and blankets for those ‘working’ workers, who stayed inside the factory 24 hours during the ‘lock-out’ in September. We found some papers with a list of names of all those workers, in front of each name they had written a column saying ‘pillow’, ‘vest’, ‘loin cloth’, ‘soap’, ‘tooth paste and brush’, ‘sandals’, cigarettes’. In September, apart from these workers who stayed inside for 24 hours, busses arrived from Gurgaon plant every day, with bouncers and workers. Management had ‘promoted’ workers hired through contractors from Gurgaon plant to trainees and used them for production in Manesar.

* During the time of the lock-out supervisors and managers also had trouble over trouble. They feared for their security: would the guys storm inside the factory and start trashing? would the guys catch you outside and trash you? would they trash you once normality has returned? The work-load was also extreme: they extended shifts to 12-hours, they had to produce with new guys they did not know – so they themselves also had to work. A line supervisor who had been brought in asked: “How do the guys who normally work here manage to churn out so many cars? They were also worried about their jobs.

* During the time of the occupation management ordered to retrieve a huge die from the press shop in order to stir things up a bit and worry us. They came with a big trailer and 100 police. We discussed: if we actively try to hold them back, they will start beating us up. Let’s lie down in front of the truck. So 50 of us lied down in front of it. The police chief stopped the truck by hand signal and said to management: if you want we will get it out by running over them. The truck remained where it was – the driver had left.

* In addition to the 400 cops, on 13th of October 200 more police arrived inside the plant. At night after 10 pm a chain of workers stopped an official of the local administration, who had arrived with cameramen and 30 to 40 helmet wearing cops. The official came in order to put up the high court order to leave the factory. After discussion the factory committee gave their permission to put up the court order. Things were very chaotic at that point – when the official put up the document they shot photos, when they spoke to the committee they took photos. After we read the order there first was a bit of confusion, but then the decision was made not to leave the factory. Also the decision to keep calm. The police had stopped any food or other things from entering the factory since the afternoon. During the night of the 13th of October we were hungry, we passed the night by talking. The left-over chana we distributed amongst the apprentices in the morning. In the morning the company stopped the water supply to the toilets. We gathered the rest of the drinking water.

* The news made rounds that the police chief would come in order to search workers. There were around 1,600 permanent workers, trainees and apprentices inside the plant – the police searched us one by one. Then suddenly the DC and 20 to 25 administration officials arrived in the plant, surrounded by cops with guns. They walked around a bit, then stopped in one place and started talking – he had no microphone, so the workers gave him a mic. At the beginning he spoke exactly like a (union) leader: that we were good workers, that we were educated, that we did a great job since five years now, that we achieved such high production levels, that this grants so much tax for the government. he then said that our wages were higher than those of others, that the management is good, that we have been seduced by some people, that we have illegally occupied the factory, that we should follow the orders of the high court, that we have to follow the order to leave the plant, that there wasn’t any other option, that playing with the law will not be tolerated, that since the erring of the Rico Auto workers law and order has been in dire straits, that if Maruti Suzuki will move the factory, our jobs would also go, but why should the government have to bear the losses.

* The workers listened to these words of the DC attentively for half an hour. Then the DC started to tell a tale, the tale which Maruti Suzuki management kept on telling: the race of the turtle and the rabbit, which ends with the morale that if sometimes the rabbit carries the turtle, and sometimes the turtle the rabbit, both win. Team-work! Workers and management should join and go together. But soon after the DC had started his story, the workers stretched out, many fell asleep, others started talking amongst themselves. End the end the DC said that he will quickly move management to enter negotiations for a settlement, and that we should now please follow the order. Another official spoke again about the law, that the occupation is illegal, that we had to go. When the DC was about to leave a worker took the mic: “We have now listened to your words, now listen to ours.” The DC stopped, but when one worker after the other started questions, he left. When workers started to shout slogans, with rather load voices, the DC and the other officials fled the factory more or less running.

* After talks between management and some workers on 22nd of October, an high official of the company, the managing executive officer, made a straight intervention in the Manesar factory. In an expensive restaurant on National Highway 8 a two-day meeting with 60 to 70 ‘representatives’ of workers and managers took place. They negotiated around the question of holidays: management offered that some of the holidays could be fixed, others could be flexible. Management said that they will give us 16 days annual leave. They said that our parents will be covered by the company health system, that this will become easier and more straightforward. “We will see about company transport, too”. They said: “Form a union, we will not object.” When the company wanted workers to form a company committee and workers objected, management said: “Okay, don’t form a committee then, that’s fine.” They also said: “There will be a good wage increase, just wait for three months”. “We will pay you more than the workers at Powertrain (Suzuki Powertrain had an 11,500 Rs monthly increase over three years: 6,500 – 2,500 – 2-500). And the bosses themselves said that the work-load was to high and that as soon as B-plant has started operation the line speed will be reduced from 45 seconds per car to 1 min per car.

* The fact that workers hadn’t put forward any (wage) demands led the bosses to wonder about the ‘policies’ behind the dispute. They said: Tell us, haven’t all the issues relating to your mates been resolved after the 13-days occupation in June? We don’t understand why things flared up again – have you been seduced or what happened? Some high official within Maruti Suzuki belong to the same party as a certain section within leading management in Hyundai, Honda, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Ford – and some of these high officials had recently left Maruti Suzuki in order to get jobs at other car manufacturers. Who knows, may be they arranged all this trouble at Maruti in order to benefit their current employer?

* On 3rd of November A-shift and B-shift stopped work for an hour each and their were department meetings. The big bosses repeated what they had said already. In November management had put up a notice saying that the formation of a works committee has been rejected.

* The Manesar A-plant produced 1,150 cars in two shifts in November. Working overtime is strictly forbidden. The manual line has been idle. Instead there are still 70 to 80 police staying there. Up to now, the end of November, you can see them in the morning, with their wrapped up towels, brushing their teeth.

* When the bought-sold issue (‘golden hand-shake’) of 30 workers (union representatives) made the rounds after the end of the dispute, a Maruti-Suzuki worker said, “Earlier we used to pass on the issues to the president, general secretary, department co-ordinator – they will tell. But now every worker himself answers. On every issue, everyone gives his opinion. The atmosphere has changed.”

* All in all: “The time in Maruti-Suzuki factory during October 7-14 was extremely good. There was no tension of work, there was no tension of coming to the factory and going back, there was no tension of catching the bus, there was no tension of cooking, there was no tension that food has to be eaten only at 7 o’clock or only at 9 o’clock, there was no tension as to what day or date was that day. Lots of personal conversation took place. We had never come so close to one another as we came in these seven days.”

*** Maruti Suzuki Manesar Workers’ Diary – January 2012 -

* The assembly-line speed used to be a car per 45 seconds, they have now reduced speed to a car per 1 minute.

* The police have left the factory in December.

* The company management does not understand what really happened during the last months and why. Therefore they are afraid of pushing things too far with workers. Management has started to pat us on the shoulder, to give us concessions.

* There is a distance. There keeps being a distance between management and workers. The bosses say: the distance has been created, let it be closed. The big bosses said to the department managers that they should establish direct relationships with the permanent workers and technical trainees. Through the executive officers, management has issued two new email IDs for workers to contact and communicate with the company management directly.

* Being alarmed by the many debates and wide-reaching discussions amongst workers some elements started to spread the rumour that the company would tap workers’ phones. If company and state are afraid of us talking to each other, and therefore spread these rumours, we should increase doing so, increase talking, increase their fear. In September – October, when large numbers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers spoke to each other in an open way, spreading rumours about conspiracies of management or state played an important role when it came to stirring up some dust in order to cloud things again. Company and state are very weak, this is why they have a lot of fear of workers conversing.

* After the (union) president and secretary and then the other 28 suspended took their final dues and left, the process of union registration continues. First they tried to appoint union officials on the base of ‘regions of origin’. This got entangled in inner-disputes. New union officials were appointed. The company knows about this – it is all in full knowledge of the company. Workers had trusted the president and secretary way too much. Now, when there is talk about the question of the president election, we only come and see who they want to make president. Now we won’t just close our eyes and trust anyone. Obviously, if the company wants to, a strike can always happen, but now we will make our decisions only after proper thinking and discussing. The company has not paid money to all those 30 guys who left the job in order to make them leave from here. They gave them money so that they would always intervene on the side of the company. The sphere of union and officials is still the chosen arena of the company.

* Debates. “You should put pressure on the administration in Chandigarh in order for the labour commissioner to register your union.” “What will a registration change? Why would you need it? You have seen that the labour commissioner came all the way from Chandigarh to the factory gate when the dispute was on – and you have seen what his role was.” “That’s correct. But nevertheless, if the government accepts you, you will get some help from it.” “But what kind of help? You have seen the kind of help the company and government has to offer. Why do you want to reduce your strength from 3,500 workers to 950 workers?” “No, we should remain together as 3,500 workers.” “But how? Only the permanent workers can become member of the union. According to the legislation trainees, apprentices and workers hired through contractors cannot become members. By forming collectivity amongst all workers in the factory and beyond the factory you have shaken company and government. Why do you now want to shrink again?” “Currently there is no one who would engage in talks with the company. The company started to give you this and that concession, because they are afraid that you have joined together amongst 3,500 and might join with the 100,000s around you. They have increased the wages of the apprentices, trainees and workers hired through contractor. They have reduced line speed from 45 sec to 1 min a car. The company official told that there will be a considerable wage increase for the permanent workers. So, what kind of interest could you have in a 950-member union which has negotiations between company, president and secretary? At the moment the company hasn’t got anyone for settling an agreement with, this is why they are forced to make concessions to all workers. This is why the company is actually in need for a union and union leaders. The conditions nowadays are such that – even if you intend a thousand times to achieve the opposite – starting from the fact that union registration and acceptance is limited to the permanent workers, the leaders will be reduced to a small circle and thereby become a tool in the hand of the company. You just have to look at the example of the Honda union. In 2005 permanent workers, trainees, workers hired through contractors fought together. Now most of the 1,800 permanent workers have supervisory jobs. The company has stopped to keep trainees. Please speak to the 6,500 workers hired through contractor about their view on the union – the workers who do most of the production work at Honda – and then think about it again.”

*** Wildcat Solidarity Action for Injured Automobile Worker -

On 13th of January a worker hired through contractor employed in the factory of the car parts (break shoes) manufacturer Allied Nippon received serious chemical burn injuries during a work accident. The company brought the worker to a private nursing home, instead of an ESI hospital, in order to keep the accident ‘unofficial’. Seven friends of the worker, living in the same dormitory villages in Manesar and employed mainly as temporary workers at Maruti Suzuki, visited him at the nursing home. The friends first contacted the supervisor of the contractor which employed the injured worker. The contractor said that he had no information about the issue – the worker also has not been issued an ESI card, although he had been employed since early December 2011. The seven friends then went directly to the Allied Nippon factory, but the factory manager refused to see them. The friends then decided to call other friends for help. Within half an hour 70 to 80 workers employed through contractor in different departments of Maruti Suzuki and Suzuki Powertrain gathered in front of the Allied Nippon factory. The factory manager felt threatened, and stayed behind the factory fence. The assembled workers said that he would not even have to bother with paying for the hospital fees, that the workers themselves would pay for that, but that he has to pay the worker until he is better and get his job back. He should also inform the parents of the worker. “We got a lot of support during the time when we occupied the factory. Now it’s time that we support others”, said one of them.

http://www.alliednippon.com/manufacturing-facilities.html

*** Update on General Situation of Automobile Industry in India -

In the last month there was a fair bit of back and forth around the question of the EU – India free trade agreement and how it would impact on the automobile industry in both regions. The back and forth does not primarily express conflicting interests between different car manufacturers, given that most companies now have plants both in Asia and Europe. The conflict evolves rather around the question how to balance the global movement of production – not necessarily only from north to south – and the regional framework of state revenues and labour markets. Currently the EU imports around 250,000 cars from India annually, that’s more than from South Korea – Hyundai, itself a ‘South Korean’ company is one of the main exporters from India. The Indian market ‘only’ imported around 4,000 cars from the EU in 2011, this does not include automobile related commodities (parts, machinery for production etc.). The free trade talks on 10th of February haven’t determined yet whether the 60 per cent Indian import tariffs on cars manufactured in the EU will be dropped to 30 per cent, or whether the 6.5 per cent EU import tariffs for ‘Indian’ cars will be dropped to zero, as demanded by the Indian state delegation. It is for sure that general market pressure will increase, not mainly because of tariff policies, but due to the general dynamic of capitalist production – and both regional state and the global manufacturers will try to translate this pressure into pressure on workers everywhere – General Motors in the US currently announces ‘record profits’, as one of the results of sharp real wage decline in the US car industry.

After the increased unrest in the automobile industry in India the management publicly muses about ‘automatisation’. “Three hundred robots whirr to life every morning all over Hyundai’s Sriperumbudur plant near Chennai, rubbing shoulders with 1,500 employees and 7,000 contract workers. Together, man and machine churn out one car in less than a minute; over 600,000 cars roll out of the factory every year. The number of robots inhabiting the factory has increased more than 10-fold in a decade. Car companies directly or indirectly employ over five workers for every car produced. All automobile and component companies together employ over 1.3 crore workers directly and indirectly. At Hyundai, gone are the part-bypart way of putting together a car; today, 40 per cent of the value of the car comes to Hyundai by way of pre-arranged modules, de-skilling the job at the shop floor. The Indian auto shop floor isn’t as automated as those in the more mature markets. So, while German carmaker Volkswagen’s Chakan plant has an automation of 30% in its body shop, the comparative number back home would be 90%.”

Obviously there is ‘automatisation’ happening in the main assembly plants, at the same time there is also outsourcing to labour-intensive first and second tier suppliers going on. The talk about ‘automatisation’ is mainly ideological talk, which expresses itself nicely in the following quote by tyre-manufacturer Apollo’s top-manager Sharma: “We do not have what has traditionally been referred to as ‘workers’ at the Chennai plant.” Apollo, instead, has shop floor engineers who are not just in charge of running machinery but also its upkeep, maintenance and effecting innovation. In order to see more clearly how much of this talk is ‘propagandistic’ it might be worth having a look at the developments in the global north, where the peak of ‘automatisation’ and ‘skill-enrichment’ in the car industry was probably reached around 1990, and since then – mainly as a result of stagnating wage levels – has basically reversed to rather ‘traditional’ means of industrial production.

In this regard we suggest greatly to read following account “At some point you are not interested in technology anymore”, by a Volkswagen worker in Germany:

http://www.wildcat-www.de/en/wildcat/79/w79_auto5000_en.htm

*** Yanam is Everywhere: Trouble at Adidas/Reebock/Puma manufacturer Adigear, Manesar -

On 27th of January the police killed a worker at Regency Ceramics in Yanam, Andhra Pradesh, during a conflict with the locked-out work-force, in dispute over wages and regularisation of workers hired through contractors. Workers in response attacked the factory and managements’ houses, during which a top-manager was killed. Workers burnt down parts of the plant, the company college, lorries and other equipment, workers in the surrounding neighbourhood used the opportunity to loot neighbouring companies, e.g. a cooking-gas bottle supplier.

Yanam is potentially everywhere. Below you can find a short report about current disputes at Adigear in Manesar, a manufacturer for Adidas and other international sports gear brands. During one of the conflicts a top-manager got beaten up. The ‘textile’ sector in India is not excepted from the general tendency of crisis. On 6th of February we could read in the Economic Times:

“Yarn, fabric and clothing companies are in a sweet spot. They owe banks so much that now it is their lenders’ job to ensure they survive. With wild enthusiasm, banks have lent the textile industry Rs 2,50,000 crore in the last 12 years. Now companies say they can’t even pay interest on Rs 50,000 crore in working capital loans. Up to 15 per cent of loans to this industry are stressed and the number is rising fast. In today’s precarious times, such a gaping hole could be the last straw for banks. Most of these loans have already been ‘restructured’ once. If payments fall behind a second time, the account has to be classified as a ‘Non Performing Asset’ on the bank’s balance sheet. In December, a dozen banks asked the RBI to relax the rules on declaring bad loans and let these twice restructured loans remain standard. Because such relaxation flouts international prudential and accounting norms, quite sensibly, RBI refused.

The biggest players, with enough backward and forward integration to ride out the storms, continue to make money. Those in distress today were clearly unworthy of large loans in the first place and should now be written off. The real issue is that Indian textile companies are small, labour-intensive, non-integrated spinning, weaving, finishing and apparel-making outfits. Only 3% are large composite mills. Today’s world demands economies of scale. Indiscriminate government subsidies in the name of job creation further encouraged promoters to use public money for creating more such fragmented capacities that are inevitably idled at first signs of trouble. It is a mirage that the textiles industry is too big to fail. On the contrary, its myriad small units have outlived their utility. Their exit will occur only when banks face the consequences of their actions. And subsidy schemes should stop. Individual livelihoods can’t be protected by industrial dinosaurs.”

We remember the attack on the huge composite mills in Bombay in the mid-1980s, when the representatives of capital proclaimed that this ‘large-scale’-form of production is outdated and small, flexible units are supposed to be the future. We remember the recent mass waves of strikes and riots in the textile export zones in Bangladesh, where, according to this view, capital found better investment options. We are reminded that the problem of profit-margins, over-production, 16-24-36 hours shifts paralleled by rising unemployment is an universal problem. The crisis, and the ‘solutions’ proposed in the article above (the only solution the current system can provide), will create one, two, three, …many Yanams.

Adigear International Worker
(Manufacturer for Adidas, Reebok, Puma, FILA etc.)

(Plot 253, Sector VI, IMT Manesar)
Shift starts at 9:30 am in the morning. The 100 female workers finish work at 8 pm and the 800 male workers work till 1 am, sometimes till 6 am the next morning. On Sundays workers work till 6 pm, sometimes till 1 am. The male workers work 180 to 240 hours of overtime per month, paid at single rate. Wages are paid delayed, the August wages were paid in small installments from 20th of September onwards. On the 20th of September at 11 am, when wages were handed out, there was a lot of commotion. The six-foot personal security officer of the company director slapped one of the workers. Why did he hit him? The workers wanted to know, but the security officer had left the place. During meal break workers left the factory and started to question the security officer, but he escaped with the help of another security officer. The workers then met the general manager outside the plant and the workers treated him as the due representative of the security officer. He was then admitted to the ESI hospital. The company has close relations to the district police, so they acted immediately. The police arrived and arrested 42 workers, whose names were given by management, and brought them to the Manesar police station. In protest all remaining workers stopped working and left the factory. In return 21 workers were released, but the others remained locked-up. The workers did not re-start work, the factory remained idle from 23rd to 25th of September. Workers said: Release all of the arrested, withdraw the cases filed and pay compensation for lost wages… if you want the next orders to be shipped in time, fulfil these demands. Conflicts continued since then. On 3rd of December, when workers who had been sacked came to get their August wages, management called the cops again. We don’t know whether these workers got their wages in the end. When our October and November wages were still not paid on 15th of December, we stopped working at 9:30 am. When work was still not resumed at 1 pm the company send seven bouncers who started hassling workers. In response all of us left the factory…

http://www.adigear.com/clients.html

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GurgaonWorkersNews no.47 – February 2012
January 24, 2012

Fog – Manesar – Early Shift

GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 47 (February 2012)

Gurgaon in the industrial belt of Delhi is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-waged classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised post-graduates lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh, China or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via:

www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com
gurgaon_workers_news@yahoo.co.uk

In the February 2012 issue you can read

1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective

*** Everything but Accidental – Fatal Accident at Machino Plastics Ltd. and a Report by an Omega Construction Equipment Worker -
In January 2012, a roof in the factory of Machino Plastics in Manesar collapsed under “heavy machinery and raw material set-up” – two workers were killed on the spot and several others seriously injured. Last summer, a work accident in the Faridabad plant of Omega Construction Equipment nearly killed Dinesh Kumar. Although he worked for the company since 25 years as a permanent employee and despite the fact that – unlike the majority of workers in Delhi-Faridabad-Gurgaon – he had an ESI medical insurance card, the post-accident treatment by both company and medical system turned out to be a nightmare.

*** The Guns of Manesar and the Return of Patriarchal Corporatism: Wage Revison at Maruti Suzuki and Reports from Mars Associates and Motherson Sumi Workers -
We include a short note on the upcoming pay revision in the Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar, which has turned into a stage-show for management propaganda. According to the head of Maruti Suzuki’s human resource department, the pay revision “will help stabilize the situation not only at Maruti, but the entire industrial belt in Haryana”. He continues wisely: “Twenty years back, the profile of workers was different. Now, almost 70 per cent of our workforce is in the age group of 24-26 years. These young guns always look for improvements.” Following the note on the wage revision are two reports of ‘young guns’ employed in Maruti’s supply-chain, at Mars Associates Ltd. and Motherson Sumi Systems.

2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area

*** Two Decades of Unrest at Clutch Auto in Faridabad
Clutch Auto was one of the first industrial companies in Faridabad. The first factory was opened in 1971, in the mid-1980s the company shifted to a new plant at Mathura Road. Now Clutch Auto is about to open a factory in Rewari, near Manesar, which may result in down-sizing or closure of the Faridabad plant. At around 2 million per year the company is India’s largest clutch manufacturer; producing for the automobile industry, agricultural machines and army tanks. In June 2011 about 350 permanent workers at Clutch Auto went on a 11-days strike. At the time the dispute at Maruti Suzuki in Manesar, about 50 km from Faridabad, was in full swing. The strike officially concerned wages and a ‘wage agreement’, but the relocation of the factory was looming in the background. We include a workers’ report published in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. We also translated an older article relating the story of a strike at Clutch Auto in 1992, which broke out after 250 casual workers were sacked from the plant.

*** Green/Nano-Technology, the Long Shadow of the 20th/US-century and the Local Regime: A workers’ Report from Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. -
Worker’s report on a dispute at Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd., Gurgaon, summer 2011. Workers recently formed a trade union, which raised the demand for higher wages and permanent contracts for the casual workers. In response Usha management sacked all casual workers – followed by police repression and entanglement in the net of the labour law. The company Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. is an interesting example of the close connection between so-called ‘green’ and ‘nano-technology’ and the large-scale industries (automobile, aerospace, military-complex). The company history also demonstrates the formation process of ‘global corporations’. Behind the formal display of joint-ventures (in Usha’s case with Honeywell, US; Siemens, Germany; Hitachi, Japan) and ‘capital and technology transfer’, we can see how these corporations grew as part of the state regimes and their ‘opening of markets’.

*** Caparo Automobile Workers in Chennai: Short and Successful Strike against Casualisation and Low Wages -
On 1st of December 2011, 500 workers in the stamping and foundry units of the automobile parts manufacturer Caparo (Sriperumbudur/Chennai plant) went on strike. After two days, management agreed to raise wages and to make 110 workers permanent. We report our rather limited information and ask friends and comrades in Chennai to supply further insights on this important struggle. The strike has to be seen as a continuation of the unrest at Maruti Suzuki or Munjal Showa in Manesar, Gurgaon – the unrest of a new generation of workers.

3) According to Plan -
News on (Local) Re-Structuring and Crisis

*** The Failing ‘Kingdom of Dreams’: The Global Crunch and the Local Crisis of Real Estate -
In the last month we could observe how two very ‘finance’ sensitive sectors slowly, but surely crunched due to lack of liquidity – the airlines and the real estate sector. These are ‘early symptoms’, hinting at the condition of the general economy. I.e. the root of the problem lying not in ‘sector specific issues’, but in the general squeeze; rising costs of credits vs. lower expectations of future profits. The credit crunch translates itself back into the ‘real world’ in form of urban deserts – in particular in Gurgaon. The three symbols of the neo-liberal boom in Gurgaon are shaken: DLF itself, the Reliance SEZ and the ‘Kingdom of Dreams’, a Bollywood entertainment mall.

*** The Middle-Class is Revolting: Devaluation and Social Angst -
The fact that the iron fix-points of society – money, commodity, state power, professional advancement etc. – slowly turn into sand-castles, leaves its impact on the mind not only of workers, but also of the middle-waged classes. Recently Gurgaon witnessed some outbreaks of ‘middle class anger’ towards the commodity-form. ‘Middle class’ people who lose more time in traffic jams on the National Highway, than the new highway would allow them to ‘win’ by speed, forcibly opened the toll gates which are meant to ‘finance’ the highway. Young ‘middle-class’ people came to see Metallica in Gurgaon – a band, which is known for their arsehole attitude towards ‘free music downloads or sharing’ on the data highway. After the announcement that the concert would be postponed, people smashed the concert venue. Two short news items on pent-up anger…

4) About the Project -
Updates on Gurgaon Workers News

*** Suggested Reading: Contributions to the Global Overthrow
The global and historical character of the current crisis forces us to coordinate both debate and practice ‘for workers self-emancipation’ on an international scale. Check the following for your reading list.

The new Letter by Mouvement Communiste about the Euro fiscal crisis in general and its expression in Greece in particular:
Mouvement Communiste

The new issue of Insurgent Notes, reflecting on the ‘Occupy’-movement in the US:
Insurgent Notes

*** Delhi Calling: Get Involved in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute around 9,000 copies of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch. For more background: Faridabad Majdoor Talmel

———————–

1) Proletarian Experiences -
Daily life stories and reports from a workers’ perspective

*** Everything but Accidental – Report by an Omega Construction Equipment Worker and on fatal Accident at Machino Plastics Ltd. -

Accidents are a daily routine (not only) for workers in the Delhi industrial belts. Not only the factories are slaughterhouses, the way to work itself is murderous. Between January and December 2011 officially (!) 163 people were killed in road accidents on the short Gurgaon-stretch of the National Highway 8, most of them workers crossing the highway on foot…

Two Workers Killed at Machino Plastics, Manesar
21st of January 2012
At least two workers were killed and several injured when a temporary roof-structure collapsed at Machino Plastics Ltd., a supplier for Maruti India Ltd’s in IMT Manesar. “There was a huge machine setup which suddenly fell along with the pillars and roof,” investigation officer Surender Singh said. “The victims were rushed to hospital where two workers were declared dead on arrival. Situation of four workers is stated to be critical.” Those killed were identified as Bhagirath and Naresh Kumar. Bhagirath hails from Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad and Naresh from Rajasthan.

Omega Construction Equipment Worker
(FMS 2011)
A work accident in the Faridabad plant of Omega Construction Equipment nearly killed Dinesh Kumar. Although he worked for the company since 25 years as a permanent employee and despite the fact that – unlike the majority of workers in Delhi-Faridabad-Gurgaon – he had an ESI medical insurance card, the post-accident treatment by both company and medical system turned out to be a nightmare. http://www.omega.org.in/fabrication/facilities.htm

Omega Construction Equipment manufactures special machinery and heavy fabrications (hydraulic cranes, storage tanks) for the local and global large-scale industry (petrochemical, power, cement, paper, sugar, textile, steel industries). Me, Dinesh Kumar, worked at this factory (Plot 262 M, Sector 24, Faridabad) for 25 years as a permanent employee. On 15th of September 2009 I had an accident at an hydraulic press, which cut my complete face. One jaw bone was cut, I lost all teeth and my nose was cut. I spent one month in the Escorts Fortis Hospital, then 15 days in the Metro Hospital, then 10 days at the ESI Hospital – I was unconscious for the whole time, I then opened my eyes. The mouth area was stitched up, I was fed through a plastic tube inserted into my throat. I was sent to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, but then turned back to the ESI Hospital. The nose needed a plastic surgery and the mouth also another operation. I was transferred back to the Escorts Hospital, there they told my family to bring medicine, which cost about 18 to 20,000 Rs, which was not paid for by the ESI… the ESI said that everything will be provided by Escorts Hospital, “so why do you buy the medication yourself?” The doctors at Escorts Hospital later on said that they don’t know about the legal ins and outs. My brother had admitted me to the Metro Hospital, so the 56,000 Rs will have to be paid by my family. From the ESI I received 148 Rs a day from 15th September 2009 to 27th of July 2010. The expenditures were considerable… On 28th of July an ESI doctor attested that I was fit to work. I went to the factory. They sent me back and forth, told me to take my final dues and quit the job. I went to the labour department, through a trade union. There the company agreed in writing that they would take me back on duty. I worked the last three days in September and seven days in October, on pay day I asked for my wages, but the factory director swore at me and threatened me. I went back to the labour department. The company lawyer said that I should take my final dues and quit. I refused. The whole issue went to Chandigarh, to the labour court, the court date is on 1st of July 2011. Again, quite a lot of expenditures… my brother, nephew and my older daughter (my wife has just died) tell me that I should not think too much, that my mind has gone slightly bad, that I therefore should not think too much. As a consequence of the accident I am forced to a certain diet, I have to suck water through my nose regularly, my mouth and head hurts… I will have to go to the ESI medical board in order to get a compensation.

*** The Guns of Manesar and the Return of Patriarchal Corporatism: Wage Revision at Maruti Suzuki and Reports from Mars Associates and Motherson Sumi Workers -

We included a short note on the upcoming pay revision in the Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar, which has turned into a stage-show for management propaganda. According to the head of Maruti Suzuki’s human resource department, the pay revision “will help stabilize the situation not only at Maruti, but the entire industrial belt in Haryana”. He continues wisely: “Twenty years back, the profile of workers was different. Now, almost 70 per cent of our workforce is in the age group of 24-26 years. These young guns always look for improvements.” Following the note on the wage revision are two reports of ‘young guns’ employed in Maruti’s supply-chain, at Mars Associates Ltd. and Motherson Sumi Systems.

Maruti likely to revise pay structure
7th of January 2012 – Times of India
“The move will help stabilize the situation not only at Maruti, but the entire industrial belt in Haryana, which is home to several auto companies. Their pay revision is due. We have set up a committee, which would evaluate their demands and negotiate those with the company management,” said S.Y. Siddiqui, managing executive officer (human resources and administration). “The wage settlement process will begin in March and it is expected to be completed by April-May.” The company has agreed to the demand of the Manesar workers for a union, separate from those of their colleagues at the company’s Gurgaon plant. Both Gurgaon and Manesar are located in Haryana. “It’s their right to form a union and nobody can stop them from doing that,” Siddiqui said. “We are really happy for them.” Siddiqui said the company has a lot of young workers at both plants and it has understood that it needs to respect their demands. “Twenty years back, the profile of workers was different. Now, almost 70 per cent of our workforce is in the age group of 24-26 years. These young guns always look for improvements.” Siddiqui admitted that “overwork” last year triggered workers to go on strike. “There was a huge demand in the market last year, especially for models like the DZire and the Swift,” he said. “There were occasions when there was a need for extra work. There was a huge pressure on production. Better communication with the workers should have avoided these strikes.” The company will hire 365 workers in this fiscal and at least 750 in the next one, Siddiqui said. A decision on whether to delay the Gujarat plant opening will be taken at the board meeting on 23 January, he added. Maruti Suzuki India Ltd reported a 63.6 per cent drop in net profit for the quarter ended 31 December 2011 from a year earlier. Maruti will seek to increase the proportion of locally made parts to minimize the impact of currency changes. Imports currently constitute 12 per cent of net revenue and vendors import the equivalent of another 10 per cent of net revenue.

Motherson Sumi Systems Worker
(Plot 21, Sector 18, Gurgaon)
The shift officially starts at 6 am, but the company buses arrive as early as 5:30 am. Even the workers who live in Gurgaon have to get up at 4 to 4:30 am to arrive ‘on time’, the workers living in Delhi get up at 3 or 3:30 am. The various assembly lines for electrical (car) harnesses are given names of different flowers in order to distinguish them, but the workload is heavy and less flowery. In the Gurgaon factory most of the work is done for Maruti Suzuki. Because of the unrest the production at the Maruti Suzuki factory in Manesar has been low during the summer months – the ready harnesses piled up in our plant, in the packaging area, in the canteen, next to our machines.

MARS ASSOCIATES PVT. LTD. Worker
(Plot 23, Sector III, IMT Manesar)
The company employs 20 permanent workers and 80 workers hired through contractors. We work on two 12-hours shifts, manufacturing parts for Honda, Hero Honda, Maruti Suzuki. There are no days off, we work on Sundays, even on festival days. The overtime is paid at single rate. Out of the eight pressure die-casting machines four remain defunct since three months. The machines run, though they are faulty – but it is the worker who operates the faulty machine who is sworn at, sometimes beaten. Accidents are frequent, this year two workers have cut their hands. The company does not fill in accident forms, workers are sent to private hospitals, money for treatment is cut from their wages and in the end they are sacked from the job. 650 Rs are cut from wages for ESI and PF, but the workers hired through contractors receive neither card nor PF form. Mars operates another factory in D-166, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-I, Delhi.

2) Collective Action -
Reports on proletarian struggles in the area

*** Two Decades of Unrest at Clutch Auto in Faridabad

Clutch Auto belongs to the first industrial companies in Faridabad. The first factory was opened in 1971, in the mid-1980s the company shifted to a new plant at Mathura Road, now Clutch Auto is about to open a factory in Rewari, near Manesar, which might result in down-sizing or closure of the Faridabad plant. The company is India’s largest clutch manufacturer, around 2 million per year, for the automobile industry, for agricultural machines and army tanks. In June 2011 about 350 permanent workers at Clutch Auto went on a 11-days strike. At the time the dispute at Maruti Suzuki in Manesar, about 50 km from Faridabad, was in full swing. The strike officially concerned wages and a ‘wage agreement’, but the relocation of the factory is looming in the background. We document a workers’ report published in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. We also translated an older article relating the story of a strike at Clutch Auto two decades earlier in 1992, after 250 casual workers were sacked from the plant.

http://www.clutchauto.com/

Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – July 2011

Clutch Auto Worker
(12/4 Mathura Road, Faridabad)
Every month 100 Rs is cut from the 350 permanent workers wages and paid annually in form of LTC [Leave Travel Concessions] – the bosses say that this is inscribed in the agreement with the trade union. By June 2011, this money accumulated from 2010 had not been paid to the workers yet. The company had also put up a notice in the past, which said that workers are not supposed to take their paid holiday, that they will be compensated. Since 2006 there has been not paid holiday and people who ask for holiday are not granted any. Now, in May 2011 the company put up a notice saying that for any holiday taken the company will cut two day’s wages. In addition, management cut 1,800 Rs from the April wages of workers, saying that according to the wage agreement with the trade union they can cut wages if production targets are not met. On 12th of May 2011 the permanent workers refused to take the reduced wages… on 20th of May the company paid the wages without any reductions. The company opens a new factory in Rewari (around 40 km from Faridabad), they take machinery from the Faridabad plant, they hire new people for training… it looks like they want to get rid off the 350 permanent workers here. On 3rd of June the permanent workers engaged in a tool-down strike, they came to work, but did not start working. On 12th of June negotiations between management and union took place at the office of the Ministry of Labour. The permanent workers and their families ‘encircled’ (protest form) the house of the labour minister, the Clutch Auto workers live in his election constituency. The workers will get wages paid for the ten days of strike, five days are paid by the company and for the other five days workers will work from 20th to 30th of June for 12 hours instead of 8 hours per day. Apart from that a lot of reassurances are given. Production started again on 13th of June.

Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – May 1992

On 4th of April 1992, 250 casual workers were kicked out from this factory, situated at 12/4 Mathura Road. They were employed in the factory for eight to ten years continuously, and during this time the workers had been squeezed to the max. They had to jump from one machine to the other, relentlessly. They were not paid the minimum wage. They did not receive ESI. They worked 30 days a month and if they left work to go and drink water, smoke a bidi or go to the toilet, they were marked as ‘absent’ for half of the day and their wages were cut accordingly. Now, at Clutch Auto like at Universal Engineering or other factories, the conditions of the casual workers come to the fore. In July 1991, management and trade union negotiate a new three years wage agreement. The agreement concerned only the 500 permanent workers, the 250 casuals were not even mentioned. According to the current agreement the workers would have received a 150 Rs wage increase combined with an increase in work load – but management was not able to increase production to the extend they had wanted to. This is why they refused to increase the wages by 150 Rs. Under these conditions it was only natural that dissatisfaction amongst the permanent workers towards the trade union leaders grew. It seems that the union leaders, who are affiliated to the HMS, pushed forward the demand to give all casual workers a permanent status. The fact that management kicked out all casual workers on 4th of April is a link in this chain of events. The fact that management suspended 12 ‘prominent’ permanent workers on 27th of April and the subsequent back-and-forth is another link. In the factory production runs as normal. The casual workers, who had been sacked all of a sudden, are angry and they started to organise themselves. Against their protest management obtained a court rule saying that they have to stay in 50 feet distance from the factory gate. On 26th of April thugs paid by the management started to threaten these workers and ‘prominent’ casual workers were followed back to their homes, where the thugs also threatened their families. One problem is that the casual workers – following the advice of some people who want to turn themselves into prophets – started to put their hope in procedures at the labour department and other paper-tigers. A whole month has already been spoiled while waiting for the date of a hearing. Here we have to remember that in 1983 – 1984, during the period when Clutch Auto shifted the factory from sector 6 to Mathura Road, management sacked hundreds of permanent workers with the help of the CITU. At Mathura road INTUC staged the show the drama, and now it is HMS’s turn to continue the drama.

The back-and-forth heated up and on 11th of May 1992 workers at Clutch Auto went on strike. Workers stare at faces of the union leaders and wait what they have to say – the harmful consequence of which becomes visible. With having forced 100 of the casual workers to resign by end of May, management has sealed the fate of the demand to make all casuals permanent. And at Clutch Auto workers still sit in front of the gate, playing cards, putting their hope in leaders who run back-and-forth between labour department and other officers.

*** Green/Nano-Technology, the Long Shadow of the 20th/US-century and the Local Regime: A workers’ Report from Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. -

Worker’s report on a dispute at Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd., in Gurgaon, in summer 2011. Workers had recently formed a trade union, which raised the demand for higher wages and permanent contracts for the casual workers. In response Usha management sacked all casual workers – followed by police repression and entanglement in the net of the labour law. The company Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. is an interesting example for the close connection between so-called ‘green’ and ‘nano-technology’ and the large scale industries (automobile, aerospace, military-complex). The company history also shows the formation process of ‘global corporations’. Behind the formal display of joint-ventures (in Usha’s case with Honeywell, US; Siemens, Germany; Hitachi, Japan) and ‘capital and technology transfer’ we can see how these corporations grew as part of the state regimes and their ‘opening of markets’.

http://uaml.in/contact-us/

Usha Amorphous Metals Ltd. (UAML) manufactures ‘nano crystalline cores’ (amorphous alloy) for electrical switches used in solar inverters, wind generators, in automobiles, rail traction, aerospace and military technology. Usha Amorphous Metal Ltd. came out of a joint-venture with the US multi-national Honeywell. A Usha subsidiary linked up with the German equivalent Siemens. Both Honeywell and Siemens manufacture for the energy and military complex and the development of the corporation is very closely linked to the ‘expansive’ policies of their respective state regimes. Or as Honeywell management puts it: “Honeywell is a Fortune 100 company that invents and manufactures technologies to address tough challenges linked to global macrotrends such as safety, security, and energy”. Honeywell employs around 122,000 workers worldwide, including 19,000 ‘engineers and scientists’. Honeywell is a company of the 20th ‘US-century’, based in the oil and gas sector, expanding into automobile and military sector. “By 1941, the company was present in Chile, Panama, Trinidad, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa. By 1998, the company had operations in 95 countries through 83 wholly-owned subsidiaries and 13 joint ventures.”

http://www.missionready.com/

http://honeywell.com/About/Pages/our-history.aspx

Honeywell started to sell amorphous metal products on the Indian market in the 1980s. At the time the state in India curbed the possibility for ‘foreign’ companies to set-up ‘their own’ subsidiaries in India, instead they were ‘forced’ to engage in joint-ventures with ‘local’ companies. The distribution of shares amongst the factions of capital and the question of technology-transfer was given a formal frame-work. In 1987, Honeywell agreed with Usha India to create an Indian-based joint venture, UAML, to make and sell amorphous metal products. Usha India agreed to contribute real estate in exchange for more UAML shares – the family behind Usha India owns large pieces of land in Delhi area and in other regions. Honeywell agreed to contribute technology in exchange. This agreement was memorialized in a “Technology Transfer Agreement”, executed in February 1994. In 1995 the laws for foreign direct investment changed, also as part of the post-1990/91 crisis management and ‘structural re-adjustment – and allowed to set up 100 per cent ‘foreign-owned’ companies in manufacturing. Honeywell set up their ‘own’ unit and the joint-venture with Usha India finally broke up in 2008 – not without a long legal case about ‘monopolising knowledge’ and ‘active sabotage’ of the joint-venture. As we can read in the following, for workers it does not matter too much who their bosses are…

Usha Amorphous Metal Worker
(Plot 487 – 487, Udyog Vihar Phase III, Gurgaon)
In the factory 32 permanent workers and 100 casual workers manufacture parts for electrical transformers. The work load is high, there is hardly time to go on the toilet or drink water. People work 125 to 190 hours overtime per month, which is illegal, payment is 31 Rs per hour overtime, which is also illegal. Each month around three to four day wages get embezzled. After 10 – 20 years of employment the wages of the permanent workers are still only 6,000 to 7,000 Rs. In order to find some relieve workers joined a trade union. In March 2011 workers gave a demand notice to management, demanding a wage increase and permanent contracts for the casuals. In response to this management sacked all casual workers on 28th of April. The workers handed in a complaint at the labour office and started a protest camp in front of the factory. On 11th of May the police arrived, they started to threaten workers, “what are you doing here, go to the labour court”, and chased them away. An appointment was given at the labour department on 18th of May: the management claimed that the casual workers were not casuals, but workers hired through contractor and that currently there is no work at the factory. They said this while hiring new people on a daily level. The April wages were paid to the sacked 100 casual workers on the 18th of May, but the overtime money for March and April has not been paid.

*** Caparo Automobile Workers in Chennai: Short and Succesful Strike against Casualisation and Low Wages -

On 1st of December 2011, 500 workers in the stamping and foundry units of the automobile parts manufacturer Caparo (Sriperumbudur/Chennai plant) went on strike. After two days, management agreed to raise wages and to make 110 workers permanent. We document our rather limited information and ask friends and comrades in Chennai to supply further insights on this important struggle. The strike has to be seen as a continuation of the unrest at Maruti Suzuki or Munjal Showa in Manesar, Gurgaon – the unrest of a new generation of workers.

http://www.caparo.co.in/global_presence.html

The information on the numbers of workers who took part in the dispute differs. Some sources state that there are 800 workers employed at the plant, out of which 500 are ‘company trainees’, the rest workers hired through contractors. According to this source only the ‘company trainees’ took part in the dispute. Other sources claim that 500 out of 800 ‘company staff’ laid down tools and were joint by 600 workers hired through contractors. It would be important to know which version comes closer to truth.

Workers struck on Thursday, 1st of December 2011. On Saturday, 3rd of December, the Caparo management arrived from Delhi for negotiations. After management agreed on certain demands raised by the workers, work resumed on Sunday morning, 4th of December. “The training period is for about 1-1.5 years. But many of the workers have been here for three to four years without getting confirmed,” said Mr E. Muthukumar, union leader at Caparo. “The management has given confirmation order to 110 workers belonging to C3 grade. The rest of the workers will be made permanent over a period of time,” said Muthukumar. “There has also been a salary increase – from Rs 7,200 gross to Rs 10,200. The management has promised us that the other issue of recognition of our union will be taken up later”.

Caparo India is part of the UK-based Caparo group let up by Swraj Paul. Whoever is interested in the history of this ‘industrial captain’ should read about his involvement in the back-and-forth over the management leadership at Escorts in Faridabad during the early 1980s:

http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/workers-history/#fn141

The plant near Chennai supplies stampings, aluminium die-castings and forgings Nissan and Ford. Caparo India basically supplies parts to all major car manufacturers in India and for export, for example:
* Caparo Maruti Limited produces sheet metal and door-parts to Maruti Suzuki and General Motors from factories in Gurgaon, Halol and Bawal;
* A different plant in Halol manufactures axle and suspension systems for GM and for export to Thailand and Mexico;
* The plant in Pune manufactures stamped components for Tata Motors;
* There is a fastener manufacturing unit in Chopanki, another stampings facility in Greater Noida and Caparo aluminium foundry, Chennai.

http://www.caparo.co.in/global_presence.html

http://www.caparo.com/en-gb/worldwide/worldwide.aspx

3) According to Plan -
News on (Local) Re-Structuring and Crisis

*** The Failing ‘Kingdom of Dreams’: The Global Crunch and the Local Crisis of Real Estate -

In the last month we could observe how two very ‘finance’ sensitive sectors slowly, but surely crunched under lack of liquidity – the airlines and the real estate sector. These are ‘early symptoms’, hinting at the condition of the general economy, the root of the problem lying not in ‘sector specific issues’, but in the general squeeze: rising costs of credits vs. lower expectations of future profits.

The fiscal deficit of the state in India increased after the 2008 bail-out, subsequently the state finances its debts by selling state bonds to ‘private local’ banks (‘domestic market borrowing’). The share of ‘domestic market borrowing’ in financing the federal states’ fiscal deficits increased from around 15 per cent in the 1990s to around 75 per cent today – the ‘domestic market’ share for the central state’s borrowing is currently at about 85 per cent. Like in the global north we can see a close interdependence between ‘state’ and ‘financial sector’: the state bails-out ‘the banks’, not in order to ‘stuff the bankers’, but because its own deficit largely depends on ‘market borrowings’. Behind this we can see the need of the ruling class to ‘centralise’ the global command over the credit system, BUT to maintain the bourgeois appearance of separate economic and political spheres – they have seen how quickly ‘state power’ gets under fire nowadays once it is seen not only as a form of political oppression, but also the source of economic misery.

Through the ‘bailout’ the fiscal deficit increases. The regime forecasts a fiscal deficit of 4.6 per cent of GDP for this fiscal year, but their own officials question this: “It is quite clear that it will be very significantly worse. I can’t quantify,” Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of planning commission, said in an interview in mid January. Conservative estimates foresee a deficit of 6 per cent plus – in 1990, before the declaration of state bankruptcy, the fiscal deficit was around 3 per cent. The ‘trust’ in the government as a guarantor for financial stability is eroded: Indian government bonds are among the 10 riskiest in the world, according to a study issued by BlackRock in December 2011. Thereby the ‘general costs’ for borrowing increases: interests on the benchmark 10-year ‘Indian’ government securities jumped to above 9 per cent by end of 2011, an annual increase of more than 1 per cent. These costs trickle down into the wider economy.

At the same time the ‘expectations of future profits’ on the global markets look rather bleak – a global market which the ‘Indian economy’ is increasingly integrated in: India’s (foreign) trade to GDP ratio increased from 20 per cent in 1993 to 45 per cent in 2007; ratio of foreign assets and liabilities to GDP increased from 43 per cent in 1993 to 85 per cent in 2007. The global slow down translates directly into a slow down in the ‘Indian’ market. The request by the Indian government that the state-owned companies should stop “sitting on piles of cash”, and instead spend it on investment in ‘infrastructure’ seems like a rather helpless appeal.

The ‘credit crunch’ at this point leaves the sphere of figures and percentages, the realm of mathematics and regulations, and reveals its origin: the ‘real antagonism’ in the ‘the real capitalist world’. Here certain ‘finance’ sensitive sectors become ‘precursors’, e.g. airlines (global situation, oil prices, ‘state finance’) and real estate sector.

In autumn 2008, the financial trouble of ‘Indian Airlines’ – treated as a symbol of the booming subcontinent – became the stage-show for the state bail-out, a ‘proof of trust’. In October 2008 Jet Airlines had announced the dismissal of 1,900 workers. We then were shown some symbolic protests by the unions, fiery speeches by various political representatives, a state intervention, a repenting general manager and the public reinstatement of the workers. The state guaranteed financial support. Three years later the trouble returns. Kingfisher Airline is close to bankrupt, five of six main Indian Airlines declared losses in 2011. In mid-January 2012, pilots and cabin crews of Air India went on a wildcat one-day strike, protesting non-payment of their wages. The back-log of allowance payments had reached four months.

The situation is similar in the real estate sector, which makes up around 10 per cent of the Indian GDP (including construction, real estate related financial services etc.). Interest rates for mortgages and other real estate credits are high: The central bank’s repurchase rate, currently 8.5 per cent, is the highest level since 2008. The costs for interest payments for real estate developers increased by around 10 per cent on average during 2011, e.g. India’s biggest developer and ‘neo-liberal founder’ of New Gurgaon, DLF paid a record 5.26 billion Rs of interest in the third quarter of 2011, up from 4.96 billion Rs in the prior period. Combined net debt of the 11 biggest Indian developers rose 19 per cent in 2011. The pace of new project launches has severely been crippled in 2011 – a decline of about 50 per cent. Of the total housing inventory pertaining to the under construction projects, 39 per cent are lying unsold. Of the total office stock of 367 million square feet in the major cities, around a quarter remains vacant at the end of 2011.

The credit crunch translates itself back into the ‘real world’ in form of urban deserts – in particular in Gurgaon. The pillars of three symbols of the neo-liberal boom in Gurgaon are shaken: DLF itself, the Reliance SEZ and the ‘Kingdom of Dreams’. DLF stared a sell-out of assets to bring down its debt of Rs 22,500 crore in September 2011. In December 2011, DLF sold its 60 per cent share in a Pune SEZ, DLF also exited from Noida IT Park and sold real estate land in Gurgaon.

In January 2012 the Haryana government announced that it would take back 1,383 acres previously sold to Reliance Industries in Gurgaon. RIL and the Haryana government had entered into a deal in 2006 for setting up the multi-product SEZ, at the time hailed as ‘Asia’s biggest SEZ’ and showcased as a key achievement of the Congress government in the state. Chief Minister Hooda had, on the day of the signing, claimed that the project would create jobs for 500,000 people and that the state would earn Rs 10000 crore from the projects. Six years later, in January 2012 he said: “Yes, we are in talks with Reliance (with regard to handover of the Gurgaon land to the state government) because it has not been able to set up the SEZ.

In January 2012, also the ‘Kingdom of Dreams’, a Bollywood entertainment mall, in Gurgaon started failing. The Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) announced “to give one last chance to the city’s entertainment hub, Kingdom of Dreams (KoD), to pay up the Rs 9 crore it owes to HUDA. If KoD fails to comply this time, it faces closure.” HUDA and Great Indian Nautanki Company had signed an agreement in February 2008. According to the agreement, the firm had to pay Rs 36 lakh per month as rent. The first two notices were issued in June 2011 – the pending rent amount increased to Rs 7.63 crore by November.

We will see how the crisis of the ‘kingdom of nightmares’ will impact on the wider working class reality, on the industrial companies closely linked to the real estate bubble…

*** Middle-Class is Revolting -

The fact that the iron fix-points of society – money, commodity, state power, professional advancement etc. – slowly turn into sand-castles, leaves its impact on the mind not only of workers, but also of the middle-waged classes. Recently Gurgaon witnessed some outbreaks of ‘middle class anger’ towards the commodity-form. ‘Middle class’ people who lose more time in traffic jams on the National Highway, than the new highway would allow them to ‘win’ by speed, forcibly opened the toll gates which are meant to ‘finance’ the highway. Young ‘middle-class’ people came to see ‘Metallica’ in Gurgaon – a band, which is known for their arsehole attitude towards ‘free music downloads or sharing’ on the data highway. After the announcement that the concert would be postponed, people smashed the concert venue. Two short news items on pent-up anger…

On 28th of October 2011 Metallica was supposed to play in Gurgaon. More than 25,000 fans flocked to the venue ‘Leisure Valley’, with some paying more than 10,000 Rs for tickets (current monthly average wage for industrial workers around 5,000 Rs). After the news of postponement was announced on stage, disappointed fans vandalised the venue ‘Leisure Valley’, which can seat around 30,000 people. They broke barriers, climbed on stage and tore posters, smashed loudspeakers and equipment. “The show was cancelled with no prior information to the ticket buyers or [to] the district administration – which could have caused [a] law and order problem,” explained a government spokesman.

On 2nd of January 2012, protesters, who have been demanding the removal of two toll plazas on Gurgaon Expressway, forcibly opened the toll gates at Kherki Dhaula plaza for an hour or longer. The incident took place after villagers from nearby areas held a meeting to plan their future course of action. Almost a month ago, on December 4, the same group had forcibly opened the toll gates of the 32-lane plaza. On Monday, the demonstration by the Toll Hatao Samiti and some of the residents’ organizations also received support from the local Hindu-Nationalist BJP and INLD. “Gurgaon is the only city where two toll plazas have been allowed within 20km of municipal limits. The private company is doing nothing to improve road infrastructure,” said one of the ‘leaders’. The private developer, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited (DGSCL), has sought financial compensation from the Haryana. At least 190,000 cars pass through the 32-lane toll plaza every working day.

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GurgaonWorkersNews no.46 – January 2012
December 29, 2011

The Different Faces of Crisis

GurgaonWorkersNews – Newsletter 46 (January 2012)

Gurgaon in the industrial belt of Delhi is presented as the shining India, a symbol of capitalist success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. At a first glance the office towers and shopping malls reflect this chimera and even the facades of the garment factories look like three star hotels. Behind the facade, behind the factory walls and in the side streets of the industrial areas thousands of workers keep the rat-race going, producing cars and scooters for the middle-classes which end up in the traffic jam on the new highway between Delhi and Gurgaon. Thousands of young proletarianised middle class people lose time, energy and academic aspirations on night-shifts in call centres, selling loan schemes to working-class people in the US or pre-paid electricity schemes to the poor in the UK. Next door, thousands of rural-migrant workers up-rooted by the rural crisis stitch and sew for export, competing with their angry brothers and sisters in Bangladesh, China or Vietnam. And the rat-race will not stop; on the outskirts of Gurgaon, new industrial zones turn soil into over-capacities. The following newsletter documents some of the developments in and around this miserable boom region. If you want to know more about working and struggling in Gurgaon, if you want more info about or even contribute to this project, please do so via:

www.gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com
gurgaon_workers_news@yahoo.co.uk

———-

The Different Faces of Crisis – January 2012 Issue

*** I / We in Crisis – A Workers’ Life and Day
On its front-page, Faridabad Majdoor Samachar frequently publishes workers’ stories, relating both to their daily experiences and their life. This is less about ‘story-telling’ and ‘personal accounts’ as such, but about a collective process of discovering not only how the current system shapes our ‘private’ life according to its inner structure, but also how in seemingly ‘individual’ workers’ experiences lies a creative, productive and antagonistic wealth of the working class – the experiences of having worked in rural and urban areas, in various industries, in households and factories; of having gone through the systemic repressive institutions of family and school; of having found ways to survive and undermine the structural pressures. We translated the story of a 37 years old worker.

*** We are the Crisis – Struggles of Teacher Trainees
In most of the recent larger working class mobilisations teachers played a prominent role – from protests against austerity in Spain to the revolt against the regime in Egypt. There are various reasons for this prominent role. There is the obvious trend of proletarianisation of the profession ‘teacher’. The casualisation of ‘semi-skilled’ teaching staff (assistant teachers), the standardisation of work (teaching modules), the austerity measures in the public sector, have eroded the status and conditions of teachers. In many cases teachers become low paid social security guards who are supposed not only to take care of pre-unemployed youth, but also provide them with an illusion of a future. We document the recent struggle of BTC trainees (Basic Training Certificate: basic teaching in primary schools) in Dehradun. The BTC teachers are low paid teachers to teach mainly in poorer areas. They struggled against having to work unpaid for months on so-called ‘practical training’.

*** The Global Crisis Re-Surfaces in India
In autumn 2008 the capitalist strategists still talked about the potential for a ‘decoupling’ of the ‘emerging markets’ (China, India, Brazil etc.) from the global crisis. It was clear from the start that the ‘decoupling’ was a myth, a wishful thinking. We summarised some basic figures showing the link: on the impact of the slump 2008, on the national and global bail-out in 2009, on the currency war and state of inflation in 2010, and finally on the Indo-Euro crisis in the second half of 2011.

*** Suggested Reading: Contributions to the Global Overthrow
The global and historical character of the current crisis forces us to coordinate both debate and practice ‘for workers self-emancipation’ on an international scale.

An illustrated book by prole.info, which takes one seemingly simple thing – a house – and examines the social relations around it. From the construction site to the city, from gender roles to trade unions.
The Housing Monster

Blog for the exchange of experiences concerning organising at the workplace.
Re-Composition

*** Delhi Calling: Get Involved in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel
To abolish the global work/war house will take more than informative exercise! If you live in Delhi area, please be welcomed to take part in Faridabad Majdoor Talmel – a workers’ coordination. We distribute around 9,000 copies of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar on ten days each month in various industrial areas around Delhi. You can also participate in the workers’ meeting places which have been opened in various workers’ areas. If you are interested, please get in touch. For more background on Faridabad Majdoor Talmel:
Faridabad Majdoor Talmel

—————

*** I / We in Crisis – A Workers’ Life and Day

On its front-page, Faridabad Majdoor Samachar frequently publishes workers’ stories, relating both to their daily experiences and their life. This is less about ‘story-telling’ and ‘personal accounts’ as such, but about a collective process of discovering not only how the current system shapes our ‘private’ life according to its inner structure, but also how in seemingly ‘individual’ workers’ experiences lies a creative and productive wealth of the working class – the experiences of having worked in rural and urban areas, in various industries, in households and factories; of having gone through the systemic repressive institutions of family and school; of having found ways to survive and undermine the structural pressures.

We have translated and published workers’ his/her-stories in following earlier newsletters:
no.17
no.24
no.31
no.34
no.42

A 37 years old worker – FMS no.276 – June 2011

I get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. There is no toilet, one has to go to the open space next to the rail-tracks. You have to be careful, I have seen two people being killed by trains – one of them was a relative of mine. After having washed, I prepare food together with my mate. In the morning we make vegetables and roti. The water comes from a private borewell, this is why we have to pay 150 Rs for water per month. We have finished preparing the food by 7:30 am. Washing, eating and then at 8:15 you have to leave for the factory.

Some things come up in the mind again and again. When Indira Gandhi died there was holiday at school. I was eight, nine years old then. I saw how, at the station, three wagons of a train were set on fire. After having dragged Sikhs out of the wagons, one after the other, the police beat them up. The crowd kept standing at a distance. They brought one Sikh and tied him up in a sack. When the policemen asked for petrol from people in the nearby shanties, I kept on standing to see what they would do. The policemen sprinkled the sack with petrol and set fire to it. I ran away in fear. There was a curfew for three days. When I think about it now, it seems strange to me – how was this possible?

The shift starts at 8:30am . At the moment I work in the New Industrial Area in Faridabad, in a company called Sisaudia Engineering. I work here in the Honda department, I operate an industrial drill, even though I have ITI (Industrial Training Institute) training in refridgeration and air-conditioning. Currently the minimum wage for unskilled workers is 4,503 Rs per month, but in this factory I earn 3,500 Rs.

I finished my ITI training in 2000. Our village is in East Uttar Pradesh and the ITI is about 20 kilometres away from our place – I cycled back and forth every day. I received 700 Rs student allowance per year. I also worked on the fields. My father was employed as a permanent worker at Gedore-Jhalani Tools factory in Faridabad, but for several years they had hardly been paid any wages. I arrived in Delhi to do my apprenticeship. The widowed mother-in-law had a house in Trilokpuri, but there were expenses for three young brother-in-laws and two sister-in-laws. Instead of doing an apprenticeship I started working as a security guard in Nanj Supermarket in Greater Kailash (South Delhi). I was working for Gajraj Securities, but hired through a contractor from NOIDA, who paid 3,800 Rs. I worked there for three and a half months, then the job was finished – a manager had embezzled three to four crore Rs. After looking for work for ten days I found a job at Kapeel Export factory in NOIDA Sector 11, they paid 1,200 Rs. I learned how to print and embroider clothes with machines. After having worked for some time the piece-rate wages went up to 4 to 6,000 Rs. I worked there for two years. Then my father fell ill and I returned to the village.

When we arrive at the factory we have to carry the raw material, which is stored outside the factory, to the machines. In 8 hours you have to drill 1800 pieces. I don’t have a particular fear of accidents. While working, you think about all kind of things.

After I had finished my eighth class in Faridabad I went back to the village. My grandfather had become old. I started to plough the fields with the bullocks and did other work. I finished the tenth class in a school three miles away. I enrolled in the Intercollege in Pratapgarh and lived in the student hostel there. They paid 50 Rs per month student allowance. I went back to the village only at weekends – I worked on the fields there, and when there was too much work, I took days off at the college. My mother went to Faridabad in order to have an eye surgery, around this time I failed my eleventh class. Because of mental pressure I also failed once in the twelfth class – my wife died after a miscarriage. We had lived together for many days, we were married when I was in the ninth class. I finished the twelfth class in a private college. When my neighbour – who taught in a neighbouring village – opened a school in our village, I joined him. When we had enrolled 250 children, each of us four teachers would earn around 500 Rs. I stopped teaching when I had to both study for ITI and do the work on the fields.

At 12:30 there is a lunch break. There are 400 workers in the factory, but there is no canteen. There is no place to sit and eat. I go to our shanty and eat there. And at 1 o’clock you have to be back at the drill.

In 1993, after having finished my tenth class I was trying hard to find a job. I filled in many application forms. I went to Bophal, Buvaneshvar, Jodhpur in order to apply for jobs as a gangman for the railways. Then on the bases of the ITI I went to Mumbai, Ilahabad, Lakhnow, Kolkata in order to get a job as an assistant driver. In 1998, I went to an interview for a job at the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation department. A lot of job seeking people came at the same day. Seeing this, the administrators said that the interviews were cancelled and that we would receive further information by letter. People started throwing stones. The place was closed down, people left. This letter never arrived. After having finished the ITI I put my name down on the list of the employment office in Pratapgarh. They never sent anything. I renewed the enrolment in 2003 and 2006. Again nothing. In 2006, they told me not to put my name down again in future. I got furious. In the meantime I had seen governments changing from Congress, BJP, SP, BSP…

At 2:30 the contractor provides tea. The wages are low, but there is no particular atmosphere of complaining here. I know some of the people who work here from before, acquaintances, friends…

In 2009 the village council leader himself issued a job card under the MNREGA (Rural Employment Scheme). In 2010 during the monsoon the village leader said: “Your money has arrived for the 25 days of work that you have done. Open an account and you can get the money.” I did not even work under this scheme… figure that out. I then met a lot of other people who had not worked, but in whose name money was drawn for MNREGA. The village leader called the bank manager to his home and asked him to open accounts. When it? was to get the money from the bank the village leader said I should go to the bank and that the contractor (who was supposed to have undertaken the work under MNREGA) has already taken the pass book there. I went to the bank, I withdrew 2,500 Rs from the account, out of which 1,700 Rs was taken by the contractor… the village leader is illiterate and he once received a reward from the prime minister.

No one stops working at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The overtime is only paid at single rate, but nevertheless, no one could make ends meet if they did not work 12 hours a day. Some workers work 200 hours overtime per month.

I married again in 1997. We had children. My father did not receive his outstanding wages from his company. Even in the village they sell packaged goods nowadays (everything becomes more expensive). The bullocks have been sold and 1.5 bigha are now ploughed by tractor. The school fees are 800 Rs per month. My wife works as a domestic nurse, but she does not get a fixed salary, nor a honorarium, she works piece-rate: for a childbirth 600 Rs, a vaccination 50 Rs, a sterilisation 150 Rs. But she also has to pay, e.g. 200 Rs for the room for a monthly meeting – it is difficult to earn enough to cover expenses. We wanted to form a Dr. Ambedkar Self-Aid Group, but there is no space, where would you keep the goats? What will you give the buffalos to eat? There is no hay. The chicken spread their dirt everywhere. I thought about starting sewing, but I didn’t know how to. I tried to learn, but was not too successful. I thought again about an apprenticeship, after the CTI I could then complete my ITI master. I arrived again in Faridabad, to do an apprenticeship in refridgeration and air-conditioning at Whirlpool company, but they said that they wouldn’t take anyone who comes from a different state. So I then started to work as a casual worker at Whirlpool. At the cabinet line there were three permanent workers, six casuals and two workers hired through contractors – their wages were 20,000 Rs, 4,200 Rs and 3,500 to 4,000 Rs respectively. Because there was too much work to be done back home on the field I left this job in August 2010 and went back to the village.

We finish working at 8 or 9 o’clock and buy vegetables on the way back to the shanty. Between my mate and myself, whoever comes home first starts to prepare dinner. We make dal, rice and roti – all in all this takes about two hours. We go to sleep around 11 o’clock or midnight. I cannot sleep… I really can’t stand the noise around, the trains which pass nearby really disturb you. You never get a good night’s sleep. The head becomes heavy.

*** We are the Crisis – Struggles of Teacher Trainees

In most of the recent larger working class mobilisations teachers played a prominent role – from protests against austerity in Spain to the revolt against the regime in Egypt. There are various reasons for this prominent role. There is the obvious trend of proletarianisation of the profession ‘teacher’. The casualisation of ‘semi-skilled’ teaching staff (assistant teachers), the standardisation of work (teaching modules), the austerity measures in the public sector, have eroded the status and conditions of teachers. In many cases teachers become low paid social security guards who are supposed not only to take care of pre-unemployed youth, but also provide them with an illusion of a future. In this sense the demand for teachers increased. The fact that teachers are often at the forefront of current public protests has two main reasons, both reflecting the arbitrary position of teaching work. Firstly, the cohesion amongst teachers is less constituted through the work process, therefore the greater need for a ‘formal’ organisation, which tends to be more visible. Secondly, in many cases teachers still appeal to their social status as ‘providers of education’, which gives them the credibility to protest, not only in their own interest, but a wider interest. As we can see, both reasons have an arbitrary element regarding to the possible generalisation of teachers’ struggles as ‘struggles of workers’. These arbitrary tendencies will surface first of all in conflicts within the ‘education sector’, once the divisions between various grades of ‘teaching staff’ (assistant, casuals, trainees etc.) impose themselves as essential problems for a ‘common’ struggle. We document the recent struggle of BTC trainees (Basic Training Certificate: basic teaching in primary schools) in Dehradun. The BTC teachers are low paid teachers to teach mainly in poorer areas. They struggled against having to work unpaid for months on so-called ‘practical training’.

Struggles of BTC Trainees in Dehradun
(www.nagrik.com)

On 22nd of November 2011, demanding direct recruitment in the state government service during their third semester of the Basic Training Certificate (BTC), hundreds of teachers undergoing training in different districts of the state, protested in front of the civil secretariat in Dehradun. The protesters burnt their clothes to register their protest against the alleged step-motherly attitude of the administration. When they tried to get to the administration building, they were attacked by the police. Twelve trainees, including one female trainee, were injured and 200 were arrested. After two days they were released without charges. The ‘crime’ they had committed was to resist being sent to work (under the name of ‘practical training’) to remote areas of the state without permanent contract and without wage.

These trainees had not passed yet the exam of the third semester – so for the government they were officially unskilled. The government cajoled them by saying that if they would accept to work in formerly closed schools in remote areas they might get a permanent contract even if their training had not been completed. They were reassured that they would be called back for exams after three months. BTC trainees said that the last batch of trainees had not been called back from ‘practical training’ for one and a half years! In addition, the government did not want to pay them a single Paisa for these one and a half years of work. The BTC trainees started their movement in order to get an answer to their question about their future – after having paid from their own pockets to go to remote areas and still not knowing how things will turn out. The government wants to profit from these trainees by re-opening schools in remote areas during the time of elections – but they don’t want to give them a permanent status.

After the attack on 22nd of November the order to start ‘practical training’ was revoked and postponed to the 15th of December. On 28th of November a meeting was supposed to take place. The trainees who were released from jail confirmed their resolution to demand an answer and called for a protest sit-in at the education directorate in Nanurkheda. The issue is that in the 13 districts of the state around 1267 trainees of education and training institutes are kept in a cloud of uncertainty. According to a government order they can be sent to ‘practical training’ in other districts even before completing their training. Their fellow trainees of other institutes are paid 6,000 Rs honorarium for the last six months of similar ‘practical training’, those BTC trainees on correspondence courses got 7,500 Rs – the BTC trainees find themselves in the dilemma that the competition for permanent jobs increases – should they demand from the government to tell them for which position they will be hired and for which wage?

The true stance of the state government revealed itself when an office bearer of the BTC trainee union came to Dehradun to meet the Minister for Education – and the Minister refused to meet the representative. Instead the education secretary told the trainee union officer that they have to follow the government orders. In the first week of November the BTC trainees returned to Dehradun in form of a movement – to wake the government who had refused any talks. Trainees from 13 different BTC institutes assembled on the Parade Maidan in Dehradun. A workers’ representative said that on 21st of November the ministry called and promised that if the trainees would stop their protest assembly they could meet the central minister. So they went back to Nanurkheda and encircled the education secretariat instead. The central minister phoned the next day and said that the exams for the third semester will take place soon, but he did not agree to the main demand. The education secretary repeated this – the dissatisfied trainees intensified the protest in front of the secretariat. On the same day in the evening the patience of the trainees found an end, they started to tear down the police barricades around the secretariat. The police answered with a baton charge and arrested 199 trainees, 80 of them women. After verbal support of all opposition parties the trainees were released after two days. The released trainees reassembled on Parade Maidan and said that they keep up the protest till 28th of November, the date of the promised meeting with government representatives. They say that if the meeting won’t take place they will encircle the residence of the central minister. The education ministry sent out a letter to all district education officers saying that BTC trainees are not supposed to be sent to remote districts, but to schools were there are either too many pupils or to few teachers.

The state minister for education informed that there are 2,720 vacant posts in primary schools – at the same time the minister tells the trainees that they will hire the 3367 BTC trainees once they have finished their exams plus 2,200 trainees on special BTC courses, a total of 5,000 posts – these are empty promises. Out of 882 trainees on special BTC courses around 60 per cent work as teaching staff in RSS (Hindu Nationalists) run Shishu Mandirs – the government is under pressure to give jobs to these trainees once they have finished their courses. The opposition parties officially support the agitation, trying to convert the teachers to foot-soldiers of their respective parties.

On 18th of December 2011 members of Uttarakhand BTC Trainee Shiksha Mitra Federation staged another protest at Parade Ground and later took out a rally to the residence of the Education Minster in Dehradun. The demands include appointment of BTC Trainees to the posts of assistant teacher after their completion of BTC training and allowance of `10,000 Rs to Shiksha Mitra during training.

*** The Global Crisis Re-Surfaces in India

In autumn 2008 the capitalist strategists still talked about the potential for a ‘decoupling’ of the ‘emerging markets’ (China, India, Brazil etc.) from the global crisis. It was clear from the start that the ‘decoupling’ was a myth, a wishful thinking.

The Impact of the Slump 2008
The impact was immediate. The main stock-market index (Sensex) fell by more than 50 percent during the year 2008, from 20,800 in January 2008 to under 10,000 in mid-October. The mass-sales of shares and securities held by foreign investors and the subsequent massive US Dollars outflow resulted in the largest fall of the foreign exchange reserves in eight years. While in July 2008 the reserves stood still at 300 billion US Dollars, by November 2008 they had plunged down to 258 billion. The withdrawal of capital from the Rupee caused a massive devaluation of the currency. Early 2008 the Rupee stood at 39.25 US Dollars, by end of November 2008 it had depreciated to 50.5 US Dollars. In October 2008 for the first time in more than a decade the manufacturing output of the Indian industry declined.

The National and Global Bail-Out 2009
In 2009, the state in India induced money into the markets, which postponed the impact of the crisis and shifted its focus to the question of state debts. “We had to inject Rs 80,000 crores as stimulus package to overcome the crisis, which helped arrest further deterioration of the Indian economy,” finance minister Mukherjee said in April 2010. These policies, like in the rest of the world, increased state debts. India’s public debt was at 78 per cent of GDP in 2008/09 and increased to 82 per cent in 2010. Despite the global stimulus packages, foreign direct investment inflows into India dipped 5.16 per cent to USD 25.89 billion in 2009-10. India’s exports declined 4.7 per cent to USD 176.5 billion in 2009-10. Export forms a fair chunk of the GDP (1988: 6 per cent / 2008: around 20 per cent). The fiscal deficit increased by 25 per cent in 2009 to 2010.

The Currency War and Inflation in 2010
The low interest rate policies in the Global North – meaning: the attempt by the states to provide cheap money as investment incentive to corporations – sent off a wave of ‘hot money’ to the emerging markets, where investors hoped to be able to find a profitable short-term investment. This caused inflation rates to rise dramatically. Indian inflation hit double digits in May 2010, the highest in any G20 nation. The Indian reserve bank had to raise interest rates again and again in order to curb inflation, which forced a lot of companies to lend money on the international markets, increasing the (corporate) foreign debts – between March 2009 and March 2010 external debts increased by 16.5 per cent to 261.5 billion USD. The ‘fluctuating’ character of investments revealed itself when the state debt crisis in Greece sent shocks through the global markets in May 2010 – 20 billion USD short-term invested capital was extracted from ‘Indian’ markets within a couple of months.

The Indo-Euro Crisis in 2011
The Euro-crisis – the running out of the stimulating impact of state credits induced in 2009 and the hitting home of state debts – reached India in the last quarter of 2011 and fortified the general trend towards a further downturn. Between August and December 2011 the Indian Sensex (main stock market) lost 18 per cent. In November 2011 alone, 600 million USD ‘foreign short-term investment’ was withdrawn from the Indian securities market. The ‘hot money’ of 2010 cooled down – in summer 2011, when the Euro crisis threatened to trigger a second global slump worse than the one in late 2008, the ‘hot money’ streamed back from the ‘insecure’ emerging markets to the USD markets. This caused massive depreciations of local currencies. Between July and December 2011, the price of the Indian Rupee fell by more than 16 percent, to a rate Rs 53.80 to the USD – a record low.

The persistent fall of the rupee has also added to the burden on the trade deficit, which in October 2011 widened to a 17-year high of $19.6bn. The total trade deficit for 2011/12 is expected to widen sharply to between $155 billion and $160 billion from $104.4 billion a year ago. As a consequence of the weak Rupee the petrol prices are supposed to rise by 1 Rs per litre from January 2012 – around 80 per cent of the petrol in India has to be imported. In 2010 the government changed the legal framework for oil price regulations, an act to make ‘the people’ pay for the state’s ‘corporate stimulation’ – since then petrol prices have been hiked several times. Higher petrol prices will keep inflation up. India’s headline inflation has been above 9 per cent during 2011 despite 13 rate increases since March 2010 that have lifted the repo rate to a three-year high of 8.5 per cent from 4.75 per cent. The high interest rates choke investments.

The government lowered the GDP growth forecast for 2011 to below 7 per cent, compared to 8.5 per cent in 2010. In October 2011 industrial output fell for the first time in more than two years. Capital goods production, considered a barometer of investment sentiment in the country, fell 25.5 per cent. In 2011 car sales in India posted the steepest fall in nearly 11 years.

Consequently the state has trouble meeting its crisis budget. Net tax revenues have grown just 7.3 per cent in the first seven months of 2011-12, while state expenditure has jumped by about 10 per cent during the same period. Some economists are now projecting that the fiscal deficit by the end of the financial year could be as high as 5.7 per cent of GDP. The state had calculated to re-finance its debts by selling state assets, but the economic slump foiled the plan: only one public sector undertaking (PSU) hit the capital market in 2011 raising only Rs 1,145 crore, the plan had aimed at several ‘privatisations’ which were supposed to raise Rs 40,000 crore.

Is a re-make of the 1991 foreign debt default possible? The Indian (state) banks have 314 billion USD of foreign currency reserves. Outstanding foreign debts, which will have to be repaid within a year, stand at about half of this amount. The recent deal with Japan of a 15 billion USD currency swap can be seen as a sign that liquidity problems are severe. With the value of the Rupee declining, it will become costlier to repay the debts.

The figures above confirm that there is no ‘decoupling’, but rather a very immediate relation between the ‘continental markets’. Austerity measures or monetary policies in the north almost immediately impact the situation in the ‘emerging markets’. It also shows that despite a seemingly huge ‘internal market’ – 800 million people living in India’s semi-rural areas – this ‘internal market’ has little weight once it comes to the question of capitalist boom or demise. The regime in India will have to follow its counterparts in the north and push through with ‘unpopular’ decisions.

The back-and-forth concerning the question whether foreign direct investment should be allowed in retail sector (allowing Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour etc. to open supermarkets directly) can be seen as a symbol of the dilemma the regime is facing: economically the regime is in dire need for further capital inflows, socially it does not want a head-on confrontation with a social strata (medium and small traders) which quantitatively and qualitatively might prove to be the last stable ‘popular’ barrier between the regime and the rural and urban proletarian poor.

The ‘political expression’ of this strata, in the form of the anti-corruption movement Hazare’s, although ‘annoying’, manages to channel wider ‘popular discontent’ and re-focus it on the political-parliamentary arena. They thereby provide an invaluable service of social counter-insurgency for the ruling class, which weights as heavy as the pressure from the ‘economic’ figures above. Economic and social figures, which, let’s be honest, resemble scarily the figurations of recently toppled regimes in northern Africa (food price developments, foreign debts, graduate unemployment, historical parallels of IMF enforced adjustments etc.). The decision to post-pone the opening of the retail market has to be seen as a state of economic-political paralysis of the regime, facing the social abyss. Let’s help the regime with a little push.