Yamaha, Royal Enfield and MSI Automative factory workers strike is continuing for more than a month now. It started on Sep 21st when Yamaha management dismissed 2 of its workers who took active part in formation of labor union. Yamaha workers has taken the initiative of forming a labor union among themselves for their welfare but management refused to accept the union and dismissed the office bearers of the union Raja Manikandan and Prakash. We have published an article on our website covering details of this strike and its relation to our IT sector.
As a part of this struggle, workers of these 3 factories planned for a peaceful march from Oragadam to Kanchipuram collector office by walk. They planned to give a petition to the district collector seeking his intervention to arrive at a closure of this strike. Nearly 2500 workers and their immediate family members gathered in Oragadam area. This march was inaugurated by comrade Kuselan of W.P.T.U.C and comrade Soundararajan of CITU.
But police stopped the march which started from Royal Enfield factory. They did not even allow the workers to walk in the service road of SEZ. They warned that if workers continue to march they will be arrested. They prevented the workers from taking out a peaceful protest without creating any inconvenience to general public or traffic. The workers raised slogans against the management and marched for just 200 meters from the factory premises. The police did not allow the march to continue. They started arresting workers at around 11 am(23rd Oct 2018) and later released them all by 6 pm on the same day.
Police did not have sufficient vehicles to arrest all workers who participated in the march. They arranged buses from the nearby automotive factory Renault Nissan to transport arrested workers to the detention center. This clearly shows that all corporates are united against workers. This the same case among IT companies also. They formed union among themselves called NASSCOM to get various benefits from government. But they deny that right to the employees.
Unfortunately no worker from Renault Nissan came out in support of the striking employees during this incident. If workers remain thus divided, they shall be unable to win their rights as all corporates are united. We can win this battle only with the strength of united labor. If we are divided then it will be the same story as 4 bulls and Lion story which I repeatedly quote in all articles.
The root cause for this strike is workers trying to form labor union among themselves. The demand of the workers is to reinstate dismissed workers and recognize the union. As per Indian laws, in every factory workers are allowed to form union which is a fundamental right. But if you have a closer look, many of the new factories which started their business after 2000s restrict formation of unions by using their corporate power. They stop employees from forming unions by creating various wrong perception like forming of unions is illegal, hire and fire of employees is legal and employee can seek their grievance only by internal grievance mechanism.
If we compare the Yamaha issue with various IT companies, we can understand this even better. Due to this restriction, many of the new companies started after 2000s have no labor union for themselves. In India, There are roughly 40 lakh IT employees working in different companies and more than 1.4 crore people are directly or indirectly employed in IT sector. Several hundred companies exist in IT sector in small size to extremely larger size like TCS, but none of them have employee unions. So IT sector is one typical example where companies are preventing employees to form unions.
As part of Yamaha strike negotiations, the labor officer has advised both management and labor union to end the strike and start the factory. The labor officer also demanded Yamaha management to reinstate 2 employees who were terminated illegally due to the formation of union. But management is against formation of union and is afraid that if these 2 employees are reinstated, union will become stronger and they don’t want that to happen. So they refuse to reinstate the workers and as a result strike is continuing for more than a month now.
The situation in Royal Enfield is also the same. The employees of Royal Enfield withdrew the strike after the instruction from labor officer and agreed to resume work. Labor officer advised Royal Enfield management not to take any retaliatory action against employees who participated in the strike. But, when the workers went to the factory on Oct 3rd, the management asked all employees to surrender their mobile phones to security before entering factory premises. They asked employees to sign a letter before they resume their work. The letter stated that employees will seek grievance only with the internal Ombuds person appointed by the company. This indirectly restricts employees from seeking union intervention and leads them back to square one of forcing them to stop union activities. These internal Ombuds are appointed by factory management only and they only talk in favor of employer.
In many IT companies, Ombuds person will not take case for any queries related to appraisal. But, we know that many employees are separated based on appraisal rating. If Ombuds refused to accept cases related to appraisal, we can understand whose side is Ombuds and what role they are going to play.
So Royal Enfield employees were left with no option. They refused to sign the letter and continued the protest. The management called for police then also to control the strike and they arrested nearly 300 employees and later released them.
In both these incidents, it is very clear that this strike is prolonging only due to the fact that management wants to prevent employees from forming unions. There is no major demand from employee side other than reinstating office bearers but management is not ready to respond to their very basic and fundamental demand.
The management did not obey any orders or guidance passed by labor officer, district collector who facilitated meetings to solve this issue. They want employees to work as per company’s requirement and they don’t want employees to have collective bargaining rights. Production in these factories is considerably down after this strike. But the management is not ready to come down which clearly shows their intention of stopping employees forming unions. These factories are part of manufacturing sector and almost all factories started before 2000s have their own unions. If a new company restricts union rights in sectors like manufacturing where unions are common, union journey for sectors like Information technology or BPO is going to be very difficult
People going for peaceful march is the most common and popular protest of Indians. If you take Gandhi’s Dhandi march for salt as part of civil disobedience movement, people gathered in different parts of the country and went on march for 24 days covering 400 kilometers. Even the colonial British government did not restrict people marching and showing their protest in these movements. But our government elected by people is not allowing workers to walk and do protest march. The way they prevent workers from going on peaceful march and threatening to arrest them if they continue raises the question whether this government is for workers or for corporates. These companies restricting workers from forming unions will make us go back 100 years when people started fighting for union rights.
This Yamaha strike has a very strong message to other unions. All new managements are preventing employees to form unions. These employees are threatened in such a way that they think union is illegal and create fear in joining unions. It is the responsibility of all unions to support and help these new factory employees to form their unions. They should guide these workers of these new factories and help them to formunions stronger and help employees during difficult strike time. Definitely here various unions like W.P.T.U.C, C.I.T.U and our NDLF will stand in support of these 3 factory employees and support them in their struggle.
On behalf of NDLF IT Employees Wing, we strongly condemn the action of Tamilnadu police prevening workers from going on a peaceful march. Our country has a history of achieving many demands in the form of marches like this. Stopping this gives a perception that this government is worse than colonial British government to general public. People of Tamilnadu are already comparing police firing at Tuticorin for Sterlite factory with Jallian Walabagh Massacare.
The government should ensure the rights of affected employees who as citizens voted and helped forming this government instead of catering to corporate wishes. Government also should take actions to put an end to the strike and ensure the welfare of these factory workers and their rights to form union. That is the basic duty of any government as wage workers are the largest in population next to farmers. Standing against workers for corporate needs gives a feeling that democratic government elected by people is the same like the colonial British Government
Avery good part of this strike is the solidarity it created among various workers in Oragadam Belt. The striking workers received support from workers of various factories in different regions like Guduvanchery and Thiruvetriuyr. The workers from Ashok Leyland and MRF also participated during protest on 23rd. Representatives from NDLF also joined the protest. This send a strong message to corporates.
This shows the light for our IT sector in strengthening our union movement. Herethe management is much more powerful, but definitely unions will become popular in our sector in the coming days.
– Shyam Sundar, President,
NDLF IT Employees Wing
Please read the book “IT Employees Life Fun or Problems” by Shyam Sundar