People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 09, 2012




Ruling Class Offensive Against Workers Intensifies


Jai Bhagwan


THE recent episode in the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki in (Gurgaon, Haryana), which claimed the life of a company official, has provided a big opportunity to the ruling classes to launch a veritable attack on the working class struggles. The kind of venomous tirade which the ruling class parties, the indigenous corporate houses, their captive media and the multinational corporations have launched against the industrial workers is something quite unique.




What happened in the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki on July 18 was not something accidental but a consequence of the conspiracy which the management of the company have since long been hatching. Last year, the workers of the plant had conducted an agitation for something which is in fact their fundamental right --- to have a union of their choice. It was a historic agitation in which the workers sat on a dharna in the company premises for about a month, but did not allow anybody to cause even a little harm to the company’s property. However, the company’s officials had had no appreciation for the workers’ sense of probity. These officials went to the extent of bribing some 30 union office leaders --- in the hope that and no worker would have any faith in any union in future. But what happened was to the contrary; by their own experience the workers came to realise how indispensable a union was for them. That was why they constantly rejected the management’s pressure that they must have a ‘workers committee’ indeed. The management finally allowed them to get a union registered but on the condition that it would not be affiliated to any central trade union organisation. This was in gross violation of the Trade Union Act. After the union’s registration, the workers gave to the management a memorandum of their demands on March 18; their main demands were a raise in their wages and the regularisation of contract workers. The company adopted a dithering attitude on these demands for about four months and ultimately, on July 16, it effected a nominal increase in the salaries of permanent employees but also added adamantly that they would not talk about any other demand. About the contract workers (TTs, casuals, apprentices), who number about 2,000, the management said they would not entertain any demand for wage rise or regularisation. This angered the workers a lot and the union refused to accept this kind of an agreement. It was after all the solid and fighting unity of the permanent and contract workers that had made the last year’s victory possible. The management was out to break this unity and the workers were determined not to make this game succeed.


The immediate cause of what happened was the suspension of a worker and the resultant controversy. This was the time when, as sources pointed out, the company egged on its bouncers (a recent honourable term for paid goons) and some of the contractors’ men --- all of them in the company’s uniform --- to engage in arson and resort to provocative actions. In the meantime there was a fire in the company’s premises --- its cause is yet to be ascertained --- and a manager of the company died because of suffocation as he had fracture in his legs and was unable to come out of the premises in time. It was this very unfortunate death that is now being used as an alibi for launching an all-out attack on the workers and their struggles. While this took place at about 7 in the evening, 60 to 70 policemen were already deployed on the spot, besides hundreds of the company’s guards as well as internal intelligence people. Thus the question is: why these people failed to anticipate the event? Why did the policemen not intervene in time? This conspiracy needs to be exposed.      




How our own compatriots may be subjected to all sorts of cruelties in order to keep the foreign capital in good humour --- this one may well learn from the Congress government of Haryana. After the said episode, the state government posted a group of 550 Armed Forces jawans in the area on a permanent basis and with immediate effect in order to safeguard the company’s interests, and also constituted a special investigation team (SIT). For court pleadings, the state government appointed a private advocate instead of choosing one from the already existing panel of government pleaders. Clauses of murder and conspiracy to murder were foisted against 55 nominated and 600 other workers even though it was known to one and all that the said company official had died due to asphyxiation. So far, 154 workers have been taken into custody, tortured and then put behind bars. Houses of Maruti workers are being raided; there are cases in which their family members too have been taken into custody. Out of the fear that FDI flow into the state may stop, the state government is continuing its campaign of wild repression against the workers, under pressure from the indigenous and foreign corporates. The lists of those to be arrested are not based on any police investigation but include the names being given by the managements. Not only that; the company has so far terminated the services of 546 workers, without any chargesheet or notice, and sent the information to the bank where these workers have accounts.


The situation of repression is such that when 18 dismissed Maruti workers came to the CITU office, the police arrested nine of them after they came out and were in the street. The police is maintaining a watch on the offices of central trade union organisations as well. The CITU, Sarva Karmachari Sangh and some other organisations had had to gherao the office of superintendent of police (SP) in order to register their protest.


Yet, the state government, the police administration and the labour department are all busy safeguarding the Maruti Suzuki’s interests since the said unsavoury episode. Another shameful thing that no political party, except the Left, is prepared to speak a word against the repression the workers are being subjected to. Rather, they are siding with the company. In the name of so called panchayats, some of the contractors and transporters belonging to villages in the adjoining areas are spitting venom against the workers and trade unions. A large part of the media, which are in fact controlled by one or another big business house, has not left any stone unturned in order to demonise the workers. None of these is willing to go into the basic causes behind the episode.




The trade unions have fully grasped the seriousness of the attack that has been launched against them and the working class. On August 4, all the central trade union organisations and industrial unions organised a Gurgaon level meeting and submitted a petition to the deputy commissioner of Gurgaon on August 7. While describing the July 18 episode as unfortunate, the petition demanded a high level inquiry into it to unearth the basic, underlying causes that led to this situation. It demanded an end to the plant’s lockout (now not in force), restoration of the pre-July 18 situation and reinstatement of all workers in job without any discrimination.


(The petition also demanded an end to the lockout in Eastern Medicate and a restart of its operations. It is to be noted that its owner and manager are absconding for the last three months, while about 1,500 workers and employees of the company come to the factory gate everyday and are conducting a peaceful agitation for its reopening.)


In view of the seriousness of the situation, the central trade union organisations held a joint state-level meeting at Faridabad on August 6 and decided to observe the Day of Workers’ Rights on August 17 by organising protest demonstrations at all the district headquarters. They also issued an Open Letter to the chief minister, and distributed about 20,000 handbills containing its text all over the state. They also decided to meet the chief minister at Chandigarh on August 21.        


It is notable that the central trade union organisations have not been given any appointment for a meeting with the chief minister despite repeated requests, while he and his labour minister have met the representatives and federations of industrial houses several times in the intervening period. 




Widespread protest actions took place all over Haryana on August 17, at the call of the central trade union organisations. While the CITU mobilised a large number of workers for these actions, cadres of the AITUC, HMS, BMS and Sarva Karmachari Sangh too made energetic efforts in all the districts. Gurgaon witnessed a huge mass meeting on the day; more than 10,000 workers --- those belonging to 50-odd big industrial unions and also the non-unionised workers --- took art in this meeting. A large number of workers from the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki as well as four other plants of the same company also joined. 


Addressing the meeting, which took place in the Goshala Maidan near the Gurgaon bus stand, CITU state president Satbir Singh said the workers won’t allow the conspiracy to demonise the workers and trade unions to succeed. He said it is unjust to ignore the workers’ contribution to the development of Haryana. These sons and daughters of the Indian peasants and other toilers are making, with their sweat and blood, mighty contributions to the country’s and the state’s development but are yet deprived of their due recognition as well as remuneration, while a foreign company is treating them like its slaves and trampling all the labour laws underfoot. Shamefully, the state government is unashamedly siding with the same company. Satbir Singh said the Maruti Suzuki earned a profit of Rs 2289 crore in 2010-11, as against only Rs 105 crore in 2001-02, which means a 2200 per cent increase in its profit over a ten-year period. But while all this has been possible by the untiring labour of the workers, the company is not willing to give the workers any rise in the wages.




After the meeting, thousands of workers took out a procession through the main thoroughfares of Gurgaon and later submitted a memorandum of their demands to the deputy commissioner for its onward transmission to the chef minister.


The CITU has made it clear that the ongoing offensive of the company management --- with help from the state government, the police and administration, the media and the so-called bouncers who are in fact paid goons --- is nothing but a class offensive against the working class. Using the July 18 episode as a pretext, the multinationals and others are making all-out efforts to finish for ever the trade union rights which the workers have won after protracted fights and numerous sacrifices.


However, the widespread protest actions and mass meeting on August 17 have demonstrated beyond a shred of doubt that the working class realises the class nature of the ongoing offensive, is uniting against it and is equally determined to foil the conspiracy.