Maruti-Suzuki Workers’ Struggle at Manesar Plant: Stalemate continues, as Stalinist AITUC-CITU hold back the workers from mounting an offensive against the Employers

-Rajesh Tyagi/ 21.9.2011

After locking out the struggling workers, the management of Maruti-Suzuki, has focussed all its efforts at keeping the nominal production alive, by recruiting contract workers and with the help of a handful among the old, affiliated to Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union, a stooge Union in the hands of the management. This is done, with an apparent aim to demoralise the workers, to subdue them to abandon their demand for registration and recognition of their union, Maruti-Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU). Maruti workers are on the warpath for long time for this demand.

Since being locked out from 29.8.2011, for refusing to sign the good conduct bond, workers are sitting on protest dharna outside the gate no.2 of the factory premises situated in Sector 8, Phase-III of Manesar, Gurgaon. Needless to say, that coercing the workers for signing such a bond, which finds no place in any statute or rules in Industrial law, is not only illegal, but unlawful trade practice for which penal action is provided under industrial law, against the erring managers. But the government of Haryana instead of taking action against the Management, is complacent in its nefarious designs against the workers.

In step with the Maruti Management, the Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has already assured that he would not permit the workers’ union to be registered. Immediately after this apparently unlawful proclamation, the office of Labour Commissioner has rejected the application of the workers for registration of the union.
In the meanwhile, around 350 workforce of the loading workers in the factory, with whose help the management was able to keep the supply and delivery of production alive by now, have also struck the work from 14th Sept to strengthen the hands of struggling production workers. Loading workers have also come out with their own demand that instead of bare minimum wages, they be given regular pay scale of drivers. With their strike, the activities of Maruti-Suzuki plant at Manesar, Gurgaon have come to almost standstill. Nominal production which management has kept going to demoralise workers, is of sub-standard quality which has failed under quality control mechanism and thus could not be delivered.

Before this, immense pressure was brought upon the management of Maruti Suzuki, by the solidarity strike of 7000 strong work-force on 14th of this month, in three Suzuki subsidiaries- Suzuki Power-Train, Suzuki Castings and Suzuki Motor-Cycle India. This solidarity action, was to culminate in a mass protest rally of workers on 16th, the day of visit of President of India in Gurgaon. This indefinite strike action in solidarity with the Maruti-Suzuki workers, continued for two days, forcing the management and the government, which also holds major equity in the company, to kneel down and promise an immediate settlement. Impact of the solidarity action can be measured from the fact that its commencement immediately brought down the share prices of Suzuki considerably in the stock market.
The Stalinist trade union leadership of AITUC-CITU, however, intervened at this crucial juncture, calling upon the workers to have faith in false promises and deceit of the employers and unilaterally cancelled the rally of 16th and declared an end to ongoing strike in the three Suzuki subsidiaries. This imposition of retreat upon the workers, who were all willing to fight the struggle to the end, was outright betrayal by Stalinists which immensely weakened the position of workers. After striking workers refused to hear these leaders saying that they would continue as no settlement has yet arrived with Maruti-Suzuki workers and they would hear only the struggling workers of Maruti-Suzuki, the Stalinist leaders pressurised the MESU workers to call for an end to solidarity action. The action ended when workers’ leaders at Maruti-Suzuki, under pressure from Stalinist leaders, appealed for an end to the action.

Emboldened by and jubilant at the critical assistance provided to it by the Stalinist leadership of AITUC-CITU, employers and government backed out from the promises, once reiterating the condition to sign the ‘good conduct bonds’. As talks failed under a pre-plan of employers and the government in the meeting called in the night of 18th at local Gymkhana Club, three negotiators from the side of workers were arrested by the police waiting outside, on trumped-up charges.
As workers tried to inform the AITUC leader, his phone continued to go ‘not responding’. Next morning, wife of the said leader called back the caller, rebuking him for the disturbance he caused in the early midnight hours. The next day, on 19th, instead of protesting against the arrest, and calling upon other sections of working class to demonstrate in solidarity, the leaders got applied for bail of the arrested workers.

Earlier, 13 day strike action of the Maruti-Suzuki workers, was scuttled by the Stalinist leadership in the same way, when the strike was called off at its peak, pursuant to meaningless assurance from the government that it would look into the matter to get the Union registered. Strike action had begun on 4th June and continued till 16th. On 10th June the government declared the strike illegal after thousands of workers in Manesar Industrial belt, demonstrated in favour of the strikers at the gate of Mauti-Suzuki’s plant. A further massive strike action by two lakh workers in Manesar Industrial belt was scheduled for 20th. However, pursuant to verbal assurances of government officials, AITUC-CITU leaders pleaded to the workers to capitulate to verbal assurance of the government. Workers were forced to sign a settlement which shamefully empowered the management to conduct disciplinary proceedings against 11 striking workers. Stalinist leaders however, suggested to workers, that written terms of the settlement were only sham and management has assured them that no real action would be taken against any workman.
As the fighting mood of workers subsided, not only the government fell back upon its promises of registering the Union, MESU, but on 28th July, management suspended 6 regular workers, who were instrumental in the June strike, on the pretext of scuffle with a supervisor. While suspension of two was revoked, four were issued chargesheets. Remaining two were also issued chargesheets later on. On 23 August another three workers were suspended and on 24th one worker was suspended. 500 strong police with riot police was deployed at the plant in the night of 28th and on 29th a Lockout was declared by the management. As workers started to swing into action, 150 bouncers were pressed into service by the management to handle the workers. Since lockout 23 workers have been terminated and 34 more suspended on false charges.
In the meanwhile, Suzuki bosses are learnt to be considering the option to pull out from Manesar in Haryana to Gujarat, where ultra-right wing hindu-supremacist government of Narendra Modi is already assuring a safe investor friendly heaven to auto makers. Maruti Suzuki is the biggest car manufacturer company in Haryana. After Tata shifted its Nano car manufacturing plant from Singur, West Bengal, to Gujarat, Gujarat has already become the biggest hub for auto manufacturers. To make it stay in Haryana, the government of Haryana, is assisting the employers in all possible ways. Satwanti Ahlawat, the Labour Commissioner of Haryana is already quoted in media saying that workers will have to sign the ‘good conduct’ bond and forget their demand for the Union registration. On 14th August, Labour Commissioner has already rejected the application of MSEU for its registration.
Maruti Suzuki one of the biggest car manufacturer in the country, employs a workforce of 3500 workers, among whom only 965 are regular, while 1500 are employed as trainees and apprentices and around 1100 on contract. In addition to it 350 loading workers are also employed on work contract, who drive the vehicles to transporters and load them there. With these loading workers joining the struggle of production workers, situation for the management has become more grim at the time of festive season, peak-time for sales of cars.
Around 60% of the workers hailing from surrounding villages in Manesar and Gurgaon, struggle draws some support from villages too, making direct police repression more difficult for the government.
With grass-root workers in a mood to fight the issue to the end, employers are looking forward to diffuse the crisis through negotiations with mediation of Stalinist leaders. In their turn, the Stalinist leaders are making all possible efforts, including intimidating the workers to follow their command, to restrict the sweep of the struggle in the Maruti-Suzuki plant, preventing its spread to other plants and factories. In the whole industrial belt of Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal, employing more than 2 million workers,  both AITUC and CITU have considerable presence and are in control of major trade unions in automobile and other prime industries. But the Stalinists never did called upon the workers in other unions under them to take to a united offensive against the employers. INstead they held back the workers and dissuaded them from rsing in unison against the corporate bosses. Hero Honda, Rico, Sunbeam everywhere Stalinist leaders have played the same dubious role, imposing defeat after defeat upon the working class. Almost absent during the struggle and state repression, these opportunist leaders make appearnace only at the time of negotiations with employers.   
These Stalinist Trade Unions have already made a cartel of central Trade Unions, in the name of 'action committee', with INTUC and HMS on its board, to exclude more radical elements from intervening in the struggle. Amazingly, INTUC is the Trade Union front of the Congress (I), the party ruling at Centre and in Haryana. HMS is the Trade Union Centre of degenerated social democrats, that claims itself to be an independent Trade Union Centre after complete destruction of social democracy.
Stalinists have played dubious role in favour of capitalist bosses, their parties and governments. They had supported the anti-worker and pro-capitalist government of Congress led UPA at the centre from May 2004 to June 2008, till they were kicked out by the Congress. In Kerala and West Bengal, where Stalinists have formed the governments, have pursued the same pro-investor and anti-worker policies. Maoists also share common illusions with Stalinists, that there are national-progressive sections of capitalists, who are ally of working class in ‘democratic’ revolution. Both Stalinists and Maoists have remained adherent to this or that section of national bourgeois and both pay only lip service to the cause of working class and revolution.
As Maruti-Suzuki struggle at Manesar clearly demonstrates, Stalinists would not permit the workers’ struggles under their leadership, to become the spearhead for a broader political struggle of working class against its enemies, rather would hold the workers back from fighting effectively and going over to a conscious class struggle.
The way before the striking workers at Manesar is to appeal to their brethren workers in surrounding plants for support and solidarity and to mount a class offensive against the rich bosses and their political parties and governments. And for this it is imperative upon the working class first to get rid of the capitulationist and opportunist Stalinist leadership of the movement.

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