Tuesday, July 23, 2013

At Maruti Suzuki: We Shall Win!

The following is the text of a media release from India's New Trade Union Initiative:

17 July 2013, New Delhi: The NTUI stands in solidarity with the members of Maruti Suzuki Workers Union. Our affiliates, along with other progressive trade unions, gathered outside the Collectorate in Chennai this afternoon, will march in Mumbai tomorrow to extend their solidarity to them and press for the protection of their rights and tomorrow we will join them at their sit-in at Manesar.   

A year in custody with no charges filed and no bail granted, 147 Maruti Suzuki workers from the Manesar plant wait for justice. 542 workers and over 1800 contract workers were summarily dismissed for their alleged role in the 18 July 2012 incident. 11 more remain in custody in Kaithal since 19 May 2013 for their support of the union’s struggle.

All attempts of the MSWU to get the workers’ version heard have only been met with intensified repression. The journey from Manesar to Gurgaon to Rohtak to Kaithal to Chandigarh and Delhi and back to Manesar has been very long and unrelenting in its adversity. With the entire leadership of the union incarcerated, the workers elected a provisional committee of five members. Two of them are today also behind bars. The others live under the constant threat of arbitrary arrest. Charges in the case have been framed arbitrarily by the police while the government has been vindictive in its attempt to break the resolve of the workers struggle. If this was not enough, the judiciary has gone beyond its call of duty to deny workers bail since bail may be denied to citizens as this ‘…incident is most unfortunate occurrence which has lowered the reputation of India in the estimation of the world. Foreign investors are not likely to invest the money in India out of fear of labour unrest.’

The MSWU launched a sustained campaign across the state demanding the Release of all Maruti Suzuki workers arrested since the 18 July incident and Reinstatement of all workers summarily dismissed after the 18 July incident to culminate in an indefinite peaceful dharna and hunger strike at Tau Devi Lal Park in Manesar. Not surprisingly, in response, the Government of Haryana, ordered the imposition of Section 144 prohibiting assembly in IMT Manesar, around the Maruti Suzuki factory premises in Manesar, Tau Devi Lal Park, National Highway-8 and the Mini Secretariat.

The thirteen months preceding the 18 July incident were marked by sustained abuse of labour rights by the Maruti Suzuki management most of all the right to freedom of association  and the right to collective bargaining.  In turn, the Government of Haryana acted in concert with the Maruti Suzuki management failing to exercise the powers it is vested with to protect the rights of workers and uphold the law of the land. This attack came upon the workers since they succeeded in building an unwavering united struggle of permanent and contract workers resolute in their right to build and join a union of their own choice.

The dispute at Maruti Suzuki is not isolated. Yet, Maruti Suzuki has become capital’s symbol for employing the coercive arm of government to advance its interest. When Maruti Suzuki failed to break the united struggle of workers it orchestrated violence at the factory. At this point, Police and the Labour Department stepped in undermining the democratic rights of the workers, criminalising them and pushing their struggle into the ambit of criminal law. Maruti Suzuki has gotten away, without a democratic union and the legitimacy to hire a new set of fearful and therefore compliant workers. If Maruti Suzuki succeeds then it will most certainly change the trajectory of industrialisation and trade union struggles altering for the foreseeable future the balance of power between labour and capital.

Winning this struggle is crucial not just for the members of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union but for the entire working class in defending trade union rights.

Let us unite in our resolve to together sustain this struggle, for it is a struggle that we must win.

Gautam Mody

New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)
B-137, First Floor, Dayanand Colony,
Lajpat Nagar IV,
New Delhi 110024
Telephone: +91 11 26 21 45 38
Telefax: +91 11 26 48 69 31
Email: secretariat@ntui.org.in
Website: http://ntui.org.in