By SM Fahimuddin Pasha and Tandiwe Gross,
After years of struggle for union recognition to change the abysmal working conditions in the Maruti Suzuki plant, the odyssey of the Maruti Suzuki Workers escalated on 18th July 2012.
It is now more than one year that 147 workers are languishing in jail without bail and 2346 (546 regular and 1800 contract) workers were dismissed in the aftermath of the violent incident in Maruti Suzuki, India in July 2012.
The history of Maruti is marked by exploitation of workers through inhuman working conditions, extraordinary work pressure, harassment by arbitrary issuing of show- cause notices and charge sheets transfers, suspensions, criminal intimidation, terminations without inquiry, forcing the workers to take voluntary retirement, etc.
Brief background of the Industry:
The Maruti Udyog was established in Gurgaon in 1981 as a Public Sector Unit. In 1991, India got introduced to liberalization which affected the Public Sector Industries including Maruti Udyog. As a result, Government reduced its own shares to 50% allowing Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan to become an equal partner in 1992. By 2007, Maruti Udyog became a purely private company. The Maruti Udyog Ltd was renamed as Maruti Suzuki India Limited in September 2007.
After years of struggling for the recognition of the factory union, on 18th July 2012, the controversy erupted when a supervisor insulted a worker with casteist abuse and manhandling him, which is a cognisable and punishable offence and also non-bailable. Instead of taking any action on Supervisor, Management placed the worker under suspension and send the Supervisor on leave. The Union asked the management to remove the suspension, the Management denied for it, called police and bouncers (muscles men) in the premise to threaten the protesting workers. The protest turned into a violent incident and caused the death of Mr. Avnish Kumar Dev, General Manager (Human Resource) and several injuries to workers and management staff.
Suspension and detention of workers:
After the incident, 147 workers have been held in Gurgaon jail and 2346 workers were suspended, without any independent inquiry. The management and the Haryana police and administration squarely blamed the workers for the death of the General Manager, Human Resources (HR).
Under the banner of Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU), terminated workers has formed a provisional working committee:
The three major demands of the workers are as follow:
1) Release all arrested 147 Workers who are in Gurgaon Jail without any bail
2) Reinstatement of all terminated 2346 workers.
3) Institute a judicial inquiry to find out the circumstances that lead into the incident of 18th July 2012.
Repression from the courts, the state and the management:
These workers are facing hardships and brutal repressions from various folds i.e.Management, Government, police and judiciary. On 19th May 2013, when workers and their family members were protesting peacefully in the area of Industry Minister at Kaithal, Police had brutally beaten them up; and arrested 10 protestors including 1 District Councillor.
However, out of ten 9 got the bail recently. On 18th July 2013, an unwanted anniversary was marked by Maruti workers. They went for hunger strike, conducted mass rallies and peaceful demonstration at Gurgaon, Haryana. After the demonstration, the workers were planning for peaceful March which was stopped forcefully by Police. Local Haryana Government deployed 1,000 police to outnumber 500 peaceful protestors.
Pathetic condition of workers’ family:
It has been a year where thousands of families have been devastated economically and emotionally. When workers rise up to demand their legitimate rights as guaranteed in the Indian Constitution and protest against a corporate entity like Maruti Suzuki, they become criminals and cease to be bona fide citizens in the eyes of the State. It is no longer a matter of the state and its administration being in perpetual limbo; they wield their power to criminalise the working class to aid global capital.
What you can do
1) Online campaign:
IndustriALL Global Union has launched a Labourstart online campaign on 15th July 2013, for the agitating Maruti Workers. Please support the workers by signing it:
2) Spread the word
Inform your friends and family about how the Indian state and the management of Maruti Suzuki are treating its workers and spread the online petition.
3) Solidarity Support:
More funds are needed for: 1) Providing legal advocacy 2) Supporting rallies and protest 3) Financial assistance to the family members of detained Maruti Suzuki Workers. Kindly support the struggle of Maruti Suzuki Workers who are struggling without jobs, without bail and without justice.
4) Read more about the case
The Hindu, 2 September 2013: “We are on the brink of starvation”,
The Telegraph, 18 September 2013: Class war at the capital,
For more information and donations please contact:
SM Fahimuddin Pasha, Education and Programme Officer in the Asia-pacific office of IndustriALL Global Union, responsible for coordinating the support for the Maruti Suzuki Struggle (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tandiwe Gross, Junior Research Officer at the International Labour Organisation (ILO); member of the Solidarity Activism Group in the Global Labour University alumni network (email@example.com)