Report on the protest by automobile workers in Manesar

September 20, 2015

by Bigul Mazdoor Dasta and Automobile Industry Contract Workers Union

More than 400 workers employed in Bridgestone Factory in Manesar have been unlawfully sacked by the Company authorities after the workers demanded to get their Union registered. The workers are currently protesting outside the factory and have gathered there to raise their voice against the injustice and oppression that they are facing at the hands of the factory management. On 18 September 2015 the Management of the Bridgestone Factory along with Police and hired bouncers prevented the workers who assembled at the factory gates at 6 a.m. from entering into the factory and without any notice sacked the workers. The issue began with the workers of the factory trying to get their union registered. The workers of the Bridgestone Factory wanted to get their union called the Bridgestone India Automotive Employees Union to be registered and as per the regulations the workers held two general body meetings on 12 April 2015 and 31 May 2015 which as per the records of the workers was attended by 31 workers. The workers had filed the necessary documents with the Labour Commissioner of Chandigarh alongwith the records of the general body meeting for their union to be registered. However the Factory management claimed that out of the 31 workers who were shown to attend the meeting in the records submitted by the workers 11 were working in the factory at that time. The Management made this claim in a bid to obstruct the registration of the union. The Labour Commissioner Rakesh Gupta however ruled that even if 20 workers were present in the meeting that qualifies the workers to get a union registered. The file was then passed onto Anupam Malik. On 17 July 2015 the verification of the data provided by the union was to be conducted in order for the registration process to proceed. The factory management wanted to stall and ward off the registration and to do that they tried to transfer two permanent workers who happened to be the Union head Krishan Murari and Secretary to the Chennai plant of the Bridgestone factory without any prior notice or cause. The workers resisted the transfer of the two workers who were instrumental in getting their union registered. In the first week of September to exact vengeance from the workers and to deter them from going ahead with the registration of the union the management evicted 20 workers without any notice. The workers went to court and procured a permission for tool down on 17 september in protest to the above mentioned eviction of the 20 permanent workers employed in the factory. But on 18 september 2015 when the workers gathered outside the gate of the factory to join their shift from 6 a.m. the factory management alongwith with Police and hired goons were already present at the gates and were trying to prevent the workers from entering in. The Management said that they will let the workers know by 6.15 a.m. if they will be let in. General Manager Manoj Manchanda, Assistant Manager D.V.K Shan, Production Manager Sushil Garg, Assistant Manager Tarun kaushik, HR officials Amit Chaudhary and Sompal were present at the gates and on their behest the Police beat up the workers. The bouncers present forcefully took three workers inside the factory where they were pressurized by the Management to sign on blank papers or to silently go work in the plant. One of the three workers Umesh signed on a blank paper and walked out while the other two gave in to the pressure of the management since they too were threatened with eviction. After this altercation the Management with the help of a worker Gopi lured in the women workers employed in the factory to come an join their shifts. The women workers in the factory are involved in the work of deflashing while the male workforce does what is called moulding. The management after being able to bring the female workforce inside the factory on 18 September forced them to do moulding ( a work which they had not done and were not doing earlier), they misbehaved and abused them. The management made the women clean the factory and do a work which they were not familiar with. Since then the Management is bringing contract labourers from labour chowk to work in the factory. In a bid to suppress the workers the management has till now sacked 400 workers which includes an odd 150 permanent workers. However the workers have decided not to give in to the oppression and are staging a protest outside the factory demanding that they be given their rights.

Such an incident is not unprecedented, earlier a similar strike had broken out in Sri Ram Piston factory in Bhiwadi where workers were demanding to get their union registered. Then it was the Rajasthan Government and now its is Haryana government. But the story remains the same, the 260 Labour laws guaranteed to the workers of this country remain illusory to the large work force. The workers at Bridgestone Company were trying to get their union registered for the last 6 months and during this time period the management tried their best to break up the unity of the workers or to obstruct the process by submitting false information with the Labour Commissioner office and when none of these tactics worked the management shamelessly sacked the workers and beat them up with the assistance of the Police. Right now as this report is being written about 152 permanent workers along with an equal number of contractual workers are staging a protest against the management.

The courage of the Workers needs to be applauded as they chose to stand up against the Management however any such worker struggle needs to be fought on a sector based level to be able to successful. Only a sector based union fighting for the rights of thousands of workers engaged in automobile sector can address the issues concerning the workers.