In the Spiral of Inflation: Reports and Personal Story from Gurgaon Metal and Textile Factories

April 18, 2010

Source: Gurgaon Workers News, April 2010

In April 2010 the government announces that inflation will cross the 10 per cent mark. For proletarian goods inflation has gone way beyond this mark already, particularly when looking at prices of vegetables, sugar, rice, pulses. In March the transport costs on most routes within Gurgaon doubled. Cooking gas price will increase by about 40 Rs per cylinder; diesel and petrol prices will be increased on 1st of April.

The state governments have to react when it comes to workers’ wages. In March 2010 workers in Haryana got a Dearness Allowance of 300 Rs per month, increasing the minimum wage for helpers to 4,214 Rs. The minimum wage for workers in Delhi was increased by 30 per cent in March 2010, helpers are now entitled to 5,272 Rs, the Uttar Pradesh government (industrial area of neighbouring NOIDA) followed by announcing a 40 per cent hike.

The first question will be whether companies will pass on the increase in full amount. Friends working in garments industry in Okhla (Delhi) told us about serious conflicts and work stoppages caused by companies’ initial refusal to increase wages. The second question will be at what point the considerable minimum wage difference created between Delhi and neighbouring Haryana (Faridabad, Gurgaon) will cause major disgruntlement both within capitalist and working class.

On a global scale in the garments export industry these wage developments will have an impact on the international position of the local industry, given the enormous global pressure on commodity prices, increasing competition and labour costs of around 40 per cent of production costs. Friends in Okhla reported recent lay-offs – in case of Unistyle company 10 per cent of the work-force were sent home.

The pressure on workers increases – during recent years we have seen wildcat actions taken by workers after an official minimum wage increase to actually enforce a wage hike on the shop floor. Things waiting to happen. For now we can only document metal and textile workers reports to friends of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar, shared during distribution of the newspaper in February 2010.

Bhurji Supertech Worker
(272 Udyog Vihar Phase 2)
The 100 permenent workers received the December wages on 20th of January, the 200 workers hired through contractors haven received the wage yet, by 30th of January. The helpers hired through contractor get 3,000 Rs, from this 554 Rs is cut for ESI and PF, but you get neither card nor PF form. They swear a lot.

Classic Dials Worker
(367 Udyog Vihar Phase 2)
Out of the 150 workers employed in the factory 125 are helpers most of them female workers. The helpers’ wage is 2,500 Rs. You work till 10:30pm at night, overtime is paid at single rate. We produce dials for watches, brands like Maxima, Titan, Sonata, HMT. Less than 25 workers get ESI and PF. If you leave the job, the last 8 to 10 days are not paid.

Dhir International Worker
(299 Udyog Vihar Phase 2)
The daily working-times are from 9 am in the morning till 1 am in the night. The women workers are sent home at 9:30 pm. Normally we work Sundays from 9 am till 9 pm, sometimes till Monday morning 9 am. each month 180 to 200 hours overtime. Overtime is paid at 15 Rs per hour, and of the total overtime 400 to 500 Rs gets embezzled. The wages are paid with delay. On 13th and 14th of January the workers refused to work, they were paid their December wages on 20th of January. The wages of the thread cutting women workers is 3,800 Rs, of the tailors 4,000 to 4,100 Rs. Out of 600 workers less than 100 get ESI and PF. The toilets are dirty and the management swears a lot.

Enexco Technology Worker
(157 Nauragpur, Gurgaon)
In the plant 260 workers work on to 10 1/2 hours shifts, manufacturing machinery for the cement industry. Between 6 and up to 15 days per month people would start working at 8 am and work till the next day 6:30 pm. If you stay inside the factory for 34 1/2 hours they pay 15 hours overtime. The 30 permanent workers are paid overtime at 1.5 rate, the 180 casuals and 50 workers hired through contractors are paid single rate. If you work for 34 1/2 hours they give you 56 Rs for two meals and breakfast. If you work 10 1/2 hours they give you three tea breaks. Money for ESI and PF is cut from the casual workers wages, but they are not given an ESI card or PF number. If you ask for the PF number, they kick you out. If you leave the job, they don’t fill in the PF form. Some workers caused a lot of trouble – they were given back the money which had been cut from their wages.

Instyle Worker
(140 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
The helpers get 3,500 Rs and the tailors get 4,000 to 4,100 Rs. There are 100 hours of overtime per month, paid at single rate. They cut ESI and PF money from wages, but when you leave they don’t give you the fund money. I had filled in the PF form after 18 month of employment. The PF office sent it back saying that no money has been transferred to the account throughout this period of employment.

Jay Switch Worker
(407 Udyog Vihar Phase 3)
We are forced to work overtime and during that time the company does not even provide for tea. Overtime is paid at single rate and the December Wages have not been paid by 30th of January.

Kalamkari Export Worker
(280 Udyog Vihar Phase 2)
Tailors work in the factory for years without break, but the company issues new company cards every 5 to 6 months. The ESI and PF numbers change. We work 120 hours overtime per month, paid at 1.5 rate. In the finishing department 55 workers are employed through contractor: the thread cutter get 2,500 to 2,700 Rs, the press operators 3,000 Rs and workers who remove threads get 3,200. No one gets ESI or PF. Working times are from 8:30 am till 9:30 pm, no day off per month. We work 150 to 200 hours overtime per month, paid at single rate. From the overtime 500 Rs per month gets embezzled. If an inspector comes to the factory, these 55 workers are kicked out beforehand. They don’t give tea, they tell you off instead.

Krishna Label Worker
(162 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
The 450 workers are hired through three different contractors. From wages dues for ESI and PF are cut. I left the job after nine months and the manager said that PF forms are filled in by the contractor – but the contractor had abandoned the contract with Krishna company. Instead 8 they make you work 9 hours a day for the minimum wage. They don’t pay the last 20 days of outstanding wagesIf you complain they say that you should bring the pay-slip, but the company never issued pay-slips.

Logwell Forge Worker
(116 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
In the shearing department 65 workers had been employed by the company directly for years – before Diwali they have been transformed into workers hired through contractor. If you take a day off, they send you home the next day – without pay. Now there are 30 out of 65 left of us and we work as much as in old times when we were more than double as many workers. They used to give you money for the uniform and shoes, in 2009 they did not. We work on two 12-hours shifts, they pay single rate.

MDH Masale Worker
(216 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
The company employs 10 to 12 workers directly and 150 through contractors. Overtime is paid at single rate.

Neetee Clothing Worker
(218 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
The wages of the 30 to 40 women workers who cut threads is 2,700 Rs per month, they don’t get ESI or PF. The 100 tailors get neither ESI nor PF. We work from 9 am till 10 pm – the women workers are also forced to work that long. Overtime is paid at single rate. When you leave the job the last 10 to 15 days are not paid. The management swears a lot.

Poddar Export Worker
(637 Udyog Vihar Phase 5)
They tell you that they pay 4,000 Rs in the cutting department, actually they pay 3,500 Rs. No ESI, no PF. The thread cutters get 3,000 to 3,200 Rs. Normal shifts are from 9:30 to 6:30 pm, but they often make you stay till 2 am. We work 150 hours overtime per month, paid at single rate. If you leave, they pay 800 to 900 Rs less than they would have to.

Richa Global Worker
(232 Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
In the finishing department 80 workers are hired through A.K. Fashiontech contractor. They are made to sign that they receive 4,044 Rs monthly wage, in fact they get 3,600 Rs. For ESI and PF another 570 Rs is cut from the 3,600 Rs. ESI cards are issued for 8 to 10 workers, but no one receives PF when leaving the job. The factory runs two 12-hours shifts. There is no weekly day off. You work 100 to 150 hours overtime per month, which is paid at single rate.We produce garments for Polo and others. The supervisors swear at us a lot.

SS International Worker
(821 Udyog Vihar Phase 5)
The helpers get 2,800 Rs, no ESI, no PF. The tailors get 135 to 150 Rs per day. Daily working times from 9:30 am till 1 am. If you leave the job they won’t pay the last 10 to 15 days of outstanding wages. The toilets are dirty.

Taurus Home Furnishing Worker
(418 Udyog Vihar Phase 3)
If you work 9 hours a day, 30 days per month than you are paid 3,000 Rs as a helper and 3,800 to 4,000 as a tailor. We work 150 to 200 hours overtime, payment is less than single rate. If you work till 2 am at night they give you 30 Rs for food, which is hardly enough to fill your stomach. The production of cushions and blankets runs 360 days a year. None of the 250 workers get ESI or PF. The toilets are very dirty.

What Are You/We Doing / Proletarian Autobiography

A 55 years old worker tells about his life-long attempts to escape from field-work drudgery and to avoid ‘real subsumption’, the direct control of capital. He goes back and forth between village and town, survives on short jobs in factories, business activities like peanut and cigarette selling and self-employed white-washing of other people’s brick-walls.

“The time that I get up in the morning keeps changing. Now that I have started working as a painter and whitewasher again, I get up at 7 o’clock in the morning…

We were eight brothers and sisters. There was little family land, so my father started working as a mason. After having worked for Kanpur for some time, my eldest brother in addition to the work in the fields, also started work as a mason. I did not like school too much, because you had to endure the teachers’ punishment. I can still remember the beating of the teacher’s stick on my back in the 5th grade. So, I stopped going to school then and grazed cows instead.

My father and eldest brother worked in masonry. My two older brothers started working in Faridabad while my younger brother went to school. My sisters were already married at that time. I worked on the field. I ploughed the field with the bullock. I irrigated it with the Persian wooden wheel and bamboo baskets. I made sugar melasse. My uncle would do some of our work and we would do some of his. I would do wage work, but back then you were not paid in cash, but in grain: two to three kilos barley, peas, rice. I had a passion for singing and drama, but my father did not like this…

I was seven years old when I was married. The wedding procession went on foot. My uncle put me on his shoulders and took me along. Eleven years later, my wife was brought to our house. We had a son. I never had money on me. I would have to ask my mother for money. My wife would say one thing or the other…

Constant bickering at home. My wife and my sister-in-law went on and on finding fault with one another. My sister in law ridiculed me – you don’t work, you just wander about. In anger, one thing is said and then another- it gets messy. I remained mired down in anger. I refused to work….

I went to Kanpur to my uncle. They hired me at Victoria Mill to remove the ash from the boilers. After two days, I left the job. After wandering around in Kanpur, I returned to the village. I borrowed 50 Rs and after informing my relatives, I left for Ludhiana. I started working in a work-shop manufacturing parts for bicycles. The wage was 130 Rs a month. At that time one kilo of flour was 60 to 70 Paisa and a quarter litre milk was 50 Paisa. I shared a room with another guy, the rent was 20 Rs. We cooked on a sawdust fire. Our expenses for food and so on was 30 to 40 Rs. I then worked in a workshop for engine parts and finally in a factory producing nuts and bolts. There the wage was 180 Rs…I was able to save 100 Rs a month. The telegram with the news about my mother’s death reached me after an one week delay.

Because of too much quarreling, I left the factory job and I rejoined at the work-shop when news arrived that my brother had died in an accident in Faridabad. I did not understand English and the management at the workshop did not tell me what had happened, they just stuffed me into a car…

I refused to live in the family home. My older brother called me to Faridabad. There I started working as a helper at the furnaces of Orient Steel factory and at the same time ran the paan (betel nut) shop of my brother’s friend. The factory ran on three shifts and after the factory work, I worked four to six hours in the shop. On Sundays I worked sixteen hours in the shop. There was always money in my pockets. One brotherís factory was closed down and in the other brotherís factory, problems were occurring. Because of the shop, I did not stay back to work overtime, making the excuse that my health was bad. The supervisor who had hired me left the job. Two months later, I was forced out of the job.

At the entry gate of Mujesar, I got a paan shop there. I began to sit there every day for 16 hours a day. Claiming that the area was his, a fellow from the village had my shop removed.

I went back to the village for a while, then returned to Faridabad, and got a paan hut in front of Nikkitasha factory in Sector 6. When things became troublesome inside the Escorts plant, the management had decided to open Nikkitasha factory. There was a large population of workers and three buses brought staff from Delhi. Because of this, I used to sell a lot of paan and cigarettes. Then suddenly after about two and a half years, the workers and staff went back to the Escorts plant. My sales dropped to less than a quarter…I moved the hut to Sector 2 in front of Orient Bank, then to Bata Chowk. Tired of it all, I sold the nicely done up hut. I brought my wife and children to live with me in Faridabad.

For two months, I walked around and sold bracelets and stuff which I got on commission from my brother. The profit was 50 per cent per item and you could have a good laugh with the ladies. But small items would also tend to get lost.

I came to the decision to sell vegetables and borrowed 500 Rs from my brother. I bought vegetables and fruits on the market and pushed the trolley through the alleys of the area. You encounter all kinds of people along the way. Together with the vegetable sales I started working on piece-rate in a work-shop doing hand moulding. Around Diwali I also started whitewashing jobs through a contractor. I bought a shack in the slum, sold it, bought another one. The hand moulding requires strength and is rather hot. I was sick of selling vegetables.

I started selling scrap. I walked through the alleys shouting. In order to collect iron, bottles, plastic, copper, alloy I would have to start working at 4 o’clock in the morning. In the morning, the guards sell cheap stuff secretly on the side. I would have to run around till 2 p.m. When the Haryana government banned alcohol drinking, there were less bottles around, then my income went down a lot…

For three months, I worked as a guard at a factory gate in Sector 59. Twelve hours a day, thirty days a month. Because of troubles of sleeping at night, I left the job.

Ten years ago I started whitewashing and painting buildings. I work myself and I also sometimes take two to four workers to work with me. Ten years ago everyone used lime. Today 90 to 100 per cent want their walls painted. To work with lime is not so harmful. Plastic paint is harmful for lungs and eyes. When you scrape the old paint of the wall, chemical dust enters your lungs. The skin on my hands got bad due to the chemicals, The wall paint comes in powder-form and irritates your skin. In the bright sunlight. some of the paints reflect so much that the painter can go blind…

I got myself a ladder on rent and started whitewashing in 2002. The ladder broke – I fell from 18 ft hight. My ankle bones broke in a bad way, I was not able to walk for a year. I lived on savings and the income of one of my boys who started work as an electrician. Then I took another contract for painting and whitewashing… It is because of all the compulsions upon a person that makes a person leave one thing, pick up something else, then make that person wander or return to that same thing.

I am tired of whitewashing. Climbing up, plastering, painting. It is hard, dirty-dusty work and I don’t have the capacity to do it any more…

In 2008, I had started selling cigarettes and peanuts on commission. In March 2009, I started selling juice. But in September 2009, I had to return to whitewashing work. The peanuts did not take off and there is heavy work attached to them – standing around from 8 a.m. till 11 p.m. waiting for customers.

I get angry when my wife asks what I have been doing all day. It’s been 30 years that I have left the village. I left with the desire to earn and build a proper house. What I have now is a slum hut. I have lost my courage… I hope my son will take care of us, that he wonít just push us around.

(Faridabad Majdoor Samachar – New Series No. 259, January 2010)