From the 4th of June 2011 to the 18th of July 2012 and beyond – The practice of Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers

March 31, 2013

The following article was orignally publishes in the Hindi language workers’ newspaper, Faridabad Majdoor Samachar (no.296 – February 2013.) It is being reproduced here from the Gurgaon Workers’ News site.
– Editors


‘What to do and what not to do?’ ‘How to do and how not to do?’, these are important questions. All workers are confronted with these questions at all times. Today and in the near future, the practice of the Maruti Suzuki workers can make an important contribution to find an answer to these questions. Situations like at Maruti Suzuki Manesar will intensify and become more widespread. The position of workers seem to become increasingly favorable, while the condition of the companies and state, despite all of their major efforts, seem to become more and more brittle.

The 950 permanent workers who were union members at Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant were dissatisfied with the union. Company management deducted the union dues from workers’ wages. Some permanent workers secretly prepared for setting up an alternative union. In order to register the new union workers sent documents to the Haryana government’s labour commissioner in Chandigarh. The labour department immediately informed the company about it. Management started to put pressure on workers to accept the existing union and to refrain from setting up a new one.

On the 4th of June 2011 during the time of shift change, both A-shift workers and B-shift workers remained inside the factory when the turmoil started. All workers gathered in one place. Commotion. Workers refused to listen to the factory manager. two-shifts of permanent workers, trainees, apprentices and workers hired through three different contractors who are directly linked to the production process undermine the ‘occupation of the factory through management’. Workers control exits and entrances, advancing towards the control of the whole factory. A company which has an annual production output of 40,000 crore Rupee hasn’t got a clue how to deal with the situation. The central government, which takes over 4 crore Rupee excise duty from Maruti does not know either. The Haryana government, which takes 800 crore annual tax from Maruti is as clueless as management and the central state. This situation lasted for thirteen days. Workers’ representatives/supporters, who see workers as ‘to be pitied’ and ‘un-knowing’ come to an agreement with management and get production going again.

In India today, there are very few workers who you call permanent, the majority are temporary workers. Under these conditions today, only permanent and temporary workers together can form a workers union/organisation. On the 4th of June 2011 at Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory permanent workers, trainees, apprentices, workers hired through contractors together brought a workers union/organisation top the fore. That was not a ‘union’ as it is officially known. Nowadays companies-governments are not able to finish off an actual and practical workers union/organisation.

Workers have (been) stopped. Those permanent and temporary workers directly connected to production, those who work separated in different departments, at different machines and assembly lines, those workers have joint together on the 4th of June 2011. But those workers who take care of water, electricity, canteen, security and other services, those workers hired through 48 contractors have remained at the margins. The 350 drivers hired through contractors employed in sales and dispatch have remained at the margins. The 300 workers employed by suppliers, who work on the Maruti premises remained separate. The drivers who bring parts from the suppliers were not involved. Those 2,500 construction workers, who are working on the expansion of the factory, were not involved. The workers employed in Maruti supplying factories of Belsonica, FMI Energy, Krishna Maruti, SKH Metal and JBM, which are situated on the 600 acre Maruti premises remained at the margins. All these workers could immediately link up with an emerging workers union/organisation. The workers of the thousands of automobile, textile, pharmaceutical, IT factories, which surround Maruti Suzuki in IMT Manesar could join in without major difficulties. It would not be too hard for workers in Gurgaon, Okhla, Noida, Faridabad who work in factories of the 300 official Maruti suppliers and in thousands of inofficial work-shop suppliers to become part of it. And Maruti is not only connected to Japan, cars are exported to 120 different countries… The global dimension and international character of an emerging workers union/organisation is in front of us.

While companies support-foster ‘workers trade unions’, they cannot bear actual workers unions/organisations. The workers union/organisation which emerged at Maruti Suzuki Manesar on 4th of June 2011 did not grow and expand and the company stuck to the plan of finishing it off. On the other side those permanent and temporary workers directly linked to production proceeded on their path to deepen their bond. At the end of August 2011 company and state were prepared to attack them. Permanent and temporary workers together kept up their organised bond and sat outside of the factory for 24 hours over a month. All kind of people and groupings came to meet the workers. Workers listened to everyone, but did what they thought is right. Seeing that it won’t get through the company changed course. Workers representatives/supporters who think that workers have no consciousness and don’t understand again forged an agreement on the 30th of September 2011. On 3rd of October 2011 the company let all permanent workers, trainees and apprentices apart from 44 suspended workers back to work, but refused entry to 1,200 to 1,500 workers hired through contractors who had been directly employed in production. The company proceeded quickly on the path of breaking the workers’ union/organisation when… when on 7th of October 2011 both A-shift and B-shift workers remained inside the factory and shook the ‘occupation of the factory through management’. Workers controlled the exists and entrances and either expelled those workers who had been hired by the company during the lock-out or convince them to join them. This time workers of 11 other factories in IMT Manesar also remained inside their factories and questioned management’s control. The whole issue was on the way to become bigger and to spread. Those workers’ representatives/supporters who see workers as poor and unknowing reduced the emerging organisation to the four factories of the Suzuki group. On the 14th and 15th of October 2011 workers – facing a huge police army and influence of prominent workers’ leaders – were forced to leave the factories. Workers sat outside and production in the four factories remained suspended. Company and government did not understand what it was what workers wanted. Then on 19th and 21st of October 2011 an agreement was settled and all workers hired through contractors were taken back, while 30 workers were secretly given money and made to resign.

Workers were angry about the fact that 30 workers had resigned for money, but they were not disheartened. The notion that ‘we will make decisions ourselves’ was strong. The company slowly-cautiously started to undertake steps. The company themselves gave what is called concessions. The work-pace was slowed down, instead of one car every 45 seconds speed was reduced to one car per minute. Wages for trainees, apprentices and workers hired through contractors were increased. Permanent workers were promised a significant wage increment. The number of company buses was increased. The parents were included into the health insurance scheme. They increased the number of annual holidays… A second union was registered and management recognised it. The union gave management a demand notice. Negotiations started between management and union about a three-years agreement…

When in February-March 2012 workers started to feel that after having done so much, nothing had really changed. ‘To take care of workers’ was seen as management talk. Workers remained workers – so what had changed? This is why the suspension of a worker on 18th of July 2012 was not to remain an ordinary act. Workers rebelled against being workers. There are two symbols standing for making-keeping a worker a worker: workers made managers and the factory building the target of their attack. The large numbers of security guards and 60 to 70 police men just stood aside and watched. No guard (or bouncer/muscle-man) got injured. If the new union leader would have tried to hold back workers, he had been the first to be beaten. This was not an act of a group of 20 or 50 workers, but over thousand of young and old, permanent and temporary workers were involved in the rebellion. It was a coincidence that it happened on the 18th of July, it could have happened on the 15th of may or 25th of August. It is true that the manager and the factory building are symbols, they stand for a social relation… but in practice the embodied/tangible form becomes a first target and consecutively the social relation comes to the fore. Workers can extinct a factory in an half an hour attack… the fear which it instills amongst the bosses is not limited to the Delhi region, but spreads to other places.

All workers know that company and state will attack in revenge. The government installed a permanent commando of 600 police in IMT Manesar, 147 workers are in jail and there is a arrest warrant for further 65 workers. The company has sacked 546 workers and kicked out 2,500 workers hired through contractor. After six months of jail, till now end of February 2013 none of the jailed workers has been granted bail. According the leading manager of Maruti Suzuki this is class war. A Maruti Suzuki Manesar worker: “If the 18th of July had been a thing of the whole of IMT Manesar, it would have been a real thing”.

For workers it is the first priority to increase their own power. Who is the workers’ own? The workers’ own is the other worker. Therefore the first act is to go to other workers and to form a bond with them. This is why for the Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers, after the 18th of July 2012, the thousands of surrounding factories became their potential terrain of activity. The impact of the events in IMT Manesar on the government was direct, but moreover the knowledge that the wave might spread to Gurgaon, Okhla, Noida, Faridabad. This is not supposed to happen, therefore… Workers’ representatives/supporters who see workers as victims (2) and as lacking consciousness adviced the Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers to start on a path of falsehood. thousands of leaflets were distributed amongst workers in Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad. Knowingly or not, these ‘do-gooders and well-meaners’ motivated workers to proceed on a path which will tire them out. Honest and dishonest workers’ supporters, both gave information notices to the deputy commissioner, to legislators, to the ministers, to the prime minister, they demonstrated in Gurgaon, they demonstrated in Delhi, demonstrations in Zind and Bhivani, protests by the family members of the jailed and sacked workers, hunger strikes, bicycle protest tours from all four corners of Haryana to Rohtak… these can be important additional steps, but to focus and rely on them will lead to nothing else but tiredness amongst the workers. The workers hired through contractors are also left on the margins of these protests. Without a doubt, the workers in jail and the sacked workers are still firm and committed. If the 400 or so sacked workers outside jail would now focus on going amongst the workers of IMT Manesar, then…

For detailed reports on the cycle of struggle at Maruti Suzuki Manesar:

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