December 3, 2013
A report from Workers Solidarity Centre, Gurgaon
846 workers of Daikin plant in Neemrana, Rajasthan are on strike for last 41 days asserting their right to form union and demanding the reinstatement of 125 fellow workers who have been terminated by the management for being part of the process of union formation. Daikin Air-conditioning India Pvt. Ltd., a 100% Japanese owned enterprise, is a part of Daikin Industries Ltd, world’s no. 1 Air-conditioner manufacturing company with 60 production base units and 182 consolidated subsidiaries worldwide. The Neemrana plant is the sole production unit of Daikin in India. It is located over 40 acre area beside National Highway-8, in the ‘Japanese Park’ of RIICO Industrial Complex in Neemrana at distance of 25-30 km from IMT Bawal and 97 km from Gurgaon. The plant was established in 2008 and the production started in 2009. Current annual production capacity of this unit is 20000 VRV (Variable Refrigerant Volume) units and 1800 chiller units with an annual net sale of Daikin in Indian market being Rs. 1200 crores, whereas the current global net sales is 15,234 million USD. Compared to this heavy profile of the company The working condition is too oppressive with heavy workload and the precarious rights and facilities given to the workers which has been made the precondition for foreign investment in the ‘Japanese Park’ in this new and fast developing industrial belt. Permanent workers presently get Rs. 7200 in hand, whereas trainees get Rs. 4700. There is no Dearness allowance, bonus given to the workers is also shown as part of their salary.
When the workers realized that without collective struggle the situation would not change, they came together and decided to form their union. They took the signatures of 116 workers and applied for union registration on 6th May 2013 through AITUC. When the management came to know about the process of union formation, they started to pressurize the workers who signed earlier for union registration to give a written statement declaring that they did not support any union in the plant. When the workers did not agree, the management started terminating workers, both permanent ant trainee, without any show-cause or enquiry from 21 June, 2013. The workers got the registration of the union, “Daikin Air-conditioning Kamgaar Union”, on 31 July, 2013. At that very night 42 workers were terminated. On 2nd August, workers submitted their demand notice demanding 75% salary hike, DA, residential allowances, medical facilities, conveyance facilities, better canteen facilities, bonus etc. Among the 39 demands that they made, two of them were the demands to abolish contract system and to make the contract workers permanent and the facilities of maternity leave and crèche for female workers. The management responded to these demand by terminating more workers and in this process altogether 125 workers were terminated till 8th October. The workers declared strike from 21st October, 2013 demanding the reinstatement of all terminated workers and a settlement of their just demands. In response, company management suspended another 56 workers accusing that they were involved in the destruction of company properties during the period of strike. However, the management were forced to participate in a tripartite negotiation 9th November in the presence of DLC, Alwar and ALC, Jaipur.
The workers turned down the management’s proposal when it was said that 89 workers among 125 would remain terminated and the remaining would face domestic enquiry under suspension. On 14th November in another round of tripartite meeting the management initially proposed that 50% of the total terminated and suspended workers would be taken back and the remaining workers would face enquiry, but they did not mention any concrete time frame when the remaining workers would be taken back. Thereafter few more negotiations took place but ended without any concrete outcome. Workers were firm on their position that as no terminated or suspended worker did any wrong, there was no right of the management to punish them. The brave workers are in sit-in demonstration 100 metre away from the company gate for last 41 days. The workers also reached to the nearby villages for support and many from the villages around came in support of the workers in a solidarity meeting held on 26th November. One crucial aspect of this struggle is the continuous assertion of unity of contract, trainee and permanent workers vis-à-vis the management and local administration. Manohar, a worker leader and the President of the Daikin Air-conditioning Kamgaar Union, said in a strong voice, “Against the attack of the management, our strength is our organization and unity. We are also trying to reach to the other unions and workers of Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal-Neemrana industrial belt and we already got some supports. Whatever happens, we will continue our struggle for our just demands.”
Neemrana-Bhiwadi insustrial area is a part of DMIC (Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor), which is till date the biggest project for the manufacturing sector with a mega plan to develop and connect industrial regions from Delhi-NCR to Mumbai via Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Preadesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. It is supposed to cover 60% of Haryana, 58% of Rajasthan and 62% of Gujarat. For this project land acquisition is going on, that has resulted farmers’ protests in recent days in many places in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana. And, the industrial development is taking place exploiting the precariousness of workers. In the Neemrana belt now about 50 companies have production unit and this number is supposed to reach 250 in near future including two production units of Hero Motocorp, most of which is supposed to be foreign investment. The recent ongoing strike of struggling Daikin workers has exploded that myth of development most forcefully in the newly developing Neemrana industrial belt. Recently in this belt, workers of Toyoda Minda, a vendor of Maruti Suzuki, were on strike for proper settlement, but then the movement was crushed. In another company, Liberty Hardware, the workers were successful to form their union. But when the owner of the company changed, the new owner refused to acknowledge the union and forced the worker leaders to get transferred to a leather material production unit of the same owner. A dharna of the protesting workers is going on before the company gate. In Ruchi Beer, the workers could form their union, but they are facing attacks from management as the settlement process is being hindered. In this context, the struggle of Daikin workers can prove to be influential for the future of workers’ rights and unity in the Neemrana belt, like the struggle of Maruti workers in 2000 in Gurgaon belt and like the Honda workers’ strike in 2005 in Manesar belt.
Immediately reinstate all the terminated and suspended workers of Daikin unconditionally!
Immediately implement the just demands of Daikin workers!
End the regime of exploitation-oppression of workers in Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal-Neemrana-Bhiwadi in the name of development!