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Vol. 75/No. 40      November 7, 2011

(front page)
Victorious India auto strike unites
‘permanent’ and ‘temp’ workers
AP Photo/Gurinder Osan
Sit-down strike at massive Maruti Suzuki plant in Manesar, India, October 13, demanding return of temporary workers. Strikers won that demand and de facto recognition of union.

On October 21 striking workers at the Maruti Suzuki complex in Manesar, 30 miles south of New Delhi, won a double victory, gaining de facto recognition of their union—the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union—and forcing the company to bring back 1,200 temporary workers fired for supporting the union.

While the union still has to apply to the state for formal recognition, Suzuki agreed to set up two committees in the plant to deal with grievances and shop floor conditions. Suzuki is the largest auto company in India.

Workers applied to have the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union recognized in June. In response, the company suspended 11 workers. The unionists then went on a 13-day sit-down strike, winning the workers’ jobs back.

On August 29 the company locked out the workers, demanding they sign a “good conduct bond” pledging not to “indulge in any activity that would hamper the normal production in the factory.” Anyone Suzuki charged with violating the bond could be fired. Dozens of militants were also suspended.

The workers refused to sign and went on strike. Twelve hundred contract workers joined them. On October 1 a deal was struck for all permanent and temporary employees to return to work.

At Maruti Suzuki, permanent workers average $600 a month, while temps make $140.

When workers returned to the plant, they found that the company had not recalled contract workers or the suspended employees.

Some 1,500 permanent workers occupied the plant, conducting a “tools-down” strike October 7. Hundreds of temporary workers mobilized outside the factory every day. Workers at three other Suzuki-owned plants shut down production in solidarity.

On October 14, 1,500 city cops entered the plant, demanding the workers leave. The workers decided to end their occupation but continued the strike.

A week later the company gave in. It agreed to rehire the temporary workers and 64 permanent employees suspended for pro-union activities, grant de facto recognition to the union, and provide transportation to and from work.

“This is a story that needs to be told,” the October 14 issue of the weekly Tehelka wrote, “not because it is a classic case of divide and rule, but because the classic trick failed.”
Related articles:
‘Without better contract, we’ll continue fighting’
1,300 battle bosses’ union-busting campaign
Ford vote: UAW ratifies another concession pact
On the Picket Line  
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