latest news report on Maruti workers’ struggle is very important. In many ways
it shows what is likely to be the response of trade unions in the days to come.
Maruti violence episode is well known. Also well-known is the singular
insensitivity with which Maruti management handled the workers’ agitation. The
real issue was the formation of the union. The management wanted union of their
choice and that too necessarily an ‘internal’ union.
in case the readers of this blog have not read my earlier post, I would like to
reproduce a part to highlight the attitude of Maruti Suzuki.
was the first MD of the Maruti Suzuki. He played a crucial role in establishing
a union at Gurgaon plant. Mr R Bhargava who succeeded him wrote his memoirs.
The book is ‘The Maruti Way.’ I am now going to quote what he wrote at page
[I quote] “As
a first step Krishnamurthy promoted a trade union at Maruti before political
parties and outsiders could establish one. KK Datta, who was the union leader
at BHEL [Please note that Krishmurthy was earlier working at BHEL] was given
employment in Maruti, and became General Secretary of the Maruti Udyog
Employees Union, which was affiliated to INTUC, the trade union wing of the
Congress party. Workers were encouraged to become members of this union and
they were told that the management would encourage union to effectively
interact with it so as to best protect the interests of workers. But first
credibility of the union had to be established and this was done by consulting
the union and involving them in framing policies……
that Datta knew Krishnamurthy from before and had been brought to Maruti by
him, helped increase the belief that he could get workers a fair
‘promoting,’ or let me find a better word, ‘catalysing’ union formation is
nothing new. Perhaps the metaphor of catalyst is apt. A catalyst facilitates
but does not react. So some may argue that it is not really bad to act as a
catalyst for union formation but it transgresses permissible limits when
managements interfere with the workers’ right to organise. It means selecting a
union of their choice.
tells us in the book that the workers later decided to end the affiliation with
INTUC. This was when they got disillusioned with Datta’s leadership. He also
talks about his discussion with ND Tiwari the then Industries Minister whom he
persuaded to see the point that an unaffiliated union serves the agenda of
Maruti better. The workers at this juncture wanted to have affiliation with
is in a bigger mess now as the alleged violence
and human rights violation of workers at the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki
will be taken up at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United
Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva next week by the International
Commission for Labour Rights (ICLR).
The news report [Link] says further that “International human
rights lawyer and team member Suzanne Adely said: “We will take this issue of
repressing rights of Maruti workers and the state police booking them in
different cases with the special rapporteur next week. We will also take up
this case with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD).” “This company is also planning to set up a plant in South Africa. The
labour organisations there will oppose it as our team there was a member from
the labour organisations of that country. If Maruti interfered with the
workers’ rights to form union of their choice and terminated union members,
there are serious violations of international labour norms,” said Ashwini
Sukthankar, an international labour lawyer and ICLR member.”
That is a serious development. India is not a member of OECD
but there is a close association. The OECD website says, “India is on the Governing Board of the OECD’s Development
Centre and it also participates as an
observer in some OECD Committees and various working groups and various working
groups. Indian ministers have also attended a number of Ministerial Council Meeting
dialogue sessions with non-OECD countries since 2002. India also supports the
OECD regionally-focused activities in Asia, hosting regional forums and
workshops on issues including investment, taxation, financial education,
private pensions, and development.”
It would be interesting to
note here that in a recent strike at a German organisation [based in India] making
components for the auto industry the workers had complained to OECD, which in
turn developed pressure on the management to settle the issues.
Auto industry has been
facing a lot of flak. Maruti Suzuki is not the only organisation in India which
is facing a lot of issues on the labour front. Partly this is also because many
auto makers, like Bajaj for instance, have failed to adopt practices which are
democratic and inclusive. The Indian States in the northern part of this
country have been accused of being ‘hand-in-glove’ with such organisations. The
Government policies were never implemented well as we all know.
In Pune, ‘Shramik Ekta Mahasangh’
[a federation of unions] was formed with affiliation to IndustriALL Global Union. The international union which was in its earlier avatar was called International
Metalworkers’ Federation has good presence in India.
This is only the shape of
things to come. International pressures were rare, but one can expect these to
be not-so-rare in future.
It is time to adopt
democratic and inclusive practices at work. The time has come to recognise that
we need to do this right thing for right reasons. Maruti Suzuki may learn it
the hard way, but as it always happens with drivers of automobiles, they must
know which road to take, and which road not to take.
Also see: http://hresonance.blogspot.com/2011/10/maruti-suzuki-strike-how-matter-of.html
Labels: ILO, IndustriALL Global Union, Maruti Suzuki, OECD, Strike