Maruti Suzuki is in the news again. Two reports have
been published in recent times on the Maruti Suzuki violence and its fallout.
The first report came from PUDR in May 2013, called ‘Driving
Force.’ The second report ‘Merchants of Menace’ has just been published. It is prepared
by International Commission for Labor Rights.
PUDR came in to existence and became PUDR in 1981 as
their web site says. PUDR “has taken up hundreds
of instances of violations of democratic rights, covering most parts of the
country and involving the rights of many sections of society.
ICLR web site says ‘The International Commission for Labor Rights (ICLR) was
started in 2002 by a group of lawyers from around the world, dedicated to
supporting workers' and trade union rights. Confronted with the increasing
difficulty of defending these rights in isolation in their own countries – as
corporations, supply chains, investment, and workers themselves crossed
international borders more and more – the lawyers resolved to create a network
to enable them to share information and strategies.’
Did PUDR meet Maruti Suzuki management? The report
says ‘In the course of our fact finding, we have met or spoken to
the workers (contract, permanent and terminated), the union leaders, their
lawyer as well as officials from the labour department, Gurgaon, and different
police officials. All attempts to meet the management turned out to be
futile because it did not give us appointment for a meeting despite our persistent
Did ICLR meet
Maruti Suzuki management? This is what they say, “These [meetings with CII and
Assocham] were scheduled in lieu of an interview with the management of MSIL, since
they refused to meet the group in spite of an extensive exchange of faxes and emails.
So Maruti Suzuki
did not meet any of the representatives from PUDR and ICLR. What do you
conclude? Was it the arrogance or fear at work? What did they have to hide?
workers indulged in violence, so they should have been on defensive, but we
find that Maruti Suzuki is on the defensive! Why?
Let us now
shift focus on the Government’s attitude. I am quoting a para from ICLR’s
report: [Quote] “The Joint Labour Commissioner also downplayed the significance of contract
labour as an issue at MSIL in his discussion with the delegation. He insisted
that the percentage of contract workers was very low – “no more than 10%.” He
also justified the contractualization process at MSIL, and denied that it was
taking place in violation of domestic law, which bars the use of contract
labour in perennial and core areas of work. MSIL’s production model is
dependent on a high level of ancillarisation, according to the JLC, and so
material handling was a key task at its plants. In a strike that took place in
2000, the material handlers played an important role, since their refusal to
place components on the assembly line brought production to a complete halt.
MSIL broke the strike by having engineers check the materials at the ancillary
facilities, thus bypassing the material handlers. This job is now permanently
sub-contracted, and has led to other contract labor arrangements. However, the
JLC denied that this is a prima facie violation of domestic law, explaining
that, “It is important to question if material handling is a core or a non-core
area of work.” It should be noted here that, while Indian courts have debated
whether the operation of canteens, private security services or grounds keeping
are “core” areas of work, and have sometimes permitted these functions to be
outsourced, contracts for labor inputs such as those discussed in the case of
the MSIL-Manesar material handlers have generally not been deemed legal.
However, an important employers’ association, the Confederation of Indian
Industries (CII), did recognize the implications of contract labor, for
workers’ and trade union rights in general. In an interview with the
delegation, a CII leader tasked with industrial relations issues agreed that
contract workers have no ability to bargain. He noted that, while they can
technically form a union, there are many obstacles in practice. The CII also
recognized that there are few regulations of labor contractors and the low
standards and disjointed workforce that results from this practice “does not
help anyone.” [Unquote]
What do you make of the Joint Labour Commissioner’s Statements? Can there
be any conclusion other than that the Government machinery is ‘hand in glove’
with Maruti Suzuki?
Such insensitivity will go unpunished. The PUDR report is titled ‘Driving
Force’ and ICLR’s report is titled ‘Merchants of Menace.’ Since Maruti Suzuki ‘Merchants’
are ‘driving’ the Government, nothing much will happen to alleviate the
hardship of workers, it will only be a swan song!
Labels: International Commission for Labor Rights, Maruti Suzuki, PUDR