Condemn the persecution of workers by the state! The struggle for justice shall continue!
Graziano Trasmissioni is a multinational company producing gears for automobiles. It has 35 plants the world over. This former Italian multinational company has now been taken over by a US multinational. The gears and transmission belts produced by the workers of this company are part of many of the automobiles and heavy vehicles seen on the highways of the world. It hit the headlines about four years ago when news media of our country reported that the CEO of the Greater Noida plant of this Company had died in the course of a workers agitation.
On September 22, 2008, the CEO of this factory Lalit Kishore Chowdhary died within the factory premises. Without any investigation, the monopoly capitalist media immediately blamed agitating workers of the factory for "murdering" this CEO. The management and police connived to hoist charges of murder against a number of workers and their leaders who were sitting on dharna outside the factory gates at a distance of about 300 m, after they were locked out for several months. On the basis of these charges, the management, in connivance with the police and administration has persecuted workers and their leaders.
However, the workers have refused to give up their struggle for justice. The events four years ago was a setback to the workers resistance struggle at the gates, as it provided an opportunity for the owners to justify dismissing all the workers, jailing many of them on false charges, and in general crushing the workers organization and smashing their unity. In the face of this all sided attack, it is to the credit of the workers and their organisation, that they have remained united. All but two of the workers are out of jail, and all of them have received partial payment of wages in the form of bonus. The workers have stuck to their demands which include the reinstatement of all the dismissed workers, with full back wages, and dropping of all charges against them. The management has tried to divide the workers by offering partial settlements in return for accepting dismissal, but the workers have refused to fall for the bait. Comrade Virender Singh Sirohi, the leader of the workers, mobilized the workers around the demand that the management must pay the workers full wages from the date of dismissal till their retirement age, if it did not agree to take them back to work.
In this situation, the management has resorted to a desperate tactic. In May 2012, four years after the incident, the management has succeeded in bribing the government lawyers and the court to charge Comrade Sirohi under Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code for involvement in the death of the CEO -- when it is established that Comrade Sirohi was nowhere in the vicinity of the plant, leave alone inside the plant where the CEO died. Moreover, in the course of the trial, the chauffer of the CEO, a key prosecution witness to the death of the CEO, had actually told the court that the CEO died after jumping from the first floor to the ground floor inside the plant -- effectively stating that Chowdhury's death, though most definitely unfortunate, was not murder.
What is happening with the workers of Graziano is what has been happening with the workers of almost all the multinational companies that have set up shop all over our country — in the NCR, around Bengaluru, Chennai and so on. These capitalists obey no labour laws. The governments at the center and states openly violate their own labour laws. The police, the administration, the courts, all work hand in glove with managements. The right to form trade unions is attacked.
In Graziano, the three hundred workers organized themselves into a union and raised their demands in December 2007. When the management raised the bogey of not punching entrance cards properly to deduct wages, the workers united around a set of demands— increase in wages, regularization, and proper food in the canteen, amongst other demands. The workers organized a demonstration in front of the Labour Office, Noida, to highlight their problems. Following a prolonged struggle, on January 24, 2008, the management was forced to sign an agreement on wage increase in front of the Deputy Labour Commissioner, NOIDA. However, this agreement was never implemented, and led to anger amongst the workers.
From January 2008, the management followed the policy of recruiting contract workers and training them. Its plan, which was revealed by May 2008, was to create a backup of trained workers so it could throw out all the existing workers and smash their organization. Thus, over 400 workers were recruited in this period on contract.
Now began the systematic attack on the workers. To provoke the workers, the management suspended 5 trainee workers on concocted pretext in May 2008. The workers demanded that the trainee workers be taken back. The management dismissed 27 workers. Workers carried out protests in front of the Labour Office, NOIDA. It suspended 21 more workers, and announced two lists of lockouts of 30 workers each. On May 21, 2008, the management organized attacks on workers by hired goons.
On 30-31 May 2008, workers were forced to sign bonds of Rs 1 lakh each, as indemnity for the exhaust fans in the factory after the management charged the workers with rioting. This followed workers demanding that the exhaust fans be set up properly so as to reduce the unbearable heat inside the plant premises.
On June 30, the management signed an agreement with the workers in the presence of the District Magistrate and the Labour Commissioner. As per the agreement, the management agreed to take back 65 workers in three batches.
On July 1, 2008, the workers organized a rally at Jantar Mantar in Delhi under the leadership of Comrade Sirohi. When they came to join work on July 2, 2008, they saw a list of 192 workers who had been locked out pasted on the factory gate. The management had once again gone back on the agreement.
The suspended and dismissed workers now continued their dharna 300 meters from the factory gate. Meanwhile, the management continued the operation of the factory through the remaining workers, and the newly hired contract workers. The contract workers were made to live inside the premises, eat their food, sleep there etc. A set of goons were also hired to terrorise the workers inside and outside.
Before the incident on September 22, 2008, two meetings had taken place between the management and the workers wherein the management refused to take the workers back. On September 16, a meeting was called by the ALC, DLC, and ADM of Gautam Budh Nagar to resolve the issue. The management said that it will take a letter of apology from each dismissed worker separately and then decide on case by case basis.
On September 22, 2008, as the dharna continued outside, there was a clash inside between the contract workers and the management over the terrible working and living conditions. These workers were obviously exhausted having to live their lives inside the factory premises like prisoners. During the course of this clash, the CEO jumped from the first floor and sustained fatal injuries. The workers outside continued their dharna, unaware of was going on inside. They were arrested by the police in the evening around 4 pm, while the incident inside the factory premises took place at about 11 30 am. Police arrested over 200 workers. 76 were charged under Sections 302 and 307. 74 were charged under 107, 116 and 151. Many workers spent long periods in jail before being bailed out, and two, Rajendra and Mahendra Singh, who were leading the dharna on that day, still remain in jail. During the whole course of the court proceedings, the management and police conspired to lay false charges on the workers and fix them. On October 24, 2008, the management dismissed all the regular workers. After the incident, the contract workers were also dismissed.
Four years later, the workers of Graziano are determined to carry on their struggle for justice. This important struggle deserves the full support of the entire working class.