Since September, 2018, more than 3,700 workers from Yamaha India, Myoung Shin Automotive India Pvt. Ltd. and Royal Enfield have been on strike in the Oragadam industrial belt near Chennai. In Yamaha India, two workers were banned from entering the factory premises on 20th September 2018 because they were at the forefront of unionizing the workers. Around 700 workers, including women have been on a sit-down strike since then demanding that the two workers be reinstated.
The workers are also protesting to demand an increase in their wages. As per government norms, an engineer with a minimum of six years of experience should be paid at least Rs. 30,000 a month whereas the workers are currently being paid Rs.17,000 a month. The workers exposed the fact that the management had refused to participate in talks with the Sriperumbudur Assistant Commissioner of Labour four times since 20th September. The management has also hired contract workers and apprentices to do the work which striking workers were performing. However, there have been a number of accidents due to their lack of experience. The management is trying to hide this fact.
More than 140 workers from Myoung Shin Automotive India Pvt. Ltd. (MSI), a company that makes automotive parts, have been on strike since the beginning of September demanding an increase in their wages which have not been increased for the past two and a half years. The management has repeatedly been making false promises to workers’ representatives during negotiations and has not met the workers’ demands.
Around 3,000 workers in the Royal Enfield plant in Oragadam have been on strike since Sept 24, 2018 after forming their union in April, 2018. One of the reasons for the strike was that the management barred 140 trainees from entering the factory without providing a reason. Further, similar to the failed Yamaha India talks, the Royal Enfield management has refused to participate in negotiations in which workers are demanding payment of their legal bonus.
These three strike actions show that workers are resisting the attacks on their rights. The workers in the prime automotive manufacturing belt of India are denied the right to unionize and all attempts by them to form unions are systematically strangled by company management. The super exploitation of workers is helping automotive companies to reap maximum profits. In 2017, the Indian auto industry rose to fourth position globally and sales are expanding by 9.5% every year. The main source of this rise in profits for automotive companies is the ‘availability of skilled labour at low cost’. The demands of the automotive workers in Oragadam that the managements of the three companies immediately agree to payment of increment and bonus, reinstate workers who have been dismissed without any basis and the right to form unions are just demands.