Workers & their union leadership of a factory in Navi Mumbai, were attacked by the owner's hired goondas.
Syndicate Wiper Systems Limited is a company which manufactures car wipers and is a major supplier to a large number of automobile companies of India. It has plants spread across various places in Maharashtra and also in Chennai and Uttaranchal. A large number of small plants spread across many locations is a common tactic followed by various capitalists to avail of various concessions given by governments and to get away from various labour related rules and regulations applicable to large factories but not to small factories.As in the case ofmany other such companies, in Syndicate Wipers also, contract workers form a much larger portion of workers employed, than regular workers. In the factory located in Navi Mumbai only around 120 workers are permanent whereas more than 300 work as Badali workers.Badali worker means that owners can give work to less or more workers depending on needon a given day, and the workers can be different on different days!
When the earlier agreement with the owners expired, the permanent workers wanted their earlier union to negotiate for a fresh agreement. When that union started dragging its feet on the issue, the workers decided to form their own internal union in April this year. All the permanent workers were earlier working for 12 hours every day and were getting less than Rs. 8000 per month, including overtime. Since April, they stopped working beyond 8 hours a day, in defiance of the owner, even though this meant reduction of their monthly earnings. They also submitted their charter of demands in April. But the owners refused to sit for discussion. Instead theystarted to bring in goondas inside the factory premises to threaten the workers.The workers union then gave a legal notice to the owners that they would be going on strike from 22nd July. The union also obtained a court order which instructed the owners that they cannot remove raw materials or machinery from the factory and that only those who have Provident fund and ESIC card can be allowed to work as Badali workers. The union was getting ready for the strike but the capitalist owner was concocting different plans.
On 21st July, Saturday, at the beginning of the first shift, the permanent workers who had reported for work suddenly found some completely new faces coming in as contract workers in large numbers. The owners have a permit to employ only 50 contract workers. The union members demanded to see PF & ESIC cards of those who were being taken in as contract workers. Some of the workers immediately called the local police station complaining that goondas are being brought in by the owner in contravention of court orders. The local police station in charge arrogantly replied that he would “come on Monday!”. Four workers then personally went to police station but instead of sending the police to the factory, these workers were arrested! In the meantime goondas who were already inside the factory premises started physically attacking the workers and breaking various things inside the premises. More than 5 workers were seriously injured.After about an hour,the police arrived at the factory and as if on cue, the goondas ran away. Instead of catching the goondas, the police starting attacking and arresting the workers and the president of the Union as well. A total of 25 workers and their union leaders were arrested under a large number of provisions including ‘attempt to put fire’, ‘attempt to attack with an intention of killing’, ‘rioting’ etc. This was done to ensure that they would not get any bail so that the struggle can be completely crushed. But the next day when the arrested were produced in court, they were greeted with more than 300 workers from different factories and activists of various organizations. The union leadership which was not arrested also swung into action and ensured that for each arrested there was at least one person to stand as ‘suretyfor bail’. Due to all these efforts and due to the fact that there was enough evidence that the workers and their union had repeatedly requested the police to step in to prevent goondas coming to the factory, on 21st July and even earlier, the judge had to give bail to all the arrested workers.
Even after this incident of July 21, goondas are going around threatening the workers who live in the areas near the factory. These goondas are known to be on the pay roll of a very powerful local politician who is a Minister in the State government and is himself known to be a very big Labour contractor. But instead of getting cowed down by this attack the workers and their union are even more determined to fight for their rights. They are getting support from a very large number of workers of the area and also from many other organizations.
As in all such cases, the local news media started a totally false campaign against the workers of Syndicate Wipers, calling them violent and responsible for breaking and even burning the factory. The local media also started calling for ‘very stern action against workers’ and ‘review of various laws which allow workers to protest, so that they can prevent militant action by workers. Various capitalists and their spokesmen are complaining that ‘such actions by workers actually create unsafe atmosphere for business’ etc. Their objective is to discredit workers justly fighting for their rights in the eyes of people, so that “labour reforms" can be carried out to suit the need for maximization of profits of the Indian and foreign capitalists. Mazdoor Ekta Lehar denounces the attack on the fighting workers of Syndicate Wipers and also denounces the politicians and government machinery which is openly siding with the capitalist owners of Syndicate Wipers.