Bajaj Auto is one of the large auto firms based in Pune. The Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sanghatana union put up a militant fight in January-February of this year against the Bajaj Auto owners for the fulfilment of a number of demands. These demands have been pending since the past four years. For example, the issue of illegal and unjust termination of 8 workers has been pending since 2013. Further, the issue of uncalled-for transfer of 6 workers from Bajaj Auto’s Chakan plant to other plants (Bajaj Auto has plants in Aurangabad and Pantnagar) too has been pending since 2016. More recently, in contravention of an agreement with the union, the owners unilaterally decided the new wage for the Chakan plant workers and deposited the enhanced amount in their bank accounts without the consent and consultation with the union.
The capitalist owners of Bajaj Auto have been trying their best to break the unity of workers and destroy their union. Despite all efforts made by the union to resolve the long pending issues of concern to the workers, the owners of Bajaj Auto have not only been trying to undermine the prestige of the union and violating the legally binding and well-established processes of collective bargaining, but for the past few years, they have been systematically implementing a well-thought out strategy to break the militant unity of the workers.
In order to express the anger and anguish of workers against the owners and in defense of their self-respect, Com Pawar, the Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sanghatana had gone on an indefinite hunger strike. More than 100 unions in the Pune region, affiliated to Shramik Ekta Mahasangh as well as many other unions, communist parties and various political organizations in the country, supported the just struggle of Bajaj Auto workers and condemned the continued repression and gross injustice being perpetrated by the capitalist owners against them.
The union had signed a nine-year agreement with the management of Bajaj Auto in 2010 which had envisaged a triennial wage revision. Despite conducting over 40 meetings, the Bajaj Auto owners have refused to sign the wage revision agreement for the 2013-2016 period. In 2013, the workers at Akurdi and Chakan plants had stopped working for 50 days against the delay in signing the wage revision agreement. At that time the company had to bear a loss of approximately 1100 crore rupees.
To avoid the possibility of a similar struggle in 2016 that could cost a huge amount of losses to the company, Bajaj Auto in a very strategic manner started weakening the union. It started transferring active union members from Pune to those plants where the union is not active. When these members expressed disagreement to get transferred and hence filed a court case, they were dismissed from service. The move to deposit extra amounts in the bank account of Chakan plant workers was also a part of the plan where they wanted to break the unity of union workers between Chakan and Akurdi plant.
Not only this, to stop the union from gaining more strength Bajaj Auto has introduced new grades for the newly joined employees since 2013. The 2010-2019 agreement for wages in not applicable to employees joining the company in these grades and hence they are not allowed to unionize.
Vishwakalyan Kamgar Sangathana has a glorious history of militant struggle against the anti-worker activities and continued attacks of Bajaj Auto capitalist owners on the workers at their plants in Akurdi and Chakan. The sacrifices made by the members and the office-bearers of the Vishwakalyan Kamgar Sangathana from its very inception, to build a fighting organization of the workers, despite vicious tactics of the Bajaj Auto owners to break their militant unity, is a matter of pride for all workers and has been an inspiration to other unions.
When asked for the aim of this hunger strike Dilip Pawar had said, “This struggle is against the cruel mindset of the owners. This struggle is against those who are used to treating workers as slaves and those who are used to exploiting workers. This struggle is to get back the respect of the workers and their labor.”
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar condemns the continued suppression of the workers and in particular, the vicious attacks against their union activists in Bajaj Auto in Pune. We wholeheartedly support the just demands of the workers and their struggle against the capitalist owners of Bajaj Auto to resolve the long pending issues of concern to the workers.