Permanent workers of Motherson Automative Technologies and Engineering (MATE) plant in Pondur village of Kancheepuram district, Tamilnadu went on strike on 23rd August, demanding recognition of the union, improved working conditions and better wages.
The workers have had to face severe reprisals from the management. The management did not hesitate to recruit contract workers immediately after the action taken by the workers to go on strike. It went further to serve show cause notice to many of the workers for participating in the strike even though a strike notice was served by the workers in advance. This is a clear violation of the Industrial Disputes Act.
The MATE 3 unit in Pondur, has 568 permanent workers. There are a few hundred contract workers and NEEM trainees also. Motherson is one of the largest auto components manufacturer in India. It specialises in moulded components for automobile industry. The company has 11 factories in Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The support to the striking workers has also come from the Motherson workers’ union of the Bidadi plant in Karnataka.
Workers are reported to be getting only Rs. 9000-10000 as wages even after 8 years of experience and do not get proper benefits. There are no adequate transportation and canteen facilities at the site. For instance, the workers in night shift are not given any meal but only snacks. Moreover, workers have reported abusive treatment from both management and outsourced contract service staff in canteen and other services.
The permanent workers formed a union with an intention to initiate dialogues on these grievance. Reacting to this, the management asked shift 2 and shift 3 workers, reporting to work on July 30th, to sign a statement that they will not join a union before being allowed to work inside. They were not given a copy of the letter. Several workers refused to sign the papers.
This was repeated on July 31st, when 1st shift workers reported to work. This prompted the workers to sit in at the factory and demand that they be let in to work and to initiate discussion on their pending grievances.
Following this, permanent workers went on a sit-in protest for 2 days after being prevented entry on July 31st. They returned to work for a day on August 2nd after the management relented in its demand that workers sign a letter stating they will not join a union.
The workers and the family members conducted a dharna in Sriperumpudur on September 13 followed by a petition to the district collector on September 16 to intervene and bring an end to the strike.
Several rounds of talks have not yielded any favourable results for the workers, and so the strike continues.