Production at the Manesar’s facility of the Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) is to resume from November 25. The management on Friday issued a notice informing the permanent staff of the same.
As per the notice, the permanent workers will be called in four different batches starting from November 25. To enter the company premises, the workers will be required to fill a ‘Good Work/Conduct Undertaking’. The notice finds no mention of the rejoining of the contractual staff – workers who were leading the demonstration since November 5.
If this was not enough, the Honda Manesar’s management has also suspended six union leaders, including the General Secretary and the President of the HMSI Employees’ Union, on Saturday, sources privy to the development told NewsClick. The union members have called the move “retributive in nature.”
These development took place on the same day, when thousands of Honda workers – both permanent and contractual – took out a 17 km long march from Manesar’s Industrial Model Township (IMT) in a bid to intensify their protests. The march was joined in by leaders of Central Trade Unions, namely, CITU and AITUC, as well as numerous workers from facilities operating in Manesar such as Maruti Suzuki and Shivam Auto among others.
Speaking with NewsClick, Suresh Gaur, president of HMSI Employees’ Union has termed the decisions of the Honda management to be “illegal”.
“It was the management which suspended the production in the first place and now, with the condition of signing an undertaking, it is being implied that the employees’ union is to be charged for no production at the facility since November 7,” Gaur said.
To substantiate his comment, Gaur gave example of the November 7 notification of the management in which November 8 and 9 were declared as holidays, as was also reported by The Hindu. The next day, on Sunday, the workers were informed, through another notice, that the production at Manesar’s facility is suspended till further information.
“Even in the November 22 notice, the management admits to have suspended the production, however, holds the permanent staff to be the reason for it,” Gaur told NewsClick, adding, in contradiction to what the management has claimed, “that the permanent staff had no choice but to join the protesting contractual workers since the plant was closed for production”.
Gaur is one of the union leaders who was suspended on Saturday by the management. According to him, the union stands in “no violation” of the 2016 long term settlement which the management mentions in its undertaking form.
It is a tussle between the contractual staff – who also constitute the majority of the workforce – and the Honda management and thus the vindictive actions against the union and its leaders have no basis and are “unjustified”, he added.
Nearly 2,500 contractual workers are up in arms against the Honda management, owing to what they have called “illegal retrenchments”. Around 700 contract workers were laid off earlier in the month of August and another 200 were retrenched on November 5, which led to the labour stir.
In a statement on Friday, HMSI alleged that the union, having no direct role, is intervening in the negotiation process between the contractor and contractual employees.
Speaking of the negotiation process, a section of the contractual workers were contacted on Friday, by their private contractors “pressurising” the workers to withdraw their support from the protest and re-join the work, NewsClick has learnt.
As per the sources, the contract workers were asked to collect their clearance certificate from the contractor and then rejoin the workforce by signing a new contract – a system prevalent in many industrial units in India.
Shyam Murti of Automobile Industry Contract Workers’ Union (AICWU) explained this arrangement as “reshuffling of the employees between private contractors.”
“The contract of the worker will be shuffled between different contractors. The arrangement allows the management to re-employ the labourer on contractual basis for years without regularising them,” Murti told NewsClick, adding that the Honda management at Manesar’s facility employs contract workers through three private agencies, one of them namely, Kay Cee Enterprises.
“If such contacts have been made to the workers, it only means that the Honda management has no intention of getting to any consensus with the protesting workers. It means that the management has only misled the unions only to get the workers out of the company’s premises,” Murti added.
Pressing for their demands, the contract workers occupied the Honda Manesar’s facility. After 14 days, following an assurance by the leaders of Trade Union Council (TUC) – which comprises representations from central trade unions, namely CITU and AITUC – the workers decided to evict the plant. Going against its own words to the TUC, the management, however, remained absent from the scheduled conciliation meetings.
“Many workers now feel that they shouldn’t have evicted the plant as doing so has only allowed the company to resume the production without resolving the issue,” Murti said.
NewsClick tried getting a response from Honda’s company secretary Sanjeev Kumar Chaubey and Manesar division head of general affairs, Naveen Sharma. While Chaubey declined to comment on the issue, calls to Sharma were not answered.
While the management is set to resume the production to its normal course, the trade union council has given a call for another rally on November 27 in a bid to draw to much bigger support from the worker’s organisation. The retrenched contractual staff of the Honda, on the other hand, is in dark on what lies ahead for them.
*This is a developing story.
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