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Honda Stalemate Ends: Contract Workers Won’t Return to Work After Four Months of Protest

The workers feel that they have been “sacked” by the management for “protesting, standing up for the workers who were retrenched earlier owing to the slowdown”.
Honda Stalemate Ends: Contract Workers

Protesting contractual staff of Honda attending a public meeting in Manesar. Image Courtesy - Facebook

The agitation by the workers at Manesar’s Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) plant, arguably one of the first few in the automotive belt which witnessed contractual employees taking the lead, ended on March 4.

Reaching a settlement with the contracting agencies, in a meeting convened on March 3, all the 2,458 protesting contract workers have reportedly agreed “to submit their resignation to the contractors and collect their dues”.

‘Dues’ referred to here, as per the agreement accessed by NewsClick, include remaining wages of the month of November, leave encashment, gratuity, amount equalling retrenchment compensation, three month’s notice pay, in addition to an ex-gratia amount of Rs. 23,000 for every year of service.

In exchange, all the complaints, grievances, filed by the workers, against the contractors and HMSI’s management “will be considered as settled,” added the agreement.

The agreement suggests that a ‘consensus’ has been reached between the two parties – contractual workers and their agencies – giving an end to the labour unrest, which was also one of the largest and longest running auto workers’ agitation witnessed amidst the ongoing economic crisis.

The contractual staff, however, feels otherwise. According to the workers NewsClick spoke to, they have been “sacked” by the management for “protesting, standing up for the workers who were retrenched earlier owing to the slowdown”.

One of the workers who felt the same was Radheshyam, who is in his thirties and is one of the representatives of the protesting contractual staff. “We stayed put for these many days hoping the management would accept our demands. There was hope that the demands of the contractual workers will finally be heard,” he said.

However, the hope died at last, according to him. “With no income since last four months, unpaid bills started mounting. Along with us, the livelihood of our families was affected as well,” Radheshyam said. “What other options did we have other than to settle the dispute,” he said, which involved ‘resigning’, collecting dues and looking for another job.

Another worker, Sandeeep Gullia, 29, blames the media “for not providing enough coverage” to the protest in Manesar, not very far from the national capital where media studios are located – eventually forcing the workers “to agree to the terms of the Honda management”.

“Thousands of workers of one of the largest automotive companies are demonstrating for months and the big channels don’t even show it to the public,” Gullia told NewsClick, adding that, “at last, the workers were tired of not having their voices heard.”

The contractual staff at Honda’s Manesar facility have been demonstrating against the management since November 5, against the decision of the management to get around 200 contract workers were “relieved from their work,” citing “demand fluctuations and production adjustment”. as reasons.

The Honda facility at Manesar observed no production for as many as 18 days, as the contractual staff, in a move suggestive of ‘occupying’ the company premises, observed a ‘tool down’ strike inside the facility.

In the same month, the company suspended eight union leaders, including the general secretary and the then president of the HMSI Employees’ Union – the front representing permanent staff – allegedly for their participation in the unrest.

Speaking to NewsClick, Naveen Sharma, Manesar division head of general affairs at HMSI, said “nominal production” is being witnessed currently at the Manesar plant as the slowdown still continues. As a result of which, only around 500 contractual workers are currently at the assembly lines, employed earlier through contracting agencies in a bid to replace the protesting contractual staff, he informed.

On being asked about the suspension of the union leaders, Sharma told NewsClick that it is a different matter. “It is a disciplinary issue regarding which a domestic inquiry is going on,” he said.

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