Labour Union in Manesar Appeals to SKM to Jointly Fight ‘Anti-Worker’ Measures
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In a first, a trade union in Haryana’s Manesar accused its management of “attempting to break” the industrial workers’ body and appealed to the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) on Wednesday to join its fight against what they claim to be “anti-labour” measures.
The employees union at Bellsonica Auto Component India Private Limited, an automotive part manufacturer which supplies to major companies, including Maruti, has asked the farmers’ body to come out in support of the industrial workers’ union by holding a joint ‘Mazdoor-Kisan Panchayat’ in Manesar.
Alleging that the factory management is “harassing” the permanent workforce of the company with an intention to retrench them, the employees union at Bellsonica sent an open letter to SKM. It also made an appeal to the SKM to write regarding the same to the district administration and the Chief Minister of Haryana.
SKM is an umbrella body of farmer unions from across the country that had spearheaded the year-long national movement against the three controversial farm legislations till those were withdrawn by the Centre last year.
The appeal for support, made for the first time by a Manesar-based trade union to the farmers’ body, has come at a time when the rift between the managements and the labour unions has been growing in the country’s leading auto hub. The rift has taken place in the backdrop of the passage of four Labour Codes and their promised nationwide rollout.
“For the past year, the company management, in connivance with the administration, is attacking the union in one way after another,” the employees union at Bellsonica said in their open letter addressed to SKM.
The workers’ body alleged that “to break our union” and to “harass workers”, air washers (fans) were turned off during the heat of May-June this year, sub-standard quality food is being served in the canteen, and “false investigations” are being conducted against individual workers, among others. These activities are being carried out by the management “with an intention to retrench the workforce,” the open letter said.
Ajit Singh, general secretary of the employees’ union at Bellsonica, explained on Thursday that the union wrote to the SKM since cultivators and the working population in the country are fighting against a “common enemy.”
“Both farmers and workers stood together in the fight to roll back farm laws, which were introduced to benefit the corporates. Similarly, the very same corporates are also exploiting workers through numerous anti-labour measures. Hence, it is time that farmers and workers join hands once again to fight against such moves,” Singh said while speaking to Newsclick.
Singh highlighted that three of the four Labour Codes were steamrollered through the Parliament by the Narendra Modi-led central government the same year when the farm legislations were passed. “The government has promised to roll out the Labour Codes soon. Farmers and workers must jointly intensify their struggle to ensure that they [the Codes] also get withdrawn,” he said.
Flayed by trade unions for diluting worker rights, the three labour codes – Industrial Relations Code, Code on Social Security and Occupational Safety and Health and Working Conditions Code – were passed in Parliament in September 2020 without a proper debate. The other one, Code on Wages, was passed in 2019. These codes are set to replace and subsume 29 central labour enactments.
Mohinder Kapoor, president of the employees union at Bellsonica, on Thursday said that the “anti-labour” effects of the Labour Codes can already be felt by workers in Manesar. “In many factories, the management is increasing pressure on the unions to eventually replace permanent workforce with temporary ones,” he said.
According to Kapoor, the passage of Labour Codes has only emboldened the factory owners to further go ahead with similar measures.
To be sure, in November last year, a joint ‘Mazdoor-Kisan’ panchayat was organised by the employees union at Bellsonica in Haryana’s Gurugram. In the panchayat, prominent farmer leaders of SKM had marked their presence. During the farm law agitation, the SKM had extended its support several times to the call of Central Trade Unions to oppose the Labour Codes.
Kapoor said that the Bellsonica employees’ union, apart from issuing an open letter, has also spoken to SKM leaders over the telephone. “They have assured us of taking a decision soon in this matter,” he said.
SKM leader Abhimanyu Kohar said that an industrial employees union at Manesar approached the farmers’ body on Wednesday. “The fact that the workers have appealed to us is proof of the success of farm law agitation through which both these sections of the society – farmers and workers – have come together,” he said.
Asked about SKM’s response to the appeal, Kohar said that a final decision on it will be taken by the farmer leaders in a meeting scheduled to be held around August 25. “On a theoretical level, the SKM has always supported the workers’ demands. But in what capacity we will be able to support these employees (of Bellsonica) on the ground will be discussed in our next meeting,” he added.
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