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Manesar: No Breakthrough in Talks, Protest Continues at JNS Instruments

Ronak Chhabra |
Hundreds of workers, most of them women, have been agitating since March 3, seeking the right to form a union and regularisation of contractual workforce.
Cover Image

Workers staging a protest since March 3 near the company gate. Image Courtesy - AICWU/Facebook

New Delhi: Workers at an automobile parts manufacturing unit in Haryana’s IMT Manesar, that saw several of its employees being taken into custody earlier last month reportedly for ‘rioting’, are continuing their protest pressing for the reinstatement of suspended workers, as latest talks between the management and the union have failed to make any headway.

Hundreds of workers, most of them women, of JNS Instruments Limited in Sector 3 of IMT Manesar have been agitating since March 3, on their long pending demands that include, above all, formation of a union and regularisation of  contractual workforce.

On March 29, over 130 workers, including 76 women, of the automotive company were arrested – later released on bail – by the Gurugram police on charges of rioting, wrongful restraint, disobedience to public servant orders and criminal intimidation, according to a report by The Hindu.

During the two-day general strike, called by the 10 Central Trade Unions (March 28-29), the workers sat at the entrance of the company and brought production to a halt.

The police alleged that on March 29, some workers damaged a bus and set another one blaze, even as this was denied by the workers.

According to another report, two FIRs have been registered.

The latest round of talks on Tuesday between the management and a union delegation led by All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), in the presence of labour official, however, failed to produce any breakthrough, Anil Panwar, district general secretary, AITUC, told Newsclick over the phone.

“No final decision has been taken by the management. Talks will continue,” Panwar told Newsclick, without sharing more details. When asked about the next round of talks, he said a date was yet to be finalised.

‘Contract Workers Not Regularised’

Employing over 1,200 workers, JNS Instruments Limited supplies auto parts to Maruti among others, according to media reports. Out of its total workforce, only about 30-40 workers are permanent; the rest are on contractual basis, Newsclick has learnt.

Rinki, who has been among the permanent workers leading the agitation, told Newsclick in a telephonic interview on Tuesday that the demand for a union and regularisation of contract workers was being raised for many years now. “There are contract workers who have been working for the past 10-15 years and have not been regularised as yet,” the 38-year-old worker alleged.

With the absence of a union in the company, the workers often fail to press for an improvement in their service conditions, which is “not very good,” she said.

“Since the past many months, we have approached the labour department here multiple times,” Rinki said, adding that all attempts, however, have failed to bring any relief to the workforce.

Nine women workers, who have been at the forefront of these protests, were transferred by the company to its Bhiwadi plant in November last year, triggering more discontent among workers, who eventually resorted to strike work and demonstrate near the company gate since March this year.

Rinki is one among the terminated workers. She was a permanent worker and had been working as a line operator in the factory since 14 years.

“On Tuesday (March 29), we brought production to a halt to press the management to engage in talks with us, which they did that day,” she said. The management, however, refused to reinstate the suspended permanent workers who have been on strike and agreed to take back contract workers, “only in batches,” she added.

According to media reports, the police said the agitating workers were holding the sit-in protest in violation of the Supreme Court order not allowing protests within a kilometre of the company’s premises. The agitating workers also allegedly issued threats to eliminate those willing to go in to work, the police claimed.

Anant Vats of Automobile Industry Contract Workers Union (AICWU) told Newsclick on Tuesday that the company had transferred the workers to prevent the formation of a union. “Even the incident on March 29 – the damaging of the bus –happened after the workers were detained”, he added.

Centre of Indian Trade Union’s (CITU) general secretary Tapan Sen has also sought withdrawal of all criminal cases against the workers. In a letter to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, he had said that the workers were demonstrating peacefully and were exercising their legitimate trade union rights on March 29.

Meanwhile, denying allegations regarding poor service conditions, the JNS management has said that they were not against unionisation. “… We have not opposed the workers’ decision to form a union or to stage protests, which is their right,” a spokesperson of JNS was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. According to the report, the spokesperson also said that the company had transferred nine women permanent workers to Bhiwadi after promotion and had given them salary hikes for training purposes.

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