At the turn of the decade, the industrial landscape of the country stands rife with widespread protests and tension among the workers. Facilitated by the Modi Government, a race to the bottom in labour standards, introduction of ‘big bang’ reforms in the labour laws and dismantling of welfare schemes were among the major highlights of 2019. Millions of workers were pushed to the wall as a result. ‘Ease of doing business’ was provided as a justification for causing this labour unrest.
The economic slowdown further added to the increasing burden of the workers. Soaring unemployment rates were further met with retrenchments and contractualisation of labour. Wages were reduced, bonuses were cut. ‘No production days’ became the talk of the industrial belts in the later half of the year. This time, it was done to save the profit margins of the industrial establishments.
This narrative dominated India’s labour ecosystem within different arms of the industry. The workers fought back the dilution of their rights. From tool down in factories to rallies – industrial actions were staged as a mark of protest. To intensify their resistance against the aggressiveness of the Modi regime, the industrial workers are set to join the one-day all India general strike on January 8, 2020, along with farmers and agricultural workers. They are demanding a complete reversal of the economic policies followed by the Modi Government.
Also read: State-Backed Skilling Schemes and Industries Create Army Of Cheap Labour
In the Gurugram-Manesar industrial belt, one of India’s major auto hub, the preparations for the same are going with fervour. The Indian auto industry is currently facing a crisis – said to be one of the worst in 19 years, with the number of workers being laid off running upto lakhs. All of them, including the ones currently employed – and under the worst conditions – will be participating in the general strike.
Thousands of causal workers of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI), who have been braving the cold and staying put for more than 50 days to protest against the ‘illegal’ retrenchments by the management, will be taking the lead of the general strike in the Manesar area.
Owing to a slump in demand of the vehicles, around 700 contract workers were laid off earlier in August by the management and another 200 were retrenched on November 5, which led to the ongoing labour stir. On the other hand, the permanent staff has been denied wage hike, pending since August 2018.
Led by the HMSI Employees Union, both the permanent and the casual staff have declared their participation in the general strike, in an attempt to put pressure on the Honda management, which has even stayed away from the conciliation meetings.
The case is similar within the Maruti Suzuki India (MSI), another leading automotive company, which witnessed over 3,000 temporary jobs being cut due to the slowdown in the month of August. The workers, led by Maruti Udhyog Kamgar Union, will observe the one-day strike, voicing their protest against the below par working conditions.
Also read: Thousands of Manesar Auto Workers Rally Against Privatisation, Contractualisation
“The objective is to halt production, as a mark of protest, in the leading auto companies which includes Honda, Maruti and Suzuki,” said Satbir Singh, ex-president of Haryana unit of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), adding, “The workers will bring Manesar to a standstill.”
Additionally, the staff, especially those employed on contractual basis, from auto component companies including Bellsonica, Shivam Auto Tech among others are also set to fight back, under the banner of their employees’ unions. From anti-worker economic policies to codification of labour laws – all the issues will be raised by the workers on January 8.
Not only that, another important issue that the workers have resolved to raise their voice against is the ongoing political turmoil caused by the Modi government. The industrial workers of Manesar will also be extending their solidarity to the seven-day nationwide protest called by the left parties, starting from January 1 in the run up to the general strike.
The industrial workers, along with farmers, students, organised sector employees, are set to come out on the streets demonstrating against the assaults on the Indian Constitution through the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizen and National Population Register.
As the year ends, on December 30, Union Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar was quoted as hoping to make 2020 to be the “year of reforms.” This is to be achieved by subsuming 44 central laws into four codes. If that be the case, going by the past instances, the year will also be that of workers’ strikes, protests and demonstrations, putting up a tough fight against the Modi Government.