New Delhi: As the automotive industry in India faces its biggest decline in sales in recent years, job losses and retrenchments continue to haunt workers across the country, even in allied industries.
Recently, Rane TRW Steering Systems Pvt Ltd, an automotive component manufacturer based in Uttarakhand, who is a vendor for auto majors Ashok Leyland and Tata Motors, laid off about 300 employees, citing economic slump and falling demand.
"The lay-off process started in my company since July due to slowdown in demand and production, when the company was shut down for 15 days. In September, the company ran only for 10 days. The key reason given for the shutdown of operations by our company, a vendor for Ashok Leyland and Tata Motors, was that these two auto majors are already not functioning in full capacity,” an engineer in Rane TRW Steering Systems told Newsclick with on the condition of anonymity.
He said the company had four plants, of which three had already shut down. “More than 250 people were asked not to continue after August 10 in one plant. A similar situation faces other units too. People have been running from pillar to post looking for jobs. I am an engineer and have a dream, but it lies shattered with a single notice. I am looking for a job in a call centre now," he added.
The engineer, who was working in the quality check section, further said: "In India, we manufacture BS4 vehicles, which are now old. By next year (2020), BS6 compliant models will be launched in India. So, all manufacturing companies will now have to make new components for new technology vehicles. This is another reason that our company has been forced to lay off its of employees over the past few months to reduce production costs. We have been told when BS6 is launched in India, we might get hired. But no written assurance has been given."
Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Cut Production
Rane TRW Steering Systems Pvt Ltd manufactures power steering and suspension systems, friction materials, valve train components, occupant safety systems, die-casting products and provides connected mobility solutions.
KK Bora, state secretary of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU)-affiliated union, told Newsclick: "In Uttarakhand, Pantnagar and Rudrapur are the hub of the automobile industry. Companies like Mahindra, Ashok Leyland, Bajaj and Tata Motors are present here. Recently, Tata has laid off its employees in large numbers and announced a four-day 'block closure'. During a block closure, workers are paid half-day’s pay,” adding that because companies don't get permission to close easily, that's why they announce block closure.
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Bora said the ground situation was “worrisome” after the lay off because the period of economic slowdown had already crossed two months. “Another issue is that companies are adjusting the leaves of employees. Earlier, it used to be a six-day work week, which has been reduced to five days. So, employees will get salaries of only five days," he added.
Elaborating further on the sorry plight of workers, Bora said: “Most of the companies are taking five days of work and are saving production this way. They have told workers that they will get only 50% salary. Meanwhile, they are firing those who are on supervisory posts. Most of the companies in the automobile sector have fired their supervisors,” he said, adding that this has become a daily occurrence in the automobile industry in Uttarakhand.
“Every day 8-9 people are being fired in different companies. A few are protesting and going to the labour court. The rest have left for their homes. Earlier, these workers achieved targets worth crores of rupees, which has now reduced to lakhs. People are literally scared for their future as they have not got any assurance from the government so far," Bora added.
The trade union leader pointed out that Pantnagar was the largest industrial area in Uttarakhand and is known for the cheapest labour in the country. “Despite this, most of the workers have been fired from here only. This shows how the slowdown has affected the automobile industry.”
More than 30,000 workers, both contractual and permanent, have been fired out of a total of two lakh in about 400 companies, he added.
In fact, workers in lakhs have been laid off by small and medium-scale companies across sectors over the past few months.
Corroborating the string of lay-offs, another employee of Rane TRW Steering Systems Pvt Ltd told Newsclick, "There are several labourers, including painters and helpers, who were enrolled in the company for so many years, have all lost their jobs. We are engineers and maybe have better prospects of getting another job, but they do not have any degree, how will they sustain after losing their jobs?"
Newsclick also approached media in-charge of Rane TRW Steering Systems Pvt Ltd to get the company’s response, but they refused to comment.