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Contractual Workers on Strike at Proterial’s (Hitachi) Manesar Plant for Reinstatement of Colleagues

The conflict has been brewing between the contractual workers and management at Hitachi’s successor unit in Manesar for over a year.
Contractual Workers on Strike at Proterial’s (Hitachi) Manesar Plant for Reinstatement of Colleagues

Image Courtesy: Justdial

A strike initiated by contractual workers at Proterial (previous name Hitachi Metals) India's Manesar plant on June 30 has continued, following the contentious shift change enforced upon three workers that day.

Previously, approximately 40 contractual workers, including three union leaders who had been advocating for workers' demands over the past year and a half, were terminated by the management on allegations of hindering production and disciplinary issues in May. The current strike demands the reinstatement of the suspended workers and the implementation of a previously submitted demand charter, according to the sources.

Key Issues: Plight of Contract Workers at Hitachi's Manesar Plant

The primary allegation against the management pertains to the role of temporary workers, who are said to perform tasks typically assigned to permanent workers but receive wages defined for temporary employment. The workers' demand charter highlights the lack of promotion and job title changes since joining the workforce, as most workers started as helpers but performed the duties of operators while receiving wages as helpers. This dissatisfaction has led to numerous conflicts between the workers and the management over the past year.

Proterial, formerly known as Hitachi Metals, is a Japanese multinational corporation with businesses in information technology, electronics, power systems, social infrastructure, and industrial equipment. The Manesar plant of the firm is involved in manufacturing the parts of electronic products.

All 250 temporary workers remain on strike, resulting in a complete production halt at the plant. The union alleges that the management has employed approximately 25 temporary workers to maintain production, a decision that was strongly opposed by the striking workers.

The situation has progressively worsened in recent months.

Speaking anonymously to NewsClick, a terminated union leader belonging to Proterial (Hitachi) Theka Majdoor Union confirmed the deteriorating conditions under which they are compelled to work, such as the management occasionally turning off fans in the heat and several instances of halted meal services, especially after the workers started off demanding the implementation of the demand charter that was submitted to the management a year ago.

Another representative of the workers, who participated in meetings with the management, shared with NewsClick that no agreement was reached during negotiations yesterday. Of the 250 workers on strike, 240 are inside the factories, while ten are outside the premises. The representative stated that the management rejected all the demands, including salary increments and legal leaves, which were narrowed down from an initial list of demands.

Primary Demands and the Journey Towards Resolution

The workers' demands include securing permanent positions for those who have completed more than 240 days of service, an annual salary increment of 15%, and implementing company leave policies. According to workers, the demand charter has been pending with the management for the past year, with no resolution facilitated by the labour department. During the strike, two workers were admitted to the hospital due to heat exhaustion inside the factory as the management had shut down the fans on the premises.

Shyambir from Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra spoke with NewsClick. He shed light on the situation at Hitachi and highlighted similar instances in other industrial factories in the Gurgaon region, where temporary workers assume the tasks of permanent employees for significantly lower wages.

"In India, the contractual workers have limited collective bargaining power because most industrial units do not allow the contractual workers to form a union. We have a clear example of Bellsonica

where granting membership to two temporary workers became a major point of contention for the management, leading to attacks on the union by the management", he adds.

He further asserted that assigning permanent work to temporary workers constitutes a clear violation of labour laws, but Hitachi's management appears to be flouting Indian labour regulations.

In the meantime, a meeting between the workers and management, in the presence of the labour commissioner, is scheduled for today. Further updates will be provided once the outcome of the meeting is known. A mail has also been sent to Hitachi's management inquiring about the strike and demands, and the article will be updated upon receiving their comments.

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