Chowel India and Dongsun workers were arrested for conducting a protest in front of Hyundai India company in Chennai yesterday, July 12. The workers, under the banner of Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), were trying to submit a petition over the closure of the two companies which are subsidiaries of the automotive giant Hyundai. About 150 workers along with the CITU Kanchipuram district leaders Kannan Sounderrajan and E Muthukumar were arrested by police in the night and then later released.
Both Chowel and Dongsun are the subsidiaries of Hyundai. When the companies started facing resistance from the workers over violation of their rights, the management closed down the plants. The machinery from the companies were removed to another subsidiary company named Hwashin Automotive India (HAI). The reason cited to remove the machinery was that the machinery belongs to their mother company Hyundai. This is why the workers decided to submit a petition to the Hyundai management.
“Workers’ rights are being violated in Hyundai subsidiaries,” said Muthukumar. “Our fight is against all such issues. Hyundai and all such MNCs should follow the rules and regulations in this country. They are the main reason behind a major chunk of the issues the workers are facing.” So far, the managements have not responded to any of the workers’ demands, said Kannan Soundarrajan. CITU, will continue leading the struggle and find new ways to pressurise the management and government, he added.
Also read: Striking Workers and Leaders of Chowel India Limited Arrested at Midnight for Protest
However, the government’s apathetic attitude towards the struggles of workers continues. In some cases like the Asahi protest, the district authorities have intervened to find a solution. But, in the case of Chowel and Dongsun, only the labour commission tried to intervene, that too, in vain.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has declared projects worth over hundreds of crores over the past few weeks in an attempt to give the state an investment friendly face.
Chowel and Dongsun Issue
CITU has been leading the workers’ struggle in these companies for the past few months now. Dongsun has been closed for about two years now, while Chowel was shut down a few months back. The workers from both companies have formed unions under CITU to resist the labour violations. After this, the management had tried to harass the union bearers through different ways and then tactfully led the company to closure without intimating the workers. They have been on protest ever since.
On May 19, workers from the Chowel factory in Sriperumbudur were arrested for protesting against the removal of machinery from the company. On that day, 149 workers were manhandled and arrested by the police.
According to a report, Hwashin, the main vendor stripped the materials under the claim that the materials belonged to Hyundai, their customer. Hwashin got a court order on April 15 which allowed them to remove the machinery from Chowel. But their first attempt to do so was blocked by the workers on April 28. When a Memorandum of Understanding was reached between Hwashin and the workers directly, they worked for ten days based on it. Then on May 19, Hwashin removed the machinery with the assistance of a huge police force.
Also read: TN Automotive Workers’ Protests Continue, Asahi Workers on Strike Against Unlawful Suspension
On June 27, workers protested outside Hwashin demanding their jobs back or the machines. When the protest did not yield any results, the workers went on locked down the company for hours on June 28. It was only then that the management agreed to meet the workers and received the memorandum submitted by the union. They agreed to discuss the memorandum and to get back to the workers in two weeks time.
Violating Labour rights a trend
Chennai is known as the ‘Detroit of India’ due to the huge presence of automotive companies. Many of these are subsidiaries of international giants like Hyundai and Yamaha. Ill treatment of workers and ignoring the legal framework for workers’ rights is a major concern in this sector. The state has been witnessing a series of protests among these companies for a couple of years now.
To transfer machinery and employees from one company to another in the name of working for a common company is becoming a pattern among many automotive companies in the state. The companies which are stripped off close down, but without affecting the production for the main company. In this process, it is the workers who are forced to bear the brunt.
Also read: Transfers, Suspensions, Dismissals Mark Royal Enfield Struggle in TN