Workers of the two Royal Enfield production units in the Sriperumbudur–Oragadam industrial belt have accused their management of making malicious attempts to destroy the vibrant trade union in the company.
The management has allegedly set up two parallel trade unions and is forcefully inducting these young workers into it. They are also accusing the management of forcefully deducting union levy from their monthly salaries.
When these moves were resisted by the workers, the management is said to have intimidated them with transfers and loss of jobs.
In 2019, 120 workers were transferredfor being part of the trade union, and a court case against it is underway.
The two plants of the motorcycle manufacturer together employ around 2,000 permanent and more than 3,000 contract workers.
MANAGEMENT FORCEFULLY SET UP UNION
Royal Enfield workers have been fighting for their basic right to unionise and be recognised for some years now. But they have been targetted and victimised by the management for the same.
Under the leadership of the Royal Enfield Employees Union (REEU), affiliated to the Working People Trade Union Council (WPTUC), workers have raised the demand for wage revision and permanent employment of workers from 2018.
In 2019, workers protested against the management’s decision to lay off 500 plus workers. The Union filed a court case against the management, and in response, the workers were threatened with punitive action. However, after continued resistance from the union, the management agreed to retain the workers and the case was withdrawn.
Also read: Transfers, Suspensions, Dismissals Mark Royal Enfield Struggle in TN
Workers who were on the verge of being fired were retained due to union intervention, and this did not go down well with the management. It has been reportedly trying many methods to wreck the organised efforts of workers to fight for their rights and sabotage the trade union.
The major effort towards that effect was the setting up of the two trade unions by the management, one each for the two plants - namely ‘Oragadam Royal Enfield Workers' Welfare Union’ and the ‘Vallam Royal Enfield Collaborative Union’.
The necessary membership signatures required from the workers for starting the union were forcefully taken from them. The 500 plus workers who were retained in their jobs were in return asked to sign the union membership forms.
The forcefully signed paper apparently also highlighted that the worker promises not to engage in trade union activities. The management is threatening the employees with this document saying that they will take it up legally.
‘THIS GOES AGAINST THE LAW’
Commenting on this, lawyer Karl Marx said, “Measures to break the existing trade union amounts to unfair labour practice. They cannot do so.”
S Kannan, deputy general secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Union- Tamil Nadu, said, “By forming an alternate union, the management is trying to divide the workers. A few workers will be given preferences and favouritism by the management for going against workers' unity. These workers would gain some benefits in the short term, but in the long term it will reap no results.”
Dinesh Babu, the secretary of REEU, told NewsClick that, “Around 120 workers have already been transferred to other states for organising themselves under a trade union and waging struggles against the management. This is the management’s way of intimidating workers for raising their voices.”
A court case filed against these targeted transfers under Disputes Act, 1947 is underway.
Karl Marx added, “The court order directed towards a conciliation between the Union and the management, which failed. The Union further filed an appeal, and the case is still on.”
‘DON’T PUNISH US FOR UNION WORK’
Workers are being reportedly targetted, and given warning letters, charge sheets and show cause notices for being a part of the REEU. The employees are demanding the management to stop threatening workers with punitive action for engaging in trade union activities.
A worker who was given a charge sheet said, “I openly admitted that I was in the union, and I continue to face the consequences of that.”
He further said, “They are going as far as talking to my family members in their attempt to stop my activities.”
The immediate demand of the union, however, is that the management should stop running parallel unions, and should stop deducting the so-called union levy from their salaries. They are also demanding for the money so far deducted to be credited back.