New Delhi: Thousands of auto workers in Manesar in Haryana staged a demonstration on Sunday against what they called it, “neo-liberal economic” and “privatisation” policies of the Narendra Modi–led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. The workers, among other things, also expressed solidarity with the protesting students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who are demanding a complete rollback of the hiked hostel fee.
Led by Bellsonica Auto Component India Employees Union, the workers took out a march against growing contractualisation of labour in the industrial belt amidst the economic slowdown. The burden of the crisis is being shifted on the working class, with the Modi government only furthering the process, the workers said.
Various employees unions of leading automobile companies, namely, Maruti, Hero, Bajaj among others joined the demonstration. The protest also saw participation by the agitating contractual workers of Manesar’s Honda plant.
Apart from the steadily declining figures – the GDP growth rate and industrial production –- reflecting growing economic distress and slowdown, Bellsonica’s Union President Jasbir Singh explained what the crisis meant for the industry workers
While speaking with Newsclick, Singh said: “In the Gurugram-Manesar region, well over 2.5 lakh workers have been laid off till now. The ones, not retrenched, are witnessing major cuts in wages”, adding that contractual staff in every facility was the worst off, as they are the first to feel the heat of cost- cutting measures adopted by managements.
Striking a different note, Singh also dwelled upon how industrialists were coping with the economic slowdown by trampling on workers’ rights “by employing more and more workers on contractual basis”. Such workers “receive meagre wages, no social benefits and are easy to retrench in case the production sees another dip,” he added.
On November 28, the Modi government introduced a new draft of Industrial Relations Code in the Lok Sabha.
In addition to restricting the formation of trade unions and controlling industrial actions, the Bill also seeks to provide legislation to for ‘fixed term employment’ -- a system that allows companies to hire workers on fixed term contract of any duration.
“We have seen how the intolerable level of exploitation that the NEEM (National Employability Enhancement Mission) trainees and apprentices face in industrial plants. In the name of acquiring skills, the young workers become cheap labour for companies,” Singh said.
The workers also extended support to protesting Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students. Condemning the recent lathi-charge action of the Delhi police on students, the union leaders highlighted the significance of affordable public education for the nation’s development.“Public universities like JNU ensure children of workers also receive education. The government fears that because then the system will be questioned and the present economic realities will get challenged,” Singh added.