Protesting contractual staff of Honda attending a public meeting in Manesar. Image Courtesy - Facebook
Escalating tensions among the staff at the Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) plant in Manesar, the management has now halted revision of salaries of nearly 1,900 permanent workers until next year. The three-year wage revision was supposed to happen in August 2018; however it has been deferred since then.
Citing slowdown in vehicle demand and falling revenues as the primary reason, the Honda management has further delayed the wage settlement, reported The Indian Express. The last wage revision happened in August 2015.
Though there is no “official communication” from the management’s end, HMSI Employees’ Union President Suresh Gaur told NewsClick, “[The news of] further delay in salary hike is doing the rounds among the staff. The management had long back stopped attending the settlement talks and there are no indications in sight that the situation will improve in any manner,” he said.
On the other hand, the casual staff of the Manesar’s facility continue to stage demonstration against the Honda management, with Thursday marking the 52nd day of the indefinite protest of around 2,500 contract workers.
As told by the protesting casual workers to NewsClick, the management has remained “indifferent” in the face of the labour unrest. “Forget reaching consensus with the protesting staff; the management has instead hired a workforce of around 800 non-permanent workers to keep the Assembly lines moving,” said Radheshyam, a protesting contract worker at Honda.
This army of non-permanent workers include a batch of contract workers and trainees, who are hired under various schemes such as National Employability Enhancement Scheme (NEEM) and National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS).
Trainees constitute the majority of the workforce that is employed, in addition to the permanent staff, to tackle the ongoing economic crisis, NewsClick has learnt. They are cheap, socially vulnerable, and above all, are facilitated by the training programs sponsored by the Indian state itself!
What’s more, the hiring of non-permanent workers, replacing the protesting contract staff in the case of Honda is “illegal”, according to Gaur. He said: “At times when the conciliation proceedings are pending with the Labour Department, the management cannot make such hirings as it puts pressure on the workers to compromise.”
The employees’ union has approached the labour department regarding the same, added Gaur, who himself is serving his suspension period. Eight permanent workers, including the president and general secretary of the union, were suspended in the past owing to their participation in the demonstration staged by the casual staff.
The workers are protesting against the retrenchments of the contractual staff. Owing to a slump in demand, around 700 contract workers were laid off earlier in August and another 200 were retrenched on November 5, which led to the ongoing labour stir.
Amidst the slowdown, labour standards have worsened and this phenomenon can be observed within almost every facility in the Gurugram-Manesar industrial belt, informed Sham Murti of Automobile Industry Contract Workers’ Union (AICWU) to NewsClick. “It is an industry-wide fight of the contract workers,” he said, adding that there is a need for them “to collectively emerge as a single force” irrespective of the company that they are employed in.
Meanwhile, Trade Union Council (TUC), a joint body which comprises of Central Trade Unions, namely, CITU and AITUC, has called the Honda workers—both permanent and contractual—to join the nation-wide General Strike on January 8.
To prepare for the same, a meeting has been scheduled on the coming Saturday, added Gaur.
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