ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Workers' Struggle at Maruti

The exploitation, oppression and dishonesty that lie at the heart of India's automobile revolution.

Maruti Suzuki India recently launched its popular hatchback car – the Swift – to a massive publicity and media blitz. Given the company’s reputation that has been built up over the last three decades, the car already has over 80,000 bookings and the number keeps going up by the day. However, the buyers are not likely to get their car in a hurry b ecause the factory in Manesar, Haryana, where the new Swift is to be produced, has been the site of a workers’ struggle for the past three months. There has been little media coverage of the event, except in the financial press, which has reported it in terms of disruption of production. The “problems” are seen as the work of pesky outsiders (trade unionists) and politically a mbitious workers “misguiding” their colleagues.

With the media refusing to report on conditions in the Manesar plant, it has been left to the workers to present the facts to the outside world. The actual working conditions, as described in i ndependent reports and websites, are oppressive, to say the least. There are about 3,000 workers at Manesar, with a large number on contract. Salaries range from Rs 6,000 a month to about Rs 18,000 for senior permanent workers. Each worker handles about 600 cars a day in his shift of eight hours, which implies that each worker’s action is limited to much less than a minute. The workers get no more than a 7-minute tea/snack/ urinal break and another 20-minute lunch break every day. No medical or casual leave is allowed and each day’s absence costs a worker Rs 1,500, while even a minute’s delay in reaching the a ssembly line after his tea or lunch break costs him half a day’s wage. There are various other issues relating to working conditions which the workers have been wanting to raise but have not voiced since the official union is a management controlled body. The workers have been agitating for an independent u nion of their own for the past few months and have formed the Maruti Suzuki Employees’ Union (MSEU) with workers of the plant as its office-bearers. The management and Haryana’s l abour department have refused to recognise the MSEU and n egotiate with them.

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