Thousands of regular and contract workers of the Manesar plant of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Ltd. (HMSI) have been protesting against layoffs since November 5, 2019.
About 2000 regular and contract workers sat inside the plant premises, demanding that the management stop layoff of contract workers. The workers were agitated that the management of the company had thrown out another 200 contract workers onto the street. Hundreds of contract workers of the plant who had been thrown out since February have joined the agitation, sitting at the gate of the Manesar plant.
The struggle of the HMSI workers union in defense of contract workers has been supported by many trade unions and workers organisations. On November 12, the management of HMSI announced the suspension of operations in the Manesar plant blaming the trade union of the workers of the Manesar plant for “instigating” contract workers to prevent production.
In a statement, the management justified the shutting down of production in the plant saying “The union repeatedly asked contractual workers to continue with their illegal strike and instigated them to sit inside the company premises. The management and contractors persuaded them verbally and by a written notice to resume normal operations but illegal activities of the union, company workers and contractual workers went on.”
At the beginning of this year, the Manesar plant of HMSI employed about 5,000 workers. Of these, about 1900 workers were regular workers, and the rest were on contract. Since then, nearly a thousand contract workers have been thrown out of their jobs. The management has justified this citing production cuts, because of decline in demand. According to Ramesh Pradhan, secretary general of the plant’s labour union, from 6,000 a day, the number of two-wheelers produced at the plant was cut to 3,500 by November. “They kept retrenching the number of contractual workers – nearly 1,000 in total since early-2019,” he said.
HMSI is the second largest two wheeler manufacturing company in India. The Manesar plant, set up in 1999, is HMSI’s oldest manufacturing facility in the country with an installed capacity of 1.65 million units a year.
While the regular workers of HMSI earn between Rs 50,000 – 60,000 a month, the contract workers are paid between 18,000 – 22,000 a month. Many contract workers have worked for years on end at HMSI under one or another contractor employed by the management. The contract workers have always been demanding that they be regularized. Now, however, in the conditions of the slowdown in the auto industry, they are being mercilessly thrown out of their jobs. The contract workers are opposing this. Simultaneously, they are demanding that every retrenched contract worker be given Rs 1 lakh for every year he has worked in the plant.