On 27th November, thousands of workers of the Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) plant in Manesar, Haryana took out a militant rally through the streets of Manesar and Gurugram to oppose the massive retrenchment of nearly a thousand contract workers. Apart from the workers of HMSI, workers from a number of auto component plants in Manesar and Gurugram participated in the rally to extend their support to the fighting Honda workers.
HMSI is a Japanese owned multinational which is one of the largest two wheeler manufacturers in the country. It has four plants in India, including the Manesar unit. Like in other auto companies in the country, production in HMSI Manesar is based on super exploiting the labour of thousands of contract workers. In the Manesar plant, over 60% of the five thousand workers who were working in the plant at the beginning of 2019 were contract workers. Many have worked for over ten years in the plant. They do the same work as the regular workers, while they are paid less than half the wages that regular workers are paid. Further, they can be retrenched without any notice.
Since August 2019, HMSI Manesar has retrenched nearly a thousand contract workers. When the management issued notice in early November that nearly 250 workers would be retrenched citing production cuts, workers decided to fight back. On 5th November, the contract workers of the plant began an indefinite strike against the layoffs. Many of them sat inside the plant premises, while others sat outside the gate. They were joined by the nearly 2000 regular workers of the plant. Their demands — all contract workers who had worked for more than ten years in the plant must be made regular workers, all other contract workers must be taken back into their jobs. They also demanded that failing the above, the management must pay Rs 1 lakh compensation per year of service to any contract worker who is thrown out of his job.
The struggle of the workers of the HMSI plant at Manesar has attracted wide support from workers all across the industrial belt of Gurugram and Manesar. According to estimates, there are nearly 15 lakh workers working in the nearly 1000 auto and auto components sector in this industrial belt. Over the years, the majority of companies have been cutting down on the permanent workers and increasingly resorting to contract labour for production.
On 11th November, the management of HMSI Manesar announced that production was indefinitely shut down because of the strike.
On 19th November, workers’ representatives met the Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chauthala and Haryana Labour Commissioner Nitin Yadav in Chandigarh. According to reports, the workers decided to vacate the factory premises and continue their struggle outside on the basis of assurances from the Haryana government that their demands would be met.
On 22nd November, thousands of workers marched from IMT Manesar to the Mini Secretariat in Gurugram to submit a letter of demands to the deputy commissioner. Workers from numerous other factories in the industrial belt participated in this march which covered over 18 KM.
On the same day, the management of HMSI suspended 6 permanent workers, including the President and General Secretary of the union.
It announced resumption of production in the factory from November 25 onwards. Notices have been issued to separate batches of workers to report for duty on different dates. The management is also trying to induce a section of contract workers to break their strike by offering them jobs under new contractors.
The development of the struggle of workers of HMSI Manesar shows clearly how the government and the Labour Department are completely in the service of the multinational owners of HMSI. Many workers are feeling that vacating the premises of the factory on the basis of assurances of the government and the management was a mistake. However, far from being disheartened, workers have resolved to intensify their struggle for their just demands. The protests at the gate of HMSI Manesar continues. The march of workers on November 27 has been aimed at sending the message to workers of the whole industrial belt that the struggle continues.