சட்ட விரோத ஆலை மூடுதல் – கும்மிடிப்பூண்டி கிரீவ்ஸ் தொழிலாளர்கள் உள்ளிருப்பு போராட்டம்

September 20th, 2014 No comments

UPDATE : 6 வது நாளாக உள்ளிருப்பு போராட்டம் கைவிடப்படாமல் இருக்கும் நிலையில், நேற்று தொழிலாளர்களை அழுத்தம் கொடுத்து வெளியேற்றும் வகையில் குழாய் நீர் வசதி துண்டிக்க பட்டிருக்கிறது. மின் இணைப்பும் துண்டிக்கப்பட உள்ளதாக தெரிகிறது.

கும்மிடிபூண்டி SIPCOT தொழிற்சாலை வளாகத்தின் மிக பழமையான பெரும் நிறுவனங்களில் ஒன்றான Greaves Cotton Construction Equipment Business (CEB) ஆலை தொழிலார்கள் 300 க்கும் மேற்பட்டோர் திடீர் வேலை பறித்தலை தவிர்க்க போராடி வருகின்றனர். விதிகளுக்கு உட்பட்ட முன் அறிவிப்போ அரசாங்க அனுமதியோ இல்லாத ஆலை மூடலையும் அதை தொடர்ந்த பணி இழப்பையும் சட்ட விரோத அநீதியாக குற்றஞ்சாட்டி, ஒப்பந்த பணியாளர்களுடன் சேர்ந்து 150 நிரந்தர பணியாளர்கள் எதிர்த்து கொண்டிருக்கின்றனர். 15.9.2014 அன்று, ஜனநாயக தொழிற்சங்க மையம் (DTUC) தலைமையில் தொழிலாளிகள் கதவை உடைத்து சென்றே, ஆலை நிர்வாகத்தின் ஒடுக்குமுறைகளை கண்டிக்கும் உள்ளிருப்பு போராட்டத்தை தொடர வேண்டி இருந்திருக்கிறது.

சந்தேகத்திற்குரியவாறு இரண்டு மாத விடுப்பு அறிவித்திருந்த 11.08.2014 தேதியிட்ட நோட்டீசை திரும்ப பெற கோரி, DTUC தலைமையில் தொழிலாளிகள் வாயில் கதவை உடைத்து உள்ளே சென்று தொடர்ந்து போராட தொடங்கி இருந்தனர். செவி கொடுக்காத நிர்வாகம், அடுத்த நாளே தற்காலிகமாக உற்பத்தியை ரத்து செய்வதாக தெரிவித்தது இணையதளத்தில் பதிவாகி உள்ளது. அதன் பின்னர் அறிவிப்பை 24.08.2014 அன்று நிர்வாகம் திரும்பபெற்ற போதும், நிறுவனத்தை விற்க போவதாக (தற்போது உறுதியாகி உள்ள) தகவல்கள் வெளிவந்தன. மேலும் தொழிலாளி விரோத போக்கை கைவிடாத நிறுவனம், உற்பத்திக்கான இயந்திரங்களை நகர்த்தி வந்தது மட்டும் அல்லாமல், ஆலையை (Heavy Engineering Unit I, II) நிரந்தரமாக இழுத்து மூடுவதாகவே கடந்த 13.9.2014 அன்று அறிவித்துள்ளது. ” நஷ்டம் ஏற்பட்டுள்ளது “, அதாவது லாபம் குறைந்தது, என்ற பொய்யான காரணத்தை நம்ப வைக்க முயற்சிக்கின்ற அறிக்கையையே இணையதளத்திலும் வெளியிட்டிருப்பதாக தெரிகிறது. ரூ.1700 கோடிகள் மதிப்புள்ள கிரீவ்ஸ் காட்டன் தொழிற்சாலையானது 1859 இல் ஆங்கிலேய முதலாளிகளின் கட்டுப்பாட்டில் இயங்க ஆரம்பித்து, 1947 இல் இருந்து Thapar Group of Companies இன் முக்கிய அங்கமாக இருந்திருக்கிறது. இக்குழுமத்தின் மற்றும் ஒரு கிளை தான் உலகமறிந்த Crompton Greaves நிர்வாகத்திற்கு பொறுப்பு என்பது குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது.

தொழிற்சங்க உரிமையை கூட அங்கீகரிக்காத Greaves Cotton Ltd., சில மாதங்களுக்கு முன் 200-250 ஒப்பந்த தொழிலாளர்களை எந்த விளக்கங்களும் அளிக்காமல் வேலையை விட்டு நீக்கியும் இருக்கிறது. பத்துக்கும் மேல்பட்ட நிரந்தர தொழிலாளர்களை ’attendance deficit’ இன்
பெயரிலும் ‘உற்பத்தி குறைவின்’ பெயரிலும் பணி நீக்கம் செய்திருக்கிறது. உயர் நிர்வாகிகளுக்கு குறைந்தது ரூ.40 Lakh p.a என்றும், ITI பயிற்சி பெற்ற ஆரம்ப நிலை தொழிலாளிக்கு மாதம் ரூ.7000 கு கீழ் ஊதியம் என்றும் முதலாளித்துவ தர்க்கத்தை அப்படியே பின்பற்றி தான் வந்திருக்கிறது. 20 இல் இருந்து 37 வருட உழைப்பு போட்டவர்களுக்கும் ரூ.20,000 மட்டுமே அதிகபட்ச சம்பளம்!

சட்டத்தில் வழிவகுத்து இருப்பதை விட ‘VRS திட்டம்’ போன்ற நஷ்ட ஈடுகள் மிகையானவை என்று கட்டாயப்படுத்தும் நடவடிக்கைகள், தொழிலாளி ஒற்றுமைக்கு ஈடு கட்ட முடியாமல் இருப்பது தெளிவாகிறது. தொழிற் தகராறு சட்டத்தின் கீழ் 100 க்கும் அதிகமான தொழிலாளர்கள் பணி செய்யும் ஒரு நிறுவனத்தை அரசின் அனுமதி இன்றி மூட இயலாது. மோடியின் BJP அரசு புதுப்பிக்க துடிக்கும் முடங்கிய திட்டங்கள், நில கையகப்படுத்தல் மற்றும் சுற்றுச்சூழல் ஒப்புதல்களின் ‘தேக்கம்’ (அதாவது ஒட்டுமொத்த கட்டுமான தொழில் சந்தை போக்கின் “underperformance”) காரணமாககூட, Greaves Cotton விற்பனை மதிப்பீடு குறையுமென அச்சத்தில் மூழ்கியதாக இல்லை. அதிலும் விவசாய உபகரண உற்பத்திக்கு மானியம், Overtime உழைப்பு வார இறுதிக்கு நீண்டாலும் சுரண்டப்படுதல், இப்படி 30% கும் அதிகமாக தொடர்ந்து லாபம் தீட்டி வந்த இந்த நிறுவனம், “நிலை தவறாத வளர்ச்சியினால் மொத்த மதிப்பை ஏராளமாக உயர்த்தி” இந்த நிதி ஆண்டின் முதல் கால் பகுதியில் ‘கடன் அற்ற (debt free)’ தரத்தை அடைந்துள்ளதாக முதலீட்டாளர்களுக்கு விளம்பர படுத்தி கொள்கிறது. தொடர் புதிய தயாரிப்புகளின் வெளியீடும் முக்கிய பின்னடைவுகள் எதையும் குறிப்பதாக தெரியவில்லை. (தொழிலாளர்களின் பேட்டி இங்கே)

வேலை – வாழ்க்கை உத்திரவாதத்திற்கான கோரிக்கைகளை கலைக்க எண்ணும் Greaves Cotton, நீதிமன்றத்தை நாடி இருக்கிற ஏமாற்று தந்திரங்களையும் தொழிலாளர்கள் வீழாமலே எதிர்கொண்டு வருகின்றனர்.

(மேலும் செய்திகளுக்கு இந்த பக்கத்தை கவனிக்கவும், தொடர்புக்கு: கார்கிவேலன் (மையக் குழு உறுப்பினர், ஜனநாயக தொழிற்சங்க மையம் (DTUC)) 9840327140)

Be Sociable, Share!
Categories: Agriculture Tags:

Civil society statement against retrenchment of electronics workers in the name of VRS scheme

July 16th, 2014 No comments

We, civil society organisations from India and around the world are highly concerned about the recent spree of retrenching electronics workers in the Sriperumbudur industrial area in Tamil Nadu, India. The trend was set when Nokia India Pvt. Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Finish multinational Nokia Corporation, started to lay off workers in April 2014. This had a cascading effect on Nokia’s supplier companies. Now, the jobs of thousands of workers in these factories are at stake. The retrenchment of these workers is taking place against a background of a severe tax dispute between the Indian government and Nokia, as well as the announced relocation of Nokia from India to Vietnam.

Read the full statement here:

Civil Society Statement on Nokia and its suppliers in India

Be Sociable, Share!
Categories: Factory Workers Tags:

தொழிற்சாலை விபத்து எனும் உயிர்பலியும், சில சமாளிப்புகளும்

June 26th, 2014 No comments
‘SGH’ என்று அழைக்கப்படும் Sungwoo Gestamp Hitech Ltd. இன் திருபெரும்புதூர் SIPCOT தொழிற்சாலையில் கடந்த ஜூன் 11 அன்று ஏற்பட்ட கொடூர விபத்திற்கான எந்த அடையாளமோ தயக்கமோ இல்லாமல் வேலை தொடர்வது, உழைக்கும் வர்க்கத்திற்கு பழகி போன யதார்த்தங்களில் ஒன்றாகவே வரலாறு நிரூபிக்கிறது. புதன்கிழைமை மாலை 6.45 மணி அளவில் ( இரண்டாவது shift ) விபத்தில் வாசுதேவன் என்கிற 32 வயது நிரந்தர ஊழியர் பலியான செய்தி வெளியே வந்த பின்னர், நாங்கள் அறிந்து கொள்ள முடிந்த விவரங்களையும் சந்தித்த நிகழ்வுகளையும் இங்கே பதிவு செய்கிறோம்.
13 ஆம் தேதி factory வளாகத்திற்கு செல்லும் முன், இணையதளத்தின் வழியாக, SGH Ltd. Chennai தனது பூனே (மகாராஷ்டிரம்) ஆலை போலவே, இங்கும் தென் கொரிய – போர்சுகீய ஒப்பந்தத்தின் கீழ் இயங்குகிறது என்றும், வாகன உற்பத்திக்கு pressed/stamped sheet metal பாகங்கள் supply செய்யும் நிறுவனம் என்றும் தெரிந்து கொள்ள முடிந்தது. இன்று வரை நிர்வாகம் மற்றும் அதன் செயல்பாடுகள் குறித்து கிடைக்கும் தகவல்கள் அவ்வளவு தான். சம்பவம் ஏற்பட்டு ஒரு நாள் கடந்திருந்த பட்சத்தில், ஒரு ‘கண்ணீர் அஞ்சலி’ banner உம் சில துண்டு அறிக்கைகள் மட்டுமே SGH ‘குடும்பம்’ வாசுதேவனின் இழப்பிற்கு இரங்கல் தெரிவிப்பதாய் அறிவித்து கொண்டிருந்தன. அறிக்கையை படித்து கொண்டு இருந்த எங்களை சந்திக்கத்தான் இரண்டு நிர்வாகிகள் உள்ளிருந்து வெளியே ஓடி வருகின்றனர் என்று நினைக்கையிலேயே, அவசரம் அவசரமாக இருவரும் banner ஐ அவிழ்த்து உள்ளே கொண்டு சென்று விட்டனர். இன்னொரு பக்கம் மூன்று uniform அணிந்த தொழிலாளர்கள் எங்கள் அருகே வந்து தொழிலாளர் செயற்குழு பிரதிநிதிகள் ஆக தங்களை அறிமுகம் செய்து கொண்டனர். நாங்கள் அங்கு சென்றிருந்த காரணத்தை தீர அலசிவிட்டு, விபத்தின் விளைவுகள் எல்லா தரப்பிலும் சுமூகமாக அணுகப்படும் நிலையில், அதை பற்றி எழுதி யாரும் “ஒரு சின்ன விஷயத்தை பெரிதாக்குவது தேவையே இல்லை” என்று உறுதி கொடுத்து விட்டு சென்றனர். தொழிலாளர் நலத்துறை மற்றும் ஆலைகள் கண்காணிப்பாளர் மேற்கொள்ள வேண்டிய விசாரணை பற்றிய கேள்விகளுக்கும், ‘மூன்றாவது நபர் குறுக்கிடுதலை’ தவிர்க்கும் வகையில் எல்லாம் நடந்து முடிந்திருப்பதாக தெரிவித்து எங்கள் வருகையின் மீது புரியா எரிச்சலையும் வருத்தத்தையுமே காண்பித்து போயினர். போலீசாரை உடனே ஆஜராக்க தெரிந்த நிர்வாகம், அதன் ஊழியர்களுக்கு யாரிடம் பேச அனுமதி உண்டு என கண்காணிக்கும் அளவிற்கு அதிகாரத்துவத்தையும் அனுபவித்து வருகிறது என்று புரிந்தது.
அங்கே தேநீர் கடை நடத்தும் ஒருவரின் வர்ணிப்பு படி, 5 tonne Stamping அச்சின் (Die) இயக்கத்தில் கோளாறு ஏற்பட்ட சமயத்தில், வாசுதேவனின் உடல் நசுக்கப்பட்டது என்று தெரிகின்றது. புட்லூரை சேர்ந்த அவரின் குடும்பத்தாரிடம் பேசும் போது, காவல்துறை விசாரணை, உண்மை அறியும் முயற்சிகள் இவை எல்லாம் வெளிப்படையாக பின்பற்ற படுவதாகவே தோன்றவில்லை. SGH நிர்வாகம் எந்த விளக்கமும் அளிக்க முன்வராமல் இருப்பது, உயிர் பிரிந்து 4 மணி நேரம் கழித்து கூட குடும்பத்தாருக்கு நேரடியாக தெரியப்படுத்தாமல் இருந்ததின் தொடர்ச்சியாகத்தான் தோன்றுகிறது. இறந்து போன தொழிலாளியின் கைபேசி அழைப்பு பதிவுகளில் அதிகம் அக்கறை செலுத்தி வரும் காவல்துறை, என்ன நோக்கத்தோடு செயல்படுகிறது என்கிற சந்தேகத்தை தான் குடும்பத்தினரால் பகிர்ந்து கொள்ள முடிந்தது. 8 ஆண்டுகள் பணி அனுபவம் கொண்ட திறமைக்காக பாராட்டப்பட்ட வாசுதேவன், இயந்திரத்தை சரிபார்க்கும் போது அஜாக்கிரதையாக நடந்து கொண்டார் என்று கூறி வரும் நிறுவனம், அரசு அதிகாரிகளின் வலியுறுத்தலையும் சாதகமாக்கி கொள்ள ஆர்வம் காட்டும் என்பது யூகிக்க முடியாதது ஒன்றும் அல்ல.
சக ஊழியர் ஒருவர் ஆங்கில பத்திரிகை ஒன்றிற்கு அளித்த தகவல் (http://m.newindianexpress.com/chennai/323193) குறித்து விசாரிக்கையில், ‘Safety Bar’ பழுதடைந்து இருப்பது போக, சென்சார்களே தொடர்ந்து ‘bypass’ செய்ய பட்டு வருகின்றன என்று சொல்ல படுகிறது. இது பல்வேறு sector ஐ சேர்ந்த நிறைய ஆலைகளில் உற்பத்தி நேரம் ‘வீணாகாமல்’ இருப்பதற்கான யுக்தியாகவே சகஜமாக்கப் பட்டிருப்பதை தொழிலாளர்கள் பொது கவனித்தற்கு கொண்டு வர முயற்சித்து கொண்டு தான் இருக்கின்றனர்.
தீர்வுக்கு ஒன்றும் பதட்ட பட வேண்டியதில்லை – Mileage, spare parts, engine speed, accessories இப்படி வங்கி கடனுக்கு தகுதியான ஒவ்வொரு இன்பத்தையும் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கும் காலத்தில், உயிர்களுக்கான விலையும் ‘rating’ கு வசதியான எண்ணாக மாற்றப்படனும், அவ்வளவு தானே?
Be Sociable, Share!

A Chance Encounter

June 25th, 2014 2 comments

Abhishek Saha accompanied a carpenter on his maiden travel on the Delhi Metro

The other day, while returning from work, a teenaged boy—wearing a loose-fit trouser and a faded red t-shirt, his hair in a mess—approached me at the Rajiv Chowk metro station. He looked bewildered.

Bhaiya, Noida City Centre ke liye kaunsi metro leni hai?1 he asked.

Since I was going to Mayur Vihar, I asked him to wait there itself with me. I told him that he would have to board the same train as I. He was a little doubtful, but then nodded. Waiting for the Noida-bound metro to snake into the platform, I asked him where he had come from.

Humara naam Pankaj hai. Hum Samastipur se hain,2 he said. Like a true Bihari, he referred to himself in the plural.

I asked him what brings him to Delhi.

Before he could answer, the metro entered the station and halted. After the customary beep, its doors opened and a sea of humanity poured out onto the platform.

Hum carpenter aur plumber ka kaam karte hain bhaiya. Noida mein ek construction company mein kaam karne aayein hain,3 Pankaj said as we stepped into the train.

His eyes drifted to the electronic destination-map above the compartment door. As the pointer for Noida City Centre glowed red, showing the last stoppage, Pankaj heaved a sigh of relief.

Pichle baar hum HUDA City Centre ke taraf chale gaye the galti se. Iss baar sahi hai.4 He smiled. He could read both Hindi and English, I figured.

Pankaj told me that he had reached Delhi that morning from Bihar, and after paying a visit to his brother, who runs an eatery near the New Delhi metro station, he came to Rajiv Chowk to board a metro to Noida.

I asked him whether it was his first time in Delhi. Shaking his head, he said, “Nahi, pehle bhi kaam kar chuke hain Noida mein. Phir ghar chale gaye the.5 But, he said that it was his first metro ride, as he has always preferred buses in Delhi—koi confusion nahi aur koi checking bhi nahi.6

Pankaj explained that when, in 2012, he failed in his twelfth standard exams and their family was faced with financial constraints he had to start earning.  He moved to Delhi and by apprenticeship and hard work, he soon picked up the tricks of the trade of carpentry and plumbing, and started off on his own.

Now, he boasted, he earns more than what his brother running the eatery in New Delhi does.

Pura sola hazaar rupaye ki kamai,” he said, “har mahine pitaji ko bhejte hain. Wo uss paise ko kheti mein laga dete hain.7

I was intrigued. You do keep something for yourself, Pankaj, don’t you?

Nahin, pura paisa bhej dete hain. Yahan akela aadmi kuch karke reh lete hain.8

He added that his brother helps him out sometimes with his daily expenses—food and lodging.

I asked him why he chose to be a carpenter and that too in Delhi. Why not in Samastipur, or for that matter in Patna?

Keeping his gaze fixed on the passing landscape through the window—the colossal Akshardham temple, sparkling in the glare of the night lamps—Pankaj said, “Bihar mein log mazak udaenge, ki dekho school mein fail karke mazdoor ban gaya.9

He went on. “Yahan hum izzat se kaam karke paisa kaama rahein hai. Aur itna paisa peon type ki naukri mein kabhi nahi kama pate.10

He said that the agricultural activity in their farm was going well unlike earlier times. Wheat and maize cultivation has been quite good this season—around 30 quintals each.

I asked him about Noida, whether he likes it as a place to live in and work.

Noida achchi jagah hai shayad… aap jaise logon ke liye,”11 he said nonchalantly. I was slightly taken aback.

Kyun?12 I asked

Matlab, hamare liye kya acha kya bura. Ek ghar banate hain, phir wo ban jane ke baad wahan se chale jatein hein kahin aur13

I couldn’t disagree. I nodded.

Aur carpentry ka kaam kaisa hai bhaiya?14

Risk hai15

He explained that sometimes he has to stand on wooden platforms barely 9 inches wide against the outer side of a window on the uppermost floors of twenty-storeyed buildings and make certain fittings.

Safety belt nahi detein hain aapko?16

Kabhi kabhi dete hain. Lekin humko nahin lagta ki agar bees talle se girenge toh uss belt se kuch ho paega.17

Pankaj yawned, looked around and observed our co-passengers—people irrespective of class and creed, from corporate employees to daily-wage labourers like Pankaj himself. I observed that his hair was powered with dust, probably the manifestation of a general compartment travel from Bihar to Delhi.

Aap kya karte hain bhaiya?18 he asked me after a while. I told him I was a ‘patrakar19.

Matlab paper mein aapka likha chapta hain?20

Lying, I nodded.

I asked him, then, of his own future plans—if he wanted to take his class 12 exams again.

Nahi bhaiya, hum toh AITT ka exam denge, form fill up kar diye21

I later found out that AITT stood for All India Trade Test which is conducted by the National Council of Vocational Training (NCVT). Skilled technical workers both private candidates and ITI pass outs can appear for this exam, and after succeeding in it the worker is awarded the National Trade Certificate in the concerned trade. That certificate, Pankaj told me, easily paves your way to public sector jobs.

He said, “Aap ko pata hai ki bathroom mein floor se kitna upar basin fit karte hain?22

I shook my head.

Latrine ka flush kaise kaam karta hai?23

I answered in the negative, again. I didn’t tell him that I had graduated as a civil engineer.

He grinned and said, “Yahi sab puchega exam mein. Likh denge… hum ko aata hai.24

The metro soon chugged into Mayur Vihar. I wished him luck for his exam and started pushing my way towards the door.

Phir milenge,25 Pankaj said.

Zaroor,26 I said and debarked.

Footnotes

1. Brother, which metro line should I take to reach Noida City Centre?

2. My name is Pankaj. I’m from Samastipur (Bihar).

3. I work as a carpenter and plumber. I’ve come to work with a construction company in Noida.

4. Last time I caught the HUDA City Centre bound metro. This time it’s all right.

5. No, I have worked in Noida before. I had gone home for a few days.

6. There is neither any confusion regarding routes, nor any security checks.

7. I send my entire income of Rs 16,000 to my father. Back home, he spends the money on our farm.

8. No, I send the entire amount home. I live alone in Delhi and don’t have much expenditure; I manage somehow.

9. People in Bihar would have made fun of me, saying that since this boy failed in his Class 12 exams, he has become a labourer.

10. But here, no one disrespects my work and I earn good money. Had I opted for a peon’s job I could have never earned this much.

11. Noida is a good place may be, but only for people like you.

12. Why?

13. I mean, what’s good or bad for us? We build a house and then move away from there after it’s build.

14. And how’s your carpentry going?

15. It’s risky.

16. Don’t they give you safety belts to wear?

17. They give sometimes. But I personally feel that if I fall down from the twentieth storey, then that belt won’t help.

18. Where do you work, brother?

19. Journalist

20. So, are your writings are published in the newspaper?

21. No brother, I will take the AITT exams, have filled up the form.

22. Do you know at what height, from the floor, do we fix the basin in the bathroom?

23. How does the flush in your toilet work?

24. These are the things they will ask in the exam. I know the answers…can write nicely in the exam.

25. See you

26. Definitely

Be Sociable, Share!
Categories: Migrant Workers Tags:

Foxconn workers given marching orders: After Nokia, now Foxconn announces VRS scheme

June 19th, 2014 No comments

Workers of Foxconn International Holding-FIH (formerly Foxconn India Private Limited), located inside Nokia Telecom SEZ Park in Sriperumbadur, were in for a rude shock when they went for their morning shift yesterday (18th June 2014). A Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) notice was stuck on the notice board asking workers to avail the Scheme within two days by 20th June 2014. The ‘Scheme’ made a grand announcement of offering the workers a compensatory package of Rs 75,000 lumpsum money alongwith 10 months salary; 1 month notice period salary; leave salary and gratuity. “Leave salary and gratuity are earned by workers as part of their normal course of employment, it is not a compensation money for ‘retrenching’ them”, (emphasis added) said S Kannan, District Secretary (Kancheepuram) of Centre of Indian Trade Unions. A back of the envelope calculation shows that through this scheme a worker with 8 years of work will get maximum upto Rs 3 lakhs approximately.

In a letter dated 12th May 2014 addressed to Principal Secretary, Labour and Industrial Department Tamil Nadu government, FIH had stated that it was “compelled to down-size” its manpower “substantially to suit the current requirements of our customer”. FIH attributed its ‘compulsion’ to the cut down of production volumes in Nokia plant located inside the SEZ. “In India, our business is substantially dependent on Nokia, Sriperumbadur plant. We are mere Tier-1 suppliers and not OEM manufacturers like Nokia. Therefore, you may appreciate that we have been operating our business under more volume with less thin margin business model”.

Citing transfer of “burden to their (Nokia) vendors” and “cost down measures in order to save the interest of all stake-holders of the Company”, FIH stated that it will be able to offer work to only to 800 workers. As per their letter to the Principal Secretary FIH claims that for past two months 500 workers were found ‘idle’ in the factory to whom they had been “paying salary without any work”. The Company claims that under the present situation of “uncertain status of orders”, they may end up with over 800 “idle workforce”.

The company presently has over 1600 permanent operators in its rolls. It had set up its first plant in 2005 in Irrungattukottai in Sriperumbadur and ran it for 3 months. In April 2006, it set up a plant inside Nokia Telecom SEZ. It has another site in SV Chatram near Sriperumbadur which has 7 plants and a worker’s dormitory. Although only one (1) plant is operating at the moment at the SV Chatram site. At its peak of production, the Company hired over 6000 workers—3600 contract workers, 1000-1500 trainees and 1700 permanent workers.

“Foxconn is much bigger than Nokia. We have over 5 lakhs global workforce. Our production volumes are high, we supply to many companies globally and not just Nokia. If the company wants to run this plant, then they can easily divert some volumes to our plant here and run it. It does not need to downsize workforce. Even now we have orders in this plant. We are assembling 2 types of mobile phones, have orders from ABB (switch) company also,” said Rajni, leader of CITU affiliated Foxconn India Thozhilalar Sangam (FITS) which has about 1044 members in the company. FITS, which has majority members in the Company hasn’t been recognized by the FIH management who have so far preferred to negotiate with LPF (DMK) or ATP (AIDMK) affiliated unions. A long drawn legal battle for recognition of union in FIH has been pending in the High Court and Supreme Court of India since 2012.  (See: Supreme Court to decide the fate of union in Foxconn, Sriperumbadur, 7th November, 2013, http://tnlabour.in/?p=1971)

“I joined Foxconn in November 2006. At that time I was working in Lumax (auto part supplier to Hyundai) as a contract worker for a salary of Rs 4000 per month. Foxconn offered me a permanent job but with a lesser salary of Rs 2900 per month. But I took the job since it was a permanent position and I thought it would be secured even though the salary was low. Foxconn said they will increase my salary to Rs 7000 per month in 2 years. So I decided to join the Company. I have now worked for 8 years and my salary is only Rs 9500 per month. I refused to sign the settlement with the ATP union last year which was deceitfully and undemocratically agreed upon between the management and ATP. Even contract workers with my kind of experience get over Rs 12,000 per month salary. I feel completely cheated and dissatisfied with the Company. My dreams of secured permanent job with a good salary are gone”, lamented Rajni.

For Muruganandam, another Foxconn worker and member of FITS, the situation is also similar. He worked as a trainee in Sungwoo Gestamp Hightech (Chennai) Ltd in 2007 for a salary of Rs 7000 per month. In 2008, he was offered a permanent position with a salary of Rs 3500 in Foxconn. He decided to take the offer as it was a “secured position”. After the first 6 months of probationary period, Muruganandam was given a salary of Rs 4000 per month. “It is the same story for most of us. We were all lured by ‘permanency’ and ‘security’ of the employment. Even though our wages were low, we all decided to take permanent jobs thinking we will get wage hikes as we go along. Company had promised wage hikes to us” said Muruganandam.

As the workers sat discussing their next strategy on how to counter the VRS scheme which seems “inevitable” to them, I re-read the letter from the management which claimed that it was trying to save the interest of “all stake holders”. Certainly it does not seem to consider the workers as stake-holders in the company—they are merely expendable people who can be given a pittance and sent off dictated by company’s profits.

19th June 2014, Sriperumbadur, Kancheepuram

Be Sociable, Share!
Categories: Factory Workers Tags:

ஸ்ரீபெரும்புதூர் தொழிலாளர் தற்கொலை முயற்சி

June 14th, 2014 No comments

காஞ்சிபுரம் மாவட்டத்தில் ஸ்ரீபெரும்புதூர் இன்று தமிழ்நாட்டிலேயே பெரிய அளவில் பல கோடி உற்பத்தி செய்யும் தொழிற்சாலைகளை கொண்டுள்ளது. இங்கு குறிப்பாக வாகனங்கள் தயாரிக்கும் தொழிற்சாலைகள் ஹுண்டாய், மொபைல்கள் தயாரிக்கும் நோக்கியா மற்றும் இத்தொழிற்சாலைகளுக்கு உதிரிபாகங்கள் தயாரிக்கும் தொழிற்சாலைகள் ஏராளம். இவ்வளவு கோடிகள் தயாரிக்கும் தொழிற்சாலைகளில் உள்ள தொழிலாளர்களின் நிலைமையோ கொடுமையானது. அதற்கு உதாரணம் சமீபத்தில் தொழிற்சாலையில் தற்கொலை செய்ய முயன்ற பாலாஜியின் கதையே!

தன்னுடைய வாழ்வை மேம்படுத்தும் கனவுகளோடு ஐ.டி.ஐ முடித்து வேலை தேடும், வேலை செய்யும் இளைஞர்களில் பாலாஜியும் ஒருவர். இங்கு வேலை செய்யும் ஆண் பெண் தொழிலாளர்களின் கனவெல்லாம் ஒரு நல்ல நிரந்தர வேலை, வேலைக்கேற்ற ஊதியம். ஆனால் தொழிற்சாலைகளில் உள்ள நிலைமையோ வேறு. 40-60 சதத் தொழிலாளர்கள் ஒப்பந்த தொழிலாளர்களாகவே அமர்த்தப்படுகின்றனர். வேலை உறுதியின்மை, தங்களுடைய வேலை அனுபவத்திற்கான் கூலி என எதுவும் இந்த தொழிலாளர்களுக்கு கிடையாது.

பாலாஜி ஒப்பந்தத் தொழிலாளராக வேலை செய்தது ஹுண்டாய் நிறுவனத்திற்கு மறைமுகமாக உதரிபாகங்கள் தயாரிக்கும் கொரியா நிறுவனம் YSI Automotive Pvt Ltd ஆகும். இங்கு 36 தொழிலாளர்கள் நிரந்தரமாகவும், 200க்கும் மேற்பட்ட தொழிலாளர்கள் ஒப்பந்த அடிப்படையிலும், 15 தொழிலாளர்கள் டிரெயினிகளாகவும் வேலை செய்கின்றனர். 3 வருடங்களாக ஒப்பந்த தொழிலாளராக வேலை செய்த பாலாஜியின் கடின உழைப்பிற்கு பின் நிறுவனம் அவரை நிரந்தரத் தொழிலாளராக நியமனம் செய்ய முடிவெடுத்தது. 3 வருடம் வேலை அனுபவம் இருந்தும் அவர் திரும்ப டிரெய்னியாக சேர்க்கப்பட்டார். ஏற்கனவே இருந்த அனுபவம் கணக்கிலெடுக்கப்படவில்லை.

மீண்டும் 3 வருடங்களாக பாலாஜி டிரெயினிங் முடித்த வேலையில் தன்னுடைய கனவு நிறைவேறி விடும் என பாலாஜி எதிர்பார்த்த நிலையில் நிர்வாகமோ அவருடைய நியமனம் குறித்து மௌனம் சாதித்து வந்தது. தன்னுடைய பணி நிலைமை தெரியாமல் பாலாஜி தொடர்ந்து 6 மாதங்கள் வேலை செய்து வந்த நிலையில் திடீரென்று அவரும் மற்றொரு தொழிலாளருடைய அனுமதி கார்ட் வேலை செய்ய வில்லை. இந்த அனுமதி கார்ட் தொழிலாளரை தொழிற்சாலைக்கு அனுமதிப்பதுடன், அவருடைய வருகை மற்றும் வேலை நேரங்களை பதிவு செய்யும். பாலாஜி நிர்வாகத்திடம் முறையிட்ட பின் அவரும் இன்னொரு தொழிலாளரும் வருகைபேட்டில் கையெழுத்திட்டு வேலை செய்து வந்தனர்.

ஒரு மாதம் அவ்வாறு வேலை செய்த அவருக்கு ஊதியம் கொடுக்கப்படாமல் மே 8 அன்று நிர்வாகம் அவரை உடனடியாக வேலையை விட்டு நீக்கியது. சமீபத்தில் திருமணம் செய்து சிறு குழந்தை உள்ள நிலையில் வேலை நீக்கம் செய்தால் தான் என்ன செய்ய முடியும் என மன்றாடினார் அவர். ஆனால் அந்த மனித வள நிர்வாக அதிகாரியோ மனசாட்சி இல்லாமல் ‘எங்கேயோ போய் செத்து தொலை!’ என்று கூறியதாக தெரிகிறது. இதனால் மனமுடைந்த பாலாஜி தொழிற்சாலையிலேயே பெயின்ட் தின்னரை குடித்து தற்கொலைக்கு முயன்றுள்ளார்.
உடனடியாக பாலாஜி காஞ்சிபுரத்தில் உள்ள மதுரை மீனாட்சி மருத்துவமனைக்கு எடுத்து செல்லப்பட்டார். காவல்துறையில் முதல் தகவல் அறிக்கை தாக்கல் செய்யாமல் மருத்துவம் செய்ய முடியாது என மருத்துவமனை கூறியவுடன், அவரை நிர்வாகம் ஸ்ரீபெரும்புதூர் ஜெயா மருத்துவமனையில் சேர்த்துள்ளது. அங்கு சிகிச்சை அளித்த மருத்துவர் ‘பெயின்ட் தின்னர் தொண்டை வரைக்கு சென்றதாகவும், இது தற்கொலை முயற்சி அல்ல வெறும் நாடகம்’ எனக் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளதாக தொழிலாளர் குடும்பம் கூறுகிறது. மேலும், சம்பவம் நடந்த அன்றே நிர்வாகம் மேற்படி சிகிச்சைக்கு முன்வராத நிலையில் அவரது குடும்பம் சொந்த செலவில் சிகிச்சை செய்ய நேர்ந்தது. மேலும் இதுகுறித்து காவல்துறையில் கொடுத்த புகாருக்கு, பாலாஜியின் நேரடி வாக்குமூலம் இல்லாமல் காவல்துறை எஃப்ஐஆர் பதிவு செய்ய மறுத்ததாகவும் பாலாஜி நேரடியாக சென்ற பின்னர் முதல் தகவல் அறிக்கை பதிவு செய்யப்பட்டதாகவும் பாலாஜியின் தந்தை கூறினார்.

பாலாஜியின் தற்கொலை முயற்சி குறித்து அறிந்த மற்ற தொழிலாளர்கள் நிர்வாகத்தை அணுகி நியாயம் கேட்க முயன்றபோது, அவர்களை தற்காலிகமாக பணிநீக்கம் செய்து தன் தரப்பிற்கு ஒரு புகாரையும் தந்துள்ளது நிர்வாகம். தற்போது தொழிலாளர் துறை துணை ஆணையரின் தலையீட்டிற்கு பின்னால் புகாரில் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ள 6 தொழிலாளர்களை தவிர்த்த மற்ற தொழிலாளர்கள் மீண்டும் வேலைக்கு அமர்த்தப்பட்டுள்ளனர். ஆனால் பாலாஜி மற்றும் இதர தொழிலாளர்களின் நிலைமை இன்னும் கேள்விக்குறியாகவே உள்ளது.

Be Sociable, Share!

Worker attempts suicide – In the shadow of flexible hiring and firing policy

June 10th, 2014 2 comments

Balaji was considered to be one of conscientious worker of the company so much so that he was on his way to become a permanent worker after 6 years of service. But when management decided that his labour power was not generating enough profit, he was apparently told to ‘Go and die somewhere’ an advice he chose to follow and attempted to commit suicide at worksite of YSI Automative Parts in Singadivakkam near Sriperumbudur. YSI is an indirect auto parts supplier to Hyundai.

As Rajasthan Government aggressively pushes for ‘labour reforms’ meaning flexible hiring and firing policy, what is not being said aloud is that over 90% of today’s labour force is already fired at will with no protection from laws. At YSI, there are 36 permanent workers while the contract workers are 200+ and trainees are around 15 which means close to 85% of the workers work in precarious conditions. Nationally, over 93% of the workers are informal workers either working in informal sectors or as contract workers/trainees in formal sectors. Mere 7% of the existing work force(which includes 3.5% public sector work force) is ‘permanently’ employed and protected by the labour laws including Industrial Disputes Act and Factories Act.

Balaji, an ITI educated in welding, joined YSI as a contract worker himself. For over 3 years he worked as a contract worker, when management offered to make him permanent worker – by ‘promoting’ him as a trainee while doing the same work that he was doing for 3 years as a contract worker. It needed another 3 years of training of before this ITI trained worker could be considered as a permanent worker. If there was to be a silver lining at the end of patient 6 years for Balaji, it quite did not work that way. The management strangely fell silent on the employment status of Balaji and few other coworkers who were eligible for promotion.

As status of their job title was hanging in limbo for over 6 months, things took bizarre turn when Balaji and another co-worker’s access card to the factory did not work, declining access to the factory . On approaching the management, they were told to sign an attendance register and this state of affairs continued for another month. With no salary provided after month of work, Balaji was summoned by HR and was told that his position was terminated immediately on May 8th and he was asked to come on May 12th for his final settlement. Balaji pleaded with HR saying that he had family obligation(he was a newly married with a young child) allegedly prompting HR officer to state ‘Go and die somewhere’.

A distraught Balaji attempted to commit suicide by drinking (paint) thinner at the worksite itself. He was rushed to Madurai Meenakshi Hospital in Kanchipuram who refused to treat him without an FIR filed on the incident as warranted by the law. The management immediately shifted Balaji to Jaya Hospital who not only treated the worker without an incident reporting but also is said to have provided a certificate to the management stating that this was not a suicide attempt. The logic behind the diagnosis was that the thinner was not swallowed completely and did not go beyond the throat which seemed to have proved that this was a drama foisted by the worker and hence was not a suicide attempt!.

As management took over all the case notes related to Balaji’s treatment and refused to pay for any further treatment, the worker’s family had to pay for the continous treatment for Balaji. The following morning, Balaji’s father gave a complaint to the local police station which was converted to an FIR only after repeated insistence by the family and a direct appeal by Balaji inspite of his health. No action has been taken against the FIR so far.

Meanwhile, the management has suspended few workers who protested against the HR after Balaji’s attempted suicide and an FIR was filed by the management against 6 of the workers. After intervention by local labour department, suspension of all all workers except the six workers charged in the FIR have been revoked. The fate of Balaji and the suspended workers are still hanging as they pursue a case against the management in the labour court under Industrial Disputes Act.

Balaji’s case is not an isolated event in the ‘inflexible’ hiring and firing policy that is considered archaic by business community and pro business government. In the previous economic downturn, Hyundai terminated more than 1200 trainees in 2008. As Nokia is embroiled in the court on the tax dispute, contract workers and trainees were let go as early as January of this year. As Nokia looked to downsize further, no law, archaic or otherwise, stopped it from offering ‘VRS’ voluntary retierment scheme to the workers with an immediate 80% reduction in its workforce. Permanent workers in Hyundai, Foxconn, Nokia Siemens Network in Sriperumbudur have been suspended and are fighting their case in the labour court for over more than 3 years under the Industrial Disputes Act. Meanwhile, if Rajasthan Government has its way, even this small legal option will not be available for the workers as they are yet another commodity in the process of capitalist production.

Be Sociable, Share!

Dead Men (of Gujarat) Tell No Tales

May 21st, 2014 1 comment

Amidst a plethora of articles that are being published trying to explain Mr Narendra Modi’s nation-wide popularity leading to BJP’s eventual electoral win in 2014 parliamentary elections, a column by Mr Swaminthan S Anklesaria Aiyar in Times of India caught our attention. In his usual style, exuding confidence, Mr Aiyar attributed Mr Modi’s victory in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to “the message carried home by migrant workers in Gujarat” (How Migrant labourers worked in Modi’s favour, Times of India, May 18, 2014).

Apparently Mr Aiyar found his “biggest, credible explanation” (for Modi’s win) while on a pre-election tour in these states where he quizzed the villagers about Modi. Villagers who were otherwise skeptical of the “vultures who came around promising the moon at election time” were swayed by the ‘tales of good governance’ that migrant workers brought home from Gujarat.

While Mr Aiyar doesn’t explain what these ‘tales’ are since he confesses that these are ‘not very detailed or specific’, one wonders who are these migrant workers that Mr Aiyar refers to?  And might it be possible that there are other ‘tales’ that are never fully told by the workers when they come visiting families after long periods of time?

In their recent analysis of the much touted Gujarat ‘model of development’, economists CP Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh pointed out that while per capita income in Gujarat is 20% higher than rest of the country, the average wages in the state is much lower compared to other states with similar per capital income. Statistics reveal rural wages in Gujarat to be 20 per cent lower and urban wages to be 15 per cent lower. The two economists further looked at the prices of essential consumption items and calculated that if a male casual worker in rural Gujarat finds a job for 25 days (a miracle by itself) then his wage could support only 3.1 people at consumption above the poverty line, which is slightly above the lowest which is 3.0 (in Chhattisgarh), whereas the all India figure is 4.6. (Have workers in Gujarat benefited from “development”? The Hindu Business line, March 31, 2014)

A look at the working conditions in some of the places where the migrant workers work and live tell a far grimmer tale than what Mr Aiyar’s informants might have told him.

The Alang shipbreaking yard in Bhavnagar, located in the coastal Saurashtra region of Gujarat, is one of the biggest such yards in the world. Old ships—oil tankers, freight carriers, luxury cruisers, defence ships from all over the world come here for scrapping to recover steel and other recyclable/reusable materials. An army of over 30,000 migrant workers tear down the ships with gas cutters, saws, hammers, pulling massive steel plates and iron blocks with chains. Local workers don’t work in these dangerous yards. Migrants from Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh, Ganjam district in Odisha, Munger, Saran, Gaya districts of Bihar, different districts of Jharkhand come to work at Alang. In a year 15-20 deaths are known to occur in these yards besides a large number of accidents every month. As recently as March 2014, 2 workers were killed and 3 critically injured when a huge steel plate fell on them while they were working in the night at one of the plots in the yard. The dead workers were from Ganjam district of Odisha. The most common causes for fatal accidents in Alang are falling steel plates, falls from great heights and fires while cutting open the gas or oil filled pipes in the old ship. Besides the accidents, workers in these yards are exposed to high levels of toxic fumes and chemicals from paints and oils in the ships and deadly asbestos fibres that are used in the engine rooms for insulation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Greenpeace/Shailendra Yashwant

A report by a two member Supreme Court appointed committee in 2006 had revealed that 16% of workers in Alang may have contracted asbestosis, a debilitating lung disease caused by exposure to asbestos fibres. The National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad diagnosed 16 cases of asbestosis in Alang in 2006. But till date its not known whether the workers have been compensated or the status of their health since all information has been stonewalled despite repeated Right To Information (RTI) requests by Raghunath Manwar, a former power plant worker and occupational health activist.

In Godhra town of Panchmahal district in Gujarat quartz stone crushing units are wreaking havoc on the environment and health of workers. As early as 1980, a study by NIOH revealed that the levels of silica dust (released during the process of crushing) in the working environment was so high that workers employed there for even six months will contract a fatal lung disease called Silicosis. Workers in these units are mostly migrants from Alirajpur and Jhabua districts in Madhya Pradesh, from Banswada in Rajasthan, Chhotaudepur and Dahod districts in Gujarat. They work under unhealthy work conditions and get exposed to high levels of fine silica dust and are sent home after they fall sick. Many don’t get ID cards or any proof of employment in these units or pay slips. Despite being covered under Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, most workers are not issued ESI cards or even know that they are entitled to get coverage under the Act. In cases where proofs exist of employment, the employers falsify the attendance muster to show less than 180 days of work, which means workers can’t seek ESI assistance as the Act mandates 6 months or 180 days of work to seek compensation under the Act. Reports about their illnesses get noticed, if any, when the workers start dying in their villages.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Damor Fakira Veersing; Kamol Kokila Tansing ; Kamol Chimanbhai Nathiabhai

These workers from Dahod district of Gujarat died of silicosis after working in the stone crushing units of Godhra. Gujarat govt. refuses to compensate their families despite NHRC directions. (Photos: Jagdish Patel)

Peoples’ Training & Research Centre (PTRC) based in Vadodara has been tracking some of these cases of migrant workers who come to work in Godhra.  In 2011, PTRC filed a complaint before National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding 5 migrant workers (all tribals) from Dahod who had been diagnosed with silicosis and had died without receiving any compensation from ESI. NHRC after hearing the case for two years in 2013 directed the Gujarat government to pay Rs 5 lakhs compensation to the families of the dead workers. In April 2014, PTRC filed a RTI request with the Chief Secretary of Govt. of Gujarat seeking information about the status of the compensation and was informed that the state government has decided not to enforce the NHRC directions without giving any reasons.

In another complaint filed by one Juwan Singh from Madhya Pradesh with NHRC, the Commission had directed govt. of Gujarat to pay Rs 3 lakhs each to the families of 238 migrant workers from Madhya Pradesh (MP) who had worked in Godhra and died due to Silicosis. Even in this instance, Gujarat govt. refused to implement NHRC directions arguing that the workers from MP may have worked in some other state and contracted the disease and therefore Gujarat govt. will not pay any compensation as it is not responsible. In Chhotaudepur, over 1000 workers have perished without proper diagnosis and more may have contracted the disease and are dying a slow and painful death in obscurity.

Incidentally, Godhra happens to be the same infamous town where burning of a coach of Sabarmati Express train led to the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. Till date Mr Modi refuses to take any responsibility for the riots and the mass murders and rapes. For over 30 years now migrant workers in large numbers are dying slow and painful deaths in these death traps of stone crushing units in Godhra. And even in this instance Mr Modi refuses to take any responsibility for the deaths of the workers by denying them any compensation and justice. Nor is the media interested. There is no blood and gore when breathless workers cough themselves to death.

So that’s the tale that remains untold by the workers when they come visiting their families. The glitter and shine of Gujarat model eclipses the dark truth of disease and deaths of thousands of migrant workers in these dangerous workplaces.

By Madhumita Dutta and Jagdish Patel

(Madhumita Dutta is a labour activist and researcher based in Chennai. Jagdish Patel is an occupational health activist and Director of PTRC based in Vadodara.)

Be Sociable, Share!
Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Nokia employees demand open dialogue

April 6th, 2014 No comments

(Laveena, Asian College of Journalism)

With the future of Nokia plant in Sriperumbudur entangled in a tax dispute, around 3000 Nokia India Union Employees held a hunger strike on Monday for eight hours to attract the attention of State and Central governments to secure their jobs by ensuring that the tax dispute is resolved soon.

Nokia is currently embroiled in two tax disputes. It faces Rs.21,153 crore tax liability from the Income Tax Department and a Rs.2,300 crore tax notice was served last month by the State government.

The Supreme Court dismissed the Company’s appeal against Delhi High Court order that demanded an undertaking from the company in March this year. As a result, the Sriperumbudur plant, part of $7.2 billion acquisition deal with Microsoft, cannot be handed over till the tax dispute is resolved.

D. Sreenivasan, member of Nokia India Thozhilalar Sangam, said, “We have organized this hunger strike to attract the attention of the Government towards our fear of retrenchment and to demand better communication from the management.”

According to a statement from Nokia India management, “We have worked in a transparent and constructive manner with the labour representatives since this tax case started, we will continue to do so.”

The Union members and workers present during the hunger strike claim that the company has reduced production capacity of the Sriperumbudur plant. Sreenivasan adds how for the past six months they have had 35 non-productive days and earlier existing three working shifts have been reduced to two.

Workers claim majority of the production work has been assigned to the new factory in Vietnam. According to news reports, Nokia’s newly launched phone “Nokia X” will also be imported from China rather than be produced in the city factory. Nokia does not openly respond to this query in its press release. It defends the company’s internal planning by saying “We consistently look for ways to optimize production.”

The Sriperumbudur factory employs close to 8000 employees out which 3500 are women. Majority of these women have either dropped out of college to earn a livelihood and most of them do not have an alternative career to look forward to.

S. Deepa, 27, is a BSc graduate who has been working at the factory for the past eight years. She said, “I live along with my parents and younger brother who is physically handicapped. I am the sole earning member of the family. If I lose this job I do not have a back-up plan.”

In December last year Nokia India had made indications that the workers would have to work as contract labourers incase the plant transfer to Microsoft is not a success due to the tax dispute. This is not acceptable to the Union, said Sreenivasan.

A Soundarajan, Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) leader and MLA who was present during the hunger strike said, “We feel that the management has no valid reason for retrenchment. They keep delaying by saying they are waiting for instructions from Finland.”

Nokia India released a statement saying that they would continue to “conduct an open dialogue with the employees as we navigate through this challenging time”.

Be Sociable, Share!

Nokia: ‘Disconnecting People’

April 1st, 2014 No comments

 

The young leader extolled “We are 6000, but only one union…others have 3000, but many unions. We have unity, we will fight….”. A roar of approval rises from the crowd, whistles and claps rent the air. M Saravana Kumar, President of Nokia India Thozhilalar Sangam was addressing a 3000 strong crowd of permanent workers from Nokia India Pvt Limited (NIPL).

We are infront of the state government guesthouse at Chepauk in Chennai.  Workers from the Sriperumbadur factory of NIPL have gathered in Chennai to observe a one- day hunger fast demanding that their employments be secured as the Company and the governments (Centre and State tax departments) fight out the tax battles in the courts.

The crowd is vocal and energetic. There is anger and hope and a sense of frustration as we speak with the workers, who are mostly women in their mid twenties or early thirties.

The trouble started in March 2013, when the Central Income Tax department raided the Sriperumbadur factory and slapped a Rs. 2000 crores tax evasion notice on NIPL. That was also the time when the Thozhilalar Sangam negotiated its long-term wage agreement with the management and the workers were happy with their new wages.

NIPL challenged the tax claims first in the Income Tax Tribunal, then in the Delhi High Court and finally took it to Supreme Court of India. Meanwhile, the tax claim figures rose to a whopping Rs 22,000 crores. In March 2014, Supreme Court of India rejected Nokia’s plea and ordered it to give a guarantee Rs 3500 crores. Right on the heels of the SC order came the Income tax notice from the Tamil Nadu government asking Nokia to pay Rs 2400 crores for selling its products in the domestic market instead of exporting while claiming the export concessions.

While the tax shenanigans were going on in India, in September 2013 Nokia Corporation in Finland announced a USD 7.2 billion deal with American software giant Microsoft to buy its global handset business. This meant that the NIPL factory located in Sriperumbadur would get transferred to Microsoft. This factory has been Nokia’s high volume factory that achieved ‘500 million handsets in 5 years’ beating their Chinese counterparts who took ‘15 years to achieve the same’.

The announcement of Nokia-Microsoft deal galvanized a slew of actions by IT department that froze Nokia’s assets and bank accounts in India and put a halt on its transfer to Microsoft fearing non-recovery of tax dues if the transfer went through. Nokia went to court and the long legal battle started.

While all this was going on, the workers were assured by the Nokia management in India that their employments will be protected and they will soon become ‘smart workers’ of Microsoft. But the workers noticed the changes that were happening inside the factory. The volumes of handset being produced were going down (from 13 million handsets a month to 4 million), frequent no production days, shifting of machinery to the newly constructed factory in Hanoi, the layoff of over 1500 contract workers between November-December’13, the arbitrary sacking of the trainee operators, the change in shift patterns from 3 shifts to 2 shifts…all this created a sense of anxiety amongst the workers in the last few months. Finally, in March 2014, in a communication meeting, the management informed the Union that a possible job cut of 2000 permanent workers might be inevitable. At the same time workers also learnt that NIPL had split into two entities-NIPL and Nokia India Sales Pvt Limited (NISPL) and that the tax issue will affect only them being employees of NIPL under which the factory operates.

The young workers, who had finished their school and joined Nokia when they were 18 years old, many of them now married with children, with their families dependent on their salaries now feel ‘let down’ by the company they had once thought was their ‘family’. Most of them have loans and are repaying their debts from their salaries. They come from all over Tamil Nadu, mostly from MBCs and SC castes from farming or weaving background, this being their first factory jobs where they have spent 6-8 years. Now they fear that after assembling phones for Nokia for so many years and not being young anymore—‘companies prefer 18-23 years of age, we are 26-27 years, who will employ us’-they may have become ‘un-employable’.

Listen to some of their voices as we speak to them while they brave the sun and heat and gather here to demand that justice be done!

Right-click and save link to download

[audio src="http://radiopotti.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Nokia-India-Thozhilaalar-Sangam-Hunger-Strike-March-31-2014-TN-Labour-Blog.mp3"]

 

(Story filed by TN Labour Blog and Radio Potti)

 

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!
Categories: Factory Workers, Uncategorized Tags: