Early on the morning of May Day, 2013, workers of Hyundai, Scholl, and Asian Paints hoisted flags and commemorated the workers who had struggled in the past to safeguard the rights of workers today. The workers called for greater solidarity between workers of different factories and pledged to continue their struggles for better working conditions and rights at the work place.
This is 90th year after the first may day celebrations in India were held in Madras on 1 May, 1923.
Hyundai Motor India Ltd.
Hyundai Motor India Ltd. workers assembled outside the main factory gate at the Sriperumbudur plant to hoist flags this May Day.
The two rival unions at Hyundai,Hyundai Motor India Employees Union (HMIEU) and United Union of Hyundai Employees (UUHE), hoisted separate flags.
The HMIEU flag is to the right of the main gate along with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) flag. The HMIEU workers, some employees and some dismissed employees, assembled around the flag and hoisted the flag while shouting slogans. The president of HMIEU, Dinakaran presided over the function. R. Sridhar, general secretary of HMIEU, who was dismissed in 2008, was also present. Sanmina employees union president, Mani came in solidarity. S.Kannan, state committee member of CITU was present and addressed the gathering along with E. Muthukumar, Kanchipuram District Secretary of CITU.
Kannan talked to the workers about the past struggles of workers in the fight over the length of the working day in America. The struggles in Philadelphia for the 10 hour working day and then the struggles for the eight hour working day. Kannan also reiterated the need to restructure the work hours by possibly increasing the number of shifts from three to four as a way of solving the issue. This is in fact one of the demands laid down by the CITU after its recent all-India conference in Kannur.
Mani of Sanmina, appealed for unity of all workers, irrespective of the nature of work and the name of the factory. Mani also thanked HMIEU for its support during the recent hunger strike by Sanmina workers for safety measures and better wages.
Muthukumar, told the workers that the May Day represents the day when workers stood up and united against oppression. He also said that the HMIEU is the union that originally took up the issues of the workers at Hyundai. Muthukumar appealed to the workers of Hyundai to unite with workers employed in all the vendors and suppliers of Hyundai also, as they are all working together and must lookout for one another.
Sridhar, appealed to the workers, those employed and even those who are dismissed to stay united and strong. He hit out at the UUHE, saying that they and their flag do not represent the true needs of the workers. While, the HMIEU’s red flag represents the blood that has gone into the struggles of their comrades. He also reminded the workers of the 1 May, 2008 struggle for flag post that HMIEU had undertaken.
The flag post was put up three or four times, but the management along with the police would uproot the poll, denying the HMIEU permission to put up a flag post outside the Hyundai factory gate. Eventually the workers, with their perseverance, were able to put up the flag post that stands here today, he said.
The United Union of Hyundai Employees, established in 2011, hoisted their blue flag which has a spanner, hammer and a handshake symbol on it. The UUHE flag right in front of the security office at the main gate of Hyundai. The flag was hoisted by the president, G. Vinayagam. Vinayagam said, “All employees are in a team spirit and that this May Day function we are going to orphanages to help children by providing them lunch.”
The workers at Scholl from CITU union pledged allegiance to the workers movement before hoisting the flag and unraveling the new union board outside the factory at Irungattukottai in Sriperumbudur. Sridhar of HMIEU unraveled the board and E. Muthukumar hoisted the CITU flag outside the factory gate.
Muthukumar and Sridhar briefly addressed the crowd calling for greater unity with workers of other factories and congratulated the workers for their work so far. They also spoke of the origins of the May Day and told the workers of the struggles of Hyundai workers in the past the the recent hunger strike by the workers of Sanmina.
The Scholl workers presented shawls to Sridhar and Muthukumar to thank them for their support to the Scholl workers.
Sweets and snacks were then distributed to the workers who were assembled.
Asian Paints Limited
At Asian Paints the May Day celebrations were attended by representatives of the management employees union as well. The Asian Paints factory is located behind the Oragadam SEZ where Nokia is located and supplies paints for automobiles also.
The workers union here again is under CITU, and the function involved hoisting the CITU flag and unraveling the new union board outside the factory.
The management employees representative, Sezhieyar addressed the crowd showing solidarity with the workers. The workers invited Sridhar of HMIEU to address the gathering. Sridhar reiterated the importance of May Day and the lives lost to achieve the eight hour working day. He appealed to the workers to continue to support workers in other factories. He said that irrespective of which factory one works at they are all part of one class, the working class.
Muthukumar of CITU also addressed the workers of Asian Paints and gave May Day slogans, ‘Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will!‘