Workers in NVH factory based in Irungattukottai, a supplier to Hyundai, find themselves struggling for their right to unionize and legally mandated 8 hour work time as the management continues to be belligerent and vicious in curtailing the workers’ rights. There are 800 workers in the factory according to ULF union out of which only 150 workers are permanent. Rest of the workers are deemed contract and trainee workers. In March 2013, the workers struck for 4 days unhappy with proposed wage increases(http://tnlabour.in/?p=1414). The workers had been promised Rs 20000 wage increase but were only given one fifth of the increase. The workers also felt dissatisfied as management threatened the prevailing workers’ committee to sign these wage agreement without implementing collective bargaining.
According to workers, the management has increased the work duration from 8 hours to 8.5 hours and with the timing of the transportation provided by the factory, the duration they spend in work premise is more than 9 hours. This is a prevalent practice in several of the factories in Sriperumbudur where these “extra” time is used for providing production related instructions and discussions. The workers also state that CCTV cameras are installed everywhere in the factory site including restroom facilities thus providing no privacy for the worker.
Lack of decent work conditions and inability of workers’ management to stand up to management tactics has led to the formation of union under ULF, United Labour Forum comprising both permanent and contract workers. The workers have pressed for recognition of the union and collective bargaining involving workers’ representatives.However, according to workers, the management has retaliated by suspending 13 workers and dismissing 5 workers. Permanent workers were also demoted and moved to unskilled work for unionizing efforts while contract workers were moved to core production.
The workers protested by stopping work and doing a sit-in strike on 2nd January. The retaliation by management took a physical turn with a video capturing a Korean official dragging a worker and imprisoning him at his feet and shouting at other workers. The video has generated outrage among the public, working class community and unions. While the media covered the event extensively, the state has intervened not by reprimanding and taking action against the management but by arresting workers.
More than 100 workers including 3 women participating in sit-in strike were arrested by the police at 3AM and have been placed in a marriage hall. Workers say that no action has been taken on the police complaint against the Korean official and they intend to continue their protest by going on a hunger strike.