About 30 protesters gathered in Valluvar Kottam, Chennai to protest the double life sentence given to 8 workers of the Pricol factory in Coimbatore. The protest was organized by AICCTU and AIPF. The sessions court of Coimbatore held the workers guilty of clubbing to death Roy George, the vice president (HR) of the company on September 21, 2009. Of the 27 accused in the case, 19 were acquitted at the same time that the other 8 were sentenced to double life sentences. There are lots of discrepancies in the prosecution’s case. The speakers in the protest emphasized the larger context of the incident – that of curtailment of labour rights, suppressing unionization, increased contractualization. The speakers included Professor Marx, A S Kumar and R Geetha.
The speakers observed the similarities between the Pricol incident and those in other places, for example Maruti in Gurgaon, Graziano Trasmissoini in Noida and Regency ceramic in Yanam. In all these cases, there was a strong struggle for workers’ rights. A death of the manager is used to portray the worker’s struggle as militant and to subsequently crush it through various means. As court cases are used to crush worker’s struggles, the central government is weakening labour protections using the Make in India campaign as a pretext. The central government has attempted to amend 44 labour laws, and to curtail workers’ hard-won right to unionize. A S Kumar characterized the government’s motives as ‘Odukkuvom, Adakkuvom, Urimaikalai nasukkuvom‘ (We’ll oppress, we’ll repress, we’ll crush your rights). The speakers said that not only the death penalty, but life sentences also have to be questioned, keeping in mind that these penalties are predominantly used against workers and marginalized sections.
R Geetha brought up the example of the Sumangli scheme in spinning mills, where child labour is used in factories. She suggested that workers’ movements should demand adherence to UN core conventions on Trade Union registration and negotiation, eradication of child labour etc. In the absence of compliance to these basic standards, globalization is only for capitalists, we don’t have globalized minimum standards for labour. Protesters chanted: ‘anyayam idhu anyayam, irattai aayul dandanayaam, anyayam idhu anyayam‘ (This is unjust! The double life sentence is unjust!).