An untitled notice dated July 31st and signed by Human Resource Department announces that the shift timings are changed for the workers in a factory starting August 1st, 2016. There is a shift from 6AM to 4:30 PM and another shift from 4:30 PM to 3AM which means that workers will spend time at work for over 10 and half hours. However, the work is only for 8 hours as the shift has over 2.30 hours break in between. The workers are advised that they cannot stay at the factory during this break. This is a one of the many innovative tactics adopted by the companies in Maraimalai Nagar, against workers in their effort to organize.
Over 38 workers from Comstar, SPEL, Magick woods, JBM and Texcel participated in a 72 hour hunger fast between 25th and 28th of August 2016 in Maraimalai Nagar with over 300 workers showing solidarity with them. The workers affiliated to CITU, were protesting anti worker policies by managements and victimization of union activists, wage delays and dismissal of workers. The protest initially planned in June 2016 was delayed due to denial of permission by police and the union had to approach the Madras High Court to allow the workers to protest in a public space.
Comstar Automotive workers have faced the brunt of management persecution for the longest time in this region, ever since they organized a 54 day strike in 2011. The workers say that over 35 workers have been isolated and mentally harassed for leading the strike. These 35 workers have been facing show cause notices with immediate suspensions, deputations to sites 60-70 kms away from factory sites and minimum wages. While most of their contemporaries earn over Rs 30000, some of these workers are being only paid Rs 7000. The workers allege that these are pressure tactics used by management to get the workers to ‘voluntarily retire’ and a mechanism to keep the other permanent workers in line.
The workers of SPEL Semiconductors have been facing delayed wage payments both in the months of January/February and recently in June/July. The workers demand that Department of Industrial Safety and Health (Formerly Factory Inspectorate) take actions against the management for unduly delaying their earnings. The workers also say that 43 workers have been dismissed for unionization activities, which they term as unfair labour practices.
When the collective wage agreement between Magick Woods and CITU ended in 2016, workers say that the management had refused to renegotiate the contract with the permanent workers union and has instead opted to get workers to sign individual contracts under Section 18(1) of Industrial Disputes Act. Four workers, whose employment have been terminated for union activities, continue to challenge their termination in labour court. Recently three more permanent workers were dismissed on a sexual harassment issue charged by a women worker in the factory. The company employs 48 male workers as permanent workers, who are also employed as supervisors of 300+ women contract workers.
The Texcel management, which is alleged to have extended workers timings to 10 and half hours, has been charged by Department of Industrial Safety and Health on violations in employment over 32 contract workers recently. This was based on the complaint filed by CITU union, which has been fighting for wage increments and bonus entitlements for the permanent workers. According to union representative Com Seshadri, the management has not deposited the PF for workers. Seshadri says that the company has announced voluntary retirement scheme with 1 lakh compensation which has been availed by 36 workers while 30+ workers continue to fight for employment and PF.
JBM, an auxiliary unit to Ford India based in Maraimalai Nagar has transferred 20+ workers to other locations. While the company had 61 permanent workers, the workers say that there are 1000+ contract workers and trainees in the production. The union representatives allege that while training period is stated to be only 2 years in their standing order, there are trainees who have worked for more than 5 years and permanent employment is being denied to them.
The workers of Comstar, SPEL, Magick Woods, JBM and Texcel have been protesting over last 2-5 years on these anti worker policies. These issues are pending before Labour Department and Factory Inspectorate, the state agencies dealing with labour issues and high court with no justice in sight.