56 unionised workers of Jintech Automotive have been striking for past 80 days in Ponthur Village near Sriperumbudur. The Koren company is engaged in surface coating and painting auto parts for automobile companies including Hyundai, Ashok Leyland, Daimler and Renault Nissan. The company has over 86 permanent workers who are unionized under CITU and 300 contract workers. This factory is Jintech’s sole plant in the country.
According to the workers, the production at the plant started in 2008. The permanent workers are male workers from Tamil Nadu who have educational qualification of 10th, 12th and ITI. They joined the company as trainees and were confirmed after a year without a written contract. In 2015, all the 86 workers unionised under CITU. They struck work for 13 days same year, demanding confirmation orders and wage increments. The management yielded, gave confirmation orders to all the workers but started victimizing the union representatives. These workers were suspended or dismissed arbitrarily for reasons such as not showing up for work on sunday, taking leave for love marriage etc. The management has suspended 4 permanent workers and dismissed 4 workers, prompting the workers to strike again now. Also, one worker was moved from production to house-keeping and has refused to appear for work. 30 workers left the union after the company offered them a bonus of Rs 5000 and promotions.
Workers say that the wage in the company is low. For instance, one worker with 9 years of experience earns Rs 17400 per month. There is heavy restriction on movement of workers in the factory. Cameras are installed even in bathrooms. While over 50 women workers work in all shifts, there are no transport facilities. (The factory is situated about half a kilometer from the main road linking Sriperumbudur to Oragadam)
Since the strike began, workers have pinned their hopes on Labour Department and have been attending conciliation proceedings almost every week. Earlier, the management had agreed for a wage increase of Rs 1500(Workers had demanded Rs 4000). However, the strike continued as the management was not willing to take back the dismissed workers..
In the last conciliation meeting, the management seems to have agreed to take 3 workers (out of 8 workers both suspended and dismissed) if the union closes the case against the company. According to the workers, Comrade Kannan, Kanchipuram District President of CITU has offered to end the conciliation process if the company takes back the suspended workers. The union will then pursue the case of dismissed workers in the labour court. While the management seems to have increased its offer to taking back 5 workers(with the demand of closing the case), the conciliation process has been rescheduled yet again.
Earlier, the workers had gheraoed the Korean embassy and the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health Offices in Guindy and Sriperumbudur. They have also petitioned DISH which gives contract licenses to industries alleging violations in contract employment and have asked for the licenses to be cancelled. CITU has also asked for permanent employment for the contract workers, according to Comrade Kannan. According to the union representatives, there is no plan to organise the contract workers who are mostly women and migrants.