The new phase of oppression on the working class of the country, continues find most explicit expression in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Bawal-Tapukara Manufacturing belt. Workers of Ahresty, which is a main vending company for Maruti , Honda among others are the latest victims of this capital-state onslaught.
Ahresty workers have a union which has been trying to engage with the management since April of this year regarding a number of demands. However instead of showing any interest in the demands of the workers, the Ahresty management has continuously resorted to lumpen behaviour by issuing death-threats to the union representatives. When the management realised that issuing death threats was not having any effect on the workers morale who continued to voice their demands , it acted upon its threat and hired bouncers who viciously beat up Somnath, Vice President of the union.On 11th June, Somnath was waiting at the bus stand to reach the factory in the morning when bouncers attacked him and broke both his legs as well as his hand . He also suffered severe injuries to his head for which he needed 16 stitches.
Workers registered an FIR in the local police station against this attack.When there was no progress in the inquiry after 10 days, workers resolved to strike. They did a peaceful sit-in strike inside the plant on 21st June. For the next few days, there was a discussion between administration and management but management had no interest in listening to the union’s demands. On 24th June, on the instructions of the management of Ahresty, and in a repeat of the attack on Honda workers in February 2016, police went inside the plant and lathi-charged the workers. Around 150 workers suffered severe injuries and 104 workers who were exercising their fundamental right of doing a peaceful strike were arrested. Exactly as in the case of Honda workers, a number of false and serious charges were slapped on the arrested Ahresty workers.
On 30th June, the workers got bail . Management has suspended 159 workers and by getting new contract workers , it has ensured that production continues as usual. Due to heavy police and presence of bouncers around the factory , workers are unable to protest near the factory gate. A number of contract workers, who had also participated in the strike have also been suspended in addition to the union members, . The case against bailed workers will start on 4th of July. Workers have resolved to start their protests again from July 5th.
After the Honda strike of 2016, it is clear that management, police and local administration are working together and this has not only intensified the oppression on workers but neutralized the various avenues which have traditionally existed for strike and protests. Workers are unable to do sit-in strikes inside the plant as police is ready to serve the interests of the capital at any point. It is easy for management to get stay orders due to which protests in front of factory gates are becoming increasingly difficult. And worst of all,, even if significant number of permanent and contract workers strike or are retrenched, production goes on uninterrupted due to huge reserve army of labour and no laws regulating their hire and fire. Companies like Maruti who hire workers for 7 months period and then removes them, hence making them unemployed have, at their disposal a reserved army of trained labour which can be called at any point. Thus despite the resolve of the workers, and their level of militancy, strikes are becoming increasingly ineffective. New methods of protests, strike and attack on the capital are required to ensure that production is affected and management is forced to listen.
The state-capital nexus has devised new strategies for repression of workers, and it is time that unions recognise this and counter it with new strategies of their own