Readers of this blog would remember name of Ajay Pandey, a 35 year old contract worker from Bihar who worked at OMAX manufacturing company in Dharuhera, Hariyana . Ajay committed suicide on 13th February earlier this year when he was laid off without prior notice, along with 388 other contract workers, most of whom had toiled and worked between 15 and 20 years in the factory. While the struggle for justice of OMAX worker continues, one of their units called Automax, which is situated in Binola Gurgaon has decided to do a one up” on the parent company in terms of exploiting the workers to the fullest.
When around 300 Automax workers reached the factory gate of Automax on 26th June, 2017, they saw a notice on the gate that announced the plant’s closure. The workers who had worked in the company for over 2 decades (company having been founded in 1985) found themselves overnight without their job. The management had given no prior notice to the workers or their union and in blatant violation of the increasingly defunct labour laws, closed the factory. In fact in May the company had fired over 150 contract workers citing lack of demand.
There are three plants namely Omax, Automax and Speedomax which supply auto parts and provide services to companies like Maruti Suzuki and Honda. They have the same owner, JK Mehta. They have 6 units in the Gurgaon area and 10 units across the entire country. For past six months, the Automax management had been shifting machines to the Omax plant in Bawal. The Automax plant has a railway division, tractor division, Hero line, Honda line etc and supplies automobile parts like axle, covering, frame, engine parts etc. The workers formed a union in 2010 and were successful to achieve some facilities and raise salary of workers to some extent. This is yet another reason for the closure. Even though the closure has been announced and all the permanent workers are outside the factory, the railway division in the factory is still operating and new workers have been hired to work there.
23rd June was the last day the workers were in the factory. As 24th and 25th were holidays, workers returned to work on 26th and, in a Kafkasque twist, they found the factory closed. When workers gathered on the gate, protested and demanded to see the legal documents related to the closure, management called the police who attacked the workers and quelled their protest! The local administration and labour department is clearly in the back pocket of Omax Management as they have kept complete silence on the issue. Workers are left to fight this closure on their own, with the state unambiguously aiding the management. The machine parts are being shifted to the Omax unit in Bawal, where there are no permanent workers at all. The police force, led by local SHO, is giving protection to the shifting process.
However workers are trying to resist and under the leadership of their union, they are continuing to protest near the factory gate since 24th June. The protest is going on day and night for the last 24 days.
Meanwhile, the protracted and resolute struggle of Aisin workers enters their 70th day. Over 450 male and 50 female workers are continuing to protest 400 meters outside the factory gate. In spite of treacherous heat, lack of drinking water at the site of protest and local administration not even making sure that there are mobile toilets available for women workers, they are determined to continue the struggle. Aisin, which had removed over 800 workers (permanent and contract) and then brutally lathi charged and arrested the protesting workers on 31st May, is refusing to negotiate with the workers who are fighting for their demand to get reinstated and fighting for their union to be recognized. As in the case of Automax, the local administration and labour department is hand in glove with the management and is refusing to bring the management to the negotiating table. However the Aisin workers union is determined to carry on their struggle.
The struggles in the Gurgaon-Dharuhera-Manesar-Bawal Automobile belt are entering a new phase, and combination of increasingly precarious labour, a near complete dissolution of labour laws which the Indian working class has fought for a century to win and ease of shifting the production from one unit to another means that the working class, their unions and the revolutionary organizations will have to come up with new strategies which can fight this onslaught.