Workplace Harassment causing severe stress among workers
On 17th August, a worker in the assembly shop of Renault Nissan, a major auto manufacturer based out of Sriperumbudur, Chennai, attempted suicide on the shop floor by consuming soap oil. He was quickly rushed to Global Hospital, a few kilometers from the factory, and after treatment and a day in observation, he was discharged on 19th. According to sources, the worker had an altercation with the supervisor over the rejection of his leave application. As the argument heated up and the supervisor taunted the worker to ‘do what he can’, the worker took the drastic step. The workers stopped production for twenty minutes, the next day (18th) demanding action against the supervisor and an end to the practice of denying leave. But no action has been initiated to enquire into the incident or to rectify the issues. The internal union has also not raised this issue with the higher management. This incident is only an extreme case in an increasing trend of hostility and workplace harassment at Renault Nissan ltd.
As per existing procedure, a worker losses a day’s wage every time the HR department does not approve a leave of absence. The HR department seeks the approval of the shop floor supervisors before granting leave to workers. According to sources, there is resistance from floor level supervisors to grant casual leave to workers. This has a led to a situation where, every month, hundreds of workers are forced to suffer ‘loss of pay’, even when they have adequate casual leave. The worker who attempted suicide, had already suffered two days of ‘LoP’, costing him over Rs 2000/- from his salary. When he faced a similar situation this month, he challenged the supervisor. When the supervisor refused to relent, the worker feeling hopeless and frustrated attempted suicide.
Workers feel that there is a pattern of escalating harassment against those who had been part of the ULF branch. All the members on the ULF Branch of Renault Nissan had joinedRenault Nissan India Thozhillalar Sangam (RNITS), company recognized internal union, in February this year and withdrawn the labour disputes pending with the labour department.(Read here about the merger). Five workers belonging to the ULF union had also taken office bearers posts in the internal union and had cosigned the dispute settlement on behalf of the internal union. At that time, it had been given to understand that fresh elections for the union executive positions will be called for. But that is being deliberately delayed citing procedural reasons. This is causing widespread disaffection among the majority of the workers.
Workers are feeling that the leadership of the internal union has not been taking cognizance of the shop floor issues leaving them to suffer victimization. There is also a feeling that the management is trying to divide the workers by penalizing some while condoning others. The rift between the workers and the leadership of the internal union is clearly exposed in the spate of spontaneous actions in the recent months, be it the issue of a pregnant worker being harassed on the paint shop, or alleged mismanagement of funds by the union. The practice of wage cuts through ‘LoP’ is only adding to this tension. It is imperative that a team of office bearers and committee members be elected at the earliest, so that the workers can have confidence in the leadership of the union and the union can better represent the issues of the workers.