Ganesan, Gen Sec of Greaves Mazdoor Sangh, affiliated to BMS lends support
45 workers from Gummudipoondi Greaves Cotton, along with supporters, participated in a gate meeting at Greaves Cotton Ltd’s factory at Ranipet on 23rd June, 2017. Their president, Arumuga Selvam, gave a passionate speech about the condition of the workers since the ‘illegal’ closure of the Gummudipoondi plant, while also appealing to the workers at Ranipet to show solidarity with them in order to stop the company from profiting by exploiting the workers. Ganesan, the general secretary of Greaves Mazdoor Sangh, which is affiliated to the RSS backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, spoke at the meeting, which he had helped organize. He has been suspended from the Ranipet factory since 2016. According to him and the workers, he was suspended after he resisted attempts by management to increase the workload at Ranipet in order to close down the Gummudipoondi factory. Workers from Ranipet interacted briefly with the workers from Gummudipoondi as they were awaiting their shuttles. The meeting lasted 45 minutes and was entirely peaceful. Earlier the company had lodged a complaint with the local police about the possibility of violence and requested that the permission be denied.
Workers from Gummudipoondi had been fighting a protracted legal battle with the company against retrenchment and illegal closure. On 12th June, 15 workers went to the factory gate at Ranipet and distributed leaflets highlighting the issue and seeking support from their coworkers in their struggle. Ganesan, of the BMS union, met them at the gate and extended the support of their union. It was later decided to hold a gate meeting called by the BMS union in support of the Gummudipoondi workers.
Ganesan highlighted the lack of transparency with regards to wage negotiations, criticizing the Ranipet Greaves Employees Union (RGEU, the internal union recognized by the management and enjoying majority support) for not sharing the salient features of the wage negotiation with the workers. Later he also raised the issue of Gummudipoondi workers being immorally retrenched and the increased work burden for Ranipet workers. He also extolled the RGEU union for their failure to take up the issue of their coworkers.
Arumugaselvam, addressing the Ranipet workers, cited the fact that for over 8 years, from 2005 to 2013, workers had not formed a union because they believed the management would adhere to their demands. The Union was only a consequence of the betrayal of the management to fulfill their just demands. “The company has told you that we demanded your salary. This is a blatant lie. We are not kids, we know the difference in service and experience between your batch and ours. What we demanded was only fare wage revision commensurate to the increased productivity. From 45000 units in 2005-06, we were producing 1.5lakh units in from 2008, until the management systematically began transferring production to Ranipet and delaying raw materials to us. This is a blatant attempt to divide the workers and exploit us. We sincerely request you to resist such attempts” persuaded Arumuga Selvam.
The meeting was timed for shift change. Workers entering and exiting the factory observed the proceedings. Gummudipoondi workers also distributed leaflets recounting the issue and seeking support for their struggle. Transport buses and vans were brought right up to the gate to allow for minimum interaction with the participants of the meeting. Yet some of them did interact with the workers and listened to their issues. However, the Ranipet workers were very critical of Ganesan, the GMZ leader, claiming that he had unnecessarily delayed a previous wage settlement. On the other hand, the internal union at Ranipet has not extended support to the struggle and the workers were not able to commit to eliciting the support of their union. Unfortunately the unity of the workers becomes a casualty of short sighted leadership.
When the police were informed about the proposed gate meeting, the company objected to the meeting, claiming that the workers might attempt to hinder production and damage property. The police allowed the gate meeting only after getting assurances from workers that they would not hinder the usual operations of the factory at any cost. As their objective was only to bring their issue to the notice of the workers of Ranipet, they assembled peacefully and conducted the meeting without causing any hindrance to the workers. The workers of Gummudipoondi have decided to keep up their struggle and not relieve the pressure on the management until they restore their jobs.