- Demand wage increases, recognition of the union and end to unfair labour practices
- Workers evicted from factory after judicial intervention
- Harassment of police against striking workers continues
About 280 Sanmina workers, including 30 workers who are at ‘compulsory rest’ and facing various suspensions, have been on strike since 11PM, Nov 21st. The workers demand a wage increase, union recognition through secret ballot, revocation of suspension and compulsory rest. They have also demanded that the company pay the 21 day wage, which was withheld for a 4 day strike. The strike has followed endless tripartite conciliation meetings between workers, management and the Labour Department, with no progress in resolution of the long pending demands.
The workers who have over 10 years of experience are earning only Rs 12000 to Rs 16000 in the factory. They say that the company had demanded 3 years of experience in electronics field while recruiting them, which puts these workers at 13+ years of experience. In an effort to attract the talent, the company had given almost twice the wages compared to other factories in the neighborhood (Foxconn, Nokia Siemens), when it started in 2008. However, now a worker in Nokia Siemens earns about Rs 24000, where as these workers earn half this wage.
On 21st November , in a frenzied attempt to stop the strike, workers and management met, both bilaterally and in front of Labour Department. While the workers are demanding a Rs 15000 increase, the management had offered an increase of merely Rs 3500. The workers say that the management has touted the increase as ‘historic’ because it had given wage increases in the order of hundreds before. However, the workers have struck to an increase of at least Rs 8000, which would place their wage barely around the minimum wage demanded by the unions for all workers (Rs 21000 per month). When the workers brought the issue of low wages to the management, the management’s response has been to either do more OT or take voluntary retirement scheme. Already 150 workers have been ‘retired’ at the young age of 27 through these tactics, according to the workers.
Since March 27th, when workers went on a sit in protest demanding recognition of their union, the company has started penalising workers. Over 20 workers, especially the union office bearers, have been placed on ‘compulsory rest’. While the management gives them full wages, they are not allowed in the factory premises and they are not entitled to any incentives and other perks that are available to the workers. The management has also suspended 4 workers on various pretexts. While these are clear unfair labour practices, their petition of dispute under Section 2(k) of Industrial Disputes Act, has hardly given them any resolution, as the management keeps delaying the negotiation process and the Labour Department keeps postponing the meetings. The management has also withheld one month salary of 4 workers on various punitive measures.
Further, the company has brought in contract workers into core production. There are over 600 contract workers in the factory, say the workers, out of which over 200 are working in core production. According to the striking workers, a complaint to Department of Industrial Safety and Health (previously Factories Inspectorate) has found violations of Contract Labour Abolishment Act and DISH has ordered two contracts to be canceled. However, the contract employment is continuing, allege the workers.
The workers deplore the feudal attitudes that persist in human resource management in these factories. According to the workers, the refrain from management is that ‘you should not be demanding from us. We will take care of you’. The local management has also not been happy with the attempt by workers to expose their issues to the parent company, US based Sanmina Corporation. They feel that the local management does not expose the workers issues and struggles to the parent company and uses the ‘recognized’ union INTUC backed by the management to prop up a false ‘peaceful industrial relation’ at the factory. Workers have emailed the parent factory on the various issues and their struggles. While they believe that this has started some questions from the parent company to the local management, the corporate management has not officially responded to the workers.
Since the workers have started the strike inside the factory, the management had refused to give them food or water and the workers have been forced to arrange for their own food while striking. After two days, ACL intervened and requested the management to provide food and water for workers. However, the management obtained an order from Court asking the workers to vacate the premises. Prior to that, District Administration and Police intervened and intimidated the workers to vacate the premises.
Since then, the workers have been camping outside the factory gate even amidst rain with no facilities nearby. A conciliation meeting is scheduled for November 28th.