The workers of Sriperumbudur are no strangers to the impact of proposed labour reforms. As they struggle to unionize and bargain collectively in their own factories, over 170 workers came together to protest the proposed labour reforms which aims to legalize their every day life experience at shopfloor. Factory workers from Sanmina, Hyundai, Nippon, Jintech, Vantec, Caparo, Asian Paints, GKN Driveline, Renner in the industrial belts of Sriperumbudur, Oragadam and Sunguvarchattiram participated in the evening protest. The protest speeches highlighted the existing labour conditions in these industrial belts and how the proposed labour reforms will provide no recourse for workers to protect themselves. The protest was presided by Dhinakaran of HMIEU and addressed by workers and union representatives of AICCTU and CITU.
Speaking on the protest, Comrade Rajaguru, worker from Hyundai and AICCTU state member, recollected the impact of Nokia in Sriperumbudur, “While Nokia had an extremely fruitful run in its 8 years, making crores of profit, the workers of Nokia and its suppliers are impoverished today”. Rajaguri commented that “earlier, workers with experience were preferred, but now only fresh candidates are asked to appear for any employment. The Modi Government also has jumped on the bandwagon with Skill Development program but where are the jobs for this trained workforce”. Saying that while workers demands on mandatory recognition of unions and contract labour abolishment are languishing in the corridors of parliament and raj bhavan, the corporate demands are pushed energetically, he asked workers to reflect on the political character of the administration that has been voted to power.
Comrade Kannan, CITU Kanchipuram District President said that “Modi government has launched an assault on workers, farmers and landless labourers of our country. Social services such as NREGA, ICDS, PDS are dismantled and public sector workers in these services and in police are becoming contract employment, while subsidies on water, tax, electricity are increased for the corporate sector”. Accusing vernacular media of being pro capitalist, Kannan asked why does not media grasp that workers use strike as a last recourse and are willing to lose a day’s salary to participate in strikes.
Comrade Rajesh, worker from Asian Paints and AICCTU District Secretary said that over 2,90,000 workers work as apprentices and contract workers in these industrial belts. He asked “while governments sign MOUs one after another with corporates, guaranteeing subsidies and access to natural resources, why they dont ensure quality of employment through these MOUs?”.
Comrade Iraniappan, AICCTU State Secretary, highlighted Dinamani’s article’s articulation on “Nation needs work not strike” and said that the corporate media never poses the question on the type of employment. He reminded that this is a continuation of protests that have been raging in the last decade against successive pro capitalist governments. He vowed that just as amendments to land acquisition act has been defeated, so will the labour reform amendments. Comrade Iraniappan questioned the free commodity politics of State Government, saying that “If workers are paid due minimum wage of Rs 15000 as demanded by unions, then they themselves can buy grinders, mixers and laptops”.
Comrade Muthukumar, CITU Kanchipuram District Secretary, reflected on the emerging institutional withdrawal of labour protection. Commenting on the High Court’s denial of right to strike in the ongoing NLC Contract workers strike, he asked why existing laws are not being implemented and upheld by the state and the court. He highlighted the self certification process in factories, as yet another instance of state upholding the interests of capital over labour. While expressing solidarity with Maruti Suzuki workers languishing in prison, Comrade Muthukumar said, while workers continue to be prosecuted and denied bail, the capitalists continue to enjoy all these freedoms and and are not even prosecuted for economic crimes they commit.