Supreme Court to decide the fate of union in Foxconn, Sriperumbadur

Thozhillar Koodum

(Update from S. Kannan, District Secretary (Kancheepuram, TN), Centre of Indian Trade Union. )

On 5th November 2013, Assistant Commissioner of Labour (conciliation) wrote a letter to the Management of Foxconn India (pvt) Limited, with a copy to Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), stating that they have verified the records of the members (workers) submitted by CITU and that no records were submitted by Labour Progressive Front (LPF), the other contending union which had sought to form a union in Foxconn. The letter further stated that the ACL had announced nomination dates (17-18th October 2013) and election date (6th November) for determining the majority union in the company. But apart from CITU no other union filed its nomination paper. ACL was, therefore, reporting the present status to the Supreme Court to take a decision on the matter. On 8th August, 2013, Supreme Court of India had ordered the ACL/Labour department (Tamil Nadu) to conduct secret ballot in the company within 8 weeks of its order and to submit it’s final report to the court, based on which the court will decide the majority union in the company. The final hearing in the case is coming up in the third week of November.

The legal shenanigans over formation and recognition of a union in Foxconn started in 2010, when for 58 days over 1000 workers striked for better wages, working conditions and recognition of their union, which they had formed with the General Workers’s Union of CITU. Foxconn India Pvt ltd is a major supplier of component parts to Nokia India’s mobile phone manufacturing plant located in Sriperumbadur, Kancheepuram District. (http://www.sify.com/finance/strike-halts-production-at-foxconn-india-news-default-kjywOdebfja.html)

While the strike was going on, which saw incarceration of 319 workers and senior CITU leaders AS Soundararajan and E. Muthukumar for three weeks in Vellore jail with non-bailable charges, the management informed ACL that it was ready for a secret ballot and negotiations with the majority union. This was communicated through a letter by the management in August 2010. But no such secret ballot was held and CITU went to the High Court of Madras due to inaction of the govt. of Tamil Nadu and ACL.

On 4 January 2011, the single bench judge of Madras high court ordered the ACL and govt. of TN to hold the elections (http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/821031/) and determine the majority union. Ironically, the Foxconn management, which had earlier demanded the secret ballot, appealed the order in a higher two member bench of the high court. On 31st January 2011, the two member bench upheld the order of the single bench and the management took the matter to the Supreme Court of India. On 8th August 2013, Supreme Court too upheld the order of the single bench and directed the ACL to conduct elections and report the matter to the court. Following the orders of the Supreme Court, the ACL conducted the election process which began in early October 2013. The fate of the union now remains in the hands of the Supreme Court which will decide the matter.

It is rather unfortunate that in ‘free’ India workers cannot form their own associations freely and democratically as guaranteed to them under the Constitution of India.

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