With the onslaught of neo-liberal policies labour laws are being weakened or dismantled all together. While capitalist class is crying hoarse for making labour laws further ‘flexible’, these policies are brutally attacking the rights of working class. Among the worst impacted are those working in smaller industrial units that are generally unorganized and hence more vulnerable to these attacks. However despite all odds these workers are fighting hard to uphold their rights and earn better wages.
At Pune, New Socialist Alternative (CWI – India) is involved in one such struggle. Hadapsar Industrial Estate located in South-East of the city hosts scores of small industrial units though few big ones are closed now. Dynam Precision Pressing Ltd is one of such units operating for past 30 years and employing 15 workers along with 15 odd contract labours.
Typical to such units, the boss (Surendra Joshi) has been operating it at the same place and with same set-up but 3 different shop licenses. Showing less than 10 employees in each of these 3 units helps the boss to deny workers any social security benefits and reap more & more profits. Many workers serving for the company for more than 15 years while few since its inception (30 years) draw a meagre salary of Rs. 6000 or lesser.
Even after such a long service they still have not been issued permanency letters and sword of termination hanging over their head all the time. Worst of all, industrial injuries are no more exceptions but a routine and as many as 8 workers have one or more fingers cut at the workplace. Forget due compensation for these injuries, workers struggle even to have their hospital bills paid by the boss.
Workers working under such adverse work conditions decided to take united action and approached one of the trade unions in 2009. Subsequently on 1st Jan 2010 there was an agreement between management and workers where the former promised to merge 3 units into one and issue permanency letters to workers along with a pay hike of Rs. 2500. Now it is more than 1.5 year and workers realize they have been betrayed not only by management but also by the trade union which on the same date withdrew from the struggle and wrote to labour commissioner of its disassociation from the workforce. In past few months they tried to explore legal ways but thick fees of lawyers and complications involved have put them off. Desperately looking for way out some of them even thought of approaching a regional right wing chauvinist party to put pressure on the boss.
It was on this backdrop that New Socialist Alternative intervened and has been trying to push forward the demands of workers by seeking legal guidance from the Lokkalyan Majdoor Union that is affiliated to Hind Majdoor Sabha (HMS). This initiative has the support from its president and has opened the door for the workers join the Union. Workers have already issued the notice to boss and filed the case for proceeding with Labour Commissioner.
What stands out is the zeal and conviction of workers to fight against oppressive tactics and measures adopted by the boss. Our engagement has boosted their morale and they are determined to claim their due rights. Two prominent leading workers told us “It is around 20 years that we have been cheated by the boss but no more. We will carry on the fight until management concedes to our just demands.”
The conditions of these workers at this particular small scale unit is not unique but is spread wide across the industrial belt of Hadapsar and beyond. Only by way of unionizing the entire workforce of this industrial belt and a mass mobilization campaign in the area can any of demands from issues related to contractual labour to issues of social security be first of all addressed.
The central TU’s must mobilize a mass unionization drive, encompassing all section of the working class, from organized, contractual to unorganized sections, across the entire industrial belts to fight for better wages and working conditions.