Chennai: Comstar Workers’ Strike

For the past 21 days, the workers of auto component manufacturer – Comstar, located in Sriperumbudur (an industrial area) near Chennai have been on strike under the banner of Comstar Automotive Technologies Employees’ Union demanding the recognition of their union and negotiations over a 3 year wage accord that had ended on March this year. The union has submitted a charter of 35 demands which includes wage revision, social security benefits to workers and recognition of their union.

But the management has steadfastly refused to hear the demands of the workers and has missed all the 4 reconciliation meeting (under flimsy grounds) that has been organized by the labour department to sort out the differences. Comstar which is a supplier of automotive parts to companies like Ford, Volvo, Tata etc. employs over 490 permanent staff (who are all on strike) plus 350 temporary staff such as apprentices and trainees. Since the strike began on 11th August, the company illegally hired 160 trainees to keep the company going through the strike period and kick-start production, without any regard to the ongoing industrial action.

Scorned by the management every time, the workers have decided to go on a one day hunger strike on 2nd September. While the state government/ labour department may have tried to act as an innocent bystander all along, this is nothing more than a devious ploy for inaction lest this ruin the investment climate. It is a very well known fact that all MNC’s big and small have been violating labour laws all along and denying the workers even their most basic rights to form unions in the workplaces.

What this case highlights or in the case of the ongoing Maruti Suzuki workers strike or the plight of the women workers in the garment industry is the blatant disregard by the management of the workers rights and these issues hardly finds resonance in the media which is nothing more than a case of corporate corruption. On the other hand the major central unions such as CITU, AITUC despite their organizational strengths have completely failed the workers in either unionizing them or fighting for their rights.

While the coming period will definitely see strikes and protests, which is nothing more than an expression of capitalism in crisis, but it is also imperative to note in the absence of a genuine political alternative fighting for Socialism, any movement led by the reformist trade unions will, instead of radicalizing the working class, only end up demoralizing them.

Central TU’s must unite to see the success of this strike through the call for a city wide industrial action.

Only by unionizing the working class of Sriperumbudur industrial area and a mass mobilization campaign in solidarity with demands of the Comstar workers will bring the management of the Comstar to its knees.

New Socialist Alternative (CWI- India) fully supports the strike action of the Comstar workers.

Anand Kumar

Bangalore