A Report on the Workers’ Struggle in Graziano Trasmissioni

Rajesh Tyagi

This report is based upon an interview of two workers of Graziano Trasmissioni, namely Kapil Kumar and Ajay Dwivedi. Kapil belongs to Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and had joined in 2003 as apprentice, after completing his ITI. He worked 8/9 months under contractor, which was a sham and then was given permanent appointment in 2004. Ajay Dwivedi was employed in 2006.

Graziano Trasmissioni at Noida is a subsidiary of a multinational company based in Italy.

The company had started its operations in Noida, UP, in 2003 with a capital of less than 20 crore rupees, which grew over to more than 240 crores in 2008. This extraordinary accumulation of wealth is the result of the super exploitation of the workers employed at this establishment.

Lalit Kishore Chaudhary, its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has been instrumental in the establishment and growth of the company.

Industrial activity in the establishment continued round the clock, initially in two shifts of 12 hours each, i.e. 6 am to 6 pm and then 6 pm to 6 am. Though working hours were limited to 8 hours and the workers were paid overtime for an additional 4 hours, but overtime was made compulsory for workers. No weekly off day was being given. Those refusing to comply were thrown out of employment.

Initially 350 permanent workers were employed as Operators cum settlers, with 80 Trainees/apprentices. About 500 persons work under the labour contractors mostly for the job of packaging.

The very first dispute arose as the employers used to make deductions from the wages on false pretexts.

On 233 December 2007 the first protest of workers started on the issue of demand for a rise in wages and against the deduction of wages by the employers on the ground that the entry card was not properly punched. Though it used to happen due to a technical fault in the punching system, while subsequent punchings in the day were duly recorded, yet the employers in order to harass the workmen used to deduct the wages, on this false pretext. The workers protested.

Getting wind of the workers being organised and striving to form a union, 3 workers were barred by the employers from entering the premises and one Manoj Kumar was terminated. The management refused to recognise the union, while the authorities at Kanpur kept the application of the workers pending in collusion with the employers.

4.12.2007. Protesting against the high handedness of employers, 100 more workers were locked out by pasting a notice of the lockout outside the gate.

7.12.2007. A settlement took place between the parties, only to be repudiated by the employers later on. The workers’ protest went on.

AITUC, the trade union front of the Communist Party of India, with whom the workers were affiliated, agreed with management to restore normalcy first and then negotiate, which the workers rejected. After this the AITUC abandoned the workers.

24.1.2008. In the face of the struggle of the workers, the employers were constrained to enter into a written settlement with them in the presence of the Deputy Labour Commissioner (DLC), Noida etc. On behalf of the workers 5 elected representatives participated, among them – Rajender, Kailash Joshi, Pankesh Sharma, Ram Charan and Mohinder. A homogenous wage revision was agreed upon with an increment of Rs. 1200/- in the current year, Rs. 1000/- in the second year and Rs. 800/- in the third year.

February 2008. However, immediately after this settlement, the employers brought in 400 workers under the local contractors namely Virendra Bhati, Manish and one Bhardwaj. These contractors with a force of 400 at their disposal, started to bully the workers. From 2008, these 400 workers began to reside inside the factory premises. The said contractors had also gathered iron rods, sticks and other weapons inside the premises, to terrorise the workers and obviously to deal with the agitating workers, if need be. Apart from this a whole battalion of armed goons in the name of ‘security’ was also employed under a contractor. It became clear, thus, that the employers were planning to throw out the permanent workers and to substitute them with these contract workers.

May 2008. To pick up a dispute and provoke the workers the employers refused to employ 5 worker Trainees/ apprentices and ousted them from the premises on the pretext that they had handled the job of ‘settling’ of the machine without instructions. It was pointed out that no such written instructions for ‘settling’ job were given to any of the workers. The same was part of the ordinary job duty. The workers then insisted that from then onwards instructions for ‘settling’ jobs were to be issued in writing. The workers also demanded that the 5 ousted workers be taken back.

Instead of taking the 5 workers back on the rolls, the employers suspended 27 more workers. The Production Manager Amar Singh Baghel was also ousted on the charge of being in collusion with workers.

The employers had intentionally switched off the reverse exhaust fans inside the workshop which resulted in an immense increase in the indoor temperature. To ensure that no workman even took a breath during duty hours, CCTV cameras were installed, and violators were immediately ousted.

The workers protested against the aforesaid unfair labour practices and made complaints to the concerned authorities but without any result. Authorities acted hand in glove with the employers. The workers also demanded 3 shifts of 8 hours instead of the two of 12 hours each. Everything fell on the deaf ears of the employers and the competent authorities.

30-31/5/2008. A disturbance started on the instigation by Virender Bhati, the local muscleman of the employers under cover of being a contractor. A totally false police complaint was made by the employers against the workers for affray, and 30 more of them were locked out. Workers could be released after depositing personal bonds of Rs.1,00,000/- (one lakh) each, with the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), NOIDA, which is very unusual and extremely excessive amount.

19.6.2008. Instead of paying any heed to the legitimate grievances of workers, and in order to harass and terrorise the workers, 35 more of them were locked out. With this a total 97 workers were ousted, while 192 continued inside out of the permanent workers. By this time the workers were affiliated to CITU, the trade union front of the CPI(M), which agreed to the proposal of the employers that first of all normalcy be restored and the protest outside the gate be ended, and then after a month the employers would think of reinstating the workers. The workers did not agree to this and then the CITU also abandoned the workers. However, the protest of the workers continued.

In the meanwhile workers affiliated to the HMS, the trade union front of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, with one Virender Sirohi as their leader.

1.7.2008. A meeting between the employers and HMS took place in the office of the DLC, in which Sirohi agreed to normal working on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of July, 2008.

2.7.2008. The employers instead of complying with this locked out the remaining 192 workmen as well. The workers were constrained to resume their protest. A dharna took place at the DLC office for 7 days, then 3 days before the District Magistrate (DM) office, a march was undertaken from Surajpur Chowk to the DM office and finally a dharna at the Italian embassy was organised, but the entire machinery remained totally insensitive towards the cause of the workers.

Several times the dispute was negotiated at the DLC office or the police station, but only to be repudiated by the employers on one or the other pretext or intrigue.

11.7.2008. A settlement was arrived at the DLC, Noida Office, in the presence of the SDM and CO Dadri.

13.7.2008. The workers joined work at the factory pursuant to the settlement and to show their bonafides.

The next meeting was fixed at the DLC office on 16.7.2008.

16.7.2008. Out of the 27 suspended workers the employers reinstated only 12, while they terminated the services of 15 workers. This was apparently a device to divide and crush the workers, one by one.

55 more were notified to be reinstated, but were locked out the very next day on the pretext of their coming late at 9 am instead of 6 am.

The employers also obtained an injunction form the Court preventing the workers from agitating within 300 metres of the factory premises.

The Labour Commissioner came to Ghaziabad from Kanpur. The workers met him and complained about the partial and callous attitude of the DLC, Noida. The Commissioner entrusted the matter to the DLC, Ghaziabad.

4.9.2008. A meeting took place at the DLC office, Ghaziabad took.

16.9.2008. Another meeting took place in the office of the DLC, Ghaziabad between the employers and the HMS. None of the elected representatives of the workmen was present in the meeting. It was agreed that the workers would tender an apology. The DLC, Noida directed the workers to tender an apology on or before 22.9.2008.

18.9.2008. The workers went to tender an apology but the employers told them that they would call the workers on 22.9.2008. The DLC refused to take the apology in his office.

22.9.2008. As the workers gathered to tender apology, they were told that two workers at a time would go inside the ‘time office’ to tender apology. Inside the time office, armed security and local goons had already taken up their positions. The workers were told to specifically admit in their apology that they had indulged in sabotage and violence. Some workers wrote this down, but the others refused. Anil Sharma, a time officer slapped one of the workmen for refusing to write the apology in the desired format. A scuffle started and the workman was beaten up by the security personnel.

On hearing the commotion, the workmen present outside entered inside. Unable to prevent the workmen, one of the managers ordered the security and goons present inside to attack the workmen. They attacked and the securityman fired from his gun at the workmen. Several workmen, about 34, were injured in the scuffle.

Jagmohan Sharma, Station Officer, Bisrakh Police Station remained present with his force but did not intervene on the behest of the employers who had conspired to beat up the workmen. He has since been suspended for ‘dereliction of duty’.

People from both sides were then rounded up by the local police, but those on the side of employers were let off while the workers were kept in custody. Later, it transpired that the CEO of the company had also got one head injury, allegedly in the scuffle, which proved fatal. It is also stated that some of the goons engaged by the employers to deal with the workmen, had double crossed them and acting at the behest of some rival industrialists had killed the CEO, taking benefit of the chaos perpetuated by the employers.

However, the employers who were desperate to dismiss the regular workmen got an opportunity to implicate the workmen in the murder and thereby get rid of them. The local capitalists, corporate media, bureaucracy, all avowed enemies of working class, united to defame the workers and implicate them. 63 workers have been implicated for conspiring and participating in the killing of the CEO while 74 other have been implicated for rioting, affray etc.

2.10.2008. The workers staged a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar against their victimisation.

16.10.2008. Another protest in support of workers was held at Jantar Mantar at the behest of labour organisations in Delhi and its environs.

Courtesy: Revolutionary Democracy

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