19. The automobile industry has recorded remarkable growth in gross production as well as per capita productivity of labour: from 8.5 million vehicles (of all types) in 2004-05, production has risen to 20.4 million in 2011-12. In both industries, cheap contract labour far outnumbers regular workers and real wages (after discounting for inflation) have been falling continuously, between 2000-01and 2009-10 real wages actually fell by 18.9 per cent. In 2000-01 an auto worker spent 2 hours and twelve minutes in an eight hour shift for his/her own subsistence and that of his/her family. He/she spent the remaining 5 hours and forty eight minutes generating surplus for the capitalist (and the banks, land owners, management personnel and so on). By 2009-10, he/she spent just one hour and 12 minutes for his/her own subsistence and family and 6 hours 48 minutes for the capitalist.

20. In the Gurgaon-Manesar-Bawal zone outside Delhi, which accounts for about 60 per cent of auto production in India, 80 per cent of the estimated one million workers are hired on contract. Union busting, sacking, beating (recall the police brutality on absolutely peaceful Honda workers, who were invited for talks, at Gurgaon in 2006), foisting criminal cases and even murder are the order of the day. The German auto parts manufacturer Bosch for example managed to resist three attempts at formation of a union and the story is nearly the same in other factories too.

21. Naturally, recognition of genuine trade unions enjoying the confidence of the majority of workers and regularisation of contract labour and ‘apprentices’ engaged in regular jobs in violation of law and at unbelievably low rates have emerged as the basic demands of the twin industries. At the shop and plant levels, workers often resort to work stoppages and other forms of protest on the issues of dignity and victimisation of their militant comrades. The new features of class struggle – the MNC techniques of management, the emerging face of workers’ resistance and the role of the state – came out in vivid colours in a couple of representative movements in two of the most important ‘modern’ industrial centres of India.

Lessons of Maruti and Pricol Struggles

22. Situated in the conservative Hindi heartland dominated by the notorious Khap panchayats, the Maruti Suzuki factory at Manesar has been a forward post of industrial conflict for quite some time. Most of the workers are young and more or less educated, a good many of them coming from far-off places. Since the company – as is the norm nowadays unlike in the past – does not arrange forhousing, workers live in small rooms in converted hostels run by local landlords. Following prolonged peaceful agitations for the right to unionise, the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU) – which embraces all categories of workers – was registered in March 2012. However, till date the management, in violation of the law, insists that the Union cannot be affiliated to any central Trade Union. There was a 13-day long strike in June 2012, which ended when the company agreed to take back 11 terminated workers.

23. Very significantly, the July 18, 2012 showdown was ignited by an incident in which a supervisor abused a Dalit worker in caste terms and the latter replied in a befitting manner. It is to be noted that such humiliation is no aberration: supervisors and managers are trained to do this as a matter of routine for breaking the morale of workers. In the ensuing violent clashes between workers on the one hand, and the management and bouncers on the other, many were injured on both sides while a human resources manager died. The management and state authorities immediately swung into action. Large-scale indiscriminate arrests were made and a reign of police-goonda terror was let loose on the entire area.
24. The kulak-landlord forces organised in Khap Panchayats
resolved that the striking union must be suppressed. They forced
their worker tenants to vacate, landing them in greater trouble. Meanwhile the whole factory was transformed into an iron curtained ghetto. An undeclared lockout was imposed in the form of demanding a written “good conduct” promise from every worker who intended to enter the factory.

25. Against this backdrop, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) and Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA) started