Hyundai Mobis (Dharuhera) Workers’ Struggle Against Termination:
May 30, 2022
Observations, Aftermath and Lessons
Hyundai Mobis Warehouse located at Dharuhera (Rewari District, Haryana) terminated all its 105 workers on 28th February 2022 against which the workers started a sit-in protest (dharna) outside the warehouse gate that lasted till 20th April, at the end of which the workers were only given a meagre compensation amount as “settlement”.
[Analytical reports of this Struggle have been published in Hindi in the March and April-May 2022 issues of Yatharth which can be read online by clicking here and here respectively.]
‘Hyundai Mobis India Limited’ is an auto parts warehouse which employed 105 casual workers who had been working there from 6 to as long as 22 years. Their wages ranged from ₹20-35 thousand per month. On 28th Feb 2022, all the workers were suddenly and illegally terminated without any notice. The workers, furious by this act, started a dharna right in front of the Warehouse.
The terminated workers had not formed a union in the Warehouse but had been carrying out united actions since the last 6 years against the arbitrariness and anti-worker acts of the management. Despite coming from different regions, religions, castes, there was a strong mutual brotherhood between them which remained till the end. The management had carried out this termination only to get rid of these united workers who were not ready to silently surrender their rights for the company’s profits.
Coordination With Workers’ Organisations And Weaknesses Of Leadership
Different workers’ organisations had intervened in this Struggle viz. IFTU (Sarwahara), Automobile Industry Contract Workers’ Union, Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra and AITUC – among which IFTUS was present till the end.
Initially, after intervention of the organisations, the workers jointly decided to organize rallies across the industrial area daily. Hence, from 8th March, rallies with red flags and loud sloganeering covering 5-6 km took place daily in the entire industrial area and on the National Highway. This practice continued for about 25 days, but was later stopped by the workers’ committee.
A 9-member committee of workers was formed independently to lead the Struggle, although the process of its formation was not entirely democratic as only A-grade workers (approximately 18–20 in number) were included in the process. The basis for election of the President and the General Secretary was also undeclared, but actually it was based on wealth, education and region i.e. preference was given to more propertied, educated and local workers. Through these criteria, the workers selected for these two posts were among the newest in the Warehouse.
Tripartite negotiation process between the Warehouse Management, its Contractor (SRS Logicare) and the workers was also being carried out simultaneously before the Assistant Labour Commissioner, Rewari (ALC) in which around a dozen hearings took place. The lawyer hired by the workers (as directed by the Committee President) had a known history of turning struggles towards pro-management compromises. He had been expelled from AITUC in the past and in one case, had blatantly appeared from the management side after taking hefty fees from workers first!
The intervening workers’ organisations had constantly warned the committee about the lawyer’s history and attitude but to no avail because the Committee President had some relation with him, and the Committee as well as workers naturally trusted the President more than the organisations. As expected, through this process, the management, lawyer and administration worked only to mislead and bewilder the workers. The Management continued to adopt methods of prolonging the process and the ALC’s stance continued to be pro-management. The lawyer’s goal was also clear – to turn the matter away from the path of struggle and towards that of compromise, and leave with his ‘cut’ from the amount received by the workers. Despite facing disappointment after every failed hearing and numerous warnings by the organisations, the trust of the Committee towards the ALC process remained almost till the very end.
On 8th March i.e. in the early days of the Struggle, it was suggested by the organisations in a meeting with the Committee that on ALC hearing dates, all the workers should reach the Office in order to mount pressurize on the administration and management. The Committee (at the instance of the Lawyer) didn’t accept this suggestion. In addition, comrades of the organisations were asked not to be present in the hearings initially (again, at the Lawyer’s behest) and although their presence was agreed upon later, they were asked to not intervene in the hearings in any way.
Moreover, on the organisations’ initiative, it was also initially decided to distribute pamphlets on the Struggle in the industrial and nearby residential areas. However, the pamphlet draft prepared jointly by the organizations was rejected by the Committee for “being critical of the government also” and with this, the whole plan of pamphlet distribution was done away with.
The organisations had also suggested that the Committee should have more transparency with the struggling workers and that decisions on the Struggle’s way forward should be taken jointly by convening general meetings. On this, the Committee only said that adequate transparency is being maintained as of now. However, due to continued exclusion of the general struggling workers in the decision-making process for several days, a general meeting was called on IFTU(S)’s initiative to discuss the way forward, in which many important suggestions came from the workers. It was collectively decided in that meeting that in further ALC hearings, all workers would be present, and to intensify the struggle, a demonstration would be held before the Headquarters of Hyundai Mobis in Gurugram. This initiative was appreciated even by some of the Committee members who even suggested to hold such general meetings regularly. However, the very next day, at the behest of the President and the Lawyer, these decisions were overturned without any notice to the organisations!
Position Of Workers And Their Development
Due to the continuous disintegration and weakening of the labour movement in the entire industrial belt and also in general, along with lack of any experience of this form of struggle, trust of the Committee and also most of the workers remained not on ground level struggle but on systemic-administrative paths. There was also this hope that some ‘big’ leader or party would intervene and solve their problem, due to which they made numerous fruitless rounds of offices and leaders of the BJP, Congress and JJP. They even took part in a “Tiranga Yatra” (bike rally) of Hindu Jagran Manch of RSS after getting verbal assurance of their support. However, after getting only disappointment from all such platforms, the real character of the government-administration and these parties-leaders came to the fore in front of the workers to an extent.
However, in the beginning, the Committee had also made active efforts to garner support of the labour movement by holding meetings with almost all the local trade union leaders (mainly affiliated to AITUC and HMS). On March 28-29, on the days of countrywide strike, Mobis workers attended the joint mass meeting organized by the Central Trade Unions (CTUs) in Rewari in good numbers. In the meeting, a worker representative from the Hyundai Mobis Committee gave a passionate speech calling for unity of workers and their struggles against the capitalists and their governments, and also for support to their ongoing struggle. This was a welcome break from their earlier aforementioned stands which happened due to the lessons gained from the Struggle uptil then. Representative of IFTU (Sarwahara) also gave a speech calling for class unity of workers and concrete united actions of trade unions in the Hyundai Mobis Struggle. However, only verbal support could come out of the CTUs-led trade unions. For this reason, faith of the Mobis workers could not develop much on the labour movement. Although, this also made them realize the need to somehow strengthen the movement further.
Among the workers, it was a general stand that the company’s local management was the sole culprit, while the higher (Korean) management was innocent. To tackle this, letters and struggle reports were sent by the workers, at the initiative of IFTU (Sarwahara), to the MD demanding appropriate action to which naturally no response ever came. This led to a needed exposure before the workers of the ‘clean’ image of the big bosses and top management.
The Struggle also aroused a sense of class unity among the workers which became clearly visible in their slogans (Workers of Dharuhera/world unite!, All workers are brothers, will rightfully take their share!, Attack on one is an attack on all! etc. – rough translation from Hindi). On 29th March, a team of 40 Mobis workers immediately reached Manesar along with comrades of IFTU (Sarwahara) to express support to the ongoing JNS workers’ struggle. On hearing the news of arrests of JNS workers later that day, the workers again reached the spot and even the police station in the night to help them and express solidarity. Also, on 18th April, after hearing about RT Packaging workers’ struggle in Dharuhera against a similar case of termination, the Mobis workers went to their protest site (at the company’s gate) to express solidarity with them. Hence, it became evident that the urgent need for unity of workers and their struggles had struck a chord in the minds of the Mobis workers because of their own struggle.
Conclusion Of The Struggle
From the second week of April, the hope of getting their jobs back started waning among the workers. The main reasons behind this were: the closure of all paths of ground level struggle at the behest of the Lawyer, and eventually putting all energy and trust in the administrative process. Due to the constantly deteriorating financial situation of struggling workers (and not creating a struggle fund beforehand despite suggestions by organisations), the stand to stop the sit-in protest and pursue a labor court case started to gain traction. However, in the meantime, the Committee President presented before the workers a list issued by the management that contained details of the compensation amount to be given to each worker as settlement. Instead of pursuing court case, the President asked the workers to go for settlement. Eventually, settlement was agreed upon at the instance of the President and it was decided that the management would pay off the compensation amounts at the ALC Rewari Office on 20th April.
Meanwhile after this agreement, news came to the workers from internal sources that the President, General Secretary and Lawyer had made a clandestine agreement with the management in exchange for money, to make the workers agree for settlement for a lower compensation amount. This news was further confirmed on the day of payment (20th April) when the management suddenly presented a new list with lesser compensation amounts, one that accounted for only upto 6 years of workers’ tenures (as per latest Contractor’s tenure) and from which salary amount of Feb 2022 was also deducted; and instead of rejecting this, the President and General Secretary of the workers’ Committee started to put pressure on the workers (and other committee members) themselves to accept this compensation. In view of the above compulsions which had not left much scope of a fresh phase of struggle from here, after initial resistance, the workers eventually gave in for the lower settlement amounts despite being hugely dissatisfied with this result.
The maximum amount (received by A-grade workers) was ₹ 1.1 lakh and the minimum amount (D-grade) was ₹ 54 thousand which was equivalent to a mere 2-4 month salary. Some of the workers (including committee members) who had given their blood and sweat to the company for 15-20 years started to weep bitterly just after receiving the cheque! 10-12 workers, who were locals, decided to pursue a legal court battle instead of settling for this compensation. While the Lawyer ultimately took a total of ₹ 4 lakhs from the workers during this Struggle!
Most of the workers said in the end that they were ready to fight till the end had the leadership been better and not been sold out. Reviewing their Struggle, they said that ground-level struggle should have been intensified from the beginning. Workers even told IFTU(S) comrades that majority of the suggestions of the intervening workers’ organisations were consistently rejected at the behest of the Lawyer and President only. The Committee members also finally openly accepted their blunder and said in disappointment that those whom they trusted and therefore chose as the leadership became the ones who derailed the whole Struggle.
The Hyundai Mobis Workers Struggle re-establishes the fact that in these times of increasing neoliberal and fascist attacks (through labour codes, contractualization, privatization, mass termination etc., it has become extremely difficult to win a struggle that is confined to a single plant without establishing broad working class unity, be it permanent or casual workers, and at local or industry level. Today, production has got fragmented into smaller vendor companies located at different places producing one or two parts of the whole, in place huge plants/factories in which the total production happened under one roof with thousands of workers. Due to this, workers of the same industry and their united strength have been divided. Naturally, with this fragmentation, the impact on the whole industry or even the company due to a strike or struggle in one plant has also become fragmented and smaller.
In terms of leadership, the experience of Hyundai Mobis and other struggles in this region tells that the labor movement today in the industrial sector (and in general too) is virtually optionless. If workers agitate spontaneously and independently, it is the compromising and opportunistic leadership of the CTUs which is present more directly and visibly in front of them, that tends to steer the struggle towards pro-settlement. On the other hand, due to heavy fragmentation and reduced strength of the struggling revolutionary forces, their leadership is mostly unable to take such struggles to uncompromising victories and establish broad class unity, and often these struggles turn into court cases. Due to such opportunism, fragmentation and lack of spontaneity in the labor movement today, independent workers’ struggles are compelled
|All But One Imprisoned Maruti Workers Get Bail After Almost 10 Years In Jail!10 of the 13 Maruti workers who have been incarcerated in Gurugram’s Bhondsi Jail since almost the last ten years have now finally been granted bail. They had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017 over the controversial charge of attempt to murder of a Maruti official in 2012 during the historic Maruti Workers’ Struggle in its Manesar plant that commenced on 4th June 2011.The latest bail order of Chandigarh (P&H) High Court came on 19th April for Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union (MWSU) body member Dhanraj. Earlier the bail orders have come for Rambilas (24th Nov 2021), Sandeep, Suresh (19th Jan 2022), Yogesh (8th Feb), Ram Meher (President), Sarvjeet (General Secretary), Pradeep (21st Feb), Ajmer (23rd March), Amarjeet (24th March). Now, only the bail order of Sohan remains to come. Notably, two of the imprisoned comrades Pavan and Jialal died tragic deaths in February and June of last year due to electrocution and cancer while serving the oppressive sentence.The Court had openly called this life-taking sentence an ‘exemplary punishment’ needed to restore investor sentiment and the Maruti CEO RC Bhargava (quite aptly) termed the Maruti Workers Struggle a ‘class war’.|
to approach and even become pawns of ruling-class forces and their lackeys. Naturally, in order to avoid this in the current scenario, the reins of such independent spontaneous struggles must be in the hands of struggling and uncompromising workers. In light of the heavy fragmentation in the labour movement, the real working-class forces must take up the task of formation of a revolutionary, struggling and uncompromising working-class center in the movement as opposed to the CTUs led center. The foremost task for this is to urgently but patiently initiate an action-based process aimed to bridge the gaps and differences that exist among such forces. Meanwhile, along with this, it is all the more necessary to run continuous and intensive revolutionary campaign among the working class to the fullest of capacity. On the other hand, with the long-term aim of unity and mergers, the revolutionary working-class camp today must urgently initiate and democratically go through a process of articulating and resolving the political differences present among its forces, so that a correct central revolutionary direction can be given to the labour movement.