JNS Struggle: Outcome and the Way ForwardMay 30, 2022
6th May 2022: From the very beginning, the workers of JNS have struggled sometimes under the leadership of AITUC and sometimes HMS. The workers went on strike for the first time in 2014 against various the forms of oppression done by the management of JNS (est. in 2001). Even after this, the workers have gone on strike 3-4 times. However, under the leadership of Central Trade Unions (CTUs), settlements were reached almost every time based solely on assurance by management, going against the opinion of the workers. For this reason, where JNS had about 100 permanent workers in 2014, today only 30-35 remain.
This struggle, which started from 3rd March 2022, was also trapped between the leadership of these two unions. The relatively large structure and reach of CTUs made the leading workers put their trust on them. However, in spite of such leadership, as per the extent to which the understanding and consciousness of the JNS workers and their leading comrades (who were mainly women) had developed owing to their experiences in the earlier struggles, they waged the struggle bravely and brilliantly in which, before blocking the company gates, a month-long peaceful sit-in protest was carried out outside the company with a 24-hour deployment of workers, day and night. On talking to the workers, it was found that in the name of struggle, the CTU leaders used to advise only to maintain the sit-in peacefully and increase the numbers and they themselves were mainly present in the process of labour department.
However, in the end, the decision to jam the factory gates was probably taken under the supervision of HMS, as only HMS leaders were present on 29th March (when gates were jammed). Though beyond their expectation, the workers turned down the incomplete offer given by the company and the settlement could not be reached after which the police started lathi-charge. Notably, no CTU leader was present at the site at the time of the lathi-charge. The next day on 30th March, the AITUC leaders finally arrived at the time of bail after collecting some sureties, after which the struggle went back under the leadership of the AITUC.
Immediately after the 29th-30th March episode, JNS workers peacefully continued their protest in front of the factory (on the other side of the road), although the number of workers had dwindled considerably. Seeing this courage of the workers, the nexus of company management and the police-administration started their repression cycle and made arrests under the FIR (No. 95) with serious sections. The leading workers were immediately arrested. Due to this, the release of their comrades became a major issue for the struggling workers and under this pressure a ‘compromise’ was imposed on the workers under the leadership of AITUC.
In the first week of April, AITUC appeared on behalf of the struggling workers and executed a tripartite agreement with the Management and Administration (Labour Department), which was hollow and based only on assurances like the earlier agreements. No other organization was informed prior to the settlement process, not even the trade union activists who were arrested. The only concrete thing that came out in the agreement was that on April 7th the contractors would take back 25 workers on duty, after which other workers were assured to be taken back within 15 days. The transfer order of 6 women workers issued in order to harass them was assured to be resolved “within a month”, and in addition the police case was also assured to be “reconsidered on sympathetic grounds”.
So far only about 60 workers have been taken back after the agreement. This process is also progressing at an excruciatingly slow pace which can take months, due to which most of the workers are getting frustrated and preferring to go into settlements of accounts with the management. About 50 workers have taken the settlement so far. The amount of settlement that is being received is also meagre (11 thousand rupees per year, according to the tenure). There might also be some percentage based ‘cut’ for the AITUC which “made the compromise possible”, that is common to CTUs. 3 people (Ajit+2) out of the arrested workers are still in jail and have not been able to secure bail till now. Thus, even after such a splendid struggle, firstly, a compromise was forcibly made by showing the fear of repression and even after that the agreement, the workers neither got their jobs back, nor the proper and just settlement, nor relief from the false police case.
The JNS Workers’ Struggle is yet another example of what becomes of a brave workers’ struggle if led by the compromising and opportunistic Central Trade Unions. Long ago the CTUs left the path of struggle and have now become the center of rituals and compromise in the labour movement, due to which now their role in most cases is purely to tame the militant and decisive labour struggles and to turn them towards compromise and to impose (pro-management) settlement on the workers. The inclination towards compromise in such struggles also stems from the fact that it has become a source of income for them. However, due to the relatively large infrastructure, more resources and wider reach/connectivity, workers tend to lean towards them, at least initially.
Apart from this, these CTUs, who are completely involved in economism, limit the workers’ struggle under their leadership to economic issues, which becomes a major obstacle in the politicisation of the working class and the development of class consciousness among them. It was seen in the case of JNS as well that even after fighting all the struggles since past several years, the workers, even their leadership, had not developed much class consciousness, due to which they were unable to establish mutual class unity and carry the struggle beyond the issue of a single factory. The same was the case with the other unions (almost all affiliated to CTUs) of IMT Manesar and the workers who could not do much other than give verbal and symbolic support in this struggle that had been going on for a month.
In this context, the initiative of the struggling workers of Hyundai Mobis of Dharuhera is commendable, who, as soon as they were informed by the comrades of IFTU (Sarwahara), reached there in a team of 40 workers from another district by their own independent initiative to give concrete physical support to the struggling JNS workers, and even took out a solidarity march amidst heavy police deployment. This episode of workers’ unity gives rise to a new hope of establishing unity of the workers’ struggles and the overall working-class unity.
The challenge before the revolutionary trade unions and working-class organisations today is how to develop class and political consciousness among the workers in spite of being weak and heavily fragmented, because only this can give the labour movement a turning point towards a militant and decisive path. For this, revolutionary organisations will have to carry out intensive revolutionary propaganda continuously among the struggling as well as common workers, and where situation arises, they will also have to have the ability and courage to take the reins of such struggles in their hands. Along with this, revolutionary organisations and unions will have to make relentless efforts to accelerate the process of establishing mutual unity. Only by moving forward on these paths will we be able to move away from the compromising-opportunistic center of CTUs and establish an alternate revolutionary center which can lead a relentless, militant and decisive working-class struggle.