KARACHI: South Asian Labour Forum SALF Pakistan on Thursday demanded immediate release of Maruti Suzuki workers in India who have been arrested by the police last year as well as withdrawal of all cases filed against them by the administration.
Addressing a press conference at Karachi Press Club KPC, Executive Director of PILER Karamat Ali, Mohammad Jaffar of Muttahida Labour Federation, Manzoor Razi and Rehana Yasmeen said Pakistani trade union leaders and human rights activists expressed solidarity with Indian workers. They demanded unconditional reinstatement of the workers who have been illegally expelled from the jobs during this movement. They also called for restoration of the ceased bank account of Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, India.
Labour unions reserve their right to formulate their strategy for future struggle, protest and demonstration if the Indian government doesn’t consider the appeal from labour unions, they said.
They pointed out that Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research PILER had organized a meeting of South Asian Labour Forum, Pakistan Chapter on the issue of Maruti Suzuki workers on 19th July 2013 in Karachi to pay a solidarity note for this movement from Pakistan. The meeting attended by the leading trade union leaders brought out with the consent on unconditional support for the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ struggle.
The meeting underlined the need of unity between all labour movements across South Asian region. It was also decided in the meeting that SALF, Pakistan Chapter will organize a large scale consultation meeting and a press conference as a part of the solidarity campaign. SALF Pakistan Chapter had also announced a seven members’ committee to develop a strategy to extent support for the labour movement across the region. The committee agreed to raise funds to provide the token financial assistance to the movement in which all labour unions, labour rights organizations and likeminded individuals will contribute according to their capacity. For this purpose SALF committee announced to print the receipt vouchers for the contributors.
The Maruti Udyog Ltd. was established in Gurgaon India in 1983. After its launch in India, the company soon became a symbol of automobile revolution. Today Maruti has two manufacturing units, including five plants in all – the older one at Gurgaon and one that started in 2006 at Manesar, both of which are in Haryana.
Since its founding in 1983, Maruti Udyog Limited experienced few problems with its labour force. The Indian labour it hired readily accepted Japanese work culture and the modern manufacturing process. In 1997, there was a change in ownership, and Maruti became predominantly government controlled. Shortly thereafter, conflict between the United Front Government and Suzuki started. Labour unrest started under management of Indian central government. In 2000, a major industrial relations issue began and employees of Maruti went on an indefinite strike, demanding among other things, major revisions to their wages, incentives and pensions.
On 18 July 2012, Maruti’s Manesar plant was hit by violence as workers at one of its auto factories attacked supervisors and started a fire that killed a company official and injured 100 managers, including two Japanese expatriates. The violent mob also injured nine policemen. The company’s General Manager of Human Resources had both arms and legs broken by his attackers, unable to leave the building that was set ablaze, and was charred to death. The incident is the worst-ever for Suzuki since the company began operations in India in 1983.
147 Maruti Suzuki Workers, arrested in the wake of industrial violence at Manesar Facility on 18th July 2012, remain in detention. 546 permanent workers and some 1800 contract workers were summarily dismissed. In addition, there are non bailable warrants still pending against 66 workers. In July 2013, the workers went on hunger strike to protest the continuing jailing of their colleagues and launched an online campaign to support their demands.
Demands of Indian workers are: Immediate release 147 workers currently detained in Gurgaon, as well as of the 11 detained at Katihal jail; The police must also end the harassment of workers and their families; the constitution of an independent and impartial judicial inquiry to investigate the full scope of events that led up to the industrial violence on 18th July 2012; the full reinstatement of workers, whether permanent or non-permanent, who were dismissed after incident and enforcement of tripartite machinery.