Location India India

In prison for four years, for having organized trade union

The Maruti factory that today employs over 3,000 workers is located in the north of India, in Manesar, in the state if Haryana. The factory was privatized in 2002 and came under the control of Suzuki.

Since that date, 75% of the workers have been precariously employed, without the least social protection.

In the company there had been an “inhouse” union. The working conditions were extremely hard. In most cases, 50% of the monthly salary was variable, depending on the level of production. The workers could lose about 25% of that fraction of their wages if they were absent for a day due to sick leave.

But the workers began to build an independent trade union called the Maruti-Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU), uniting the permanent workers and the precariously employed workers. In 2011, the trade union began to undertake steps to be legally recognized. After a series of demonstrations and strikes, the trade union was recognized, but the management of the company refused any discussion on the demands for regularizing precarious jobs.

On July 18, 2012, members of the trade union noted the presence in the factory of thugs, hired by the management, who had brought them into the company. On that same day, a foreman insulted a worker — using insults based on the caste that the worker belonged to. Immediately after the altercation, the worker was suspended. The trade union protested and demanded the lifting of the measure.

Violence broke out rapidly, sparked by provocation from the thugs, and the police intervened. A fire started in one of the workshops, and a manager was killed. The circumstances of the death were never exactly determined.

But 147 of the company workers were arrested over the following days, including workers who were not present in the factory when the events took place.

Eleven workers are still in prison today, four years later. Their cases are to be judged by a high court in the coming days.

As was explained by Nambiath Vasudevan, who has been committed for the past four years to the defence of the Maruti workers, in the name of the NTUI union confederation (the New Trade Union Initiative):

The Indian officials have warned the courts of justice, saying: freeing the Maruti workers would be sending a wrong sign to foreign investors”.

Two militants from the trade union, Pardeep Gujjar and Ram Niwas — who have both recently been freed from prison appealed to the World Conference Against War, Exploitation and Precarious Labour and proposed to organize broad-based worker delegations to the Indian Embassies in all countries throughout the world, to demand the immediate liberation of the 11 Maruti workers who are still imprisoned.

This international solidarity campaign will start next day.


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