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Friday, December 18, 2015

APPEAL


Dear Comrades/Friends
Sub: Sentence of Double Life Imprisonment for EIGHT Pricol workers on 03.12.2015 by a District and Sessions Judge of Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India
Workers of Pricol Limited were fighting for their trade unions rights ever since March 2007. For that, there was a concerted onslaught on them in the form of dismissals, denial of legal wage increases, stopping increments, demotions, break-in-service, partial lock-out and foisted criminal cases. More than 50 workers including women were in jail for 8 to 125 days.
It was in such background, that a case of murder conspiracy was foisted against Com.Kumarasami, National President of AICCTU and 26 workers that they have conspired and killed Mr.Roy George, vice-president HR of Pricol Limited on 21.09.2009.
This sessions case 75/2011 was tried in bomb blast cases court in Coimbatore and judgment was delivered on 03.12.2015. The court acquitted 19 of the accused as it held that criminal conspiracy was not proved against 18 of them and one accused was acquitted as his name was inserted in the case. Eight of the accused were sentenced to DOUBLE LIFE IMRISONMENT FOR MURDER AND HOUSE TRESSPASS with intention to kill. They were given other punishments also.
Objectively this judgment is seen by the workers as a reflection of systemic class antagonism, bias and hatred against the workers. The very harshness of the judgment, the material contradictions and inherent probabilities in the case show that the eight workers will get acquitted in the high court.  (For your perusal a criticism of the judgment and short notes on the long struggle of Pricol workers is enclosed).
We would like to point out that the tragic death of Mr.Roy George was used by the police, the state and the capitalists to crush the Pricol workers' struggle. One worker, Manikantan, committed suicide in October 2009 due to witch hunt by the police. Com.Sampath Kumar's (one of the convicted comrades) wife committed suicide in June 2015 apprehending conviction.
Pricol workers and AICCTU have decided to seek justice for the eight convicted workers of Pricol in the high court as well as in the people's court.
When neo-liberal agenda and anti-austerity measures are pushed, when anti-labor legislations are pushed, when Maruti workers are still languishing in jail this harsh sentence of DOUBLE LIFE IMPRISONMENT has been pronounced for Pricol workers. This is the harshest punishment meted out to any struggling workers in the past few decades in India.Objectively,this judgement will be sending a message to the workers that struggles and unions of their choice will not  be  tolerated but will also be punished.
We appeal to you to extend solidarity in all possible forms to the Pricol workers in their pursuit for justice in the people's court as well as in the courts of law.

Yours fraternally, 
    Rajiv Dimri
General Secretary
ALL INDIA CENTRAL COUNCIL OF TRADE UNIONS

1 comment:

Pricol Workers’ Struggle

an account from 24.02.2007
as it goes on........

Workers of Pricol Ltd., Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, held their general body meeting on 24 February, 2007 and formed union with majority workers under AICCTU leadership.

Then on, they are on the path of struggle and in spite of severe repression and victimisation, the struggle is continuing with intensity for the third year.

An account of their relentless struggle follows:

A few facts about Pricol Ltd

Pricol Ltd. manufactures auto components and it has factories in Coimbatore, Pune and Uttarakhand. It has got a subsidiary in Indonesia known as PT Pricol Surya Indonesia. The management in a recent press release has claimed that if the workers continue with their confrontationist ways, it would have to move out of Coimbatore leading to direct and indirect job losses for 20,000 workers.

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Denso Corporation, Japan owns 12.5% of the Company's shares. The promoters and their associates led by Mr. Vijay Mohan own 35.83% of the Company's shares. The share holding by the public and mutual funds amounts to nearly 44%. The Company's Balance Sheet shows that total Paid -up Capital is Rs. 9 crores whereas its present assets are worth Rs. 541.72 crores, and its reserves and surplus stand at Rs. 147.8 crores.

Year    Domestic Sales       Exports        Total Sales

2000      Rs. 179.10 cr.        Rs.   22.19 cr.    Rs. 201.3 cr.

2009      Rs. 476.50 cr.        Rs. 137.50 cr.    Rs. 614.0 cr.

The above facts would reveal the comfortable position enjoyed by the Promoters and it will not be trite to say that the sweat and toil of the workers have contributed to the tremendous growth of the Company.

Why is there such a long struggle?

To cut costs and to increase profits, the management resorted to a sham Contract Labour and Satellite Vendor systems. It had also developed five dependent unions to stifle real and effective collective bargaining. For decades, crude victimisation, denial of dignity, low wages when compared with higher productivity, denial of permanent status....and so on were the conditions of workers. Altogether, an eruption was in the waiting.

The proverbial last straw was the vindictive transfer of the vanguards of the newly formed unions in plant 1 and 3 which commanded  overwhelming support of the permanent workers as well as the workers of the sham contract labour and satellite vendor systems, which led to a powerful strike from 3rd March, 2007.

Stage - 1

More than 3000 workers went on strike. The management flatly refused to talk with the struggling workers. From 4.30 p.m. on 09.03.2007 to 10.00 a.m. of 10.03.2007, 2400 workers led by women workers staged a road roko in the Coimbatore - Ooty Mettupalayam Road. Mothers tended to their children and slept in the roads. They were all arrested after 17 hours and released only at 9.00 p.m.

On 10.03.2007 on 11.03.2007 1500 children and family members staged a Dharna in front of the factory. On 25.03.2007 there was a fast in Coimbatore City by 4000 workers.

On 28.03.2007, a calling attention motion was taken up in the State Assembly.

As the management was adamant, the workers entered the factory on 03.04.2007 and staged a stay in strike up to 10.00 P.M. When the police tried to enter, women workers doused themselves with petrol and kerosene and threatened self immolation. The police had to beat a retreat, but they lathi-charged the family members who had gathered outside the factory. The siege was withdrawn only after Comrade S. Kumarasami had a telephonic conversation with the local Minister and the Labour Minister.

The Management retaliated with partial lockout for 164 workers and then for another 11 vanguards and break in service for 134 workers.

On 10.04.2007 more than 2000 workers left for a rally and convention in Chennai to be held on 11.09.2007 demanding the Govt. to pass orders under section 10B of the ID Act 1947.

The Government intervened on the night of 10.04.2007 by referring the issues of strike, lock out and transfer to the Industrial Tribunal under Section 10 (1) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and prohibiting the continuation of the strike and lockout under Section 10 (3) of the same Act. Section 10 (3) ban can be invoked only with a simultaneous Section 10 (1) reference. Compulsory peace efforts (Reference) are conditions precedent for compulsory cease fire (prohibition). The logic seems to be that there can not be war and peace at the same time.

The unions obtained interim stay of the order prohibiting the continuation of strike on the ground that pending issues like lockout of 11 workers, break in service for 134 workers, sham contract labour and Satellite Vendor Unit systems were not referred to court.  The management after withdrawing the lockout of 164 workers obtained interim stay on the order prohibiting the continuation of lockout. Both sides were back to square one.

Stage - 2

The unions wanted the Government to refer the pending issues to the court and simultaneously pass orders under section 10 B imposing conditions on the management. On 23.04.2007 the workers and children covered their faces with black cloth and staged protests in the Collector's office as well as the Coimbatore Labour Office.

On May Day 2007 there was a huge rally and public meeting in Coimbatore of 8000 people, comprising Pricol workers, their families and friends, and AICCTU workers from all over TN,  demanding 10 B orders.

On 3rd, 4th and 5th of May 2007, there was a fast in Periyanaickenpalayam Area where the factory is situated.

On 14.05.2007, there was a live program in Makkal TV (People TV) on Pricol Struggle in which the office bearers of the union participated.

On 17.05.2007, the workers stated that they would surrender their family ration cards and election identity cards if their demands are not met. On 19.05.2007, 600 children demonstrated in front of the company's corporate office demanding February 2007 wages and education allowance.

Thousands of telegrams and post cards were sent by workers of other factories and the general public to the government demanding 10 B orders on Pricol workers’ issue.

On 21.05.2007, 70 women workers came to Chennai and gheraoed the Labour Commissioner's Office. They stayed back in Chennai and on 23.05.2007, went to the Labour Minister's House asking for 10 B Orders. Finally the Government relented and passed 10 (1) and 10 (B) orders on 24.05.2007.

The 10 (1) Reference was on the justifiability of partial Lockout of 11 workers, break in service for 134 workers, the sham Contract and Satellite Vendor Unit System, and recruitment during strike period.

The 10 B Orders directed the management not to give effect to the break in service, transfers and the partial lock out, not to employ the fresh recruits taken during the strike period. It also modified the undertaking demanded by the Management when the workers were to return to work.

With this, the strike was withdrawn on 26.05.2007. The workers were allowed to join duty in stages. After writing to the Labour Minister that they will implement the 10 B orders without any dilution, the management obtained an interim stay of the 10 B orders on 29.05.2007.

Stage - 3

The management resorted to a series of victimisation measures. The so-called Satellite Vendor Units were closed and their workers were terminated. From July 2007 onwards, the management denied DA and wage increase as per the settlements. On 13.07.2007, the workers were attacked by goondas brought in from outside. The workers caught hold of some of them and handed them over to the police along with the bus in which they came. But it was the workers who were arrested and put in jail.

On 19.08.2007, hundreds of Pricol workers attended a workers' rights rally of AICCTU in Erode. On 24.08.2007 there was a demonstration and on 10.09.2007 the workers went in hundreds and represented to the Collector.

On 28.09.2007 they organised a big public meeting on Bhagat Singh's Centenary Year. On 13, 15 and 17 October, 2007 they raised slogans in the factory. When only a few were charge-sheeted, others wrote letters that they too raised slogans and demanded why action against only a few. The management retaliated by demoting 114 workers.

The management filed 3 writ petitions against the 10.04.2007 lockout prohibition, 24.05.2007 10 (1) reference and 10 B orders. On 10.12.2007 a Division Bench of the Madras High Court upheld the three Government orders and dismissed all the writ petitions filed by the management. But surprisingly the Bench allowed the interim stay of the 10 B orders to continue while dismissing the main writ petition itself. Both parties approached the Supreme Court. On 16.05.2008 the Supreme Court passed an Interim Order allowing the 62 partially locked out workers to return to work.

In the meantime the management gave zero wages to 300 workers making illegal deductions beyond the statutory 75%. In spite of monetary loss, Pricol workers contributed Rs. 1 Lakh for the CPI(ML)'s 8th Congress. After repeated efforts, the management gave the workers 20% bonus only on 11.03.2008 from 24.02.2008.

Pricol Workers collected thousands of signatures demanding an amendment to the Trade Unions Act providing for recognition to the majority union through secret ballot. On a single day more than 1200 workers including hundreds of women workers collected 65,000 signatures.

On 23rd March, they entered the factory with Bhagat Singh Badges. On 27.03.2008 hundreds of Pricol workers participated in CPI (M-L) - AICCTU Assembly Gherao for various issues of urban and rural poor including TU Recognition Amendment.

On 05.04.2008 there was a massive hunger strike in Coimbatore in which PMK M.P. Dr. Senthil also participated. From 10.06.2008, the management created a far-away concentration camp for the partially locked out workers who had to return to work.

On 16.06.2008 Pricol Workers participated in a Left TU struggle in Madras for TU Recognition Amendment in hundreds. On the same demand, they joined AICCTU's Gherao of the Labour Commissioner's Office in Chennai on 25.06.2008. On 20.07.2008 they observed the hundredth Anniversary of Tilak's Arrest in a big public meeting in far away Malumichampatti.

On 20.08.2008 more than thousand workers courted arrest on the All India Bandh Day. On 21.08.2008 16 workers were arrested. On the same day the management partially locked out 170 workers. The workers laid siege to the factory protesting against this. On 24.08.2008, an understanding was reached before the Conciliation Officer that only 16 workers who were arrested will be partially locked out and 24 others will be suspended and the rest will be allowed to work and that there will be no victimisation.

On July 30 - 31 AICCTU's 6th State Conference and on August 2 - 4 AICCTU's 7th National Conference were held in Chennai. Pricol Workers participated in them and got elected as leaders of AICCTU. On 09.08.2008 the Quit India Day was observed in Karamadai, in a General Body meeting in which Comrade Dipankar Bhattachatya,  CPI(M-L) General Secretary and Comrade Kalpana of South Asia Solidarity Forum Participated.

Stage - 4

The Treachery & the Fight Back

With ulterior motives, the management lifted the partial lockout of office bearers. It started negotiations with some of them. The General Secretaries of the two fighting unions went over to the side of the management. They advocated a compromise with the management and started arguing that things will fall in line if the workers leave AICCTU and its leader as well as the worker leaders who are transferred.

The management which had fixed a date for talks with the union leadership backtracked as it felt that the renegades will not be able to break the unions. In spite of all deprivations and suffering, the workers decided that they will never give up their leaders and unions. Angered by this, the management from December, 2008 started deducting 25% of the wages of the workers.

On 10.12.2008 the management issued notices to 183 workers that it would deduct Rs.1.76 crores from their salaries for the losses caused from August 21 to 24 of 2008. On 12.12.2008 it dismissed 41 workers. On 02.01.2009 the Labour Department advised the management not to go ahead with the deductions.

On 18.12.2008 the two unions conducted their elections. All office bearers were elected unanimously. On 25.01.2009 there was a huge public meeting in Periyanaickenpalayam in which they took a pledge to fight till victory. In this meeting, the workers and general public observed silence in memory of the Tamils killed in Sri Lanka as well as all those killed by imperialism and its running dogs.

On 08.02.2009, Pricol workers LMW and KSB Pumps workers observed fast, expressing solidarity with the Tamils in Sri Lanka. 45 ISCV workers were asked to give a letter stating that Com. Kumarasami incited violence in the public meeting on 25.01.2009. As they refused they were dismissed on 24.02.2009. On 28.02.2009 a Referendum was held asking the workers whether the union should launch a struggle immediately without bothering about the consequences or to plan and conduct a struggle in an organised manner. The unions by choice did not announce the results on the votes. But the referendum showed that the struggling spirit of the workers has won and that the union's overwhelming majority stood proved by the number of voters.

Stage - 5

The Third Reference

and the Second 10 B Orders

Pricol Workers are record breakers. They break their own records.

On 30th June 2009, the Tamil Nadu Assembly witnessed AIADMK, Congress, PMK, CPI, CPI (M) MLA’s speaking on a Calling Attention Motion on the indefinite fast of Pricol Workers from 15.06.2009. The Labour Minister while replying narrated the various unfair labour practices of the management as well as the actions taken by the Government. He concluded by stating that the demands of the workers are accepted and that their fast has ended. He also assured that the Government would never let Pricol Workers down.

This Victory

Did Not Come Overnight 

First, we shall see what exactly this victory is. Government order 393, dated 29.06.2009 has referred the following 3 issues for adjudication to the Labour Court Coimbatore under Section 10 (1) of the ID Act 1947.

1.   Is the demand of the Unions that the management of Pricol Limited plant 1 and 3 should not engage apprentices and contract labour in direct production, justified? If so, what should be the relief?

2.   Is the management justified in unilaterally declaring holidays and thereby depriving incentive from the wages of the workers from December, 2008? If not, what should be the relief?

3.   Is the management justified in denying DA and Wage increase as per 12 (3) Settlements dated 29.09.2004 and 03.03.2004 on the ground that workers have not fulfilled their obligations?    If not, what should be the relief?

For passing 10B Orders imposing conditions on employers and employees in the interests of employment, industrial peace, public order etc. it is a prerequisite to cause a reference under Section 10 (1) of the ID Act 1947. Having done that in GO 393 on 29.06.2009, the Government simultaneously passed 10 B Orders in GO 394 on 29.06.2009 to the following effect.

(i) The Management of Pricol Ltd. Plant 1 and Plant 3 shall not engage Apprentices and Contract Labour in direct production activities, affecting the work, wages and incentive of the permanent workers.

(ii)     The management of Pricol Ltd. Plant 1 and 3 shall pay respectively an interim relief of Rs. 500/-, Rs. 400/- every month along with salary to the workers with effect from 01.06.2009.

Apprentices and Contract Labour are engaged in direct production contrary to law in almost all public and private sector units for decades. This is the first time a Government has invoked its powers to stop that. Workers have succeeded in forcing the bourgeoisie state to implement its own bourgeoisie law.

This campaign was built brick by brick and the activities of the union planned step by step towards the Government conceding the demand.

By its own unsigned notice, the management stated that it was not paying DA and wage increase to the workers from July 2007. The management stated that this would be a minimum of Rs.950 and a maximum of Rs.1600 per month per worker, and that it would pay the amount due to the workers in installments if the workers leave AICCTU, a Marxist-Leninist and Maoist Union.

The management while dismissing the workers, is bound to give a month's notice pay to them, while seeking approval under Section 33 (2) (b) of the ID Act, 1947. If the management fails to pay full month's salary, its approval petition will be dismissed. Therefore, while dismissing the workers, management paid the withheld DA and wage increase in the month's notice pay. The union pointed out to the Government that workers would be paid these amounts on dismissal which were denied to them while working.

In March 2009, the Government issued a prosecution notice to the management for violating the settlement. The Government also issued a show cause notice for the unfair labour practice of denying wage increase to the workers on the ground of being members of a union which is not acceptable to it. These notices were issued to all Board Members of the management.

The Union produced before the Government many authentic documents to show that apprentices and contract labour are engaged in direct production. On 15.04.2009 the Government issued a detailed advice to the management not to engage apprentices in direct production. The Government stated that on this issue it was prima facie satisfied by the documents shown to it. The management did not pay heed to this.

In an unprecedented move, the Government ordered a spot inspection on 21st and 22nd May 2009 and the spot inspection report categorically stated that apprentices and contract labourers were engaged in direct production and that the permanent workers are prejudiced.

The unions asked the Government to pass the necessary orders which will only be the logical culmination of its earlier steps. Of course, this was accompanied by a powerful indefinite fast from 15.06.2009 and the indefinite fast was carried on when the assembly was in session.

Thousands of signatures were obtained asking the Government to concede the demands of the fasting workers. More than 1 lakh leaflets were issued. 90 digital banners throughout a long stretch of Mettupalayam Road were erected.

The workers, the unions and the people were moved. Emotions ran high as the fast moved from day to day. Political parties, unions, social activists, workers and the general public stood in a queue and met the fasting workers. There were poignant scenes when children visited their fasting mothers and fathers.

On the 12th Day, women workers who were unable to move, and other physically ill workers were taken away from the fast. On a day to day basis, health of the fasting workers was monitored. To some, the spirit was willing but the flesh started yielding after 12 days. Ultimately the fast ended successfully on 16th Day.

The fast was held inside the union office. The fast was not called a fast unto death, but an indefinite fast. The police, which was otherwise prepared to put an end to the fast by booking cases under Section 309 Indian Penal Code (Attempt to Suicide) and remove the fasting workers, was not able to intervene and only had to visit the fasting workers every day.

The fasting workers were told to hold two aspects strong in mind.

“Seeking guaranteed success in a struggle is to guarantee that no struggle takes place”.

“Be prepared to continue the fast up to July 8 when the Assembly takes up the Labour issue. Be prepared even to go beyond it.  When anybody asks you when the fast will end, tell them that it will end when our demands are conceded. If they again ask you, when the demands will be conceded, be bold enough and true enough and tell them there is no time limit to struggle.”

Pricol workers dared to win. They dared to struggle. They dared to succeed. Their saga of sacrifice determination, dedication, and class consciousness will continue.

The management may or may not come to an immediate settlement. The management has vowed in a press conference after the fast, that it has taken up a principled stand against a Marxist-Leninist, Maoist leader and his unions and that it would rather move out of Coimbatore than talk with the Union.

History has taught us different lessons. It was the mighty United States of America that got defeated ultimately and not tiny Vietnam.

Pricol Workers have proudly proclaimed in their banner

“Class struggle was there.

Class Struggle is here.

Class Struggle will be everywhere.”

 

The management which has been raising the bogey of Naxalism and Maoism for the past 3 years says the following in its Annual Report - 2009 on the topic, Industrial Relations: “The Company strives to maintain harmonious relationships with all its employees. Efforts are ongoing to build and renew the relationship with the work-force.”

 

The Supreme Court case is likely to reach sometime around 31.07.2007. If apprentices and contract labour are stopped from direct production, the workers of the so-called satellite vendor units, and the workers under the earlier sham contract, will have a better and earlier chance of employment.

 

What is Happening in Pricol?

 

The unfortunate death of the Vice President of the Human Resources Development Department of Pricol Ltd is regrettable indeed. Coming one year after the Graziano incident in Greater Noida in which the local head of an Italian firm had reportedly been beaten to death by sacked employees, it has evoked a lot of passionate comments and demands from the corporate world. Even as workers are being arrested in large numbers and leaders are being framed, employers are demanding a ban on trade union struggles and sections of the corporate media are advocating labour reforms to give a completely free hand to employers.

 

A single day’s tragic incident is now being deliberately sought to be used to prejudice public opinion against the Pricol workers and suppress the truth of the nearly one thousand days of their united and determined struggle. Among other basic things, a key demand of Pricol workers has been for the recognition of their unions which enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of workers while the management has been constantly pressurizing workers to withdraw from the road of struggle and sever ties with the ‘Marxist-Leninist’/’Maoist’ leadership.

 

In this long struggle of Pricol workers, the government of Tamil Nadu has repeatedly censured the Pricol management. The state government has issued three advices, passed one government order (GO) prohibiting the continuance of lockout, passed three GOs ordering references, passed two orders under section 10B of the Industrial Disputes Act (ID Act) 1947.

 

On 29th of July 2009 the state Labour Minister, while replying to a calling attention motion moved on the floor of the assembly by AIADMK, PMK, Congress, CPI, CPI(M), catalogued the various unfair labour practices indulged in by Pricol Ltd, and stated that the workers had given up their indefinite fast which had been continuing for the 15th day as their demands were accepted by the government.  He further assured that the government would not let the workers down.

 

Have things completely changed in a few months and more particularly on a single day with the unfortunate death of an executive? In the heat and passion generated by this tragic incident, can we allow rational reasoning to become a casualty?

 

Mr George's Unfortunate Death was Neither Preplanned Nor the Result of Conspiracy

 

Mr Kumarasami addressed the general body meeting and one office bearers' meeting on 19 and 20 September 2009.  As a practising labour lawyer in the Madras High Court for nearly three decades and AICCTU's national and state president, he is conducting all the Pricol cases in Madras High Court as well as the Supreme Court.  Going to Coimbatore basically to reassure the workers not to worry about the delay, as the Pricol case would be coming up for hearing on the 29th of September before the Madras High Court,  he categorically cautioned the workers not to get provoked by any vindictive action of the management. He also proposed a padayatra from Coimbatore to Chennai to highlight the demand for a trade union recognition Act and several other burning issues of the toiling people. It was also planned to celebrate the 1000th day of the struggle to positively counter the frustration being caused by the delay in legal struggles and the recalcitrant attitude of the management.

 

Can by any stretch of the imagination these proposals to impart a stronger mass political dimension to the protracted struggle of Pricol workers be construed to be part of any conspiracy, ‘Maoist’ or otherwise? 

 

In this connection it would not be out of place to remember that just the other day, Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways called his pilots who formed a union 'terrorists'.  And he withdrew the terrorist label and embraced them as prodigal sons as soon as they returned to work, leaving aside the issue of union for the time being.

 

It Will Be Better If the TN Police Consults the TN Labour Department on Pricol Ltd:

 

Pricol’s track record in the arena of industrial relations has been notorious. Rampant violation of labour laws, court verdicts and government orders has been the trademark of the Pricol management.

 

·There are vindictive transfers.

·There is refusal to engage in collective bargaining in good faith with the majority union.

·There are illegal partial lockouts.

·There are break-in-service orders.

·There are stoppages of increments.

·More than 1000 employees are terminated.

·There is illegal deduction of wages and incentives running into crores of rupees.

·The management has promised to pay all these withheld dues if the workers leave the unions.

·There is employment of apprentices and contract labour contrary to certified standing orders and the Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act, 1970.

·Now there is the recent dismissal of 44 workers without any domestic enquiry. 

 

In almost all these issues the state government has intervened under sections 10 (1), 10(3) and 10 B of the ID act 1947.

 

In fact Comrade Kumarasami was trying to get the Labour Minister convene a meeting at the earliest to resolve the simmering discontent and this fact is known to the Labour Department.

 

The management does not want Comrade Kumarasami to defend the Pricol workers in the High Court as well as the Supreme Court on the 29th of September and other subsequent dates. This is the main reason for implicating Comrade Kumarasami, the national president of a centrally recognised trade union. 

 

Respect Industrial Democracy, Stop Witch Hunt Against Pricol Workers

If lawyers and TU leaders who defend and guide the workers are framed in conspiracy cases as during British days, the government will only be sending a loud message: “No healthy, strong collective bargaining will be allowed. Industrial relations are back to the pre-1926 colonial days."

 

Should we allow the unfortunate death of Mr. George to be turned into a weapon for witch-hunt of workers and suppression of trade union rights – instead of treating it as a poignant issue for remedial action? Let the unfortunate incident motivate all parties to take remedial measures that will help resolve the real underlying issues.

 

With the Trade Unions Act coming into force from 1926, the country had gradually moved away from lawlessness to the rule of law by instituting a system of collective bargaining.  If employers like Pricol Ltd. are allowed to violate the law and make use of an unfortunate death to go in for a witch-hunt, implicating leaders in false cases, and suppressing basic trade union rights, will that not be only sending out the message that there is no place for laws and effective trade unions in independent India in the days of globalisation?

 

TN government and central government should not act on the basis of one-sided corporate hue and cry. TN government should come to the aid of Pricol workers, their families and their leaders, as it has promised on the floor of the assembly.  We appeal to all trade unions and progressive and democratic sections of society who believe in the dignity of labour and rights of workers to support the struggle of Pricol workers and express solidarity by calling upon the TN government to stop the ongoing witch hunt and force the arbitrary Pricol management to respect industrial democracy and implement government orders.

 

A Demonstration by Pricol Workers

A Demonstration by Pricol Workers

Text of the Memorandum submitted to the Honourable Deputy Chief Minister Shri M. K. Stalin by AICCTU

COM. S. KUMARASAMI
All India President, AICCTU, Politburo Member, CPI ML (Liberation)
Implicated in False Case

Mr. Vijay Mohan, Managing Director, Pricol Ltd

Behind the Conspiracy

AICCTU is a Central TU recognized by Central Government. It has membership strength of over 5 lakhs.

AICCTU All India General Secretary Com. Swapan Mukherjee and National Secretary, Com. Balasubramaniam attended the recently held Indian Labor Conference as invited by the Central government.

TN Govt. forwards important communications about its labor welfare related measures to AICCTU as AICCTU is a Central TU recognized by Central Government.

Thus, AICCTU is a Central TU recognized by both the Central and State Governments. Com. S. Kumarasami is All India President of AICCTU. He is also a practicing advocate in the High Court and he practicing law for more than 25 years.

He is now implicated in a false case at the instigation of Mr. Vijay Mohan, MD, Pricol Ltd.

Com. S. Kumarasami is the honorary President of Kovai Mavatta Pricol Thozhilalar Thozhirsangam since March 2007.

Pricol management is treating its work force as slaves and exploiting them for the past 30 years. Pricol workers are waging a relentless struggle against this oppression.

6 office bearers of Kovai Mavatta Pricol Thozhilalar Thozhirsangam and Kovai Mavatta Pricol Employees Union were transferred to Uttarakhand as they were instrumental in forming these unions. Pricol workers went on a strike against this transfer and since then there have been legal struggles taken up by the workers.

Though the workers were ready to sort out the issues through negotiations, the management was not ready for such a solution. It said that it will come to the negotiation table only if the workers leave their unions and give a letter to that effect.

The TN government and the Labor Department intervened many times and directed the management to halt its anti-worker activities. The TN government had passed 10 B orders twice to safeguard the interest of the workers and industrial peace. But the management did not pay heed and went on with its victimization spree.

Over 1500 contract workers who were working for Pricol for more than 20 years were terminated on a single day.

The management is not paying the rise in wages and DA as per the agreement and every worker is losing Rs.950 to Rs.1650 per month, bonus was not paid as per the agreement, which means a loss of more than Rs.1,00,000 per worker, which is running into crores for all the 1500 plus permanent workers.  (This hike is paid for the worker who is facing dismissal as a worker will have to be given notice pay before termination.)

But the management announced through its notice board that if the workers leave the union, the entire pending amount will be released in a single installment.

But the workers chose to remain with the union and raised demand for TU Recognition Act.

The management stepped up its victimization measures and hardly a day passed without victimization, in some form, at some level.

After all this, the management illegally deducted at least Rs.1000 from every worker’s pay saying that they have to pay for its losses. So, the workers are paid less than Rs.1500 per month.

To do away with the union the Pricol management has taken up measures like termination, suspension, 8 days pay deduction, break-in-service, demotion, denial of terminal benefits for retirees and dues for the families of the workers on death, attack by goondas and so on.

In these circumstances, 43 workers of Kuniamuthur unit (this unit was opened only to harass the workers) were terminated on September 21. Some workers went to the HR VP’s room to discuss about the termination. The discussion, in due course turned into violence and the VP was attacked and he later died in the hospital. Pricol management’s anti-worker measures, its refusal to honor the advice of the labor department and G.Os of the TN government are reasons behind this attack and Mr. Vijay Mohan, MD, Pricol Ltd is solely responsible for this attack.

The incident is very unfortunate and regrettable. AICCTU does not endorse such activities.

Mr. Vijay Mohan, MD, Pricol Ltd, has given a false compliant on Com. S. Kumarasami and on the basis of his compliant and instigation, the Coimbatore police has implicated Com. S. Kumarasami in the false case.

Mr. Vijay Mohan, MD, Pricol Ltd is conducting such a smear campaign on AICCTU and its leaders in a planned manner and at his instigation, there are news items in print and electronic media branding AICCTU as a terrorist organization.

* We strongly condemn the implication Com. S. Kumarasami, All India President, AICCTU in a false case.

* We demand that TN Govt. and police should not take sides with Mr. Vijay Mohan, MD, Pricol Ltd, in his conspiracy.

* We demand that action must be taken against Mr. Vijay Mohan, MD, Pricol Ltd for conducting smear campaign against AICCTU and its leaders.

* We demand that TN Govt. and police should not take sides with the capitalists in their terrorist activities against the workers.

 

A. S. KUMAR

State Dy. General Secretary

A. I. C. C. T. U

Pricol: Some Truths

 

In ‘Modern Times’ one of the classics of world cinema, Charlie Chaplin, who works in a machine, the speed of which is increased as the day toil progresses, with spanners in both his hands, goes to the bathroom. When going, though there are no spanners he holds, he is not able to stop the operation and the activity at the machine continues while going to the bathroom too. This scene powerfully explains about capitalist exploitation and how the laborer, a human being made of flesh and blood becoming an extension of the machine for production. This is true even today and as for as workers of Pricol Ltd are concerned it is way of their life.

In 1975, Mr. Vijay Mohan started Pricol Ltd in Coimbatore with an investment of Rs.40 crores and today, Pricol’s worth is Rs.4000 crores. It is very obvious that, Vijay Mohan, Vanitha Mohan, Vikram Mohan or any of the human resources officers would never have even touched a spanner. It is obvious that this 100-fold growth of wealth of Pricol Ltd is only out of the sweat and labor of over 4000 Pricol workers.  Pricol workers are in the touch and feel of this truth.

But, what is the condition of the workers who have spent their life in growing this wealth?

>Wage revision once in 5 years.

>Wage hike only for Rs.100 to Rs.150.

>Deduction in DA as second account which till date the workers do not understand or do not opt for.

> A worker with a service of 20 years can take home Rs.500 after all the deduction.

>Apollo Insurance scheme was imposed on the workers and premium deducted from their salary without their consent.

>Compulsory overtime work.

>Norms fixed on the basis of time study done for a period of one hour. This very difficult for 12 hours work.

> In the Japanese work style, workers have to stand all these 12 hours. No consideration for women workers during their menstrual period or pregnancy.  This has resulted in 30% women workers removing uteruses.

> Deduction from the salary of the workers for the organization SIRUTHULI, run by Executive Director Vanitha Mohan without the consent of the workers.

>Construction of temple, grave yard and tsunami relief work in the name of the management by deducting from the salary of the workers without their consent.

> Workers were forced eat in spoons in the pretext of cultivating good habits. But the real reason diverting water from the company to SIRUTHULI. Workers are not comfortable in eating with spoons and they say they are not able to eat fast in the time allotted for lunch and thus they go half-hungry.

>Workers dignity is constantly under threat and getting sanction for eligible leave or permission means an attack on dignity.

>Workers are humiliated when there is request for advance for expenses such as marriage or delivery and other emergency.

>Any who gathers minimum courage to question such attack is humiliated by making sit in a red chair, transfer to a department, the work in, the workers is not trained.

> Any worker still resists is shown the doors.

Conditions of over 1500 non-permanent workers

>Pricol Ltd has more than 13 Satellite Vendor Units (SUVs). Those workers in these units are involved in production for Pricol precisely. These workers call themselves as Pricol workers. Pricol management also called them that.

> But the papers of Pricol do not call them Pricol workers. They called the SVU workers.

>But they were employed in Pricol Plants 1 and 3 and were involved in direct production like the permanent workers.

>They are non-permanent workers, who spent their life in an expectation that some day they will be regularized.

>There are workers who have worked for more than 20 years as contract workers.

>Pricol management which did not discriminate them in involving in direct production and other oppressive measures, discriminated them on the question of wages.

> They do not get wages and other benefits as extended to the permanent workers.

>No holiday even on Sundays.

>Recently a weekly magazine reported that the toilets in Pricol premises do match the standards of five star hotels. If the reporter is bold enough, he/she should meet some of the SVU workers, explore the conditions and report that too.

>Apart from these SVU workers there are Other Contract Laborers (OCLs). Their working conditions are the same as that of the SVUs.

>All of them were dismissed for joining union.

>Pricol management had even ‘allowed’ some unions to function among the workers and a weekly now is reporting that they had smooth relation. It is true. They had smooth relations. Smooth relations with the management!

Thus Mr. Vijay Mohan was running a kingdom with over 4000 workers. Workers were paying heavily for his rule. And at some point they decided to put their foot down and fight back.

Their experience of being together in production propelled them to an extraordinary decision in the times of contractualisation and casualisation: management divided the workers in the name of permanent workers, SVU workers and Other Contract Laborers (OCLs); but all these workers united and formed a single union with strength of 3900 workers. This number itself gave them strength. Vijay Mohan had to face shock for the first time and this turned out to be prestige issue for him. 6 of the office bearers were transferred to Uttarakhand. Workers went on a strike demanding withdrawal of the transfers.

Vijay Mohan, who was claiming that the workers and management all together is a family, obtained an injunction in the court that the workers, ‘his family members’ can not approach the vicinity of the factory, the ‘home’, and they would be kept 100 meters away. Workers, who were legally prevented from coming near the gates, gathered in a tea shop nearby and named that place ‘Uttarakhand Maidan’. Vijay Mohan enjoyed the sight of his ‘family members’ sitting on the road side in sun. Vijay Mohan who has strong overseas relations such as English Time Study, Japanese work style, Indonesian Unit, refused to negotiate with the TU leader who came from Chennai and called him an ‘outsider’.

Workers’ struggles intensified.

(Details of the Struggles can be seen in the booklet. Other related articles published are enclosed)

On 30.06.2009, 32 workers called off their indefinite fast, as the Labor Minister announced in the assembly that their demands are conceded to. But, when returned to work after 16 – day fast, the management greeted them with treating the days on which they were on fast as period of absence and the leave sanctioned prior to the leave period is canceled as they involved in TU activities!

Workers approached the labor department to get the second 10 B implemented as they apprehended that the management would get this 10 B too stayed.

In this period, the victimization measures of the management intensified. Management got the second 10 B stayed. There were show cause notices for some reason or the other. Workers wore badges stressing their demands, while on work. The management did not even allow this level of expression of workers’ protest. Management told the workers to remove the badges. When the workers did not comply, Roy George ordered suspension of 40 workers for 2 days consequently. The number of workers being suspended (all of them are vanguards) increased to 100 on the fourth day and Com. Krishnamurthy, President of Pricol Workers Union doused himself with petrol and attempted self-immolation. A police official who came there incidentally prevented him from immolating himself. Next day issue came up before the DCL and the workers agreed to remove badges but demanded that the suspensions should be revoked. Roy George signed for this only after repeated persuasion of the DCL.

In this period the Kuniamuthur unit workers were harassed thoroughly by the management. Kuniamuthur workers are those who were taken back for work by the management as the SC directed in favor of the workers. All of them are vanguards. The management never wanted them and was attempting to throw them away for some reason or the other constantly. On 19.09.2009 workers came home after their shifts. 20.09.2009 is Sunday and holiday. They went for work on 21.09.2009 and found to their shock that the gates were closed and they were informed that the factory is closed and that they are dismissed.

Now CII is raising hue and cry about Pricol incident. Will CII come out with any statement about the plight of the workers and the exploitation they were subjected to all these years?

Central Labor Minister Mallikarjun Karge is asking the TN government to send a report about Pricol happenings. What was he doing all these days when Pricol workers were fighting for their dignity and livelihood?

Who will answer for the economic death of the workers who were dismissed or suspended?

Which Minister raised question about the families of 1500 SVU workers and OCLs who were thrown out by the management?

Mr. Vijay Mohan never honored the GOs of the TN government, directions of the labor department and judgments of HC and SC. Who will prosecute him?

Are workers who made Rs. 40 crores into Rs. 4000 crores terrorists? Or Vijay Mohan who trampled upon the dignity and livelihood rights of the Pricol workers for over 30 years a terrorist?

There are more unanswered questions in the minds of Pricol workers. Who will answer them?