The Honda Manesar factory (de-) occupation in India

Honda Workers

A new longer text on the Honda Manesar occupation, by comrades of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar (Faridabad Workers News). For more background information we suggest reading following article we wrote about the previous wave of occupations:

https://libcom.org/blog/struggles-‘make-india’-–-series-factory-riots-occupations-wildcat-strikes-delhi’s-industria

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New Axis, New Terrain, New Milieu – Activities of workers hired through contractor companies in Honda two wheeler factory in Manesar, India

The November issue of Majdoor Samachar was getting ready to be published. We received and added the following message from a worker hired through a contractor company from inside the Honda factory on 5th November: “In A-shift during lunch break at eleven thirty, workers did not go to the canteens. They gathered at one place in the factory. Euphonic-cacophony! Production stopped in the factory. The B-shift came in the factory. A-shift workers did not leave the factory. Outside the factory 250-300 workers and inside the Honda factory thousands of workers gathered at one place.” After the permanent workers left the factory, 1500 workers hired through contractor companies stayed-put inside the factory. They stayed for 15 days. This brought to the fore with amazing clarity, the changes that have taken place during these twenty five-thirty years. This has made it very important for all workers. Rather, it is important for a more widespread arena. Therefore, despite it taking more space, we are publishing the excerpts from the aadan-pradaan (conversations/exchange) that had taken place between 5th to 28th November:

7th November: Temporary workers of Honda bike and scooter plant are sitting together inside the factory.

Yesterday, Honda management tried to start production through permanent, company casuals, apprentice, and staff. (Company casuals are workers who have been working for years in the Honda factory and who are made temporary for two more years before being made permanent workers). Only 50 vehicles in a day. Through a notice, the management had called all of them in one shift today. Permanent workers decided to stay in their own departments and refused to work on the assembly line. Assembly lines shut down.

# Notice from the Management to suspend production on 8th and 9th November.

# Work suspension notice is providing a pretext to the permanent workers to not come to the factory tomorrow and day after.

# Tomorrow and day after the management and the government together could do something to throw the temporary workers out of the factory.

# Solution…together only.

Now whether inside or outside the factory, the immediate task seems to be to think and prepare to defeat what is likely an imminent attack by the company and the government.

# This is not a do/die struggle. Like waves of the ocean, advance-recede, again and again, repeatedly, continuously. It behooves to have conversations regarding paths to exhaust the power.

# Company and government are scared. They are disconcerted. Their weakness is symbolized by their preparations.

All of you temporary workers’ self-confidence is something fantastic. It behooves to stay calm. Discussions at length on everyone’s suggestions are indispensable.

# The atmosphere has changed. The environment needs to be changed further.

This is neither a struggle for honour nor a do/die struggle. This is not something to be negotiated across the table.

Table and negotiations have become irrelevant. They have become obsolete. They have become meaningless.

Everyone knows this.

To advance and to recede like waves. To spread your ideas, views and practices. This is the time for workers of one factory to become workers of thousand factories.

The company and government’s consternation will increase further

# It seems bankruptcy is covered under the garb of honour.

8th November: Now food and water of all the workers sitting inside has been stopped.

# No one is being allowed to enter the company premises.

# Blocking the entry today is a defensive step of a frightened Honda management.

Unable to understand what is going on, Honda Company has done this to instigate the thousands sitting inside the factory and those workers sitting outside the factory. Provoked workers do something so that power can go in for police action.

The lesson learnt from 2011 experiences of Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory workers is to not get provoked. The workers did not get provoked even when their fellow workers who were called in for talks were arrested.

In October 2011, when the factory was de-occupied for the second time, a Maruti worker shared this about the time spent sitting together in the factory: “We, who had been working together for years, felt during those seven days as if we were seeing each other for the first time. We conversed a lot. We sang. We danced. Those were the best days of our lives”. And, the Maruti management had to back down, conceding concessions after concession.

For the temporary workers gathered in Honda factory, the factory is now their space. Lots of conversations. Lots of rest. Sing to your heart’s content. Compose new songs. And do convey your songs and conversations to us outside.

Enjoy. It’s a time for jubilation. These are moments of joy. Let’s make this time and these moments more memorable.

The Honda management does not know what to do.

9th November: Tonight, at around 8:30, workers sitting inside the Honda Factory were given biscuits, snacks, bread, and juice.

# Tomorrow friends, do come from 11 to 12 o’clock to encourage these casual brothers and if you can cook at home then do bring food so that there is no let-up in our brothers’ movement. …Beedi to smoke…

# Increasing discussion and support for workers firmly sitting inside the factory

10th November: Dear Associate, due to prevailing I R situation in the plant operations have been suspended and plant will remain closed till further intimation.

# What does this mean?

This means that the company does not know as to what it should do. The management had suspended the production for two days thinking that by 8-9-10th you will mellow down.

# What does it mean next?

The new and significant difference from Maruti Suzuki 2011-12 is that thousands of workers hired through contractor companies by Honda management are together determining the turmoil. There is no basis for representative-demand-negotiation-agreement to maintain the status quo. This is a new terrain.

12th November: Today, November issue of Majdoor Samachar was available near the power house in Sector-3 of Industrial Model Town Manesar from 5:30 to 9:30 am. 1800+500+250 copies amongst workers in many factories in IMT Manesar. Then we met workers sitting outside the Honda factory.

Thanks to the Honda workers who met us joyfully, said what they wanted to say, heard us, discussed. It was a good example of aadaan-pradaan (conversational exchange) for us.

Thanks to those Honda workers also who tried to see to it that the November issue of Majdoor Samachar is not read by Honda workers. They must have had their reasons for this.

After meeting Honda workers it seems that:

Some sections are troubled by the zest and enthusiasm of workers firmly entrenched inside Honda factory.
Their trouble seems to be that this can go on for long if the workers sitting inside the factory are not in distress.
The management had shut down the canteens and kept the firmly entrenched workers in the factory hungry for 24 hours.
The fear became overwhelming that the situation could worsen if the workers sitting inside were kept hungry. The union of Honda permanent workers came forward and made the food available to workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside the factory.
[Propaganda that 2500 workers sitting inside the factory had begun fast unto death. And, the Honda union stopped supply of food.] To see to it that no food enters the factory from any side, some from amongst the workers hired through contractor companies and sitting outside the factory were put up as additional guards.
The tested method of creating an emergency is being tried in the Honda factory. Due to an emergency situation the bad agreement had to be accepted is a raag heard ad nauseam.

Laughing. Singing. Dancing. Seeing joyful workers, the bosses sweat.

More the agreement is deferred, the position of workers hired through contractor companies will get stronger. The discussions amongst workers in thousands of factories in IMT Manesar are providing them strength. It behoves to further expand these relations.

13th November: Forcibly keeping workers sitting inside the factory hungry to create an emergency has advanced. Inside, three workers have fallen ill. Leaders by beating the drum of “thousands of workers inside the factory on fast unto death” reminded of the deceptions in the war epic Mahabharat.

14th November: At 2:30 in the night, one worker fell sick. Was sent to Employee State Insurance hospital.

# Those who are against you, their very plan is to create an emergency situation. Have discussions amongst yourselves. Is it in your favour or is it in the company’s favour to keep you hungry?

# Instead of being serious, this is the time for laughter and singing. The company’s emergency plan will get bogged down.
Worker’s joy is distress for leaders and officers.

# The B shift going to the factory and the returning A shift of the workers hired through contractor companies in Maruti Suzuki Gurgaon Factory showed great interest, curiosity, hope and enthusiasm in the turmoil created by workers hired through contractor companies in the Honda factory from 5th November.

15th November: The conspiracy to create an emergency by keeping the workers hungry for a quick resolution collapsed the moment it was revealed. Milk-bread-bananas are being given to workers sitting inside the factory.

17th November: I am standing outside Honda. Spoke with a few workers about giving food inside. They said that they are giving food which is just sufficient for survival… they are just trying to exhaust the workers inside.

1) Honda Manesar factory workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside Honda Manesar factory since 4-5 November are not complying with anyone’s consent.

They are not sitting inside because some leader told them to.

They are not sitting inside because some court ordered them to.

They are not sitting inside on the instructions of some representative.

In fact, workers hired through contractor companies cannot have any representatives.

There being absolutely no space for negotiations, in these circumstances such workers take collective decisions based on their thinking and understanding.

It seems to be a new terrain. This is absolutely different from the tussle going on in the world to keep the status quo intact. Workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside Honda factory and staying firm seem to be a part of attempts to bring about real change in society

2) Those who want to throw out the workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside the Honda factory since 4-5th November, are scared.

In whatever they think of doing, they at once see more harm and they also become aware of big danger.

Thousands of factories being next to each other. Millions of workers being close to one another. In the capital and surrounding area, ten million factory workers, together.

The government’s hands are tied. If they use the police there is a possibility of the situation getting out of control. Millions of workers close to one another can make the situation explosive in minutes. What can the army do?

Honda management does not know what to do? What can the bouncers do?

Workers hired through contractor companies very well understand and recognize the Honda factory permanent workers’ union and its leaders. But for “support”, what else can the leaders of various shades do?

What can the courts do? Violation of laws is common in the “rule of law” and adherence to laws is the exception. Hence, the courts keep deferring by giving date after date. And, it is common to not implement court rulings.

3) The position of the workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside the factory is getting stronger with each passing day. The position of Honda Company is becoming weaker and weaker with each passing day.

18th November: It is necessary to say this.

Government, labour department, and all unions in Gurgaon region (including the Honda union) have for the present, rescued Honda Company stuck in a dead-end. There is no longer any need to say anything about the assurances of leaders and officials.

In Honda Manesar factory, the workers hired through contractor companies de-occupied the factory. Removed the management’s control over the factory for 13-14 days. Workers created a space for themselves. This experience requires a lot of discussions. Now, the point is to increase workers’ own space. The point is to create workers own space beyond a factory’s walls. This is the time to create and spread the space in many factories, in the whole industrial area. Workers hired through contractor companies in Honda factory have shown a glimpse of this.

23th November: Read the special notice of Honda Manesar Management. A few things in this context:

In Faridabad, from 1990 to 2000, many such notices were seen. The process was somewhat like this:

After the notice, representatives warm-up. Conditions unacceptable. Will not sign.
No entry into the factory. Sit outside.
On the one hand it is illegal lockout and on the other hand it is illegal strike.
At that time some major transformation was underway in the production process. Demand in the market had fallen greatly.
Indefinitely outside the factory. Wither.
Restructuring by the company. Or declaration of bankruptcy, selling of assets.
Workers obtained extremely small amounts of their legal dues from the courts.

It seems that this process is again at play. But now workers are alert. So, this process will not be effective.

The new methods that workers have adopted: collective, spreading, staying-put at workplaces, and shutting out the language of negotiations.

Good times are ahead.

24th November: Greetings. Attaining success is becoming difficult. Six persons of the union have also been suspended by the management. Result is not in sight. Unable to understand what lies ahead. Offers from contractor companies. Some have broken ranks which is terrible.

# When you people were inside the factory, Honda Management was very weak.
After you people came out of the factory, the scale tilted in the favour of Honda management.

At such opportunities in the future, it behoves to think about means-methods to stay for longer periods in the factory. Now, it behoves to reach out to workers in other factories in IMT Manesar. Your experiences of 15 days inside the factory need to be spread in the entire industrial area. .

Managements are scared by two things. One is when workers do ‘sit-in’ inside the factory and second, when workers spread their experiences and ideas. Spread what all you did in last 15 days. This is your force.

25th November: Sitting inside and outside the factory for 15 days, workers hired through contractor companies in Honda Manesar factory became an axis. Support and opposition revolved around them.

It seems that a new terrain got constituted/was constituted. Temporary workers, casual workers, workers hired through contractor companies constituting the axis seem to be a new phenomenon. When it is said that “the workers have taken things way ahead” then it can be said to be an expression of this new

Workers, who have come out of Honda Manesar factory, after sitting inside for 15 days, are getting rid of their tiredness. They are acquiring energy. Becoming strong and robust, they will take the phenomenon greatly forward. In every industrial area, temporary workers will further speed-up the transformation.

The new terrain has come with new questions. No one knows now what the paths are.

By the factory sit-in, the 1500 workers have answered many questions with amazing and astounding clarity. The old questions have become passé.

The new terrain needs a new thought. New questions and widespread aadaan-pradaan (conversational exchanges) seem to be a primary necessity.

••• [After signing the conditions as per Honda management’s directions, permanent workers entered the factory from 25th to 28th November.]

28th November: From 6:00 A.M to 9:30 A.M, we were near the power house in sector-3 of IMT Manesar in conversation with workers of different factories. Then with a little apprehension we decided to meet the Honda workers on our way back. Now sitting outside the factory, the workers hired through contractor companies had to be searched a little.

The moment we met them we were elated. Workers who were inside the factory from 4th to 18th November met us with enthusiasm.

One worker: Stepping out of the factory was falling in the pit.

A number of workers: The moment we came out of the factory, we became weak. The scale turned in company’s favour. The management removed us from the factory gate. We have been made to sit in this far-away empty plot covered by trees. .

Workers took the copies of the November issue of Majdoor Samachar and started distributing it themselves. This refreshed the memories of 12 November, when some people at the factory gate had tried to stop the circulation of Majdoor Samachar amongst workers sitting inside and outside the factory.

The demonstration on 27th November organised by the Trade Union Council of Gurgaon at the district administration’s head office and the assurances given there were brushed aside by the workers by mere mention of Honda union president’s “two hundred percent assurance” of result on behalf of this Council on 18th November, within two days of the workers coming out of the factory.

Regarding prolongation of sitting out and weakening the workers: unlike workers of other places, we Honda workers will not become weak vs Honda workers have not come from the moon. Discussions in some groups regarding increasing the strength of workers. Conversations on paths to transform one factory’s workers into workers of thousands of factories. Mention of sitting at six-seven locations instead of the one presently in IMT Manesar. Regarding sit-in at a very important place, some details of the experience of Honda Tapukara factory workers sit-in at Jantar Mantar in Delhi were shared. Experiences in Faridabad, and in Okhla Industrial Area (Delhi), of workers of one factory taking their experiences amongst workers of thousands of factories by writing on cardboards were discussed. Discussion regarding 30-40 Honda workers standing during morning shift hours with their written cardboards along roads at 6-7 places in IMT Manesar from where large numbers of workers go to the factories.

It seems that the 1500 workers hired through contractor companies who sat in the Honda factory for 15 days, have the capacity to take things very far.

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