Tata Motors strike: Workers may ask Kanhaiya, Hardik Patel for support

File photo of a Tata Motors official offering a rose to workers at the company's plant in Sanand, Gujarat, on February 2, 2016. The workers are protesting the suspension of their 28 colleagues.
As the striking workers at Tata Motors’ Sanand plant garnered the support of 22 trade unions in the state, unions have threatened civil disobedience to restore rights of all industrial workers in Gujarat.

Speaking at a press conference here today Ashim Roy, vice-president of the National Trade Union Initiative, said, “The company has taken punitive action against 26 workers. Also the intention is to not let workers form a union at the plant.”

He said this was a violation of workers’ rights and claimed 22 trade unions, including the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) had extended support to their struggle.

Roy said the unions would undertake a statewide movement to expose the victimisation of labour and farmers in Gujarat.

Union leaders are planning to invite popular faces of dissent like JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar and Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel to extend support to workers at the Tata Motors plant.

The Sangh Parivar-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has not yet come out in support of the movement.

“The company respects the right of workmen to form a union. The 26 workmen who have been suspended on charges of serious misconduct have nothing to do with union formation. All workmen other than those suspended on charges of indiscipline should resume duty,” a Tata Motors spokesperson said.

The Ahmedabad district collector had tried to mediate between the workers and the management on Friday and asked the striking workers to resume work.

The workers held a secret ballot today in which an overwhelming majority voted in favour of continuing the strike. Workers and trade union members will demonstrate in front of the collector's office on Monday and later at the  Sanand industrial estate.

Roy even threatened to shut down the company's showrooms in Gujarat. Plans are afoot to move the Gujarat High Court over the state government declaring the strike illegal.

“We are willing to join from tomorrow if they withdraw the suspension. We are open to a neutral enquiry, and will accept the outcome,” said Hitesh Rabari, a striking worker. The workers are unhappy with their wages and the main objective behind forming the union is to negotiate better pay.

Around 422 permanent workers at the Tata Motors Sanand plant went on a flash strike on February 22 and staged a sit-in at the plant from February 23, protesting against the suspension of 26 workers. Company sources claimed 50 workers had resumed work since then.

The state labour department prohibited the strike on March 2, and the company set a deadline of March 11 for striking workers to join back, failing which they would face action.

The plant makes the new Tiago hatchback, bookings for which opened recently. Workers claimed production of the car had slowed to 35-50 per day after touching a peak of 100 in January. The plant has a capacity to produce 250,000 cars a year and was earlier dedicated to the production of the Nano. Workers said that at present about 60-70 Nanos are being made at the site per day.

Amrish Patel, secretary Gujarat Majdoor Sabha and also vice president of Trade Union Center of India who is an advisor to the Tata Marcopolo workers' union at Dharwad, claimed, "Apart from Sanand and Dharwad, protests are taking place at Tata Motor's Pantnagar plant as well with regards to unionisation."

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