Workers of motor cycle companies Royal EnField and Yamaha ended their 50 day long strike, on November 13, 2018. Both these companies are situated in the industrial township of Oragadam near Chennai. The strikes of the workers ended in partial victory for workers in both plants.
The workers in these companies are fighting against extremely exploitative working conditions.
In a talk with correspondents of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar, Com. Udyakumar, General Secretary of Yamaha Employees Union, Orgadam, said that the permanent workers of the Yamaha Plant went on indefinite strike to defend their right to have their own union. The management had thrown out two union activists simply because workers had dared to form a union. Workers were fighting for their reinstatement.
Comrade Sampath, Vice President of Working People Trade Union Council explained the conditions in Royal Enfield factory. In the Oragadam plant, which began operations 6 years ago, the work force consists of 750 permanent workers, 3000 apprentices and 2000 contract workers. At the Vallam plant of the same company, there are 140 permanent workers and 3000 workers who are apprentices or on contract. The workers formed their own union in May 2018. Seeing the mass support of the union amongst apprentices and contract workers, the management threw out 120 apprentices in September to strike fear in the heart of other apprentices and contract workers. Workers went on strike against this on September 24 2018.
Comrade Sampath pointed out that workers of Royal Enfield and Yamaha were waging a joint struggle coordinating their steps. Young workers in both these factories have come forward to fight. In particular, he pointed out that in Royal Enfield, all the workers — regular workers, apprentices and contract workers — were waging a united struggle. The workers were also fighting against the Fixed Term Employment and NEEM.
Comrade Selva Kumar, General Secretary of Royal Enfield Employees Union, Oragadam, pointed out the role of the government was thoroughly anti worker. “The government, labour department, and police are trying to crush our struggle by attacking workers rights by various means. This strike took place because these companies have refused to honor the rights that belong to workers legally. The government itself should have taken strict action against the capitalists — it did not…….Why is the government refusing to take action against the capitalists who violate the laws?”
During the 50 day strike action of workers of these two factories, thousands of workers and their families participated in numerous actions to highlight their just demands. The Labour Department was forced to accept the justness of the workers demands — but it pleaded helplessness saying it could not force the capitalists to accept these demands.
The united struggle of these workers drew support from workers all across the state of Tamilnadu. Thozhilalar Ottrumai Iyakkam, LPF, CITU, AITUC, HMS, AICCTU, WPTUC, DMDSP, DDSF, FITE and many other trade unions extended their support to this struggle. On October 16th, all trade unions in tamilnadu held joint protests demonstrations on the issue. Workers held demonstrations in front of Yamaha showrooms.
Comrade Soundar Rajan, President of Tamilnadu state committee of CITU, pointed out that the Yamaha management had not only violated workers’ rights to form a union of their choice, it had also violated the Contract Labour Act, Apprentices Act etc. “Government of Tamilnadu and Labour authorities are in support of the capitalists who violate the laws… Capitalist parties and state authorities are working in support of capitalists. This strike is making the workers understand this fact.”
Comrade TM Murthy, General Secretary of the Tamilnadu State Committee of AITUC summed up the mood of workers following the militant struggles of the workers of Royal Enfield and Yamaha thus: “It is a struggle for secure livelihood. New labour acts like Fixed Term Employment FTE and NEEM are being enacted, to wipe out permanency of jobs. These acts are implemented in both Royal Enfield and Yamaha companies. Hence opposing these Acts and their implementation, these struggles are very necessary. We must congratulate the workers for coming forward to fight for forming a union of their choice and defending it. At a time when the capitalists are crowing that they have fully smashed the trade unions, these struggles are welcome act of resurgence in struggles.
We must build class politics. There is great opportunity to take the struggle forward on a broad based manner. We must build unity between the trade Union. In order for the working class to win, all trade unions must unite and fight together.”
In the course of their struggle, the Royal Enfield and Yamaha workers strove to build unity of all workers of the industrial township. They brought home to the workers of other factories in the area, that the struggle was a common one, for the same cause, against the same class enemy. Workers families participated in these agitations. The workers established a joint leading body of factory level unions in the industrial area in which unions of different factories participated actively. They took up the demands of all sections of workers, and opposed all the attacks on labour rights.
Workers of our country are consciously forging class unity and building organisations of struggle cutting across party and union affiliation, in the different industrial townships of our country. This is what the struggle of workers of Oragadam once again reaffirms.