After Hyundai, now it is Foxconn
A Militant Struggle in SEZ
S P Rajendran
IGNORING the threats of the ruling party goons, continuous repression and attacks of the police and all kinds of anti worker measures of the management, the workers of Foxconn India, a multinational company, organised a huge rally in Sriperumpudur carrying red flags on October 10.
Sriperumpudur is a small town in Kanchipuram district near Chennai, having a big special economic zone (SEZ) where the MNCs like Hyundai, Nokia and Foxconn etc are present. The MNCs which are enjoying all facilities including uninterrupted power supply, are not ready to consider the demands of workers like regularisation of work, hike in salary and providing basic amenities at the workplace.
As usual, the Labour Progressive Front (LPF), a trade union wing of the ruling DMK had established its presence in these companies with the help of the managements in order to prevent any other union; but the workers did not accept the collaborative attitude of the LPF with the managements and rejected the union which is misusing the strength of workers.
The workers considered the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) as their own union and raised the red flag. Nearly three years ago, the employees and workers of Hyundai Motors India formed a union under the banner of CITU and organised powerful struggles against the repressive measures and these struggles inspired the workers of other companies like Nokia, Foxconn India and others in the SEZ.
Foxconn India is a mobile phone accessory maker. It is part of the Taiwan based Foxconn Technology Group worth 1.7 billion US dollars. After Hyundai Motor India and Nokia India, it is the third largest industrial employer in the SEZ with nearly 9000 workers. Among them, only 1400 are regular workers and more than 6000 are designated as casuals, trainers and probationers.
After the fraudulent attitude of the ruling party’s labour union, more than 6000 workers formed a union under the red flag of CITU.
The CITU led union has been demanding recognition of the union and discussion on increasing the wages. Workers enmasse had organised a demonstration in front of the factory on September 21 and had gone on strike on September 22. After an assurance of discussions with the union on their demands by the management, they had gone back to work on 23rd. But the management on September 23 announced that an agreement has been reached with the LPF union which has got no following among the workers and details will be announced later. They also suspended 23 leading workers and also declared a wage cut of eight days’ wages for the strike on September 22. The workers have been forced to go on a strike again from September 24.
It was evident that the management of Foxconn had wrote to the labour department a month back on August 24 to ascertain the majority union in the factory so that the issues can be settled with them, but the labour department and the DMK government were not prepared to accept a democratic process. The management had also fallen in line and they wanted to foist a union led by the ruling party on the workers, but workers were not prepared to accept that.
With this background, the DMK government instead of addressing the issues properly through the labour department is unleashing repressive measures using the police and the goons of the ruling party.
While continuing the struggle militantly, the workers and the CITU Kanchipuram district committee decided to open an office at the town for the union. For this, a small building was taken on rent. The preparations were also made to open the office on October 10. But the ruling party goons met the building owner and publicly warned him not to give the building to the CITU for rent and threatened him with further repercussions.
In the meanwhile, the police entered the premises of Foxconn company, on October 9 where the workers were on a sit-in-protest and arrested A Soundararajan, CITU state general secretary and E Muthukumar, district secretary of CITU and the main organiser of the workers in the SEZ and hundreds of workers. Later 319 workers along with A Soundararajan, and E Muthukumar were immediately remanded to Vellore central jail.
Despite the arrest of leaders and workers and the threats of the ruling party goons, on October 10, more than 3000 workers, mostly youth, rallied on the roads of Sriperumpudur with red flags and shouted 'CITU zindbad'.
The CITU office was opened at the conclusion of the rally. V Meenakshi Sundaram, senior leader of CPI (M) and the editor of the Marxist, Tamil ideological monthly inaugurated the CITU office. State and district leaders attended the meeting.
The struggle of Foxconn workers has exposed the ruling DMK’s totally anti-worker attitude, intolerance towards working class struggles and its unleashing of attacks on the right to form unions and democratic rights of working class.