500 Contractual Workers at Hitachi’s AC Manufacturing Plant on Strike

INDIACSR News Network

AHMEDABAD: As many as 500 contractual workers of the Hitachi Home & Life Solutions (India) Ltd (HHLI), a subsidiary of Hitachi Appliance Inc, Japan, on July 3, 2012 took out a rally in city to protest against their alleged exploitation, after almost 27 days of striking against sacking of workers and “low wages”. The striking workers of HHLI’s air conditioner manufacturing plant at Kadi town-around 40 kms from Ahmedabad-marched to the company’s registered office in the Mithakali area and shouted slogans against them.

HHLI, a BSE and NSE listed the company, has manufacturing facility at Kadi, with a total installed capacity of 400,000 units a year. The Hitachi plant was inaugurated in 2009 by Narendra Modi after the Japanese company signed an agreement with the Gujarat government at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit in 2009 to set up its second plant in India.

These workers, who were hired on contractual basis with fixed pay and term, have been on strike since mid-June. “The workers have been demanding permanent employee status and parity of pay as well as other benefits given to the permanent employees,” Amrish Patel, spokesperson for the workers’ labour union Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha (GMS) said. The GMS is member of the Gujarat Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU).

He said that they had planned the rally after the management terminated 10 striking employees on the grounds that their contract period was over.

A company spokesperson, confirmed that the contractual workers hired for fixed term were on strike since mid-June and said, “The strike is completely illegal and unjustified,” the spokesperson said.

“We fulfill all the requirement of the state government when it comes to hiring workers,” the spokesperson added. When asked about the allegation by workers that there was disparity in the wages of permanent worker and contractual workers doing the same work, the spokesperson said, “We do not discriminate between workers,” and refused to comment further.

The workers also presented a memorandum describing their demands to the company officials, which they accept under protest, Patel claimed.

According to Patel, there is a big difference in the wages of contractual workers and permanent workers, despite them doing the same work.

Patel also side that the state government also turned deaf ears to their demand of being treated equally with permanent employees.

In the memorandum to the company chairman and Managing director, the workers have requested his intervention resolve present dispute and also to ensure best and quality production of the company. They have further requested the company to stop violation of all the labour laws.

“Employment of the workmen in the categories of fixed term employment is abolished by the Statute and, therefore, employment of workmen on fixed term basis is completely against the provisions of Law and all the workmen employed as fixed term basis are required to be treated as permanent and regular workmen of the Company from the first date of their employment and accordingly all these workmen are entitled to receive the wages of the regular and permanent post and all other benefits attached to these posts,” the memorandum read.

Their strike began after 10 workers were fired on June 8. The strike had entered a stalemate with no sign of a negotiation between the company and the workers.

The demands made by the striking workers also included privilege leaves and equal wages as the permanent employees. The workers are now planning to move the High Court to put forward their case.

“The company has exploited the 500-odd contract and fixed-term employees who are paid a mere Rs 5000 to Rs 8000 for a 12-hour day, whereas the permanent employees get Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 for the same job. The non-permanent employees do not have any rights although they work the same number of hours as the permanent employees. Moreover the company has risked its credibility by taking in new recruits as they are unskilled,” said Amrish Patel, Secretary of Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha.

Meanwhile, the company has termed the strike illegal and hired 300 new workers.

“We will not succumb to such tactics as we have not done anything illegal. The 500 workers are just seasonal recruits hired for the summer and our summer requirement is over. We will take the legal recourse if need be, as we strive to uphold the highest levels of corporate governance. We have only removed the temporary workers and already replaced them with new workers. Our company’s union has not sided with this strike,” said a company official on conditions of anonymity.





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