Life’s Not Good: Work Conditions and Unionisation at LG Electronics in Greater Noida

Press Release (16.11.16)

The LG Electronics India Private Limited factory in Udyog Vihar, Greater Noida was occupied by nearly 650 workers for ten days from 11th July to 20th July 2016. Family members and workers from nearby factories gathered outside the factory gate in support. There was heavy police deployment along with the presence of private security. PUDR conducted a fact finding into the incident and has brought out a report. A copy of the full report is available in English and Hindi at http://pudr.org/year_wise/2016. Following is a synopsis of the findings of the team:

  1. Attempt to form Union for the first time in 19 years - Workers at this factory did not have a union for 19 years, since the inception of the plant in 1998. In January 2016 the decision to form the “LG Electronics Appliances Union” was taken by workers. A general body meeting of permanent and contractual workers of LG was held on 10th April, where workers elected 11 representatives and authorized them to act on their behalf until the union was registered. On 11th May, a 21-point charter of demands (including a range of issues from increase in wages, weekly holidays to the quality of food) was prepared and sent to the management. (See section: “Occupy LG”)
  2. Strong Opposition by Management - In March, the management on its own and in a deviation from the normal procedures started giving ‘supervisory allowance’ (without changing their grade and basic pay) to about 150 workers including three signatories of the application for registration of the trade union. The management also refused to receive the charter of demands on 11th May. The matter was taken up by the Deputy Labour Commissioner (DLC), where the management opposed the demands by saying that some of the leaders had no right to ‘represent’ the workers as they were receiving salaries as per supervisory grade and were performing supervisory roles. The DLC ruled in favour of the management on 25th June. Further, based on the order of the DLC, the workers’ application for registration of the Union was also rejected on 5th July 2016. On 11th July the 11 elected union leaders were prevented from entering the factory on the pretext that they had been promoted to the rank of supervisor and had also been transferred to other locations. Some workers were assaulted by the police and private security hired by the management. Workers inside the factory on knowing about this occupied the tennis court in protest and stopped production for the next ten days. (See section: “Occupy LG”)
  3. Conditions at Work - Nearly stagnant wages, strenuous work conditions and increasing intensity of work is a norm in electronics manufacturing throughout the world. For instance, at this factory each worker puts in 25-40 minutes of extra work almost on a daily basis (15 minutes before 9 am, 10 minutes after 6 pm and 10 minutes of reduced breaks). Workers are not paid for this extra work. According to the workers, 5-6 refrigerators get assembled in 1 minute, which means that in the unpaid extra time of 25-40 minutes per worker every day, extracted through starting the line early, ending it late or reducing the breaks, enough revenues get generated so as to pay the entire wage bill for all the ‘W’ (Workmen) grade workers! In other words, whatever, the workers produce during the scheduled working hours, all of that goes to the company! The rise in intensity of work can be gauged by the fact that around 2003-05 nearly 300 workers produced 1000 units of products per day but today, the production has risen to 2500 units whereas the number of workers undertaking this production has fallen to 180. (For details see section: Brewing Discontent…)
  4. India’s position in the Global Value Chain - Electronics manufacturing is largely organised in the form of Global Value Chains(GVC), where different units located in different countries are engaged in different parts of the manufacturing process. It is the brand companies, usually in the developed countries, which are located at the higher end of GVC. Such firms that are based in industrialized countries, especially the USA, Western Europe, Japan, Korea initiate, or ‘lead’, the GVC’s activities by placing orders with suppliers. The lead firms can have their own affiliates in other countries (Off Shoring) such as LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd. which make products for them or else production/assembling is outsourced to firms (Contract Manufacturers). Lead firms such as LG Electronics, Whirlpool, Samsung have invested in India to take advantage of low labour costs as well as a growing market. (See section: Global Electronic Chain and India in the Global Chain: Make in India)
  5. Demands: In the context of the findings, PUDR demands that:
    1. Union formed by the workers be registered and recognised immediately.
    2. Arbitrary transfers of workers be revoked by management.
    3. Management should hold dialogue with the union formed by the workers regarding their pending demands. (See Section: Conclusion and Demands)

Deepika Tandon and Moushumi Basu

Secretaries, PUDR

Section: 
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