Services of over seven hundred workers were suddenly terminated suddenly on February 1, 2017 from the mother plant of Omax located at Dharuhera (Omax Autos Ltd. 69 K.M. Stone, Delhi- Jaipur Highway, Dharuhera, Rewari). Of these 400 were contractual employees who were working in the factory for 8-10 years and have already been absorbed by the contractors at other Omax factories. But 344 other workers, who were regular employees and had been working in the factory for 12-22 years are now without employment and are on the roads. We met workers working since, 1995 1997, 2001 etc.
Apart from these workers the company has around 412 permanent workers.
Workers are from Bihar, UP, Orissa, and also from Haryana. Most of them stay in Dharuhera, near the factory. They pay Rs. 2500 for the rooms and they forced to buy provisions from the grocery shops owned by the land lords.
According to the workers they did not have any clue of any such possibility. They were made to work overtime in January, on the plea that the demand had increased. They now feel the company made them work overtime to stock goods to compensate for lesser production when the workers would be removed. When the workers of the morning shift reached the factory gate at 6.30am to report for the work on 1st February, they were not allowed to enter the gate. There was a notice on the board indicating that the contracts of some of the contractors had been terminated, which automatically meant that the workers employed through these contractors also lost their jobs. The reason given was shortage of demand of goods. Notice also directed the workers to collect their dues between 9 to 12noon the same day or else cheques of their dues will be sent to their respective permanent addresses.
They were not given the salary for the month of January. Workers did not opt to collect their dues as it would have meant accepting the termination. Dues of some of them were actually sent through cheques later.
Company began in 1983 and from a single unit grown to have 9 spread across the country. Owner of Omax is Jitendra Kumar Mehta. It makes parts for Hero Honda and also does the frame assembly. Workers feel that it is with their hard work that the company has grown so much and now they have been thrown out.
Categories of Workers:
- Permanent workers – there are about 412 permanent workers.
- Regular workers -Their basic pay is Rs. 5813/- and in all get Rs. 10,000 to 12,000 depending on the length of service. Their PF and ESI is being deducted, they get pay slips also. Play slip bears name of the contractor on top. It shows proper designation, like Welder, assistant welder, operator etc. The workers claim that in the company papers they are shown as helpers.
- Six months contract workers – Even though they have also been working for 8-10 years, they do not get the pay slips. But their basic pay is same that is 5813/- and they get increments in the same way as the regular workers. They are employed for just six months at a time and then their contract is revised for six months again. Even their PF and ESI is getting deducted. Their net income is of the order of Rs. 8000-9000.
Workers of all three categories are highly skilled workers.
No appointment letters are given to either of the two categories of workers.
Going by this logic there is only marginal difference in the status of two kinds of workers and in fact the first category of workers are also regular for name sake as they could be and have been removed without any prior notice.
According to the workers the company does not deposit the PF money regularly.
Factory runs in 3 shifts of 8 hours each, though some of the units (welding, dispatch etc.) run in two shifts of 10 and 13 hrs. For workers it is eight and a half hours shift including half hour lunch break. They have to work 6 days a week. Over time payment is arbitrary – some are paid according to Rs. 5813/- rate, some double rate and some others on the piece rate.
There are CCTV cameras at all work places and supervisors to keep a watch on them. Though the workers reported that they are sometimes questioned for going to the toilet many times etc., they did not have much to say about exploitative work conditions. May be they accept everything as normal. Workers also do not feel that there had been an increase in work pressure or speeding of work over the years. According to them there were no problems between them and the management.
They were given marginal increment every third year. Quantum of this increment depended on the number of years of service in the factory. For example those having worked up to three years were given increment of Rs. 150 per month, those with 3-5 years of service Rs. 250 and those with more than 5 years of service fixed Rs. 350.
Earlier they did not get any leave, but since 2005, when there was a struggle to form a union, they started getting 13 earn leave per year. Actually this is also not fixed. They earn one leave per 20 duties.
In contrast the permanent workers get CL, EL and medical leave.
Earlier they were given Rs.3000 as bonus, but after the union was formed in 2010 (that of permanent workers), it is now given as per the government rules.
Union of the permanent workers called Omax Auto Majdoor Union got registered in 2010. It is affiliated to Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS).
Minimum wages were revised in Haryana as per a notification dated 1st July 2016. After that some agreement was reached between the management and the union for payment of giving salaries and arrears as per the revised rates of Haryana Govt. But the management did not implement the agreement. Workers filed a case in Labour court. On Jan 30th 2017 the court sent a favourable, ordering the company to pay the arrears as per the revised minimum wages. According to the workers, arrears of each worker are of the order of Rs. 30,000 to 40,000. The company it seems is not willing to pay this amount and hence a day after that is on 1st Feb, they were thrown out.
One of the probable reasons of this mass scale termination is that they are organizing themselves and making demands for their dues. This seems likely because they were given assurance that they would be given priority and reinstated if the work increases, however there is news of fresh workers are being hired in February itself.
According to the sacked workers the union is supporting them in their struggle and even the permanent workers are supporting them. The reason for this they feel is that the permanent workers no that their turn can come any time. They can also be removed through schemes like VRS or through any other means.
On 4th March 15 permanent workers were suspended on charges of instigating the contract workers.
Aftermath of 1st Feb:
Workers have been sitting on dharna at about 100meters from the factory gate. Sadly on 13th Feb one worker, 36 year old Ajay Pande from Chapra, Bihar committed suicide, by hanging himself. He had two children, one 9 years old and a younger one. Family has gone back to Bihar. Wife is also not well and had to be hospitalized. Family was paid Rs. 5.5 lakhs and that too after persistent protests. He was under tremendous pressure like all of them.
Now that they are out of job, their land lords are after them to vacate their rooms. In fact the factory contractors and goons are also pressuring them to vacate their accommodations.
Another worker attempted suicide, but was saved.
So far (till 6th March) there had been no attack on the protesting workers. Police is posted at the factory gate, but has not troubled them. There was heavy deployment of police on the day when the body of Ajay was kept at the dharna site.
Omax Auto Workers Union wrote to the ALC Rewari, DLC Gurgaon, ALC, NCR Gurgoan, LC Chandigarh, SP Rewari, DC Rewari, SHO Dharuhera, Labour Minister (Haryana) and the Chief Minister (Haryana) on 1st February itself apprising them about the workers being thrown out and for immediate appropriate intervention.
They wrote another letter to ALC Rewari, DLC Gurgaon, ALC , NCR, and LC Chandigarh on 21st Feb informing them about new workers being hired by the company, violating the assurance that if there is work these sacked workers will be given priority.
On 22nd Feb workers sat on dharna at the Additional Labour Commissioners' office, near Rajiv Chowk Gurgaon (located in the Nehru Yuva Kendra). They were brought there by Bhartiya Janta Mazdoor Association working directly under BJP, and separate from BMS. That day Omax union office bearers with the BJP union were supposed to meet the Additional Labour Commissioner. But the ALC was not there in the office, so a meeting with the other officials DLC Dharuhera, assistant labour commissioner, Dharuhera and the union members was held.
After the meeting PUDR team was told by the DLC Dharuhera that the owner will be made to pay January's salaries within the next 2-3 days. He did not make any commitment for the demand of taking them back. He also told us about the meeting being rescheduled for 1st March.
However the management did not turn up for the 1st March meeting. Meanwhile the company goons tried to threaten the workers sitting on dharna with a fake stay order about the dharna site.
Till 25th March, there had been several meetings of the Management, Union members and the Labour department, but have not resulted in any significant development. Management is using delaying tactics.
The only positive thing that has happened is that the workers were paid their salaries for the month of January.
As per the ALC (Gurugram), suspended workers have been asked to accept the charge sheet and respond to it. The ALC acknowledged that apprentices were being hired in place of sacked workers. But expressed helplessness regarding any action against unfair labour practices by the management. He said a challan will be filed by the labour department and the management will have to pay fine, which in any case is close to nothing.
All attempts to get the management's version remained futile. None of the management personnel responded to repeated phone calls and visit to Omax office located in Sector 32 (plot 26), near Rajiv Chowk.
As per the workers letter to the Chief Minister the violations include
- Sacking of 350 workers
- Not implementing 12/3 agreement
- Not implementing the revised minimum wages as per labour department 1.7.2016 notification
- Linking the minimum wages to the Consumer Price Index
Nonpayment of statutory minimum wages, not giving appointment letters are also gross violations. Intensity of exploitation, through payment of just survival wages makes their existence quite precarious. This is quite evident from the fact that their lives have got so seriously affected by an arbitrary decision of the Management.