PUDR unequivocally lends its solidarity and support to workers from the electronics industry in Greater Noida, including LG Electronics, Moser Baer, Exide and Eveready, some of whom have been on a hunger strike for the past week in protest against the steadily deteriorating working conditions and attacks on workers rights in recent times.
PUDR had earlier conducted investigations in 2016 into the working conditions, efforts of the workers to form a union, and the repressive tactics of the management at M/s LG Electronics. We found that the wages of workers have remained nearly stagnant for years under increasingly strenuous working conditions and nearly-exhausting increase in the intensity and speed of production. In 2003-05, nearly 300 workers at the Greater Noida factory produced 1000 units of electronic products per day. Today, the production has risen by 250% to 2500 units, whereas the number of workers undertaking this production has fallen by 40%, to 180. This means that the productivity of a single worker has increased more than 400%, that too without any commensurate change in wages. The automation machines are set to work at such a fast pace that a compressor is assembled in 3 seconds! The daily shift is routinely started earlier, finished late, with cuts in the intervening break times as well. These extra 40 minutes of operations generate enough revenue to meet the entire wage bill of the ‘W’ grade workers, such that whatever is produced in the actual shift of 9 hours is taken entirely by the company.
It was to negotiate better working conditions that the workers decided to form a union for the first time in 19 years in January 2016 through a general body meeting of permanent and contractual workers. The company has been preventing the lawful registration of the Union since the first attempts of its formation in January 2016. Since then, the management has resorted to assaults, harassment and intimidation of the workers, distorting the employment status and transferring and even terminating workers leading the movement for registration so they are unable to represent the Union in negotiations. In complicity with the company management, the Delhi Labour Commissioner also prevented these workers from representing the Union in Janurary 2016, leading to the first rejection of their application for Union formation in July 2016.
Despite this prolonged repression, the workers were finally successfully in obtaining a certificate of registration for their Union on 08.12.2017 by the Registrar (Trade Union), Government of NCT of Delhi, Distt. (North-East) (“Registrar”). Immediately, the management wrote an application to the Registrar, replete with misrepresentations to cancel the registration of the Union. Without following due process, or issuing a show cause notice to the workers, the Registrar went ahead and cancelled the registration certificate on 23.01.2018! The Trade Unions Act makes it clear that the Registrar does not have the powers to cancel registration on an application by a third party, without offering a reasonable opportunity to the Union to be heard, and that too on specious grounds. The management claimed that the workers are not entitled to the registration of an all-India Union as their operations are limited to Greater Noida alone. This is entirely incorrect, as the operations of the company are spread in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra.
On finding out about the company’s application to the Registrar, the Union had in fact met with the Labour Secretary of Delhi, who agreed with the legitimacy of the Union’s claims, and assured them that registration would not be cancelled. Nevertheless, even without following due process, or issuing any show cause notice to the workers the Registrar, overruled the labour Secretary’s assessment and cancelled the registration certificate on 23.01.2018.
The saga of the workers at LG Electronics is not an exception, as workers in the electronics industry globally face these increasing pressures without any redress, and continuing violation of their legal and constitutional rights.
Accordingly, we demand that:
- Revoke the cancellation of Registration with immediate effect.
- Direct the company to take back the workers who have been illegally terminated.
- Direct the company to revert the transfers of the workers.
- Labour Department, Greater Noida should carry out an inspection of the company to check for the violation of labour laws and to ascertain implementation of the same.
Shashi Saxena and Shahana Bhattacharya