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Demanding reinstatement, Belsonika workers and families protest against retrenchment

By Harsh Thakor 

On May 29, 2023, workers of Belsonika factory embarked on a 48-hour hunger strike. The suspended and dismissed Belsonica workers have been staging a relay hunger strike outside the factory in Haryana’s Manesar protesting against retrenchment and suspension of workers for the previous 28 days. The workers said they would unflinchingly continue the strike unless reinstated.
The workers of 2 shifts of Belsonica Company have launched a strike since 3 pm on 30th May 2023, which is still underway. Families of the workers too participated in the fast and hunger strike and all the women supported this hunger strike from 10 am to 6 pm. In retaliation, the management deployed a heavy police force to monitor developments and curtail the intensity of the protest.
From 9.00 am to 4.00 am, seven hours of talks were held between the union and the management under the mediation of the Assistant Labour Commissioner and Labour Inspector, which were unsuccessful. Belsonica management remained adamant, in conceding to any of the demands On the other hand, the union also till the last straw wishes to wage a battle against any labourer losing his job. Talks opened again on 31 May 2023 at 1.30 p.m.

Victimisation of Families

The families of the workers who were dismissed and suspended are greatly hindered due to the unscrupulous retrenchment being done by the Belsonica management, facing difficulties in paying their house rent, loan installments, children's school fees, medical expenses etc. Reena, whose husband worked in Belsonica Company and is currently facing suspension, stated that another worker, had her children suspended from her school for not being able to pay fees.
The families present at the protest site asserted that the company bore responsibility not only to the workers but also to their families, who have played an important role in the operating of the plant Retrenchment directly has given a mortal blow on women and families. This is why it is imperative for them to protest against the retrenchment, as it manifests, expression of their rights.
On Monday, when the families of the workers sitting on the hunger strike reached the protest site, they demanded to meet the company's managing director and the company's management and submitted their memorandum to them. Adamantly, the company's management neither permitted the families inside the plant, nor even received them at the gate. The management was reluctant to accept memorandum of the families.
Witnessing such level of arrogance of the company, the anger of the families towards the company intensified further. This very management that earlier used to invite them to the company's premises for "Family Day" and "Monthly Birthday Sessions" was today when these women and their families wished to present their case in front of them reluctant even to come to the company gate. For the last four weeks, the workers sitting on dharna and successive hunger strikes have not been able to spend any time with their families and homes. The blazing heat and periodic rains last week, tormented the workers at the site. The families of the workers present on the dharna were alarmed about the condition of the workers at the dharna site.
After being separated from their family members for 25 consecutive days, when the workers' families came to support them in the dharna, they said that if the company was not ready to hold talks with the union soon, they would also join the workers. The women present at the dharna site on Monday said that they would not tolerate separation from the men of their families, and from today they were compelled to participate in the dharna with their children.

Background

The suspended Belsonica workers have been staging a relay hunger strike outside the factory in Haryana’s Manesar since the beginning of this month. The workers said they would unflinchingly continue the strike unless reinstated. The company has a workforce of 126 long-contract workers, 400-odd six-monthly contractor workers and over 200 trainees of different categories compared to only 192 long-term contract workers in 2017. (Report of PUDR,Delhi)
Denying contractual workers membership rights from trade unions is a predominant feature in Belsonika Company. This is an acute denial of majority of workers from the protection of labour laws and stripping them of the right to collective bargaining. Between July 2021 and June 2022, the company issued show-cause notices to 29 permanent and four contractual workers, under the guise of verifying their documents.. All the workers who were issued notices had been working for a period of around eight years or more at Belsonica . Since December 2022 onwards, the company started retrenching workers on these grounds,(from PUDR report)
For the last 2 years, it has been a perpetual practice of the managements to formulate a strategy to retrench workers who contributed 10-15 years and contract workers serving for 8 years .30 permanent workers and 4 contract workers were laid down from jobs.This trend is also prominent amongst workers of factories in Gurgaon,Manesar, Bawal, Gharueda.
In High laks, Bajaj and Sunbeam factories workers were given Voluntary Retirement Scheme. In Lumex factory 11 workers were suspended. The management is investing every ounce of energy in breaking the organised strength of the working class by weakening and breaking the trade Unions. Not only the Belsonica Management, but the entire Managements is engaged are engaging in breaking the backbone of the Belsonica Union. Belsonica Union is fighting its struggle with class unity.
For the last 3 decades, the activities of the trade unions have been so marginalised that when the working class is being given a mortal blow by the 4 extreme anti-labour codes, the trade unions are not in a position to offer any effective organised resistance. The trade union consciousness is flowing at such low ebb that the union is unable to even undertake effective mobilisation of the workers within its factory.
The situation has aggravated so much that when retrenchment is sharpening to it’s optimum height, it is unable to take the slightest measures to confront it. The functioning style of the trade union since a long time has obliterated Class angle of politics and ideology from the labourers, which created the marginalisation. Demarcating from this economist tendency, Belsonica Union strived to integrate revolutionary democratic class politics within the workers.
Praiseworthy that Belsonica Union Belsonica established a strong link with the struggle of workers, farmers, students, youth, women, exploited sections which giving a practical shape to class unity.
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Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India. Acknowledges inputs from Shyambir of Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra, Neswclick, PUDR and Riddhi and Ajit Singh from Workers Unity

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