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How adamant Bellsonika management is continuously robbing workers' livelihood

By Harsh Thakor* 

On September 27th, earlier this year, the Bellsonika Workers’ Union was stripped of legal status or registration. The Haryana government's labour department cancelled the registration of the Bellsonica workers' union over granting the membership to one of the 'contractual workers'. It was major breach on Constitutional Rights of workers, to enable the contract labour system to flourish, and tighten the noose on any form of workers resistance.
The conflict arose at auto manufacturing company Bellsonica's Manesar plant two years ago in 2021, when the Bellsonica Employees Union granted membership to a contractual worker named Keshav Rajput. The union provides two types of membership: an 'ordinary membership' to the company employees and an 'honorary membership' to a worker from another firm (per the union's constitution). Rajput was a worker with Bellsonica and joined in as an ordinary member.
The employer and state have conspired together or acted in complicity in union-busting of the Bellsonika workers, trying to derecognise and destabilise the union because it aims to organise contract (agency) workers alongside regular permanent workers.
The union declared its intention to organise contract workers and its constitution was amended in line with this, with the amendment being approved by the state Registrar of Trade Unions - in line with the law in India. However last year Bellsonica management wrote to the Registrar calling for cancellation of the union’s registration, wrongly claiming that giving union membership to a contractual worker at the plant was illegal.
A protest took place in Gurgaon against this decision on 28th September. It comprised the Maruti Suzuki workers across all plants, along with Bellsonica's current and former (suspended) workers. The workers submitted a memorandum to the district commissioner demanding the registration of the union and a firm action against the trade union registrar.
On October 12th a strong protest was staged. During the meeting, the union members said that “The action of cancelling the registration of the union by the Trade Union Registrar Haryana is in itself a proof that the Labor Department does not care about the law. The Labor Department is standing naked with the factory owners instead of enforcing labor laws.
Union members said, “The owner has made the workers slaves.” In that too, contract laborers have been deprived of their rights to such an extent that merely giving union membership to a contract labourer has become a crime. For the sake of collective agreement, the power of collective bargaining is being destroyed. Their unity has been fragmented by dividing them into contract, permanent, temporary, neem, fixed term employment etc. Factory owners know that without fragmenting the unity of the workers, they cannot be pushed into the ranks.”

London solidarity

In London, Bellsonika automobile company workers staged a major rally opposing the scrapping of registration of the Besllonika Union, demanding re-instatement of 22workesr and leaders rusticated, opposing threatening workers and families engaged in struggle a nd attempts to break Union forming. They condemned the terror tactics deployed by the management to de-stabilise the workers resistance .A most significant solidarity action, to link the struggle worldwide against suppression of trade Unions and terrorising the working class.
It condemned the management of Bellsonica Auto Component India for their union-busting tactics and call upon the Government of Haryana, particularly the Registrar of Trade Unions, to stop this travesty of justice and immediately:
1. Stop union busting
2. Restore the union registration of Bellsonica Auto Component India Employees’ Union
3. Recall the termination of employment of 22 workers, including the union leaders
4. Stop intimidation of workers who stand in support of their union and terminated co-workers
5. Regularize all contractual workers employed at the plant.

Gurgaon protest by Jan Abhiyan

A militant demonstration was conducted in Gurgaon, by constituents of Jan Abhiyan on November 19th, in solidarity with Bellsonika Workers Union, whose registration has been suspended. It applauded the courage and resilience of the Bellsonika workers. Qualitatively binded different sections of workers.
Speakers narrated how the management made every move to subvert the militant resistance of the Bellsonika workers at every juncture, when they organised protests against termination of workers and suppression of leaders of the Union. The Union sent such tremors in the belly of the management, which forced them to suspend the Union.
Leaders explained that it was an imperative task to unite the Unions and workers of all sections on class lines and summed up the strategy of the management, of breaking the backbone of any workers organisation or rights. The leaders explained how the Abhiyan represented the aspiration s of workers ,dalits, women, and all other oppressed sections. It resolved to back the Bellsonika Workers struggle to the very end.
Prominent speakers included Arjun Prasad Singh of Democratic People’s Front, Umakant of CPI(ML) Revolutionary Initiative, Krishna Kant of Lokpakash, Munna Prasad of Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra and Gauri, of Workers Welfare Centre.

Earlier resistance and suppression of workers

Due to the indiscriminate and random layoffs being carried out by the Bellsonica management, the families of the workers were caused lot of problems. The families of the workers who were dismissed and suspended in the last months are facing difficulty in paying their house rent, loan installments, children's school fees, medicine expenses etc. Reena, whose husband works in Bellsonica company and is currently suspended, said in her address that she came to know that the children of another worker have been suspended from their school for not paying the fees.
For 28 days till May 29th, the union and workers of Bellsonica Company of Manesar Gurgaon launched a protest at the gate of Bellsonica Company. On Monday, May 29, 2023, after a 25-day hunger strike, the union officials and all dismissed and suspended workers decided to go on a 48-hour hunger strike. Along with this, on May 30, the workers working inside the company went on strike. There was no initiative for talks from the management. The families of the workers also joined the hunger strike and all the women present supported this hunger strike from 10 am to 6 pm.
The families present at the protest sites adhered to view that the company was accountable not only to the workers but also to their families. The workers as well as their families, especially women, have played an important role in the smooth running of the plant. The women present told that their entire daily routine is tied to the shifts of the company and most of their time is spent in fulfilling the needs of the family members working in the company. In such a situation, when retrenchment occurs, it directly impacts women and families. Therefore, it has become necessary for them to protest against the retrenchment. He believes that “by participating in the protest, we are talking about our own rights”.
Workers of 2 shifts of Belsonica Company had gone on strike since 3 pm on Tuesday, 30 May 2023, which went on for a prolonged duration. From 9 pm to 4 am, talks took place for seven hours between the union and the management under the mediation of the Assistant Labour Commissioner and Labour Inspector, which failed. Belsonica management was not ready to talk about anything without removing the picket and calling off the strike. On the other hand, the union also does not want any worker to lose his job. Till now, a total of 30 workers have been laid off, out of which 13 workers have been suspended and 17 have been dismissed.
Earlier, on 7 April 2023, 3 temporary workers were dismissed, on 30 March 2023, 10 permanent workers were suspended, on 7 March 2023, 3 union representatives were suspended, on 23 December 2022, 2 permanent workers were dismissed and on 21 October 2022. 1 permanent worker has been dismissed. Union officials say that the management is adamant on its stubbornness and is continuously robbing the livelihood of the workers.
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*Freelance journalist

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