GM India Hires Scabs to Break Chevrolet Cruze Plant Strike

AutoInformed |  By Ken Zino | April, 18 2011 |  Share  | Source Article


Workers at the General Motors Halol plant in Gujurat State, India have been on strike for the last four weeks in an increasingly bitter struggle that has seen the workers forcibly ejected from the plant after the business friendly local government declared the strike illegal. Several hundred workers remain locked out.

The General Motors India strike by the Gujurat Kamdar Mandal union is reminiscent of UAW sit down strikes during 1936-37 in Michigan, which led to recognition of the Union and the right to collective bargaining by the world's largest automaker.

Thus far Solidarity House, the UAW's international headquarters in Detroit has remained silent on the GKM strike, and refused multiple requests for comment. General Motors in the U.S. simply says it is working with local groups in India.

In the latest developments, GM has begun advertising for replacement or scab workers, and the Gujarat High Court last week said "law and order" considerations overrule the workers' right to strike. 

The judge directed the union to use the court's "Mediation Center". Negotiations are scheduled for  April 19. Courts in India set up under British colonial domination have not been known to champion basic rights for lower class natives, according to critics.

"Working conditions, wages, and health and safety will never improve in the global sweatshop economy until workers have the rights to organize," said Charles Kernaghan, from the Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights. There are 800 regular full-time workers at the Halol plant and 800 temporary workers-who do the exact same jobs, but have no rights and are paid 47 cents an hour.

A similar thing is now occurring in the U.S. where new hire UAW workers are being paid $14 an hour at plants, rather than $24 or $28 for veteran workers. The union in India wants the 800 temps to be hired as regular full-time workers, be able to join the union and paid at the hire rate.

Health and safety issues are also being raised. More than 269 autoworkers at the GM Halol are said to be suffering permanent spinal cord injuries due to constant heavy lifting without ergonomic standards, according to the union. The Factory Act in India places a cap on how much weight a worker can manually lift, which is set at no higher than 44 pounds.

However, the law places no limit on how much lifting a worker can be required to complete during their shift.  Some workers are constantly lifting heavy car doors, tires, steering columns and other auto parts, which in U.S. plants are moved by machines during worker installation.

"More than 1500 people have signed a letter to GM CEO, Mr. Daniel F. Akerson, asking him to immediately intervene with GM management at the Halol Factory in India," said Kernaghan. The letter text follows.

Dear Mr. Akerson:

We urge you to immediately intervene with local management at General Motors Halol plant in India, which produces Cruze and Aveo vehicles.

Factory conditions are well below standard, with workers earning just 47 to 92 cents an hour. These GM workers are also shortchanged on their legal overtime pay. Even worse is that over 269 workers are suffering from spinal cord injuries due to unsafe working conditions. Management recently imposed a unilateral 20 percent increase in daily production goals, which will only lead to further injuries. Half the Halol workers are hired as "temporary workers," with no rights and earning just half of what full-time workers earn, despite the fact that they do the exact same work. Halol management refuses to negotiate with the 1,600 workers, who have no voice.

On March 16, 2011, the workers had no choice but to strike to end the unsafe and unfair working conditions.   Management response has been to bring in non-union replacement workers as they threaten the striking workers with suspension and firing.

This is not the General Motors we know in the United States.

We urge you to inform management at the Halol factory that General Motors insists upon respect for internationally recognized worker rights standards and safe working conditions. Please also inform Halol management that General Motors workers in the United States are organized by the United Auto Workers union. Rather than threatening and attacking the striking workers and their Gujurat Kamdar Mandal union, Halol management should sit down in good faith with the union and negotiate a fair collective contract.

We would appreciate it very much if you could keep us posted regarding positive progress at the GM Halol plant.