Halol rattles Detroit as US body steps in

Indian Express |  By  | April, 11 2011 |  Share  | Source Article

The ongoing strike by a section of workers at the General Motors India (GMI) plant at Halol has found an echo in the US, where a reputed labour organisation has sent an online petition to the top management of the automobile giant at its Detroit-based headquarters, asking them to intervene on the behalf of the workers many of whom are suffering from “spinal cord injuries due to unsafe working conditions”.

The online petition started by US-based Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (IGLH), formerly known as the National Labour Committee, has already been signed by close to 1,500 persons worldwide in just one day.

IGLH director Charles Kernaghan has written to the Daniel F Akerson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, General Motors Company, Detroit, to immediately take up the issue with the local management at its Halol plant in India.


“...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. The management recently imposed a unilateral 20 per cent 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 exactly the same work. Halol management refuses to negotiate with the 1,600 workers, who have no voice. This is not the General Motors we know in the United States,” Kernaghan says in his letter to Akerson.

“We urge you to inform the management at the Halol factory that General Motors insists upon respect for internationally recognized workers’ rights and safe working conditions. Please also inform Halol management that General Motors workers in the US are organised by the United Auto Workers union. Rather than threatening and attacking the striking workers and their Gujarat Kamdar Mandal union, Halol management should sit down in good faith with the union and negotiate a fair contract. We would appreciate it very much if you could keep us posted regarding positive progress at the GM Halol plant,” the letter says.

“When they came to know about the situation in Halol through media, they got in touch with us and we apprised them about the situation. They immediately offered their solidarity for the protesting workers. Even organisations from Germany had called up to get the information about the strike and now we have organisations from over 100 countries with us in our protest. It is high time the state government realises the gravity of the situation and act accordingly,” said Nihil Mehta, general secretary of the Gujarat Kamdar Mandal, which has been spearheading the workers’ agitation.

The IGLH’s online petition says, “When companies like General Motors went global, they told the American people that by their example, they would be the best human and workers’ rights ambassadors, raising standards across the global economy. It is time for General Motors to act.”