April 6, 2011 | Share
GM Workers in India on Strike: Appeal for Solidarity
Nearly 1,600 workers at the General Motors Halol plant in India have been on strike for the last three weeks. Workers manufacturing the popular GM Cruze and Aveo vehicles are paid just 47 to 92 cents an hour. There is no collective contract. Management is unilaterally demanding a 20 percent increase in daily production goals. Over 269 auto workers at the GM Halol plant are suffering permanent spinal cord injuries due to constant heavy lifting without ergonomic health and safety standards. Management is suspending and relocating striking workers while hiring non-union "scabs."
The workers are striking the GM Halol plant:
General Motors India Pvt. Limited
Halol, District Panchmahal
Gujurat State, India
The strike is being led by the progressive Gujurat Kamdar Mandal union:
Mr. Nihil Mehta, General Secretary
Gujurat Kamdar Mandal
(Affiliated to the Indian Trade Union Congress, ITUC)
The workers are struggling to improve health and safety conditions at the factory and guarantee respect for worker rights.
- Immediately stop the hiring of non-union replacement workers, while well over 1,000 GM Halol workers are on strike.
- Stop management's unilateral across-the-board demand to increase daily production goals by 20 percent.
- Improve health and safety conditions, especially adopting adequate ergonomic standards to prevent further spinal cord injuries to the workers.
- Immediately cease the suspension and relocation of striking workers.
- All overtime premiums must be paid according to Indian law.
- The Halol GM workers want to negotiate a collective contract, so that the workers' voice is heard.
- 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 just 47 cents an hour, which is half of what the full-time workers receive. The union wants the 800 temps to be hired as regular full-time workers, able to join the union and paid fairly.
|Photo: BHUPENDRA RANA|
Background: GM's Halol Factory in India
General Motors India Pvt. Limited
Chandrapura Industrial Estate
Halol - 389351
District Panchmahals, Gujurat
General Motors marketing office in India
The Halol GM factory produces Cruze sedans, Aveo sedans and hatchbacks and the Tavera and Optra vehicles, which are specific to India.
There are 1,600 workers at the Halol factory, 800 of whom are full-time regular workers, while another 800 have been designated as "temporary workers"-despite the fact that they do the exact same work for the same hours-but are paid just half of what the regular workers earn.
The regular workers earn 92 cents an hour:
92 cents an hour
$ 8.31 a day (9 hours)
$ 41.54 a week (45 hours)
$180.00 a month
$2,166 a year
Temporary workers earn just 47 cents an hour, despite the fact that they do the exact same work as the regular employees.
47 cents an hour
$ 4.25 a day (9 hours)
$ 21.23 a week (45 hours)
$ 92.00 a month
$1,104 a year
If the GM Halol wages seem shockingly low -it could have been even worse. The factory workers had to strike on October 29, 2010 to win their current wages.
Working hours at the Halol GM plant are nine hours a day, six days a week for a "regular" 54-hour workweek. Such hours are illegal under India's Factory Act legislation, which limits the regular shift to 8.5 hours. This means the workers are owed back wages for the three hours of overtime they work each week.
Over 269 GM Halol workers have filed specific complaints of spinal cord damage. 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. Most of the over 269 workers who are suffering from spinal cord injuries are receiving medication and are only able to work sporadically. They are no longer able to lift heavy parts. Such spinal cord injuries can plague workers for life.
Such unsafe conditions have been going on for years at the GM Halol plant!
GM management must immediately implement safer ergonomic designs covering machine operating, work benches and limits on lifting heavy auto parts.
Factory Management Creates a "Pocket Union"
GM factory management at the Halol plant created the "GM Employees Union," which has less than 150 workers out of 1,600 workers at the factory. Management then "negotiated" with its "pocket union" to unilaterally increase mandatory daily production goals by 20 percent.
This will only increase the number of future workers who will suffer from spinal cord injuries.
The striking workers and their union, the Gujurat Kamdar Mandal union-are challenging the illegal increase in mandatory production goals in court.
On February 25, 2010, the Gujurat Kamdar Mandal union filed a complaint against General Motors with India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), over unfair labor practices and dangerous health and safety conditions at the Halol factory.
The union and workers also filed a petition with the Gujurat High Court regarding labor rights violations at Halol.
The workers went out on strike during the 2nd shift on March 16, 2011. They have now been out on strike for the last three weeks. The impact of the strike has been dramatic, as production has fallen by over 1,000 cars during the last three weeks.
There are 150 workers who are locked inside the Halol GM facility. They are prohibited from leaving the compound and are being provided lodging and food by management. These workers belong to the "union" GM management created.
The striking workers are being threatened with firing, suspension or relocation to lower level GM facilities. Management is trying to bring in non-union replacement workers, "scabs", to take the place of the strikers.