Skip to content

The Hooter Marks Time

July 31, 2012

Each morning, factory hooters call out to India’s 50 million industrial workers, many of whom stand by their stations and repeat a single set of tasks with unerring regularity until the hooter sounds again to signal the end of the first shift and the start of another.  Manufacturing provides employment to just 11 percent of India’s workforce, but the sector and its workers are seen as a bellwether for the economy as a whole.

Last week, a senior general manager in Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant was killed and several managers injured in a violent confrontation between workers and management, prompting national dailies to speak of the “bad old days of militant trade unionism”.   Yet, industrial unrest is at historic lows in terms of numbers of incidents and man-days lost. In 1973-74, nearly 3,00,000 strikes were called just prior to the Emergency; 2010 saw just 429 such incidents, according to data from the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute.

What accounts for this shift? Has the Indian factory become a safer, better-paid and more secure workplace?

Data suggests the opposite: Today, Indian workers are paid less in real terms than they were fifteen years ago, have less job security, and yet are less likely to strike. Workers in Haryana’s industrial belt suggest that the incident at Maruti Manesar signals the end of the all-powerful union capable of controlling the factory floor, rather than its return. Instead, industry’s reliance on casual workers has created informal leaderless networks that operate outside the framework of strikes and settlements that undergird union activity. Read more

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 22, 2012 12:17 AM

    Except Aman’s report most of the Indian press has reproduced management handouts on the Maruti events. But not Japan. See this report in Japan’s Asahi

    http://ajw.asahi.com/article/economy/business/AJ201208200107

We look forward to your comments. Comments are subject to moderation as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53,895 other followers

%d bloggers like this: