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Interview with Gautam Modi, secretary of NTUI (New Trade Union Initiative)

From: Red Flag of MLPD, 12 August 2012

 

What is the present situation at Suzuki-Jurati in Manesar?

The factory has locked out, the workers have been chucked out of the factory. The management has not at all indicated when it intends to reopen the factory. There are rumors which are obviously a source of enormous insecurity to the workers that only "good workers" will be taken back, whatever good workers mean. There are also rumors that if the workers will come on the ground to demand work then they will be arrested by the police.

Are the workers still keeping to their demands?

Yes, they demand that they are reinstated, that they will be coming to the ground and could negociate with the management.

What was the principle reason for the struggle now?

The fact is there was no struggle or agitation under way at this point. I think that is really the issue, there was an ongoing negociation which was breaking down because the management was simply unwilling to negociate on the question of contract labor. In the course of the negociation, on one day, which was last Wdnesday, the 18th July, a worker was abused by a supervisor, he was accused ... for being treated like that because he was a dalit When he resisted being treated in htat way he was suspended. At that point the union demanded that he will be reinstated and in fact the supervisor will be suspended and that was how the agitation began. So, there was really no agitation in fact on the ground, as far as the workers were concerned the factory was working in its normal way and the management was refusing meeting their demands. They had accepted a time-table for negociation and they were abiding by that time-table.

And what about the rumors and claims that there were activities of terrorists, terrorism?

You know, there are claims that there were terrorists, there are claims that there were Maoists and the fact is: everything that happens, happens inside the factory. Who is responsible for who is inside the factory? The Suzuki management, because it was their employees who were inside the factory. So the question is really how do they recruit workers? That's the question they must answer us.

The second point is given the manner in which they picked their workers, it is not surprising that the workers have acquired a more militant politics, which is completely understandable, because they ..., they have extremely exploited wage conditions. So, if some of the workers have strong militant leanings, that should not be surprising, at least that should not be surprising for us.

Which role are playing the trade unions or parties?

I believe that the workers`union is an independent union, it is independent of all national trade union centers. I think it would be fair to say that all progressive trade union centers are supporting them in whatever way it is possible.

Which role does anticommunism, anticommunist propaganda play?

I don't think that there has been an expressed anti-communist propaganda at the work site or within the … I don't think that it is correct to say there has been an anti-communist propaganda. The propaganda that has been there is really more in class terms, that workers have been violent, workers have been abusive, workers are demanding too much wages. It is a class propaganda, an anti-working class propaganda which the government has been trying to engage in, not an expressly anti-communist one.

This is a very important struggle of the international industrial proletariat in a big factory. Does it play a kind of a leading role in the struggles in India and in other movements?

It is an important struggle, it's a struggle at a very critical juncture. It's also taking the direction which calls on the entire progressive trade union community to support the struggle, to shore up the struggle, and to defend it. In the understanding that if we will lose the struggle, we would lose a great deal (?) for the trade unions, the practice of trade unions. There are several struggles that have taken shape, not in a way at different places where workers have been locked out of factories because of violence. There have been some assaults on workers and managers, and the fact is that assaults on managers get reported widely, also internationally while the attacks on workers never get reported even locally, and the assault on workers, the abuse of workers are much greater in number than the assaults on managers. It would not be correct to say this is the only struggle at this point, there are several struggles.

And I think we need to be able to evolve a strategy, to fight together in a united front. I think, that is more critical at this point, not to single out anyone, but to have one struggle shoring up and defending another struggle and finding common cause. I think the need of the hour is really how deep we can take up solidarity and close the movement on the ground.

It is very interesting , because it is a strike at the beginning of a new depression of the world economic and financial crisis. Is there also solidarity in Gurgoon or Manesar or on the international level?

No, we have not seen very deep international solidarity for the Gurgoon-Manesar belt; that has not really taken a very significant, substantial shape. But I think what matters, and what matters most of all, is the solidarity that exists right there on the ground, amongst all the unions there on the ground and across the country.

How could be used the relations in the International Automobile Workers' Counsel and in the ICOR organizations?

We should certainly discuss how we intend to take this forward in ICOR. I think, it is important that a group of unions like ICOR responds quickly and effectively for uniting internationally, because ICOR comes from the tradition of militancy and solidarity. All unions in ICOR come from that tradition, they need to be able to signal to other unions what they are doing and how they are doing it differently.

It's very interesting. We are very interested to hear again and again how it is developing and if you have some proposals for solidarity we will publish it in ICOR and also in the different parties to develop this struggle, because we are feeling that now it is a time where it will come a new upswing in this movement, mainly among the European workers, because in Europe there is a big crisis in the European car production, overproduction and to strenghten this and the cooperation.

I think, we should talk about this in the coming days and we should do that auite quickly.

We wish you very good success. I understand well. Is NTUI playing an important or leading role in the factory?

Yes, but mostly undercover. We are active on the ground, and we are active, but not in the public way. That's very important, because ... within the organization. It is important to make clear our position, but not to push our identity.

I wish you all the best success for your struggle and fraternal greetings to all the other comrades, and also to Raki.

Yes, I will do that.

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