Comment accomoder son patron : L'exemple de Pricol à Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu)

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Un patron tué par des ouvriers en colère

Des ouvriers en colère ont tué le patron d’une entreprise automobile indienne située à Tamil Nadu, dans le sud de l’Inde. Ils ont ainsi réagi au licenciement de plusieurs collègues, rapporte mercredi une chaîne de télévision.

Roy George, vice-président de Pricol, l’un des plus importants producteurs indiens de pièces de voitures, est décédé mardi après avoir été attaqué par les ouvriers près d’une des usines de l’entreprise située dans la périphérie de la ville industrielle Coimbatore, selon la chaîne NDTV. Neuf ouvriers ont été arrêtés.

Les problèmes ont débuté lundi après le licenciement de 42 ouvriers de l’usine pour manque de discipline. En réaction, un groupe d’ouvriers en colère ont commencé mardi à démolir du matériel de l’entreprise, comme des ordinateurs et des meubles. M. George et trois autres membres de l’équipe dirigeante ont alors tenté d’intervenir mais ils ont été attaqués avec des bâtons et des barres de fer.

Roy George, âgé de 46 ans, a été emmené, grièvement blessé, dans un hôpital local. Il a succombé mardi soir à ses blessures, selon la chaîne de télévision.

Leur presse (belga/th), 23 septembre 2009.

Pricol VP’s murder stuns industry

The tragic death of Pricol HR vicepresident Roy George in Coimbatore after a brutal attack on him by a section of workers has sent shock waves among employers and investors in the state.

The ghastly incident has been condemned by employers’ bodies like CII and Employers’ Federation of Southern India (EFSI) as well as established trade unions such as CITU, AITUC, INTUC, HMS and the ruling DMK’s labour wing, LPF.

Spokesmen of the industry feel from a phase of surging investment in the last three years in Tamil Nadu, suddenly the spotlight has turned on the growing incidents of labour unrest, interunion rivalry and violence involving leading companies like MRF, Hyundai, NLC, Bhel, Trichy Pricol, Orchid Pharma, SRF, Shanthi Gears. They want the government to ban unlawful outfits like CPI-ML which is unleashing violence and instigating workers.

Such a disturbing labour scene does not augur well for an industrially advanced state known for its skilled workforce. The spokesmen also said the increasing number of disputes in major companies is also due to the fight among the unions to show their supremacy to represent workers. To top it all, DMK’s LPF is said to be flexing its muscle and has formed a union in Nokia. It is also trying to enter Saint Gobain.

They said the violence in Pricol resembled such incidents which took place in the seventies and eighties involving leading companies like Simpsons, TI Cycles and TVS group companies at Padi. In the late eighties, TVS Motor faced the worst ever violence at its Hosur factory leading to its closure for long. But, now the state government has sought to send a strong message that it will not tolerate any violence. Deputy CM MK Stalin said, “Pricol case is being investigated. Law will take its own course, police is looking into the issue. No form of violence is acceptable in a democracy.”

Says EFSI secretary T M Jawaharlal, “We express our views strongly not only to take punitive action against the culprits but to debar such unions which are involved in this incident or in associating them with any industry.”

He said the federation is aware of the pro active steps taken by the State Government to attract more investments and generate jobs. The investors are also aware of the availability of skilled labour and industrial peace in the state. But, the this type of brutal incident will send a wrong message to all the people.

CII southern region chairman C R Swaminathan said that any labour issue would need to be resolved through consensus only and not through violence. Concerned with the increasing incidents of labour unrest, he urged the Government to take firm action against those who have taken law in their hands. “Tamil Nadu’s strength lies in its strong committed workforce which is one of the key indicators for the State in comparison to rest of the country. Incidents like this will certainly send strong signal to investors across the globe, at a time, when the economy is showing signs of early revival.”

CII’s Tamil Nadu chapter chairman C K Ranganathan also appealed to the state for its intervention in protecting the interests of labour and management. He said the government and employers federation should come together to put an end to these undemocratic activities keeping in view the the welfare of employees and their families. CITU senior leader, A Soundararajan, who was leading an agitation in Hyundai Motor for recognition of the union, said the leftist union strongly condemn such violent actions.

But, if the state is witnessing spate of labour issues, it is to be traced to the attempts by the managements and government to suppers trade union rights like not allowing formation of unions, not respecting the workforce, engaging more casuals and contract workers, not extending them proper wages and benefits, victimising workers, dismissing and suspending them etc. He said CITU is fighting the dismissal of 1000 workers in 32 units, including that of MNCs in Chennai, Coimbatore and other centres.

Leur presse (The Economic Times), 24 septembre.

Executive killed by workers in India

A senior executive of a global Indian automotive components exporter was beaten to death in his office by iron bar-wielding workers this week, highlighting the volatility of labour relations in India, even as it seeks to develop as a competitive manufacturing base.

The killing of Roy George, the 46-year-old vice president of human resources at Pricol, was the culmination of nearly two years of labour unrest and mounting violence against the group.

Pricol supplies parts to many of India’s biggest major vehicle producers.

The company, which runs seven factories in India, one in Jakarta and also exports to many other markets, claimed workers at its Coimbatore headquarters had been stirred up by left-wing trade union leaders loosely linked to the Maoist rebels that now control large swathes of remote rural territory across some of India’s most backward states.

The murder came almost a year to the day after the chief of an Italian car parts firm, Graziono Transmissioni India, was beaten to death in his company offices in a large industrial zone outside Delhi.

“It was a brutal assault in broad daylight in the middle of the cabin where he was having a meeting with colleagues,” said Vikram Mohan, a Pricol director, of this week’s killing. Mr Mohan complained that authorities in the state of Tamil Nadu, an automotive hub, had ignored the company’s appeals for help as intimidation and violence, including against workers who did not share the organisers views, had worsened over the past two years.

“I feel that if the government had acted a little more decisively, this horrible loss of a precious life would not have happened,” he said. “We need the government to come down very hard and ban these sort of entities. I don’t think that any outfit that involves terrorism people should be let to go scot-free.”

Industrialists in Coimbature have also expressed anger and dismay.

“We are all very shaken,” said Mahendra Ramdas, president of the local chapter of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“If violence is seen as a tool to be used against management, it can be copied in other factories also.”

Pricol’s labour force, which already had five recognised unions, was bitterly divided when organisers affiliated with the far left appeared two years ago and urged highly confrontational tactics, including strikes, to disrupt the company.

After attacks on workers who disagreed with the organisers in 2007 and 2008, Coimbatore’s tight-knit local business community appealed for state action.

But Mr Ramdas said the the ringleaders were left untouched. “In our country, we only act if a man gets killed,” he said. “The government should put out any violence with an iron hand.”

Leur presse (Amy Kazmin, Financial Times), 24 septembre.

Pricol killing: Labour at the receiving end?

The killing of a manager at a factory in Coimbatore by workers, sparked off by the sacking of dozens of their colleagues, can in no way be condoned, but it raises questions on the state of labour in India in a time of economic pain.

Roy George, a 47-year-old vice president at Pricol, was attacked by workers wielding iron rods after 42 employees were dismissed from a unit of the auto parts maker.

These employees were fired after they disrupted work, company officials say. A senior official was quoted as saying George was targeted because he was “weaning away” employees from a union that was leading the protests.

Pricol workers have been agitating for over two years against the hiring of contract workers and on the non-payment of pay and other benefits. The firm has said these strikes have hit profitability and they could shift base.

The Tamil Nadu government in June prohibited the firm from employing temporary workers in core operations and ordered it to hike wages, implicitly validating the demands of the workers.

If one reads Pricol’s latest annual report, the firm itself blames the economy for its poor financials. There is no mention of an impact from labour unrest.

The International Labour Organisation, in its fundamental convention, says workers must have protection against harassment for being members of a trade union.

The ILO also makes it a priority that wages must be decided through negotiations on an equal footing by workers, employers and the government.

India’s Industrial Disputes Act too provides for protecting workers from being fired for reasons like worsening sales. Severance payments have to be made and these workers must be re-hired when conditions improve.

Many firms have sought to bypass these rules by increasingly hiring casual labour, a trend India’s labour ministry says is on the rise in the automobile sector.

Pricol is not an isolated case of worker action in the state. Tamil Nadu has seen a spate of agitations in recent times, most prominently in the factories of tyre-maker MRF, South Korean car firm Hyundai and mobile phone giant Nokia.

It also brings to mind a similar incident last year, when the chief of the Indian unit of an Italian industrial gear maker was killed by employees. This too was preceded by disputes over hundreds of dismissed employees.

Asian peer China too has seen its share of worker unrest as the communist nation moves towards a market economy and as workers fret and riot over the security of their jobs in a weakening global economy.

In July, workers in a steel mill threw their boss down some stairs to his death, as he was managing the sale of the state-owned plant to a private firm.

A man throws stone at police
during a protest by Honda workers
in Gurgaon July 26, 2005

The question is thus, are such unfortunate situations brought about by labour practices?

Court rulings in India have made it clear the right to life includes the right to practice a dignified livelihood. Do arbitrary hiring and firing practices run counter to this?

And are these made harsher by the slump in the automobile industry, which has forced firms to cut production and reduce the number of workdays per week?

Did the Pricol incident come about due to criminal elements or was it an outcome of frustration with the course of peaceful agitation?

And would such incidents scare away investors into the state and the country?

Leur presse (India: A billion aspirations - Reuters blog), 23 septembre.

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