Open letter by Tata Nano workers – What wrong have we done?

When it was announced that the Tata Nano project will be moved from West Bengal to Gujarat, Gujarat’s political leaders were overjoyed. It almost seemed that one of the main pain points that the youth of the state face, i.e. unemployment, will now be eradicated. The land which was allotted to Krushi Sansodhar Kendra (Agricultural Research Centre) was instead handed over to Tata for the Nano factory. Right from the land itself to stamp duty to the cost of relocation of machinery from Bengal to Gujarat to Power Station to Roads to Water to Gas to Waste Water Management, Government either gave massive discounts or have even completely waived away huge sums. A loan of 30,000 crores was extended to them at a paltry interest rate of 0.1% to be paid in instalments after 20 years. Even after giving so many freebies, Tata Nano was not mandated to provide 85% jobs to locals according to the long standing Gujarat Government policy. However, the question that the we, the workers of Tata Nano, want to ask is that inspite of Gujarat Govt doing so much for the Tatas, does anyone including the Guj Govt care for the condition of the workmen in the Tata Nano factory?

Labourers who work in the Tata Nano factory mostly come from farmer families and have been working with Tata for over 5 years now. And even today, after having worked with Tata Nano for so long, and in this age of inflation and price rise, the total salary that Tata workers get is Rs 11,700 (Basic 3370, Allowances 8330). In Sanand, where the Tata Nano factory is located, the monthly rental for a basic one room-kitchen house is Rs 5000. The workers ask today, with such meagre salaries, how do we take care of our families, how do we educate our children and how do we survive? So be it, at the present moment, we are not even demanding any rise in salaries or any extra perks. However, according to the Trade Union Act and Labour Act, we have a right to organize ourselves into a union. The very day we initiated the process of union registration via an application, 2 workers were suspended by the management. We requested the management to take back the suspended employees. The management assured us in writing that the suspended workers will be taken back within a months time. We trusted the management and continued to discharge our duties with all sincerity.

However, even after 2 months, when 2 of our colleagues were not taken back as promised earlier, we made a representation before the Management. In response to this representation, 26 more employees were suspended. In protest, we sat in the company’s parking lot. After 13 days of this protest in the company parking lot, the management suspended the transportation facilities to-and-from workers’ homes. The very same day, when we left for our homes, the police was already waiting for us and the police threatened us that we would be thrown into the jail without a possibility of bail and also threatened to physically torture us. The whole while, the police kept using extremely abusive language and asked the workers not to be seen near the Tata Nano factory ever again. After that, the Govt of Gujarat declared the strike illegal.

To see this face of Tatas, who always claim that they take good care of their workmen, was shocking. This entire façade of the Tatas was shattered the day they started using police against their own employees and refused to give the workers their legal rights. After having gotten so many favours from the Gujarat Government, Tata is being extremely unjust towards the youth of Gujarat and comes across as no better a company than the other corporates houses which grow by exploiting their workers.

Tata Workers ask the following questions:

1) Do we have the right to register a Union?
2) Why is the Union registrar not registering our Union?
3) Why is the Labour Commission, who has been appointed to look after the welfare of labour, indulging in anti-labour activities?
4) Why was police used to intimidate the workers who have been working with the company for such a long time?
5) Why did the Gujarat Govt interfere in the private dispute between the workers and a private company and declare the strike as illegal?
6) Why has the Gujarat Government, which made tall promises about employment at the time they wanted to hand over land to Tata, now turned its back to the workers?

Right to Trade Union is our constitutional right and we shall not stop till we have a registered union in Tata Nano.