With the federal government owning 33% of General Motors and the United Auto Workers owning another 17.5%, one would think that the words General Motors and exploiting workers would be incongruous in the same sentence. Yet, it appears the Obama administration and its union cronies own a car company that is as exploitive as the worst of those capitalistic, private-sector companies they are always castigating.
As a group of UAW-represented GM workers sue both GM and the UAW for having their salaries cut 40% (to $14 an hour) as a result of reclassifying them as temporary employees, half a world away, another group of workers has had to take to the streets and strike for what progressives on the Left would consider less than a ‘fair wage,’ as well as safe working conditions.
In General Motors’ Halol plant in the town of Vadadora (located in the western India state of Gujarat), GM pays its workers a paltry $0.92 per hour for regular employees and a mere $0.47 per hour for temporary workers.
Moreover, unlike their American counterparts, GM’s Halol workers “routinely lift and carry heavy automobile parts such as door-assembly and steering columns during production operations. Such tasks in the US, Western Europe and Japan are normally performed with the aid of machinery.”
Last October, employees at GM’s Halol plant went on strike for four days, returning to work when GM agreed to pay the employees half of what they were asking for. According to the World Socialist Web Site:
Following that agreement, management unilaterally increased daily workloads by 20 percent. GM officials justified this by claiming the new quota had already been agreed to.
Far from having reached any agreement, however, management increased workloads by “negotiating” with the company union at the plant. Less than 10 percent of the workers belong to the organization and most of them were forced to join by management bullying and intimidation.
On March 16th, under a new union, workers struck again.
The striking workers have formed a new union under INTUC and have alleged that they were subjected to excess workload. The workers alleged they were facing health hazards and the company has violated PF Act, gratuity norms and rules of Industrial Safety and Health Act. The company has termed the strike illegal.
In response, the Obama Administration/UAW-owned GM played hardball.
Barely two weeks into the strike, GM even considered terminating the strikers.
General Motors India is going to act tough now! The company said it would not hesitate to cut down on the number of employees in the wake of the current downturn in the auto industry. The remarks from its senior official came at a time when no end was in sight to its nine-day strike.The company is facing production loss of nearly 100 units since this strike began.
By the 12th day of the strike, however, GM softened its “union-busting” stand on terminating the strikers and, instead hired temporary workers to serve as ‘scabs.’ Within a few weeks, production had resumed to pre-strike levels.
Last week, with the help of GM’s threats and intimidation, the strike ended.
After a six-week tussle, the strike at General Motors India’s Halol factory, 35 km from Vadodara, has finally been called off, with the workers and management reaching an understanding.
Nearly 900 workers had gone on an indefinite strike from the second shift on March 16, primarily complaining on health issues as well as protesting against transfer of employees from the Halol plant. Around 650-700 workers had resumed duty by March 25, after a dismissal threat by the management if there was no return within 48 hours.
To compensate for the 200 striking workers, the company had recruited close to 100-150 temporary workers.
Given a management team hand-selected by the Obama administration (as well as the UAW), it’s odd that GM would treat its Indian workforce in such a hypocritical way.
Then again, perhaps not.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776