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India: Alfa laval worker strike in Pune - Swedish workers solidarity action

by, 15 December 2013

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(Indian Express, 15 December 2013 |

India: Workers’ protest outside Alfa Laval gets Swedish support
MANOJ MORE : Pune, Dec 15 2013

The agitation by around 400 "contract workers" outside Alfa Laval, Indian arm of the Swedish Engineering Group, has drawn support from workers in Sweden.

The support has come after a report was published in Pune Newsline dated November 2. What has drawn sympathy from workers in Sweden is the refusal of Pune workers to back off despite a temperature dip. The city had recorded 6.8 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

Last month, the workers in Sweden had held protests outside the Alfa Laval industrial complex at Gunnesbo, Lund, (Sweden) to express their solidarity with the 400 workers in Pune. Since that failed to work, the workers on Saturday took out a rally in Lund city in a bid to impress upon the Alfa Laval bosses there to convince the Pune management to accept the demands of the workers. "Nearly 1,400 workers were invited to participate in the rally. This is what the workers representatives in Sweden had told us," said Yashwant Bhosale of the Rashtriya Shramik Aghadi.

Bhosale said after the report on the plight of the workers protesting outside Alfa Laval gates near Kasarwadi along the Pune-Mumbai highway was published, workers Henric Johnsson and Martin Djork from Sweden sent a team of students who were in India to find out what exactly was happening.

"The students interacted with the agitating workers and reported back their plight to workers in Sweden," said Bhosale. After this, some workers agitated outside the Alfa Laval premises in Lund city and tried to convince officials to pressurise the Pune management and end the strike. "Since the strike has not ended, the workers took out a rally on Saturday with the hope that the management there will make the local management see reason," he said.

While workers have been claiming that they have been with the company for a long time, ranging from 5 to 20 years, and therefore should get permanency in service, the company said protesters are employees of contractors of the company and not the company itself, therefore the protests have no locus-standi. "The protest is illegal and unjustified and therefore we do not want to engage with it," the company has maintained.

Jan Hedemann, managing director Alfa Laval, said since the issue was in industrial court, they would wait for the court directives. "After the verdict, we will decide the future course of action," he said. Hedemann said the company was "greatly pained" at the campaign of misinformation being carried.

Hedemann denied that the workers who agitated in Sweden belonged to Alfa Laval. "I don’t think if 15-20 people agitate in Sweden means that agitation here have got global support...," he said. However, Bhosale said if the company claimed that those agitating in Sweden were not its workers, it cannot deny the fact that they were residents of


"The workers who are agitating in dipping temperature has received sympathy and support from Sweden. It will encourage them to fight on," he said.

Alfa Lava however conceded that "A handful of rallyists visited the company head office in Sweden. Our office corrected facts that were misrepresented to them and also explained our processes in India. Our Unions in Sweden and India are strongly behind the management on the issue."

The company said the workers have not been sacked, but the have decided to stay out from 1 October without any notice or information to their employer. "The company has not fired any worker. Since these are contract employees, we follow the contract terms and process which is existing and being followed for the last 10 years. The protests are being led by an outsider who looks to be bringing outsiders to merge with few of the contractors workers." The company however said if the workers withdrew their strike, things would be back to pre-strike days.

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Solidarity with 400 contract Workers

by motarbetaren

Around 30 people gathered today outside Alfa Lavals industrial complex at Gunnesbo, Lund, in solidarity with the 400 contract workers that are on strike since september 2013 in Pune, India. Due to the strike, all contract workers were dismissed and they sit in front of the factory gate.

When we arrived at the Alfa Lavals main building in Lund we had a discussion with Eva Schiller, PR Manager at Alfa Laval, and Thomas Thureson, chief financial officer, outside the reception and demanded that Alfa Laval accepted the claims of the workers. Thomas Thuresson refused to take responsibility due to the fact that they employ workers through a contractor and therefore can avoid guaranteeing the workers a decent wage. This is of course an attempt to avoid responsibility and exploit insecure and underpaid workers in India.

The struggle continues of course, let´s discuss how we can spread the struggle and do more actions around Sweden and the world together!

One of the worker that have been part of the strike said the following to us earlier this week:

The workers say they feel helpless and they are worn out, given that it is now almost 2 months that they sit in front of the factory gate with no response from the management. Also, the nights are getting colder in Pune and the city saw some heavy rainfalls in the last days. The workers are 24 hours in the tent in front of the factory, most of the time 100 or 200 at the same time. Anuj Kumar, 35, is one of them. He comes, like many workers in the factory, from rural areas around Pune and got a diploma as a wielder from one of the Indian Technological Institutes run by the state.

Kumar has two children and he has to pay rent from his small salary of around 100 Euros per month. He works for Alva Laval since 15 years. He points at the factory and he says ”This is not just a workplace for us, we feel this is our house, our home, because we spent so much time here”. Relatives help out with money, so the family can make a living without a wage during the strike. But this is a situation familiar to Kumar.

Whenever Alfa Laval does not need his work, he is delayed for some time, without prior notice. In this time, he has to find other jobs in other factories and then suddenly they call him again and need his workforce urgently. He says its absurd that sometimes permanent workers that earn triple of his income come to him and ask him for technical details of the work. He feels that his skills and his work experience are not recognized by the company, because he is still in this insecure position, after all these years.

The workers who earn just this small amount of money live in small houses with 1 or 2 rooms. In these districts where they can afford the rent, the water supply is irregular and power cuts of sometimes a few hours a day are normal.

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Maharashtra – Report on workers’ strike at Alfa Laval factory in Pune

December 1, 2013

a short report from Joerg Nowak

The Swedish company Alfa Laval produces heat exchangers for pharma and food industry, but also for the oil and energy sector. On their website, they say they have 28 major production units, 15 in Europe, 8 in Asia, 4 in the Us and 1 in Latin America. The company claims to have 16000 employees worldwide.

In Pune, India, 3 hours from Mumbai, Alfa Laval has a plant with 800 workers. Of these workers, 60 are permanent workers, another 250 are permanent workers under a different legal status, called junior management cadre (JMC). This category JMC is used to deprive workers the rights according to labour law. However, both of these groups are unionized under two different trade unions internal to the company. 70 contract workers are in the factory with a new contract and go on working.

The remaining 402 contract workers went on strike in October 1st, 2013. Most of them work on the production line. The contract workers have been employed in the company since a long time, some of them more than 15 years. The contract workers earn between Rs. 8 and 10000 a month. The permanent workers and JMC earn between Rs. 30-40000 a month. Most of the contract workers have been working for more than 10 years continuously, and engage in the same work as the permanent workers, but the company brought in a system of giving ‘breaks’ for 3-6 months every 280 days, so that there legal case of getting permanent is weakened. A continuous spate of harassment and terror to break the unity of the workers is acted on as a matter of policy of the management, within the factory space and through the contractors. The discontent of the workers arise from this harassment by the management, work pressure coupled with job insecurity.

The contract workers sent a letter to the management demanding to be made permanent on September 15, 2013. As there was no response to the letter, they went on strike. Due to the strike, all contract workers were dismissed and they are sitting in front of the factory gate. Between October 15 and October 20, 15 of the workers went on fast-unto-death. After six of them fainted and had to get medical treatment, they changed the tactics and went to Chakri strike: Workers don’t eat for 12 hours and then another worker comes and takes the shift of hunger strike.

The output of the company is around 30 % of the normal output due to the strike, which means they are losing a lot of money, about 16 million Euros until 21st of November since October 1st. On November 12, the Labour Commissioner ordered that the company would have to take the workers back, but the company refused and now the case is going to another court. Until now, the company refuses to negotiate with the trade union representing the contract workers.

The company announced a year ago that they want to shift the entire production to another plant in 2015, and they started diminishing the number of contract workers from 800 to 400. That was also one of the reasons for the strike. In december 2012 one worker had an accident in the factory and died. The company did not yet pay the overtime bonuses from 2012, so they might be happy that they found an opportunity to fire these workers.

The contract workers are organized in a trade union called Rashtree Shramik Agardi affiliated to the trade union of Nationalist Congress Party. The permanent workers and JMC workers have separate Unions.

The strike is not an isolated incident as 40 contract workers from a neighbouring factory close by Simmons-Marshall did the same in May/June and got regular contracts. Currently, in another city in Maharashtra, 600 contract workers in the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences in Nashik are on strike, too, for regularisation of work contracts.

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Solidarity action in Lund, Sweden Solidarity in Lund, Sweden Solidarity action in Delhi