September 10, 2023

National Tyre Workers’ Convention

R Karumalaiyan

THE All India Tyre Workers’ Convention took place in Kottayam, Kerala on August 20, 2023. The convention commenced with the flag hoisting ceremony led by CITU vice-president A Soundararajan. Welcoming the delegates, CITU national secretary and Kerala general secretary, Elamaram Kareem MP, extended his greetings. The convention, presided over by CITU national secretary K Chandran Pillai, saw the participation of 162 representatives from tyre workers across 13 manufacturing plants spanning five states: Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kerala, Telangana, and Karnataka. The convention was inaugurated by Tapan Sen, CITU general secretary. R Karumalaiyan, national secretary, CITU placed the draft report and 16 workers participated in the discussions and enriched the draft report even further.

During the convention, several resolutions were passed, including on the issue of equal pay for equal work for contract and casual workesr and extend the collective bargaining mechanism to encompass them as well. In terms of organisational matters, it was decided to establish state-level coordination committees in states with a significant presence of tyre plants and to emphasize collaborative efforts among major brands. Consequently, a 37-member All India Coordination Committee of Tyre Workers was formed, with R Karumalaiyan serving as the national convenor.

In accordance with the decisions made during the CITU all India conference to extend our reach to unreached areas, the CITU secretariat has been undertaking various organisational initiatives to expand its presence in emerging industrial sectors and regions. In pursuit of this goal, in addition to the standard activities carried out by state committees, it has implemented targeted measures to activate existing sectoral coordination committees in newly established areas, such as IT and ITeS and the automobile industry. Simultaneously, efforts are underway to establish new coordination committees among workers who have not yet been nationally coordinated, even though there may be existing unions or contacts in these industrial sectors.

To strengthen and expand their presence in this industry, the CITU secretariat convened a meeting on October 17, 2022, in Mumbai. During this meeting, representatives from tyre workers' unions affiliated with CITU discussed the idea of forming a national coordination committee and explored the possibilities for its establishment.

The tyre industry is one such sector that we have identified for our focus. India ranks among the top tyre manufacturers worldwide, trailing only the US and China. In addition to producing conventional radial and bias tyres, the industry is now offering advanced options such as smart tyres, noise-reduction tyres, puncture-proof tyres, and tyres designed for electric vehicles. Furthermore, it is actively expanding its presence in the premium and luxury tyre segments, which have traditionally been dominated by imported products.

The growth of the Indian tyre industry is closely intertwined with the expansion of the Indian automobile sector. In the past, Indian roads were primarily populated by vehicles such as Ambassadors, Fiats, and Padminis. However, following India's liberalisation, the automotive landscape has transformed, with hundreds of diverse vehicles now available from numerous brands. This automotive growth surge occurred post-liberalisation in India.

In 2022, the Indian tyre market reached a volume of 179.16 million units, driven by the robust growth of the automotive industry. Remarkably, India has shifted from being a net tyre importer in the 1950s and 1960s to becoming a net exporter, capable of producing specialised tyres for the global market. With the continued expansion in tyre production, the market is poised for further growth in the forecast period from 2023 to 2028, with an anticipated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.68 per cent.

The Indian tyre industry is primarily in the organised sector, with the unorganised sector having a significant presence mainly in bicycle tyres. The major players in the organised tyre segment include MRF, Apollo Tyres, Ceat, and JK Industries, collectively accounting for 63 per cent of the organised tyre market. Other notable players in this sector encompass Modi Rubber, Kesoram Industries, and Goodyear India, holding shares of 11 per cent, 7 per cent, and 6 per cent, respectively. Additionally, Dunlop, Falcon, Tyre Corporation of India Limited (TCIL), TVS-Srichakra, Metro Tyres, and Balkrishna Tyres are among the industry's other prominent participants. MRF, the country's largest tyre manufacturer, boasts a strong brand reputation.

It is worth noting that all of these top five tyre manufacturers have allegedly engaged in cartelisation and have been fined a substantial amount of Rs 1,788 crore by the Competition Commission of India following a complaint by the All India Tyre Dealers Federation. This, in essence, resulted in unfair practices that harmed both natural rubber cultivating farmers and consumers alike.

The Indian tyre industry is a significant consumer of domestic rubber production, with natural rubber accounting for 80 per cent of the material content in Indian tyres. In contrast, synthetic rubber makes up only 20 per cent of the rubber content in tyres in India. Globally, the ratio of natural rubber to synthetic rubber stands at 30:70. Additionally, rubber chemicals are extensively employed in tyre manufacturing alongside natural and synthetic rubber.

The Indian tyre industry primarily sources its RSS-4 grade natural rubber domestically, with only a minimal quantity being imported. This domestic sourcing is advantageous for the industry, given that natural rubber makes up 25 per cent of the total raw material cost of tyres. In contrast, synthetic rubber contributes to 14 per cent of the raw material cost. Notably, unlike natural rubber, India imports 60 per cent of its synthetic rubber requirements.

In addition to rubber, significant raw materials include nylon tyre cord and carbon black. Nylon tyre cord strengthens the tyres and provides them with tenacity, comprising 34 per cent of the raw material cost. On the other hand, carbon black not only determines the tyre's color but also extends its lifespan, constituting another 13 per cent of the raw material cost.

Tyre manufacturing is a labour-intensive industry with a substantial capital investment. A significant portion of the workforce comprises contract workers, accounting for approximately 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the total workforce, except in Maharashtra where the proportion seems to be around 20 per cent. Most tyre factories have collective bargaining arrangements, primarily benefiting miniscule permanent workers. Contract workers often receive only the statutory minimum wages, with some regions like Tamil Nadu offering better compensation, while in other parts of the country, they are paid well below the minimum subsistence level, let alone the statutory minimum wages. A clear disparity exists when comparing the wages of contract workers, who perform similar tasks, with those of permanent workers covered under collective bargaining agreements.

The health and safety of workers in the tyre industry constitute another crucial aspect of working conditions. Tyre workers are consistently exposed to the risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs). Their tasks frequently involve maintaining elevated arm postures, lifting tyres, pushing or pulling trolleys, as well as bending and twisting their trunks. While tyre manufacturing facilities have implemented advanced equipment and engineering controls, the risk factors for WRMSDs still persist.

WRMSDs are defined as impairments of bodily structures, including muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, nerves, bones, or localised blood circulation systems. These conditions are primarily caused or exacerbated by the performance of work and the immediate work environment. Some studies indicate that approximately 30 per cent of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) worldwide result from poor working conditions. Risk factors contributing to these conditions include static working postures, twisting movements, work pace, force exertion, monotony, vibrations, mental stress, and lack of support. Additionally, the layout of the work area and the loads being handled can further influence the development of WRMSDs.

In the tyre sector, there are approximately 44 tyre companies in our country operating across 66 manufacturing units. The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has 16 affiliated unions, including four representing contract labour, in major brands. These unions have a combined membership of 10,288 across 14 plants situated in six different states: Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, and Rajasthan.


Cannot connect to Ginger Check your internet connection
or reload the browser
Disable in this text fieldRephraseRephrase current sentenceEdit in Ginger