Social Scientist. v 15, no. 169 (June 1987) p. 3.


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G.K. LIETEN^

Workers, Unions and Multinationals

IN THE LITERATURE on labour in the organized sector of industry in developing countries, particularly on labour in multinational corporations, the view generally prevails that the workers have been incorporated as a new middle class elite.1 One scholar-cum-union theoi^etician puts his opinion as follows, in the wake of a study on the differences in employment conditions between Dutch MNCs operating in the home country and in India : "Of course there is considerable hostility and continuing xenophobia about the presence and operations of these firms ; but much of this opposition comes from the middle classes who have no direct dealings with foreign companies, or from those sections of Indian business which feel threatened by large or foreign competitors or finally from. groups of academics who feel that any nation's interests are damaged by foreign interests. These attitudes and ideas are certainly not found among the workers employed in foreign plants".2

Does the working class in the expatriate sector indeed constitute a segment alienated from the mainstream of Indian (working class) politics ? Have they been incorporated as "corporate citizens ?" We shall discuss the issue on the basis of a sample survey. There may be wide variations between different types of foreign companies. However, although generalizations on the basis of a sample may be faulty, in this particular case the evidence applies directly to the subject firms referred to in the quotation cited earlier. The firms which we have covered relate to a number of industries and are of different sizes, but with one common denominator. The ownership namely rests with Dutch (or Anglo-Dutch) parent companies. They include such giants as Hindustan Lever, Nocil, Peico and Century Enka, and rather small-sized enterprises as Wavin, Organon, Kinetics Technology, Maschmyer and Hind Lamps. Although the sample of 497 employees and workers may not stand the test as a close representation of the population of approximately twenty thousand workers, leave alone of the work force in the MNCs in India in general, we shall use the results as a probable reflection of the state of consciousness.

*Dept. of South & South East Asian Studies, University of Amsterdam, Holland.



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