Indian automotive unions to strengthen social dialogue and union power

26.09.2017

Indian automotive unions met in Chennai on 21 – 23 September to discuss social dialogue, precarious work, building union network and improving health and safety.

The workshop and strategic planning meeting witnessed active participation of union representatives from both multinational and Indian automakers from Chennai, Bengaluru, Pune and Gurgaon industrial clusters.

Union representatives highlighted the limited space for social dialogue in automotive sector. The lack of union recognition, as well as of trust and respect, job security, a limited space to discuss precarious work and lack of transparency in sharing corporate information are hindering an effective social dialogue.

Georg Leutert, IndustriALL automotive director said:

Social dialogue is paramount to establish fair economic development. It bestows equal partnership and dignity to the workforce and also makes business sense. Given the massive presence of precarious work and low-level wages in Indian automotive companies, there will be no development if we stay at this level. We need united trade union force to secure our rights.

Participants also emphasized that labour laws provide space for trade union rights, but a lack of proper implementation of the laws and an inactive labour administration stand in the way for social dialogue.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL General Secretary said:

It is shocking that precarious workers are the bulk of the workforce in leading automotive companies in India. That has to change; workers face an enormous challenge to secure the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

IndustriALL welcomes, encourages and supports the initiative to build a unified network structure to forward workers’ issues in cooperation, unity and solidarity. This is the best way to fight companies trying to pit workers against each other.

Management representatives from companies such as Bharat Benz, Ford India, Skoda, BMW and Volkswagen, participated. On the issue of precarious work, they said that all automotive actors, including leading manufacturers, should come to the negotiation table in order to find a collective position to stop precarious work.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL regional secretary, said:

There a very few women in India’s automotive industry. There needs to be a conducive environment in the factory to encourage the recruitment of more women workers.

Discussing the issues of occupational safety and health, union representatives underlined the need to build union capacity and knowledge to take action. Participants decided to strengthen the network, share information and build organizational structures to improve solidarity among auto unions.

They expressed solidarity to jailed Maruti Suzuki workers and resolved to support the efforts to secure their release.

R Kuchelan of IndustriALL affiliate WPTUC said:

Congratulations to IndustriALL for bringing together automotive union representatives as coordinated action is needed. Rapid technological changes and the introduction of electric vehicles in the auto sector pose challenges to job security and employment. United union action is paramount to defend workers’ rights in the Indian auto sector.

The event was organised with the support of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Participants also visited the Daimler India plant located at Oragadam, for discussions with company officials and union representatives.