IndustriALL affiliates in India discussed strategies and shared experiences of organizing precarious workers in the textile, garment and leather sector, in a union building workshop on 4-5 May 2016 in Bangalore.
Organizing precarious workers is a key priority for IndustriALL’s union building project with Swedish non-profit organization, Union to Union, in the textile, garment, shoe and leather sector in South Asia. Various initiatives taken by IndustriALL and its affiliates to combat precarious work and defend workers’ rights were discussed at the workshop.
Winning workers’ confidence in unions is a major challenge faced by union organizers. Social security for precarious workers has been a key demand pursued by unions. In the absence of secure work, union intervention in enabling precarious workers to obtain government sponsored social security schemes have made a positive impact in organizing workers.
In various places, unions are also facing challenges of dealing with factory closures, particularly tanneries, due to environmental regulations. Precarious workers are left with no compensation or alternative employment opportunities in such situations. Unions decided to take up factory closures on a case-by-case basis and fight for appropriate compensation and alternative employment opportunities for precarious workers.
Participants also discussed the benefits and drawbacks of industry-wide and company-specific collective bargaining agreements.
Addressing the workshop Apoorva Kaiwar, regional secretary of IndustriALL urged participants to build union power at plant level. She said:
“In today’s scenario the textile, garment and leather industry is witnessing a rapid growth, but the workforce is facing the serious challenges of precarious jobs. Migrant, young and women workers are becoming the face of the workforce in this sector and we need to organize them in a way suitable to the next generation workers.”
Key union partners of the project SEWA, NTGLWF, INTWF, INGLWF, HMS NCR, TWFI and INTUC Kolkata took part in the workshop. Participants resolved to bring more precarious workers into the trade union fold.