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IndustriALL affiliates review trade union organizing efforts in India

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22 February, 2016IndustriALL Indian affiliates are comitted to continue organizing precarious workers in the textile, garment, leather, steel, mining and energy sectors.

The annual project evaluation of the union building project in the textile, garment, shoe and leather (TGSL) sector took place on 8 - 9 February 2016 in Delhi, India. The project was launched in 2014 to build strong unions and is supported by Swedish union IF Metall and Union to Union.

IndustriALL affiliates shared their organizing experiences and agreed that the project helped them to organize workers and to conduct number of awareness camps and rallies in 2015 to raise awareness on workers’ rights, as well as to inform them of availability and process of accessing social security benefits for textile, garment and leather industry workers. 

Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL director of textile and garment sectors, presented IndustriALL’s strategic plan for building union power in TGSL Sector and discussed initiatives taken in key producing countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Kenya, Madagascar and countries in Middle East, Northern Africa and in Latin America.

IndustriALL has been supporting its affiliates to develop action plans and strategy to:

Fight Legislation that increases precarious work
Use collective bargaining to address precarious work
Gain permanent status for precarious workers and improve their working conditions and recruit precarious workers in to unions

Progressive efforts in monitoring and implementation of global framework work agreement (GFA) with companies like Inditex, H&M and current discussions to sign new GFAs were also discussed.

Affiliates also underlined various challenges in the process of organizing, including anti-labour attitude of government officials, proposed anti-workers changes in labour laws, presence of complex supply chain, prevalence of migrant workers and low union dues collection. But despite the challenges they expressed a determination to increase union membership and continue their support for workers to defend workers’ rights through organizing precarious workers.

Union building in steel, mining and energy sectors

On 9-10 February, the project advisory committee of IndustriALL/SASK Union to Union India project met in Delhi to review affiliates’ organizing efforts in steel, mining and energy sector worker.

In 2015, IndustriALL affiliates organized 19225 workers. In this process, activities such as trainings on union building, workshops on occupational safety and health, rallies and gate meetings were carried out.

The project was implemented by Indian national metal and mine workers’ federations affiliated to Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and federations affiliated to national Centre Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) namely Steel Metal and Engineering workers Federation of India (SMEFI) and mine workers federation Hind Khadan Mazdoor Federation (HKMF) participated in the meeting. 

G Sanjeeva Reddy, president of INMF and national trade union centre INTUC appreciated IndustriALL’s support:

Against the intense anti-labour policies of the present government, trade unions across political spectrum have come together to defend workers’ rights through nationwide protests and strike actions. In this critical scenario, trade union movement in India need more concrete interventions and support from global unions.

Devika Singh, and Sanjyot Vadhavkar of IndustriALL India Women’s committee presented the findings of research exercise, ‘mapping women workers in the steel sector’. Breaking the popular notion that the sector dominated with male workers, they argued that large number of women workers are also engaged in steel sector. They emphasised the urgent need for union organising efforts to prioritise bringing women workers into the union fold.  

Affiliates also informed that newly formed trade unions are progressing well towards sustainability in terms of building strong organizational structures and financial stability through increasing membership dues in the long run. They also decided to intensify their organising efforts.

Presiding both events, Fernando Lopes, assistant general secretary IndustriALL, congratulated affiliates for successfully organizing a large number of workers and urged them to find ways of organizing contract workers:

Precarious work is increasing and it is important to organize these workers.