2 July, 2015Around 35 women trade unionists demanded respect for women workers’ rights and a halt to the attacks on trade unions when they met in Pune, India, on 21 and 22 June.
Participants met to discuss experiences on collective bargaining and workplace issues.
Testimonies from the different participants showed that multinational companies have a tremendous influence both at the government level as well as on the judiciary system. The result is that workers are more and more exploited, and that the Indian government tries to amend various labour laws to the disadvantage of workers.
Informal work is a key issue for women workers. Many women workers cannot count on maternity benefits and face childcare problems since there are no crèches at their workplace. Moreover, these women have no job security and do not disclose their marital status for fear of losing their jobs.
The meeting drafted a concrete action plan to organize precarious workers among whom women are the most exploited. The WCL women activists plan to organize 500 precarious workers by December 2015, whereas the Mumbai Port women activists agreed to organize 1,000 precarious workers at the port of Mumbai. Participants working at Yazaki India stated that this company employs 2,500 contract workers versus 500 permanent workers. They decided to discuss with the permanent workers the possibility of organising 100 contract workers.
Participants also discussed a programme for change, including training, building of union resources, strategic planning, organizing, collective bargaining, finances and communication.
A suspended women activist employed by Ever Electronics, a Korean multinational supplying electronic products to LG, testified that her employer is trying to break the union and have suspended many workers. The meeting launched an appeal to IndustriALL Global Union to support the workers at Ever Electronics through establishing trade union networks at this MNC.
At the end of the meeting, IndustriALL affiliate Shramik Ekta Mahasangh Women (SEM) decided to launch a campaign across the industrial sector in Pune on the implementation of maternity benefits and the respect for women workers’ rights.
These and other issues were discussed at the Indian women's committee meeting held on 14 July in Delhi. Precarious work turns out to be the most important focus for the women. In general the permanent workers are men, and the precarious workers are women. The women's committee intends to take action on 7 October, the World Day for Decent Work.
Other concerns raised were women's health and especially HIV/AIDS, sexual harassment, caste conflicts - most of the working class women are the lowest castes, and they have to deal with upper-caste men - women's illiteracy, women taking early retirement, migrant workers, domestic violence, low pay for women and the informal economy.
In addition on 15 July the women decided to embark upon a mapping exercise to determine where women work in India and in what jobs. This will take considerable time and effort.