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32,000 Indian steel workers organized since 2010

14 March, 2013Through IndustriALL Global Union’s organizing project known as “More members, fewer unions” two Indian affiliates, the INMF and SMEFI, organized over 32,000 new members between 2010 and 2012.

The Project Advisory Committee (PAC) Meeting of the India Steel project, held in Kolkata on 25-26 February 2013, commended the hard work of both INMF and SMEFI to organize over 32,000 steel, iron ore and sponge iron workers in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarhi and Orissa between 2010 and 2012 and recommended to continue supporting and consolidating these remarkable results.

The India Steel Organising project is supported jointly by IndustriALL Global Union’s Swedish affiliates IF Metall and Unionen through donor the LO-TCO and Finnish affiliates Metalli and Pro through the donor SASK. The project is built around three central principles: Non-competition; Building cooperation; and Building sustainability. 

The project target for 2010-2012 was to recruit 20,000 members, at the end of December 2012 over 32,000 new workers had been organized, a majority of these being precarious or contract workers. As one of the affiliates pointed out during the meeting “even though these workers have precarious work contracts and may be dismissed tomorrow, now that they have understood the benefits the union can get for them, when they find a new job they will seek us out to organize their new workplace”.

Furthermore all these new members are now organized in companies where there were no unions before, so now there is only one union representing all the workers, thus also complying with the project’s aim to have “more members, fewer unions”.

In India the main steel and iron ore companies are established in the conflict areas, called the Red Corridor and one of the major factors contributing to the success is the solidarity and involvement of IndustriALL’s affiliates at every single level of the implementing structure put into place, meaning that all project interventions at District, State and National levels are carried out by the affiliates’ members and union leadership. Clearly only strong unions can enter these regions to organize, directly confronting the local mafias and employers.

Despite this huge achievement in organizing, INMF and SMEFI consider that 90% of the current workforce in this industrial sector remains unorganized and the PAC meeting strongly recommended continuing the organizing drive during the 2014-2016 project period.  

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina stated:

The achievements of INMF and SMEFI prove that cooperation and non-competition can lead to great results on the ground, as IndustriALL we must now extend this effort to the extractive and energy sectors in India and build up our affiliates’ capacity to progress workers’ rights in more industrial sectors.