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Affiliates in South Asia call for a united struggle

23 February, 2023IndustriALL Global Union’s general secretary, Atle Høie's, visit to South Asia comes at a time when the region is grappling with the rising cost of living and the erosion of workers’ rights. Anti-worker labour policies and governments’ unwillingness to engage with trade unions underlines the current struggle of IndustriALL affiliates in the region. 

IndustriALL leadership and affiliates met with the Sri Lankan prime minister urging him to include trade unions in the discussion on economic and labour issues as these significantly impact the living conditions of working people in the country. The demand of Sri Lankan affiliates and other workers’ rights groups and academicians across the globe, to cancel Sri Lanka’s debt was also discussed in the meeting and was supported by IndustriALL. A round of discussions were also held with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) country director on the ongoing programmes of ILO in Sri Lanka to safeguard workers’ rights and improve working conditions.

IndustriALL’s demand for the ratification of the Hong Kong Convention (HKC), to ensure safe working conditions in shipbreaking yards by the Bangladeshi government, was raised by the general secretary in a meeting with the secretary of the Ministry of Industries. Lives are lost on a regular basis because of unsafe working conditions. A ratification of the Hong Kong convention will improve conditions drastically.

IndustriALL Bangladesh Council discussed with the general secretary the need for unity in the group of IndustriALL affiliates in Bangladesh, particularly highlighting disunity in the united campaign for increasing the minimum wage of garment workers in the country. Despite all-time high inflation, workers are still being paid BDT8,000 (US$75). The wage was last reviewed by the government five years ago. The majority of IndustriALL affiliates are demanding BDT23,000 (US$215) as the minimum wage.

Atle Høie, says:

“IndustriALL stands firmly with our affiliates in the region in their struggle to protect workers’ rights. We support the demand for increasing the minimum wage to a living wage in light of the soaring inflation across the world. The governments must ensure that workers are able to maintain a decent standard of living along with ensuring safety at workplaces. We cannot allow lives to be lost because of dangerous working conditions.”

The general secretary’s visit to South Asia ended in India where he participated in the IndustriALL India Council meeting. Indian affiliates discussed the need to end precarious work, ensure workers' health and safety, and abolish the new anti-worker labour codes. Affiliates who have been constantly protesting against the government's anti-worker policies urged IndustriALL to extend its support to the ongoing struggle. Atle Høie also attended the national conference of one of the central trade unions in the country, the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), where he addressed the large gathering of union leaders, saluting their struggle to advance workers’ rights in the country, stressing the need to include more women and young people in the trade union movement, and the need for unity.