22 February, 2012
Swiss-based cement multinational giant Holcim continues to anger the ICEM with its illegal treatment of contract workers in India. Attempts by contract and agency workers employed at Holcim’s subsidiaries, ACC Ltd. and Ambuja Cement Ltd., to organise and establish collective bargaining with management are being crushed with intimidation, coercion, and dismissal.
On 12 January, the ICEM joined a complaint to the OECD submitted by the local union Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh (PCSS). PCSS is a member of the ICEM global family and represents 1,500 contract workers in the state of Chhattisgarh.
The complaint focuses on a number of breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises at Holcim’s cement companies. Other than the clear violation of the contract workers’ right to organise and bargain collectively, Holcim is also cited for refusing to engage in collective bargaining with PCSS, which is officially registered as the trade union representing workers at the cement installations. Further violations are outlined in the complaint with respect to the surrounding communities around the Holcim plants. The companies acquired land from local farmers and went on to destroy living conditions in local communities, namely shoddy water management and destruction of homes by blasting and mining. The subsidiaries also refuse to give permanent jobs to locals.
Today in New Delhi, ICEM participated in a press conference with the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) and PCSS and their national federation, New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI). ICEM Asia-Pacific Representative Phee Jungsun said at the press conference, “It is through such practices as these that clearly violate workers’ basic rights to representation of their choice, as guaranteed by the UN, OECD and ILO, as well as the Indian constitution. That Holcim has doubled its profit margins through Indian operations stand as further disrepute in terms of the rights’ abuses of contract and agency workers.”
Holcim celebrates its 100th anniversary this week and claims “We have placed Sustainable Development at the heart of our business strategy for many years, because we believe it contributes in adding value and ensuring continued success.”
Holcim is in breach of Indian legislation, namely the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act that stipulates that contract workers may only be hired to perform non-core functions, and that those who perform the same or similar kinds of work as regular workers must receive equal treatment in terms of wages and conditions.
However, contract workers in both plants are employed to carry out tasks which are fundamental to production, but receive only one third of permanent workers’ wages.
Holcim-ACC last year refused to respect a Chhattisgarh State High Court ruling that it is using “sham and bogus” contracts, and should regularise 27 contract workers. It was proven that contract workers at the plant do not have basic personal protective equipment, such as gloves, boots and masks, and are denied access to medical facilities, including basic first aid, in the factory.
Between September 2010 and March 2011, 80 members of PCSS were dismissed by Holcim-Ambuja. Management of the plant repeatedly refused to participate in conciliation efforts by the Regional Labour Commissioner in Raipur.
The Chapters and Paragraphs of the OECD Guidelines in violation are: Chapter II ( General Policies) specifically paragraphs A (1), (4),(9); Chapter IV (Human rights) specifically paragraphs 1, 2; and Chapter V specifically paragraphs 1 (a), (b), (d), (e), 3, 5.
See the full text of the PCSS OECD complaint here.
See more information on the BWI Company Monitor webpage here.