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Fighting privatization of steel in India

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4 May, 2022On 28 April, IndustriALL affiliates Steel, Metal and Engineering Workers’ Federation of India (SMEFI) and the Indian National Steel, Metal, Metalmines and Engineering Employees’ Federation (INSMMEEF) demonstrated at the Vishakapatnam steel plant, opposing its privatization.

The unions presented a memorandum to management, copying the minister of steel, urging a stop to the privatization. The unions are opposed to the government’s decision to privatize the plant. It’s estimated that the privatization will affect total of 100,000 people who directly or indirectly depend on the plant.

“As unions, we must put up a strong fight against the onslaught of capitalism. The fight against the privatisation of Visakhapatnam steel plant is part of a larger fight to defend workers’ rights, including the rights of precarious workers,”

said Sanjay Vadhavkar, SMEFI general secretary and IndustriALL executive committee member for Asia-Pacific.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary, said:

“IndustriALL stands in solidarity with the workers of Visakhapatnam steel plant in their fight against its privatization.”


The demonstration was preceded by a two-day workshop on ‘Organizing in the base metal sector’. Union leaders from IndustriALL affiliates in the base metal sector across India attended the workshop.

On the agenda was the privatization of plants; despite the fact that the public sector undertakings generate profits, the Indian government still wants to privatize the plants. Also on the agenda was contractualization of work, wage theft, and the high number of accidents due to unsafe working conditions.

Participants discussed how the process of contractualization takes place, beginning with a gradual outsourcing of different manufacturing processes, resulting in extremely hazardous working conditions for workers, particularly for contract workers. Contract workers are more lilkely to be killed or injured in industrial accidents.

Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL base metal director, joined the workshop virtually and discussed how Industry 4.0 will impact work and trade unions. Participants affirmed that automation and digitalization has already begun and that trade unions must strategize faced with these technical advancements.

Participants in the meeting agreed on an action plan, which includes increasing union membership, with more participation of contract employees, women workers and young workers.