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Global networks and GFA expected to defend workers’ rights at Siemens in India

11 October, 2012The Siemens Workers’ Union in India is fighting against de-unionization and the other labour issues that they have been facing over the years. The union expects the GFA and Trade Union Network of Siemens will be the key to defend the workers’ rights and interests.

On 5 October 2012, Kan Matsuzaki, Director of ICT, Electrical and Electronics, and Suzanna Miller, Project Officer, both from IndustriALL Global Union, were warmly welcomed by the Siemens Workers’ Union (SWU) to participate in the founding ceremony of the newly established union branch at Siemens Motor Satellite Factory and the SWU General Assembly meeting in Thane, India.

The SWU organizes workers at the Kalwe plant, which has 3 manufacturing units, namely WMOT (motors, generators and traction motors), WSGR (switchgear products) and WSWB (panel boards and circuit breakers). The union is the largest of all unions in Siemens in India and currently fighting against de-unionization, increased contracting of precarious workers and the other labour issues that they have been facing over the years.

In May 2012, the local management introduced a new blue-collar category called Trainee Officer. Once the workers are promoted to Trainee Officer, they are treated as a management category while they perform the same jobs and duties as before, and many labour laws will not be applied to them such as overtime payment and working hours. Moreover, the Trainee Officer workers lose their membership status in any trade unions and will not be allowed to form/join any unions. Since the Trainee Officer category has been introduced, many workers were forced to accept the promotion even if they are not willing to do so. The management refuses to discuss/negotiate this issue with the SWU and the case has been deadlocked.

The above-mentioned Siemens Motor Satellite Factory, which is located 6km away from the Kalwe plant, manufactures motors, generators and traction motors. The workers in the factory are also facing the union-busting promotion issue, and the SWU has filed a complaint before the Industrial Court in Thane and also submitted a letter of intervention to the Deputy Commissioner of Labour in Thane to bring the workers back to the real blue-collar status as members of the union.

Following the founding ceremony of the union at the factory, the General Assembly of the SWU took place in a town hall where the union committee members and activists gathered. Union leaders from other plants in Thane were also invited. Kan Matsuzaki introduced the creation of IndustriALL Global Union and the contents of Siemens Global Framework Agreement (GFA), which was signed in July 2012, and expressed the importance of proper implementation and monitoring of the GFA throughout developing trade union networks of Siemens.

As the SWU is also facing an increase of agency workers at the plant, Suzanna Miller introduced the newly published IndustriALL report “The triangular trap - Unions take action against agency labour”, by giving examples of the myths and employers’ excuses for using agency workers and addressing the unequal treatment of precarious workers in Siemens, such as the recently introduced separate canteens for subcontracted workers.  IndustriALL’s world wide Stop Precarious Work campaign was explained and the union was asked to actively participate and take action on 7 October.

Girish Ashtekar, SWU President, and  Uday Mahale, SWU General Secretary, insisted that the union would extend its organizing effort to not just Siemens factories, but also to suppliers to fight against de-unionization and the increase of agency workers. The union expects the GFA and developing trade union network of Siemens will help in the struggle to defend the workers’ rights and interests.