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India: Cement unions call for improved health and safety in multinational corporations

10 April, 2018Indian cement sector affiliates of IndustriALL called for improved occupational health and safety (OHS) and social dialogue in multinational corporations (MNCs) and Indian cement units at a meeting in Mumbai on 7 and 8 April 2018.

The strategic planning meeting saw the participation of representatives from IndustriALL affiliates the Indian National Cement Workers’ Federation and Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh, whose members work in cement manufacturing units across India.

The Indian cement unions stressed that recent fatal accidents in MNC cement units in India involving precarious workers call for increased attention to OHS issues. Companies must respect workers’ lives and act swiftly to improve safety in cement factories. As well as fatalities, other health issues faced by workers, including concerns emerging from carrying heavy bags and the presence of crystalline dust, must be addressed urgently. The unions decided to ensure that there will be a health and safety expert in each union.

The unions stated that the companies have to provide adequate training on health and safety policies and procedures and create awareness of health and safety rights of all workers, including contract workers. Management has to create appropriate institutional mechanisms and commit to involve workers’ representatives in finding solutions to stop fatal accidents and to improve health and safety practices. Further, cement unions resolved to strengthen their participation in national and international actions and campaigns to improve OHS in the cement industry.

Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL director for mechanical engineering and materials industries said,

“Cement workers are human beings and they are entitled to safe workplaces, to fair working conditions and proper payment. No matter whether they are contract workers or regular workers, all workers who contribute to the wealth of the companies are entitled to fair treatment. IndustriALL Global Union demands that cement producers, multinational and local, respect workers‘ lives!“

Cement unions decided to intensify coordination between permanent and precarious workers and deepen union organizing initiatives both in MNCs and in Indian cement units to bring more precarious workers into the union fold. Unions also stressed that they are open for engaging in constructive social dialogue with management to improve industrial relations and protect workers’ interests.

Apoorva Kaiwar, head of the regional office of IndustriALL in South Asia, was pleased with the results and said,

“The cooperation between our affiliates in the cement sector is our strength in the struggles against powerful employers. We will encourage a broad coalition of cement unions to improve the health and safety conditions and wages for both, permanent and contract workers."