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Indian affiliates organize more than ten thousand new workers

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1 December, 2016IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in India report successful organizing initiatives in the textile, garments, shoe and leather (TGSL) manufacturing sector.

IndustriALL affiliates have engaged in a major organizing and union building campaign through the Union to Union project. An evaluation and monitoring meeting held in Delhi on 29th November 2016 reported significant success in organizing over ten thousand workers in the TGSL sector.

Organizing initiatives included bringing both permanent workers and precarious workers into unions in four zones across India, including Chennai, Coimbatore and Bangalore; Kolkata and suburban areas; National capital region and Kanpur; and Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Home-based workers in the city of Ahmedabad and in remote areas of Gujarat were also organized into unions.

Around 7,000 workers participated in training workshops and activities held under the project. A representative from the Self-Employed Women’s Association reported that their initiative to get a U-WIN social security card for about 30,000 workers in the state of Gujarat helped them to organize around 6,000 workers into unions. Similarly, an Indian National Trade Union Congress representative from Kolkata reported that by supporting workers to access social security provisions, they had won their confidence to organize them into unions.  

Union organizing in the TGSL sector is a challenging task as most workers are precarious and the attrition rate in the factories is high. Workers are frequently made to shift their employment from one factory to another. Union leaders also expressed concern that proposed changes to labour laws will further pose major challenges to improving working conditions and union actions to protect workers’ rights in the sector. Changes include increased overtime, the extension of the apprenticeship period from one year to four years, and the proposal to ban people who are not employed by an enterprise from becoming union leaders.

Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL director for the textile and garment industry, congratulated affiliates for making critical progress in union building and said,

“It is imperative for workers to strengthen union density across the TGSL sector in order to bring buyers and brands to the negotiation table and achieve strategic power to defend workers’ rights across the supply."

Key issues such as addressing the major concerns of women workers, increasing women’s participation in union leadership positions, effective collective bargaining processes in industrial units, building sustainable union structures and taking advantage of IndustriALL’s global framework agreements to protect workers rights were also discussed at the meeting.