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Indian cement unions show concrete organizing results

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13 September, 2018IndustriALL Global Union held a cement union workshop on 10-11 September in Udaipur, India. Trade union leaders from across the country discussed trade union strategies for the growing cement sector on the Indian subcontinent.

Thirty participants, from different companies and representing both the Indian National Cement Workers’ Federation (INCWF) and Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh (PCSS) attended the workshop. For the first time, four women workers participated. The discussions revolved around health and safety, fighting precarious work among contractors, and the integration of women and contract workers into existing trade union structures.

The worst and most disturbing information was that 15 workers had died in ACC and Ambuja plants - both owned by LafargeHolcim - since 2013. Most were contract workers, earning low wages and working in poor conditions. Both unions strongly condemned these fatal accidents and urged LafargeHolcim to improve health and safety in their plants and include union representatives in safety investigation committees.

Representatives are angry that LafargeHolcim management has broken its word and refused to sign the negotiated global framework agreement (GFA). The INCWF general secretary demanded that LafargeHolcim become member of the Cement Manufacturer’s Association of India so that the National Wage Board is applicable for all LafargeHolcim plants. 

Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL director for materials industries said:

“I am very happy that we succeeded in integrating women into this workshop and that our affiliates are committed to fighting violence against women. This is an important step. Also, to see the recruiting efforts – and successes – in the multinationals and beyond is a very encouraging signal.

“I congratulate our affiliates on the many new members. These members strengthen the labour movement. We will continue to support our Indian affiliates.”

1,414 new workers were recruited by the INCWF, and 122 by PCSS between April and September 2018. This is the result of a membership drive planned at the previous IndustriALL meeting in April.

While discussing gender, participants said that many companies are not recruiting women workers, and that facilities provided previously are now vanishing. Union committed to raising their voice against all kinds of gender discrimination and violence, and plan to sign the IndustriALL Pledge (pdf) later this year.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary, stated,

“Our work with our affiliates in the cement sector is showing concrete results, both in terms of organizing members and including women in our union structures. We look forward to continuing this work with our affiliates.”

At the end of the meeting, participants developed and adopted action plans, with organizing and recruiting goals for each union.