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Indian steel unions vow to increase union power

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10 December, 2019Senior trade union leaders from IndustriALL steel affiliates in India came together in Mumbai, India on 9 and 10 December 2019. Together with IndustriALL’s global sector co-chair Sanjyot Vadhavkar, the leaders from SMEFI and INMF–Metal discussed the future of organizing and recruiting in this important sector in India. They focused on the situation of young workers and precarious work in the sector.

A substantial session, led by Sanjyot Vadhavkar, was dedicated to the needs of women in the sector and the opportunities that organizing drives among women provide for the trade union movement.

Sanjyot Vadhavkar

Speaking about the situation of women in the steel industry in India, Sanjyot Vadhavkar said:

“More and more women members should become active in their trade unions – especially becoming active in recruiting more women in the sector. This should happen for the sake of the industry, for the sake of the labour movement and for the sake of gender justice! They must raise their voices against gender-based violence and discrimination, as well as harassment at the workplace and at home.”  

The discussions took place against the background of a global oversupply of steel, which increases pressure on steel workers around the world. India is one of the world’s biggest steel producers, with an annual production of about 110 million tons of crude steel per year and an ever expanding production capacity.

Matthias Hartwich

IndustriALL sector director Matthias Hartwich said after the meeting:

“I am glad to see that the Indian trade unions adopted very specific and ambitious plans for their upcoming organizing drives. We will need strong steel unions in India in the light of the changes in the steel industry. Digitalization and environmental necessities will require strong unions in order to protect the workers in this industry.” 

The global steel industry has grown consistently over the last 70 years, now reaching a volume of about 1,8 billion tons per year. The industry presently faces overcapacity because some countries, including India and China, expanded their capacity faster than demand grew. The trade war between the USA and China has also affected other countries. In India, the pressure on workers in state-owned and private companies alike is growing. A huge number of precarious workers and pressure on wages and working conditions is a constant threat for the workforce.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL regional secretary, summarized the results of the meeting:

“I am proud that IndustriALL affiliates in India decided to focus on women, young workers and precarious workers and that they are committed to become even stronger players. The steel workers and their families need strong trade unions. Health and safety and Industry 4.0 will be focus areas in the sector for the time to come. “