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Unions in India and Sri Lanka call for sustainable industrial policy

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28 June, 2018Trade unions in India and Sri Lanka underlined that strengthening national level social dialogue and incorporating workers’ views in industrial policy making are crucial to develop sustainable industrial policy and a Just Transition that protects current workers, while creating new decent work in sustainable industries.

IndustriALL South Asia Office organized two consecutive workshops “towards sustainable industrial policy” in Delhi on 18-19 June 2018 and in Colombo on 21-22 June. Participating in the panel discussion on ‘challenges to sustainability’ held in Delhi, leaders of India’s national trade union centres expressed serious concern over the government of India’s consistent disregard towards trade unions demands in the recent past. Even though trade unions in India have organized a series of national level protests, including general strikes, the government continues to undermine social dialogue. It is dangerously moving forward with labour law reforms which will rapidly increase precarious work and facilitate hire and fire policies of the employers. 

Brian Kohler, IndustriALL director for health, safety and sustainability said:

“The world of work is facing critical sustainability challenges emerging from climate change and rapid technological transformation in the form of industry 4.0. The multinational corporations are frantically transforming production processes while governments are creating policy frameworks to facilitate it.  It is essential that such transformation should be sustainable - which includes human rights and labour rights, economic development and environmental protection. In this process, the trade union movement has an important role.”

Dr G Sanjeeva Reddy, President of both the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and IndustriALL affiliate the Indian National Metal Workers Federation, said: 

“Indian trade unions have formed a historic national alliance and are working together to defend workers’ rights. We welcome industrial policy that enables industry to cope with rapid technological developments and climate change. However, in this process employment generation and workers’ job security and social security should be given due importance. Government of India’s indifference to views of trade unions, continues to be a major challenge for the union movement.”

Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) said:

“India’s economic growth in recent times has not benefitted the mass of working people. Real wages are shrinking. Precarious work, even in organized sectors, is increasing. Trade union rights are consistently under attack. The challenge of employment generation is looming large. Government of India recent policy initiatives, including demonetization and so-called goods and services tax reform (GST), have in fact aggravated the problem of unemployment. To evolve sustainable industrial policy to fulfil economic, social and environmental needs of the country, the government need to take into account the views expressed by trade unions.”

IndustriALL Indian affiliates from various sectors including steel, energy, automobile, electrical and electronics, garment and textiles, leather, chemicals, energy, mining, cement, shipbreaking and informal sector workers shared their experiences and discussed various sustainability and occupational health and safety issues. They also suggested that IndustriALL’s global framework agreements (GFAs) should contain the principles of ‘Just Transition’. National leaders from trade union centres AITUC, CITU, HMS, INTUC and NTUI participated in the event. 

The workshop in Colombo focussed on evolving union strategies to engage with the Sri Lankan government. The unions underlined that a “one size fits all” approach is not suitable for a lower to middle income and developing country like Sri Lanka. In order to ensure sustainability, Just Transition and tackle its urgent needs of employment generation and development, the country needs adequate policy space. The unions resolved to draw a draft sustainable industrial policy for the country and build broad based support in the joint national trade union platform. Further, they decided to consistently engage the government with sustainable policy proposals while creating awareness among union rank and file cadres. 

Apoorva Kaiwar, Regional Secretary, IndustriALL South Office said:

“A sustainable approach to industrial policy in the South Asia region is the need of the hour. Strengthening social dialogue at all levels and creating meaningful institutional structures to take trade union views on policy issues on board will contribute towards attaining a Just Transition and sustainable industrial policy.”