Aktionen der indischen Gewerkschaft PCSS am Welttag für “decent work”

Streikende Arbeiter festgenommen: Bihlai 1991Am 7. Oktober gab es weltweit Aktionen für bessere Arbeitsbedingungen – auch in Indien. Die Aktivitäten der PCSS richteten sich ganz direkt gegen prekäre Arbeit im Allgemeinen. Damit setzt die Gewerkschaft der ZeitarbeiterInnen bei Holcim die eigene Tradition fort – entstanden aus der Bewegung der Industrie-Region Bihlai vor rund 25 Jahren, als der Initiator der damaligen Proteste, Shankar Guha Niyogi und 17 protestierende Arbeiter von der Polizei ermordet wurden, darunter auch drei damalige Kollegen von ACC Holcim. Der Bericht “PRAGATISHEEL CEMENT SHRAMIK SANGH OBSERVES 7TH OCTOBER 2015 GLOBAL DAY OF PROTEST – “STOP PRECARIOUS WORK”” vom 13. Oktober 2015 behandelt nicht nur die Aktivitäten dieses Aktionstages, sondern verweist auch darauf, dass auch in anderen Betrieben der Region, etwa in dem staatlichen Stahlwerk inzwischen über die Hälfte der dort Arbeitenden dies unter Bedingungen von Subunternehmen und Zeitverträgen tun mit all den weltweit üblichen Konsequenzen für die Menschen.

PRAGATISHEEL CEMENT SHRAMIK SANGH OBSERVES 7TH OCTOBER 2015 GLOBAL DAY OF PROTEST:
“STOP PRECARIOUS WORK”

AT NIYOGI CHOWK, INDUSTRIAL AREA, BHILAI, CHHATTISGARH

 Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh (PCSS), an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union, joined workers all over the world in protesting against precarious work on 7th October 2015. The contract workers of ACC- LafargeHolcim put up their protest banner against precarious work at the gates of the company, and took out a rally to Niyogi Chowk where they raised slogans and held a meeting.

PCSS came into existence in 1989-1990 as a part of the wider movement of the Bhilai workers against the exploitative contract worker system in the Bhilai Industrial Area. Paid less than minimum wages, working 12 hours or more, having no documentary proof of their employment, constantly subject to hire and fire, thousands of contract workers came together in the historic Bhilai movement led by the legendary labour leader Comrade Shankar Guha Niyogi whose main slogan “Sthai Udyog me Sthai Mazdoor” (Permanent workers in a permanent industry) was a clarion call against precarious work.

The Bhilai movement, in which 4200 workers of 16 industries were locked out, was an epic struggle in which Com Niyogi was assassinated, 17 workers including 3 worker of ACC were killed in police firing, and hundreds of workers faced false cases and long periods in jail. Eventually all the cases were referred to courts and despite orders of reinstatement of the Industrial court the workers of the Bhilai movement are still awaiting the orders in appeals filed by the employers in the High Court.

The workers of ACC- LafargeHolcim also fought hard in the courts and streets against the illegal contract labour system in ACC. In the cement industry in India ever since 1983 there exists the Cement Wage Board Agreement which was negotiated at the industry level between the Cement Manufacturers Association on the one hand and the Central Trade Unions on the other. This states that no contract labour would be permitted in the cement production process except in loading-unloading and packing; and even where contract labour was employed, they would be paid at the same rate as the regular workers. These provisions still hold good in law, however in practice they exist more in violation then compliance. Today in the cement industry more than 80% of the workforce is contractual and paid not at the Cement Wage Board rate but at most at the rate of minimum wages notified by the State Government which is a third of that rate.

In 2006 the contract workers of ACC Holcim won a historic victory in the Industrial Court when 573 contract workers were directed to be regularized since the so-called “contracts” were held to be sham and bogus. Holcim has refused to implement this court order even after it was upheld for 120 workers by the High Court. PCSS took the help of IndustriALL to petition the Swiss NCP of the OECD on this and other issues, which began a process of negotiations which are ongoing between PCSS and ACC-LafargeHolcim. In July 2015 the Management has agreed in principle that they will treat 120 workers on par with permanent workers when a transition is to be made from the old plant at Jamul to the new expansion plant next to it, which is likely to be commissioned next month.

In the meanwhile at the new expansion plant at Jamul we have seen precarious work at a huge scale when more than a thousand construction workers have been brought in from other far away areas to work under contractors, often with a rapid turnover. Often these workers, who live in company quarters and depend on credit from local shops for their provisions, are not paid for several months at a time creating great discontent. On 26th September 2015 when workers were arguing for payment of overdue wages, the personal security officer of the General Manager shot into a crowd of workers. A bullet went right through the palm of a worker Ashwini Singh. In the fracas that ensued, workers smashed up computers and cars. The security officer has been arrested and the General Manager is absconding. After the incident a case has been registered against 100 unknown workers and 300 have fled out of fright. This is an example of the way precarious work affects the workplace and the workmen. PCSS has been in solidarity with the workers of the new plant and trying to help them in this difficult situation.

Even in the nearby Bhilai Steel Plant, a public sector enterprise, now much more than half of the workers are contract workers paid a third of the wage of a regular worker, but performing the same and often the most hazardous of jobs. In the recent nationwide strike in India, in which precarious work was a major issue, PCSS and other unions campaigned and 90% of this work force abstained from work.

Precarious work does not only mean less pay. It also means that unionization is almost impossible since every time a union is formed the leaders are most likely to be fired. It also means very poor safety standards. In ACC-LafargeHolcim plant at Jamul, there have been three fatal and several non-fatal accidents in past 3 years. Also the company, since it refuses to take any responsibility for contract workers even if they have worked for decades in the plant, refuses to accept the existence of occupational diseases, or to accept the liability of life long treatment of workers affected by asthma, bronchitis, TB and silicosis, all caused by cement, slag, coal dust etc.

The meeting also passed a resolution condemning the police lathi charge on 26th September 2015 on hundreds of temporary workers of Maruti Manesar who had been agitating at the gates demanding a pay hike commensurate with the pay hike of permanent workers.

We are determined to fight this battle against precarious work to the bitter end. We shall fight and we shall win!

Lakhan Sahu, Organising Secretary, Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh.