Holcim Cement tainted in Switzerland by work rights abuses in India
Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh (PCSS), an ICEM affiliate, conducted a two-week tour of activities in Switzerland in April, educating trade union colleagues on the grave violations of work rights abuses by Holcim Cement of contract workers in India's Chhattisgarh region.
INDIA: Causing a stir in the Swiss media, the PCSS together with Swiss union UNIA and Swiss-based human rights organization MultiWatch, solidarity organization, Solifonds, the ICEM and Building and Woodworkers' International (BWI) raised increasing awareness through various channels.
The details of the case are shocking and include the worst examples of workers' rights violations around the world, especially in terms of the global trend of outsourcing and engaging precarious employment relationships, which capital sees as a tool to lessen its responsibilities to workers.
Holcim invested in the Indian cement industry in 2005 when the Indian government opened up the country's resources to outside investment. Holcim's two subsidiaries, ACC Jamul and Ambuja Cement, had a long history of abusing worker rights, and Holcim has thus far refused to reverse these practices. Instead, the Swiss-based company has overseen an increasing proportion of contract workers that now comprises 80 per cent of the company's total workforce.
The PCSS represents contract workers at the two plants and Holcim is the largest cement producer in India. Contract workers are protected by Indian law and by a sectoral agreement prohibiting contract employment in core production work, with all work paid at the same rate that permanent workers receive.
This stipulation has been flouted at Holcim India, where contract workers work side by side with permanent workers in core production, and they are denied proper protective equipment and paid one-third that of permanent workers. They also do not receive proper benefits and have greatly reduced rights to organize and bargain collectively.
Contract workers of Holcim India have been punished for attempting to organize into the democratic PCSS union and as well, they have been punished for informing global Holcim management of the abuses. In fact, the majority of the PCSS members at Holcim are now excluded from work in the companies due to their union involvement.
Global pressure has forced Holcim to pay attention to these violations in India, but when Holcim Executive Paul Hugentobler visited ACC Jamul recently, contract workers were all moved to a different shift and workers' representatives were banned from taking part in meeting with him. Instead, representatives of the sham company union, OP Banchore, were involved.
The Supreme Court of Chhattisgarh ruled in favour of the PCSS, instructing the company to award permanent employment contracts to those temporary employees, some of whom have remained on rolling temporary contracts for over 20 years. Holcim India even went so far as to reject India's court ruling and instead committed large financial resources to extend the legal process.
The PCSS, supported by ICEM, met with the National Contact Point of the OECD in Switzerland in April as part of the process of the complaint on breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises at Holcim India.
PCSS was welcomed at the ILO on April 13, where explanations of the violations in India were met with serious concern and proposals for possible action.
Further details available on the ICEM website here.Apr 17, 2012 – ICEM