Building and Wood
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On 7th July 2012, after 13 and a half months in jail, trade unionist and elected Janpad member Bhagwati Sahu was released from Baloda Bazar Jail after the Sessions Judge granted suspension of sentence on an appeal filed against the judgment of 5th July 2012 of the Judicial Magistrate First Class. The judgment had sentenced him to two years imprisonment and Rs. 2000 fine. Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary congratulated PCSS for the victory of the workers and criticised HOLCIM for not withdrawing the case against Bhagwati Sahu which is one of the preconditions for a social dialogue on national and global level.
Hundreds of villagers of Rawaan and Bhadrapalli villages and workers of Ambuja Cement, an Indian subsidiary of the cement multinational HOLCIM, whose struggles he had been leading, ignored the rain to gather in jubiliation. The Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh (PCSS) has been continuously contending that the complaint of Security Officer of Ambuja Cement – Nandlal Choubey – against Bhagwati Sahu, Organising Secretary Lakhan Sahu and two other active union members (that they had looted a mobile and Rs. 3500 from him) was a pure case of malicious prosecution by the company to suppress the movement of workers and peasants of the surrounding areas. The workers had begun to get minimum wages since the movement had begun, and villagers had begun to resist encroachment of commons by the company. Despite the fact that the only evidence against Bhagwati was of employees of the company, that the complainant who alleged grievous assault was testified by a doctor to have only a bruise under one eye, that the FIR against Bhagwati and Lakhan came fast on the heels of another FIR filed against a fracas that had happened at the same spot almost as an afterthought, the fact that both leaders had strong alibis, and that the defence evidence disclosed the motives of the company, Bhagwati was surprisingly convicted.
The PCSS represents contract workers at the two HOLCIM plants which is the largest cement producer in India. Contract workers are protected by Indian law and by a sectoral agreement prohibiting employment in core production work, with all work paid at the same rate that permanent workers receive. 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% of the company’s total workforce.