BWI condemns forced labour of Indian workers in US 

(Photo: Annie Correal/The New York Times)

The Building and Woodworkers' International (BWI) expressed its outrage over the reported forced labour, trafficking and wage theft suffered by Indian construction workers building the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) temple in New Jersey, United States. 

Citing the New York  Times, which first broke the story, BWI said that the Indian workers have been lured by BAPS to work in the US under false pretenses. The workers complained that they performed grueling labour in exchange for a slave wage of USD 1 an hour. They said that they were confined to temple grounds where they worked for 13 hours every day “lifting large stones, operating cranes and other heavy machinery, building roads and storm sewers, digging ditches and shoveling snow.” 

"This is a despicable and horrific crime against workers. Slave labour has no place in our societies. It is inhumane and patently evil. We laud the courage of the workers who exposed this injustice and stood up to this horrendous exploitation," BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said. 

"We call on the US authorities to bring down the full force of the law to hold accountable all those responsible for this monstrosity and ensure that the said workers are safe and fully compensated," Yuson asserted. 

BWI also called on the Indian government to take all the necessary steps to deliver justice to the workers, including an enquiry to the recruitment and contractual practices of BAPS, which reportedly has close ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. 

“BWI joins its Indian trade union affiliates in challenging the Modi administration to cut ties with BAPS and prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law," Yuson said.

On 11 May, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labour raided the BAPS temple in New Jersey. This was followed by a civil lawsuit filed by the aggrieved workers.