13 September: Trade union leaders from Himachal Pradesh (India) met with Asian Development Bank (ADB) directors in its head office in Manila to discuss workers' complaint on back wages from an ADB-funded road highway project whose contractor has gone into receivership. The BWI and NGO Forum on ADB filed the complaint in June 2019 alleging the ADB had violated its labour policies, and, is currently being reviewed by the ADB Compliance Review Panel for eligibility.
“When the contractor Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) collapsed, our members were left in a very precarious situation,” said Sita Ram Saini, President of the All Himachal PWD-IPH & Contractual Workers Union.
“We supported this project from the beginning as a critical development project for the region, but we wanted to ensure the contractor complied with labour law and fundamental rights,” Saini continued. “We had already filed a charter of demands to try and compel the contractor and its subcontractors to improve working conditions; however, workers were left even worse off. We are appealing to the ADB for justice.”
The delegation, which included one of the affected workers, Arun Kumar, met with key advisers to the ADB Panel, impressing upon them the issues that the union had been raising and the steps they had taken to improve compliance. This included forced overtime (including weekends), no employment contracts, no social security for the workers, poor safety standards, no specific facilities for women and non-compliance with the norms of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
“We are owed around 22 million Indian Rupees (US$300,000) in back wages and other benefits from the project”, said Kumar. “We have taken all the necessary steps to try and address this situation. Our situation is now desperate; we need immediate action from to write these wrongs. We hope that the ADB Panel can do the right thing and remedy this injustice.”