India: Unions push for wage hikes, more regular jobs
The BWI-affiliated Indian National Cement Workers Federation (INCWF) and the All India Cement Employees’ Federation (AICEF), along with other leading trade union federations, submitted a “joint charter of demands” to the Cement Manufacturers’ Association (CMA) regarding the provisions of the next wage increase agreement (1 April 2022–31 March 2026).
The unions are reportedly pushing for wage hikes and a minimum of 60 percent in the employment of permanent workers in cement plants. They are also advocating for unions’ inclusion and participation in the cement plants’ climate change mitigation measures. The union’s demands reflect the workers’ pressing concerns, especially amidst a pandemic that decimated millions of jobs, slashed wages and limited social protection.
The national-level and industry-wide settlements have been taking place since 1992. The last national wages settlement covered a period of four years – 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2022.
To prepare for the negotiations with the CMA, the trade unions convened numerous plant-level and national meetings to firm up their strategies. A 15 July national-level meeting was convened by trade union federations which was followed by a meeting with the Central Labour Commissioner on 18 July. On 1 August, the trade union federations participated in a tripartite meeting where the CMA was also present. The next round of negotiations is expected to happen late August or early September of this year.
INCWF General Secretary Deoraj Singh said that the cement industry has been growing at an unprecedented pace with a rebound in demand when COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed. However, she lamented that behind the so-called growth, over the last couple of years, trade unions expressed their alarm on the sharp decline in the number of regular workers as opposed to the growing number of contract/ outsourced workers.
“We strongly denounce and oppose discriminatory practices that undermine workers’ rights and create a climate of uncertainty and insecurity on the employment of workers. In the ongoing negotiations, the INCWF and several other trade union federations have raised this issue and demanded that at least 60 percent of workers in each cement plant are regularly employed. More so, with the exit of the Holcim Group from India and the acquisition of its business by the Adani Group, we demand that the lengths of service of all workers, who were already employed at the cement plants prior to the acquisition, are preserved and continued. We also call for the said workers’ meaningful participation in the CMA negotiations,” Singh explained.
India ranks second in the world in cement production and consumption. It is estimated that there are over one million people directly and indirectly employed in the country’s cement industry. The industry is regulated by a tripartite wage board that is tasked to periodically review and adjust wages and ensure better labour conditions.