Contract labour unions file plea against Holcims Indian arm

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 23 2012, 07:35am hrs
Several Indian and international unions for contract workers have filed complaints against the Indian arm of Swiss multinational firm Holcim, the country's largest cement manufacturer, for alleged gross violations and undermining of the rights of contract workers employed by the cement manufacturers in the country.

The complaints have been filed against Holcim India and its subsidiaries for the violations of OECD guidelines. OECD stands for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It is an international organisation of 34 economically developed countries which has laid down guidelines for MNC enterprises regarding respect for international norms for labour standards and human rights.

The complainants, Pragati Sheel Cement Shramik Sangh (PCCS), an independent union of contract workers in Chattisgarh alleges gross violation of contractual workers in the cement plants of Holcim India and group firms in Chattisgarh. It alleges that the village lands in Chattisgarh have been encroached by the cement giant without giving much employment opportunities to the local communities. It alleges that Holcim refuses to regularise contract workers despite two court findings. Also, the profits for the cement firm has been soaring whereas the contract workers get paid only minimum wages or even less wages than what is set by the Cement Wage Board.

PCCS claims to have found support from several international federations representing over 20 million workers worldwide and from Building and Wood Workers International comprising of 328 trade unions.

According to Phee Jungsum, Asia Pacific representative and director at International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine (ICEM), while Holcim Global states its commitment to international labour organisation as a member of UN Global Compact, its India subsidiary, ACC does not recognise PCCS. "This is a clear violation of fundamental principles on workers basic rights, guaranteed by UN, OECD and ILO.

The charges of PCCSare wholly incorrect and baseless. ACC enjoys the reputation of being a good employer and has always maintained cordial industrial relations with its employees, said a ACC spokesperson in an email statement.

PCCS has requested the Swiss NCP to offer its offices to resolve this issue in an effective and time-bound manner.