By Dr. Gyan Pathak
India is being denounced by trade unions across the G20 economies for government’s decision to block participation of independent trade unions in G20 meeting, including L20 meeting on labour and G20 Energy Transition Working Group (ETWG), which is resulting in worker’s voices going unrepresented.
While the government-backed BMS will hold sham L20 events in India, the ITUC and TUAC will convene virtual L20 events involving the independent trade unions representing the majority of trade union members in India, as well as unions from the rest of the G20 countries, ITUC has said.
Since the Narendra Modi government has favoured the involvement of trade unions linked to BJP, his political party, and RSS his mentor organization, it is feared that it would prevent the reality on the ground coming out in the open because the participating trade union would favour their supported party. Such a suppression would serve him and his party during legislative assembly election in five states by the end of 2023, and the Lok Sabha general election in 2024.
ITUC Acting General Secretary Luc Triangle has said: “For years, governments hosting the G20 have accepted the role of the world’s leading independent trade union confederation in representing working people to the G20. This was respected by China and Saudi Arabia, countries without independent unions. Yet the government of India, the world’s largest democracy, and one with a vibrant independent trade union movement, will host the worst G20 we have ever seen in terms of its representation of working people.”
While condemning the government’s decision, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has pointed out the interruption by the government over a decade of participation by independent trade unions in this key global event, which PM Modi has been projecting a key achievement for India in the international arena at a time just before the Lok Sabah election 2024 in which he will be contesting for the third term for himself and his party.
Not only to G20 meetings on labour, but also to the Labour and Employment Ministerial Meetings (LEMM), which is scheduled to take place on July 21 in Indore, ITUC has so far not been invited, ITUC has said. It is despite the fact that independent unions have been consulted and invited since the global financial crisis in 2008 to leaders’ summits as well as with employers to LEMM.
It should be noted that Labour 20, L20 in short, was established and convened by the ITUC and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) which brings together unions form G20 countries. This year it is being held under India’s presidency.
“This year, despite months of negotiations and offers to compromise on certain issues by the ITUC and independent Indian unions, the government of India has insisted that the L20 will be chaired by the Indian Worker’s Union, known as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS). The Hindu nationalist trade union confederation is close to Prime Minister Modi’s ruling party, which will be contesting elections next year,” ITUC has said.
The global trade union movement condemns this interference with union affairs, which clearly breaches the principle of freedom of association. A similar approach has been taken to the civil society C20 and the women’s W20, ITUC has said.
The coordinating committee for joint Platform of 10 Central Trade Union Organisations (CTUs) – which includes the Congress-backed INTUC, Left’s CITU and AITUC and others like AIUTUC, TUCC, HMS, SEWA, LPF, AICCTU and UTUC – had proposed that the chair should be taken by the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), an ITUC affiliate. The proposal was also supported by other nine trade union confederations, most of which are not ITUC affiliates.
Since the Modi government is refusing to let the ITUC and TUAC attend this year’s LEMM, ITUC has said that it would be now up to other governments to raise the crucial issues for working people, which they have already submitted to the G20.
Their key demands are: Promote social justice by respecting the right to organize, collective bargaining and providing social protection and raising the levels of minimum living wages; Ensure developing countries’ access to finance in conditions of financial stability, including with capital controls, investment screening, and financial regulation; and Reform and revive multilateralism to achieve shared global goals, and ensure coherence across the Decent Work Agenda, the Doha Development Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement, the 2030 Agenda and the ILO Centenary Declaration.
IndustriAll Global Union regional secretary in India Apoorva Kaiwar has said, “Equitable and inclusive growth cannot be attained without taking into account workers’ experiences and perspectives. It’s highly condemnable that the Indian government has refused to engage with trade unions on the issue of Just Transition.”
Secretary General of Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation SQ Zama has said, “The government of India is not concerned about workers at all. It is evident in the changes made to labour laws as well as in the complete absence of trade union voices in energy transition discussions. Our union has been calling on the government to engage with trade unions and to put climate change and Just Transition on the agenda of all discussions regarding coal mining in the country.” (IPA Service)