End of 25-year dispute with Indian labour union

The union feared that LafargeHolcim's new mechanised plant in Jamul would make most of the current workers redundant Keystone
This content was published on February 6, 2016 minutes

The Swiss-French cement giant LafargeHolcim has reached an agreement with a labour union in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh over contracts and wages of temporary workers. The dispute was inherited by Holcim when it acquired two Indian cement plants in 2006. 

On Saturday, the lawyer for the Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh (PCSS) union announced an agreement had been reached with LafargeHolcim over the fate of 932 temporary workers working at the Jamul cement plant in Chhattisgarh state. 

According to the contract signed on January 22, almost 60% of the temporary workers will be deployed in LafargeHolcim’s Indian cement plants. Based on a skills assessment process carried out by PCSS, 212 will be employed at four times the minimum wage, 196 at double the minimum wage and the rest at a quarter more than the minimum wage. Surplus workers will be given a compensation package equivalent to three months’ wages for every year they worked at the plant. 

Inherited dispute 

The cement plants embroiled in the labour dispute were initially owned by the Indian companies ACC Limited and Ambuja Cement Limited and were acquired by the Swiss cement company Holcim in 2006, which in turn became LafargeHolcim after its merger with Lafarge in 2015. PCSS had been campaigning for a hike in wages and permanent jobs for around 1,200 temporary workers at the plants for the past 25 years. 

In 2012, frustrated by a lack of progress from Holcim’s Indian management, PCSS took their complaint to the Bern-based Swiss National Contact Point (NCP) of the OECD (a group of rich countries that Switzerland is a member of). The NCP serves as a sort of ombudsman mediating when Swiss companies are accused of violating a set of responsible business guidelines on human rights, environment, corruption and labour relations. The final agreement was reached thanks in some part to the Swiss NCP mediation which resulted in bringing Holcim management to the negotiation table.

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