Wärtsilä favours a mock trade union at its factory in India | Trade Union Pro
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Wärtsilä favours a mock trade union at its factory in India

17.3.2015 13:18
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The Finnish engineering company Wärtsilä has set up an internal trade union at its factory in India, to keep genuine unions out.

Helsinki/ Heikki Jokinen

The Finnish engineering company Wärtsilä has set up an internal trade union at its factory in Khopol, India to keep the genuine trade unions out, according to a recent report by the Finnish industry watchdog Finnwatch.

The mock trade union at the Wärtsilä factory (which is not officially registered as a trade union) in Khopol in the state of Maharastra is an internal union appointed by the factory. All regular workers are automatically members of it. It is, however, affiliated to the General Kamgar Union.

The factory directors told Finnwatch that they themselves had approached this union and invited it to come to the factory to avoid collective bargaining, typically held every 3–4 years. All discussions on pay are conducted on an individual basis. A Kamgar Union representative visits the factory only once a year.

The employees interviewed for the report said the internal union is undemocratic and does not deal with issues relevant to the workers. It has no right to participate in bargaining concerning pay and terms of employment.

“The trade union does not represent temporary contract workers and has not actively pursued higher wages for workers. The use of this so-called yellow union is in clear contradiction to the spirit of Wärtsilä's accountability policies,” says Finnwatch Executive Director Sonja Vartiala.

The report concludes that the lowest incomes in the factory are not sufficient to cover living costs. The factory also prefers to employ temporary workers when it can, who have worse terms of employment than their regular employees, and whose income is especially low.

Problems with subcontractor

The conditions seem to be even worse at Wärtsilä's subcontractor Echjay Forgings in Khopol. In 2010 some workers were dismissed after demanding a pay rise.

“Some of the workers said that the incomes they earn are below the minimum wage and that they work without paid leave. Migrant workers work 12 hours a day, six days a week. Many of the workers live in filthy conditions, without adequate sanitation in factory-provided housing,” Vartiala states.

Wärtsilä is a supplier of power solutions for the marine and energy markets. In 2014 its net sales were 4.7 billion euro and it had 17,700 employees. The company has operations at more than 200 locations in nearly 70 countries around the world. In India it has 1,241 employees.

Wärtsilä's head of sustainable development Marko Vainikka told the Finnish national broadcaster Yle that the company will look at the report and work to correct the problems identified in it.

The report was commissioned by the Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland SASK, the Finnish Metalworkers’ Union, the Union of Professional Engineers in Finland and the Trade Union Pro.