USI are looking to bring about sustainable change in the brick kiln sector through a process of [...]
Part of the ancient Teotihuacán site, pictured right, is now underneath a Walmart, after Walmart bribed local officials. Walmart destroys Mexico’s cultural heritage for profit.
Walmart is the biggest private sector employer in the world. Whether they’re undermining wages or building stores on ancient archaeological sites, let’s keep an eye on them.
Bangladeshi garment workers’ union leader Aminul Islam was tortured and murdered in April this year. Support the campaign to bring his killers to justice.
More than 1,000 workers died – and the lives of their families ripped apart - when a factory making clothes for Primark, Matalan and Mango collapsed. Demand that these UK high street retailers take responsibility for their supply chains.
There are four things you can do right now:
The Tazreen Fashion fire in Bangladesh killed 112 workers in November last year. Some brands have compensated family members for their loss, but Walmart and Disney refuse.
The public service providers in destination areas do not have any documentation of the vast number of workers present in their service areas. Consequently the workers and their families are not able to access any public services. The children are denied education. The children and pregnant mothers do not get anganwadi benefits.
The worker communities are not covered by the primary health system. Physical violence is frequent at the brick kilns. It becomes very difficult to leave a kiln if workers realise that work conditions are not suitable and they want to go. This is primarily owing to the fact that the middlemen leave the workers at the mercy of the owners as if property being handed over. Wages at the destination are calculated and settled at the end of the season when the workers have already put in their back breaking labour and hence have no negotiating power.
Bricks are a basic building material in India. Brick kilns are to be found on the outskirts of most developing towns and cities. The prevalent mode of work requires a resident labour force. Most brick kilns employ seasonal migrant labor. Movements of brick kiln workers cross cut nationally. There are some major clusters from where workers migrate to brick kilns all over the country. These are some of the poorest areas of the country. For example workers from Bilaspur cluster in Chhattisgarh go to Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa. Similarly, workers from Western Orissa cluster go to the Southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. The map on the next page and accompanying table shows the nature of cross cutting movements.
Prayas Centre for Labor Research and Action (PCLRA): Prayas is a thirty year old NGO. Centre for Labor Research and Action is the unit within Prayas that works on the issue of seasonal migration. PCLRA has worked with kiln workers in Gujarat facilitating a Union of brick kiln workers. The Union has led wage struggles that have resulted in significant wage hikes – up to 118 percent over a four year period. The Union has settled hundreds of wage disputes over last three years and got more than a 1000 workers released from bondage in Gujarat. View some footage of the workers at a union meeting.
A key feature of the work has been that the mobilisation has been undertaken in source areas also. Consequently the Union has reached out to all the source states from where workers come to Gujarat. These include Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and tribal parts of Gujarat. PCLRA has also established contacts in Western Orissa tribal belt from where brick workers go out to work in Southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
Map: Movements of brick kiln workers from source areas
USI working in cooperation with PCLRA plans to replicate the Gujarat model to new clusters. The conditions of work are very similar across different regions. Piece rate payments, recruitment against advances, poor living conditions, wage settlement at the end of the work season – most of the conditions are similar. The proposed unit of intervention is a cluster of 50 brick kilns. The geographical unit can be a district or a sub district. Each brick kiln employs on average 150 workers. Thus total number of workers impacted in a cluster is 7500.