We recently spoke to our partners in India, Prayas, about the campaign to organise brick kiln workers in India. You can watch the conversation here, and hear first hand from one of the workers about how he was held in bonded labour.
Prayas also sent us an update which you can read below.
End of brick kiln season 2011-12
A brief review of the progress of brick kiln workers’ struggle in Gujarat
With the monsoons arriving, the brick kiln season is reaching an end. The brick molders (paatla) workers had left one month back. The carriers (bharai, nikasi, khadkan) and firing (jalai) workers have also left for their homes now. The season was remarkable for the high wage increases that workers earned in the season and the large number of cases received by the union.
While some wage hike is normal in every season, the 2011-12 season saw high wage increases ranging from 27 percent to 49 percent for different category of workers. The table below gives wage hikes across different segments of workers
Table: Wage hikes across different category of workers during 2011-12
|Work type||Unit||Rate in 2010-11||Rate in 2011-12||% age hike||Number of workers affected||Incremental wages (in millions of Rs.)|
|Brick molding||per 1100 bricks||380||500||32||40,000||173|
|Bharai||per 16500 bricks||1,000||1,400||40||6,000||35|
|Khadkan||per 16500 bricks||677||1,000||48||2,000||28|
|Nikasi||per 16500 bricks||1,477||2,200||49||6,000||61|
|Jalai||per kiln per month (4 workers+1 contractor)||27,300||34,800||27||2,000||18|
Note: The incremental wages are calculated assuming that (i) half the hike resulted from Union efforts (ii) a production of 400 bricks per day per brick molder (iii) Union work impacted 400 kilns.
Thus 56000 workers received incremental wages amounting to Rs. 315 millions (£3.64M) because of the Union-led movement. Thus, average wage hike per worker amounts to Rs. 5620 (£65).
The wage hikes have been achieved through collective negotiation. While the union led the process of negotiation for brick molders who constitute two third of the workforce, for other segments of workers the negotiations were led by the associations of labour contractors.
However the union was in constant touch with these associations and the workers. The threat of the union loomed large and owners conceded a high wage increase because they did not want to give the union a chance to intervene, preferring to negotiate with labour contractors. The high wage increase in other categories came about partly because the brick molders had already negotiated a high wage rate.
The union has received a large number of cases this year that corresponds to an increase over last year. It received 82 cases accounting for a total of 1052 workers. Of these 643 were male and 409 female. Of these cases, 63 have been settled while 19 are pending. The solved cases have resulted into a financial benefit of Rs. 3.08 million (£34.75) to the workers.
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