India G20: Modi government slammed for rejecting independent union involvement


The ITUC and unions from across the G20 economies condemn the decision by the government of India to interrupt over a decade of participation by independent unions in this key, global event.

Narendra Modi’s government has instead favoured the involvement of trade unions linked to his political party at this year’s G20.

Since the global financial crisis in 2008, independent unions have been consulted and invited to leaders’ summits and, with employers, to Labour and Employment Ministerial Meetings (LEMM) as well as other G20 meetings. This year’s LEMM will take place on 21 July in Indore, India and the ITUC has so far not been invited.

The ITUC and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) established and convened the L20 (Labour 20) that brings together unions from G20 countries. 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 Workers’ Union, known as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS). This Hindu nationalist trade union confederation is close to Prime Minister Modi’s ruling party, which will be contesting elections next year.

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.

The co-ordinating committee for 10 Indian national trade unions, the Platform of Central Trade Union Organisations, proposed that the chair should be taken by the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), an ITUC affiliate. The proposal is also supported by the other nine trade union confederations, most of which are not ITUC affiliates.

The L20 submission to the G20, which unions across the G20 countries are lobbying their governments about, highlights the following key demands:

  • Promote social justice by respecting the right to organise, 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.
  • 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.

Because the Indian government is refusing to let the ITUC and TUAC attend this year’s LEMM, it will be up to other governments to raise these crucial issues for working people.

ITUC Acting General Secretary Luc Triangle 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 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.