Trade union leaders and workers at Foxconn India imprisoned

The ITUC has protested to the Indian authorities over the continued imprisonment of 12 union leaders and workers in Vellore central prison. Criminal cases have been filed against trade union leaders and workers at a Foxconn plant located in a Special Economic Zone in Chennai, after they took strike action for union recognition and better wages.

Some 1,200 workers have been involved in weeks of struggle to get their union recognised by the management of Foxconn and to negotiate wages rises and other demands. The workers are members of the Foxconn India Thozhilalar Sangam (FITS), affiliated to the Center for Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

According to information received by the ITUC, 319 striking workers on a picket line were arrested on October 9 by the police and transferred to Vellore central jail. On October 13, 307 of them were granted bail by the court. 12 others, including A. Soundhirarajan, CITU State General Secretary and E. Muthu Kumar, CITU District Secretary, Kanchipuram and FITS President remain in detention.

“The authorities must immediately release these 12 trade unionists whose imprisonment is in flagrant violation of fundamental rights enshrined in ILO Conventions. India’s international standing can only be harmed by this type of unjustified action” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

In addition to the latest round of arrests, the company has retaliated by deducting eight days of wages from striking workers’ pay, suspending 23 union activists and leaders, and refusing to negotiate with the union on the grounds that it has entered an agreement with an alternative union the Foxconn India Thozhilalar Munnetra Sangam (FITMS).

Foxconn’s appalling treatment of its workforce in China has also been in the spotlight, with 13 of its workers committing suicide between January and August 2010. A recent report by Hong Kong labour rights group SACOM reveals that despite the international outcry over the deaths, Foxconn management have failed to properly address the underlying labour issues.

“Major global brands such as Apple, HP and Dell who are Foxconn clients have to make it clear that a business model which is characterised by employee suicides and imprisonment of workers trying to get union representation is simply unacceptable,” said Burrow.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sent to the Indian authorities, the ITUC urges him to take all necessary measures to ensure their release from jail and to have the criminal charges against them dropped.

See also: International Metal Workers’ Federation

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