South Asian unions commemorate International Workers’ Memorial Day

12 May 2020 15:29

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, BWI affiliates in South Asia marked the International Workers’ Memorial Day (lWMD) with a wide range of activities both online and off. Twenty-five trade unions from India, Nepal and Bangladesh joined the yearly event to send a strong message that unions stand in solidarity with workers amidst a global health crisis. The BWI South Asia Office started the week-long event with an online meeting/webinar with unions on 22 April. 

The unions used BWI’s IWMD posters and infographics, which were all translated into local languages such as Hindi, Bangla, Nepalese, Urdu and Tamil. The unions also used youth-themed posters to help young trade unionists with their IWMD and LafargeHolcim (LH) campaigns at cement plants. In many areas, union members took the initiative to make hand-made posters due to the absence of open printing facilities during the lockdown. 

In India, unions in the Delhi (DANMU and MAMU), Bihar (HKMP and CLU), Rajasthan (AHBWU and RPKNMS), Tamil Nadu (TKTMS, SGEU and TCTU), Odisha (OFMFPWU and INBCWF), Maharashtra and Gujarat States (INCWF) and Uttar Pradesh (CFBWU) states conducted COVID-19 awareness-raising activities and distributed supplies to workers, such as food packets, facemasks and sanitizers. 

A candlelight vigil was also organised by BMS Punjab, RPKNMS, KKNTC and BMS Gujarat, while TKTMS launched a signature campaign calling for the strict implementation of occupational health and safety (OHS) safeguards at workplaces allowed to operate during and after the lockdown. The petition was submitted to the State Chief Minister.  

For their part, young students from BWI’s Child Labour Schools in Uttar Pradesh drew posters to raise awareness on COVID-19.

Indian unions (INRLF, DNMS, AIKTMS) that could not carry out physical activities due to the lockdown, resorted to “online rallies’ where members took photos and videos of themselves holding IWMD campaign posters to send messages of solidarity to fellow workers. 

In Nepal, CUPPEC’s president and members issued video messages to mark IWMD. CAWUN members, also in Nepal, took photos of themselves holding campaign posters at hydropower project sites. A similar initiative was taken by BSBWWF and PBSKL in Bangladesh.  

Congratulating unions for a job well done, R.C. Khuntia, BWI Asia Pacific Vice-Chair, said that this year’s IWMD commemoration was not only an occasion to remember workers who got injured and lost their lives at workplaces, but also to demonstrate that South Asian trade unions stand strong with their members in facing the challenges posed by COVID-19.