Press Release – Walmart Global Day of Action: India in the spotlight – UNI welcomes govenment probe into Walmart’s lobbying practices

14 December 2014: Today Walmart workers and their supporters from across the globe, including India, are holding coordinated protests to demand Walmart pays its 2.1 million global workforce a fair wage and treats them with dignity.   The global protest coincides with fresh controversy around Walmart in India and the government’s decision to launch an official enquiry into Walmart’s lobbying practices. UNI Global Union welcomes the enquiry which follows the company disclosing it had spent $25 million (R217) on lobbying activities, including allegedly on issues related to “enhanced market access for investment in India.” The government’s decision to begin a probe comes after two days of protests in parliament by the opposition which alleges the government was ‘bribed’ by Walmart lobbyists.

UNI Global Union General Secretary, Philip Jennings said, “We await the outcome of this probe with great interest. Whatever the result the controversy is another warning shot that India must tread carefully with Walmart. The decision to let foreign direct investment into multi-brand retail in India must come with proper safeguards and independently enforceable conditions – it is not too late. Today’s Global Day of Action highlights that Walmart exports its anti-worker, anti-union US model wherever it can. India is the final frontier and must not give in to Walmart’s greedonomics.“

The Walmart Global Day of Action follows the launch of the UNI Walmart Global Union Alliance in October and the historic strikes in theUS which spread to 1000 Walmart stores and factories culminating in “Black Friday” and which are still on going in several locations.  ‘Our Walmart’ in the US, a worker run organisation supported by the Alliance, is demanding an end to retaliation against employees who are speaking  out for better jobs and decent working conditions.

At the protests across the globe, workers are holding a moment of silence to honour the victims of the factory fire in Bangladesh that tragically claimed the lives of 112 workers.  According to the New York Times, reports show that Walmart “played a leading role in blocking an effort” to have global retailers pay more for apparel to help Bangladesh factories improve their electrical and fire safety.”

InIndia, UNI affiliate the National Hawkers Federation, with 1.2 million members is organising demonstrations as part of the Walmart Global Action Day.  The UNI Liaison Council in India is disseminating leaflets and other information via the union network across India.

The Head the UNI Liaison Council in India, Milind Nadkarni, said “We are getting the message out there: Walmart has a deplorable record on workers’ rights and is anti-union. You only have to look at what damage it has caused to its home market in the US. India’s shopkeepers and supply chain will suffer if the company is given free reign and allowed to enter India’s market unfettered.”

Elsewhere, in  Argentina Walmart unions will be holding demonstrations outside Walmart stores and the company headquarters; in Brazil unions will be demonstrating at a store in Sao Paulo; in Chile Walmart unions will march through Santiago; in Nicaragua leaflets will be handed out to workers and customers across the country ; in South Africa Massmart workers will hold demonstrations in several stores;  in the UK workers will deliver a letter outlining global demands to the ASDA head office (ASDA is owned by Walmart); and in the US ‘Our Walmart’ workers will hold a demonstration at the company’s global offices in Miami.

The Alliance which is made of Walmart workers and unions from many of the countries where Walmart operates is calling on the company to:

  • Stop retaliating against workers who speak out for change.
  • Allow workers to organize and join a union without fear of retaliation.
  • Pay living wages and provide decent working conditions.
  • Sign a Global Framework Agreement with UNI Global Union that guarantees Walmart workers’ rights around the world.

 

Editors:

Richard Elliott, UNI Global Union Communications Director Richard.elliott@uniglobalunion.org  +41 79 794 9709

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