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FDI in Indian retail a bad idea, UNI Global Union

One of the world’s biggest trade unions, the Switzerland-based UNI Global Union has called the Indian government’s decision to allow foreign retail majors into the country a ‘sell out’.

The Union, which has around 20 million (2 crore) members, said it is ‘appalled’ by the decision, particularly the lack of regulatory oversight, and will stand with the trade unions of India in their fight against the move.

“Global supermarkets such as Walmart and Tesco stand to gain at the expense of India’s millions of small traders and workers who are part of the domestic supply chain,” it said in a statement.

Some retailers, like the French major Carrefour, have signed Global Agreements with UNI to guarantee fundamental worker rights around the world.

However, UNI pointed out that Walmart has taken what it called an “extreme position” against allowing unions. “..in its home country.. not a single worker is represented by a union among its 1.6 million employees..,” it said, “Walmart and many other global retailers have a poor track record in labour relations and protecting workers. India be warned!”

It urged India to follow the example of South Africa, where the government is reexamining its decision to allow big international retailers into the country.

India yesterday decided to let in foreign companies into the sector after fighting in vain to prevent periodic flare-ups in the prices of food and other items of daily use. Foreign companies have promised to bring down prices, which, they claim, are kept high due to the presence of layers and layers of middlemen.

India has been dealing with high inflation rates of around 10 percent for over a year.

UNI, however, urged the government not to depend on the retail giants themselves to report on whether they are meeting the conditions of license, such as local sourcing.

“The requirement that the multinationals would have to source 30 percent of sales from local small and medium sized companies is not enough and not backed up by independent monitoring of investment and procurement. The government has rejected independent monitoring in favour of self-certification which UNI says is a system open to abuse,” it said.

UNI and its affiliates from around the world will continue to support opposition to the decision in India which has given a green light to the multinationals without proper consideration, it added.

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