Workers and their union, the Barry Callebaut Employees Union (BCEU), continue their peaceful protest as Barry Callebaut management in Baramati, India fails to respect human rights, including the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Workers have been targeted by local management for exercising their fundamental right to form and join a union; this has included the suspension of BCEU’s General Secretary Rajesh Linchodkar.
A majority of permanent workers at Barry Callebaut Baramati’s chocolate factory have formed an independent democratic union – the Barry Callebaut Employees Union (BCEU). On February 6, 2023, the BCEU received its legal registration from the state labour department. Of 39 permanent workers at the factory, 28 are members of the BCEU. Another 11 are members of a management-sponsored yellow union – the Barry Callebaut Kamgar Sanghatana (BCKS). Five workers at the chocolate factory are either probationers or trainees and cannot be members of either union under Indian law. The probationary workers have completed their probation periods and were supposed to receive confirmation letters. However, unit management has refused to provide them with confirmation letters for fear that they will join the independent BCEU.
Workers are being pressured by Barry Callebaut Baramati management to join the BCKS yellow union. Threats by Barry Callebaut management to date, including that the Baramati chocolate factory will be closed, and/or that workers will have their employment terminated if they do not join the BCKS yellow union, are in violation of workers’ fundamental human rights.
ILO Conventions 87 and 98 explicitly prohibit yellow unions and the establishment of workers’ organizations under any form of control by an employer. The ILO is clear that negotiations should not be conducted on behalf of employees or their organizations by bargaining representatives appointed by or under the domination of employers or their organizations. Nonetheless, on February 22, 2023, Barry Callebaut concluded a “collective agreement” with the minority BCKS yellow union.
- Local Barry Callebaut Baramati management refused to recognize the state political party Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh (MRRKS) union and worked with an external political leader to register yellow union BCKS on December 28, 2022
- On January 2, 2023, a majority of permanent workers at Barry Callebaut’s chocolate factory thereby decided to resign from MRRKS and form their independent and democratic union, BCEU
- On January 13, 2023, Baramati management responded by serving chargesheets (with no show cause letter given first) directly to BCEU’s General Secretary Rajesh Linchodkar who has been a workers’ representative since November 2, 2022; with this fact communicated to management at that time
- In a January 19 petition signed by 28 permanent workers to management demanding that the charges be withdrawn against Rajesh Linchodkar, it was again made clear that he was a union representative
- On January 20, 2023, management retaliated by suspending Rajesh Linchodkar and served him with a suspension cum enquiry letter
Other BCEU union representatives have been denied paid trade union leave to assist Rajesh Linchodkar in his ongoing domestic enquiry process tied to his suspension cum enquiry letter. No paid trade union leave has been granted to BCEU President Shrikant Kadam who has had the role as Defense Assistant (DA) to Rajesh Linchodkar in this domestic enquiry. Barry Callebaut Baramati chocolate factory management has asked Shrikant Kadam to use his personal leave time, and when he exhausts that personal leave time, BCEU should change the DA so another DA can in turn use his personal leave for the enquiry. This alone infringes the rights of Rajesh Linchodkar to fair and adequate union representation during the enquiry.
Despite continued pressure from management and local police officers, BCEU is determined to continue this struggle for their union rights. As a part of this struggle, BCEU has condemned the rights violations at the Baramati chocolate factory, and its members have been working without food and breaks for more than 75 days.
The IUF, its affiliated unions with membership in Barry Callebaut, and Barry Callebaut’s European Works Council have raised the rights violations with Barry Callebaut management.
IUF General Secretary Sue Longley stated, “On February 6, 2023, the IUF wrote to Barry Callebaut AG’s then CEO Peter Boone as a good faith first step to raise the rights violations with the company. However, to date Barry Callebaut has refused to engage in discussions with the IUF to resolve them. We remain open to discussions, but the company needs to show real willingness to recognize the problem and to engage to resolve it.”