New Delhi: In a strongly worded joint statement issued on November 9, ten major trade unions in India, under the banner of the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions and Independent Federations, called on the Indian government to reject Israel’s construction sector’s request to replace Palestinian workers with Indian workers amid the ongoing war on Gaza.
Following the October 7 attacks against Israel, tens of thousands of Palestinian workers in the Israeli construction industry have been suspended. Voice of America reported that Israel’s construction sector had urged the Indian government to allow companies to hire up to 100,000 workers from India to replace the 90,000 Palestinians who roughly form about 25% of the workforce in the sector.
On November 9, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that he is not aware of any such particular request from Israel.
“With Israel, there are already a number of Indian workers employed there, especially in the caregiver sector. Since, I think, 2022, we have been discussing a bilateral framework in the construction and caregiver sectors, but this is a long-term initiative and I am not, as I said, aware of any specific requests or numbers that have been floating around,” Bagchi said, per a transcript of the media briefing on the MEA website.
The joint platform of independent trade unions criticised the Modi government’s stand on the conflict as “unethical” and “duplicitous”.
“Nothing could be more immoral and disastrous for India than the said “export” of workers to Israel. That India is even considering “exporting” workers shows the manner in which it has dehumanised and commodified Indian workers. Such a step will amount to complicity on India’s part with Israel’s ongoing genocidal war against Palestinians and will naturally have adverse implications for Indian workers in the entire region,” the press release issued by the platform said.
Describing Israel’s war on Gaza as “shamelessly genocidal”, the trade unions have called upon Indian workers to show solidarity with Palestinian workers and refuse to replace them.
“India’s trade union movement must rise in solidarity with Palestinian workers and reject this disastrous idea. Let’s resolve that we will not work to replace Palestinian workers in Israel,” the joint statement said. It has also called upon Indian workers to boycott Israeli products and to refuse to handle the Israeli cargo.