The price of petrol has just gone up by Rs. 5.47. This is bound to have a cascading effect on the prices of essential commodities, which are already beyond the reach of the poor.

At such a time, it looks like garment workers have to fight tooth and nail even to get the Variable Dearness Allowance (DA) they are entitled to by law, which is to compensate for the price rise.

On Saturday, 25-year-old Vijaya, who was among the 150 workers who assembled outside a garment factory in Basavanapura near Ramanagaram demanding fair wages, was injuredwhen the crowd grew restive after the management refused to concede their demand. Her disheartened colleague, Veena, attempted suicide by consuming sleeping pills when representatives of the management allegedly spoke rudely to the workers.

Workers fired

“The management had earlier fired two workers for demanding uniform wage hike and payment of DA to all as per law. On Saturday, we also demanded that the two workers be taken back,” Ms. Vijaya, a resident of Kannamangala Doddi, told The Hindu.

According to K.R. Jayaram, vice-president, Garment and Textile Workers' Union, disparities in payment of DA is a problem not restricted to the garment unit near Ramanagaram, but is common across several units in and around Bangalore.

The State Government had announced an increase in the DA, payable by all employers at Rs. 408 a month (an increase of Rs. 15.69 a day) for 2011-12, effective from April 1.

However, in several units, skilled garment workers only received an arbitrary raise of Rs. 4 to Rs. 7, while unskilled workers have got the mandatory raise. “This is unlawful and in complete violation of the law. The payment of DA is for the neutralisation of inflation,” Mr. Jayaram said.

He said that in one garment factory at Babasabara Palya (abutting Mysore Road), workers' conveyance allowance had been deducted in “an illegal and arbitrary manner without any consultation or notice to workers” in order to adjust it with the increase in DA. “This is in complete contravention of the law,” he said.

Consolidated wage slips

The same unit had also stopped the practice of issuing wage slips that clearly indicated the basic and DA. This resulted in the workers not having a clear idea of the break-up. “From April 2010, they have been getting wage slips showing the consolidated salary. They should issue wage slips with bifurcations, as required by law,” Mr. Jayaram said.

As many as 250 women workers staged a protest outside the Babasabara Palya factory on Monday and later went to work wearing black bands, demanding that DA be given uniformly to all employees.

‘Prices going up daily'

“The cost of everything is going up by the day and the DA does not cover the actual rise in prices. When such is the case, how can people like us live if we do not even get the DA we are entitled to by law,” asked a distraught Yamuna who works in a garment unit on Mysore Road.

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