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Garment workers exploited, denied basic human and labour rights: tribunal

Staff Reporter
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The verdict was based on testimonies of 250 people heard over four days

Suggestions made:The report of the ‘National people’s tribunal on living wage for garment workers’ has recommended strengthening of the Labour Department so that it can enforce labour laws, and monitor and tackle industrial disputes.
Suggestions made:The report of the ‘National people’s tribunal on living wage for garment workers’ has recommended strengthening of the Labour Department so that it can enforce labour laws, and monitor and tackle industrial disputes.

Workers in the garment industry here are exploited and denied basic human and labour rights, the ‘National people’s tribunal on living wage for garment workers’ observed in its verdict on Sunday.

Over four days, testimonies of 250 garment workers were recorded. A common thread that ran through these stories were tales of labour and human rights violations ranging from unfair wages and work hours to sexual abuse and inhuman work conditions. These put together, the jury observed in a 37-page report released here, created conditions which amounted to “bonded and forced labour practices”. The report added that there has been an “effective undermining” of the freedom of association of workers.

The jury was headed by Gianni Tognioni, secretary-general of the Permanent People’s Tribunal, Italy.

The verdict dealt with ‘living wage’, which the jury said, should be implemented as a human right. “The components which are essential for the calculation of a living wage must not only include adequate food to the worker and her/his family, but all elements to live a life of dignity, which includes housing, medical care and education for children, rest and leisure, social and cultural opportunities,” the jury observed. Noting that resources allocated to labour ministries were “largely insufficient”, the tribunal said that the Labour Department must be strengthened to enable it to enforce labour laws, and monitor and tackle industrial disputes.

Understaffed

Deputy Labour Commissioner Sripad Rao accepted these recommendations. He also said that the Labour Department is “severely understaffed”. Mr. Rao asked workers to collectively articulate their woes and submit their grievances in writing, while imploring them to form stronger trade unions and get them registered.


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