A majority of the predominant migrant textile workers in Tirupur knitwear cluster are a discontented lot as they are yet to get the Deepavali bonus though only four days are left for the festival. According to trade union sources, almost 90 per cent of the units in the cluster are yet to disburse bonus to the workers. “What is the point in getting the bonus at the eleventh hour as migrant labourers like us will not get time to buy dresses/sweets for our family members before heading for native places in southern districts,” said P. Mohanraj (name changed on his request), a native of Madurai.
But some of the textile unit owners said that if the bonus amount was given well in advance, the workers would immediately head for their home towns and all the production schedule for the festival season would go topsy-turvy. “With almost every textile worker across the production chain been employed on weekly wages, the employers cannot even stop them from leaving at any point of time,” R. Girish, spokesperson of Tirupur Exporters and Manufacturers Association and an entrepreneur himself, added.
Trade unionists like C. Moorthy, general secretary of CITU-affiliated Tirupur Banian Central Workers Union, criticised the practice adopted by the textile businessmen in the disbursal of bonus at the last moment.
“This is a deliberate delaying tactic by the unit owners over the years with an eye on giving the bonus on a lesser scale vis-à-vis negotiated amount,” Mr. Moorthy said.
“If the worker gets lesser bonus just before leaving for his native place, he will be left with no time to fight for the deserved amount,” he added. The trade unions in the cluster have already demanded higher bonus vis-à-vis last year considering the escalation in living costs. The labour union members are refusing to accept the contention of unit owners that there was a dip in the business because of power crisis and hence, the scale of bonus needed to be brought down.
“Every year they will say some excuse. Probably the huge profit margins have been reduced by a fraction because of power problem but at the same time it should be noted that business turnovers remained healthy and number of working days a worker underwent in the last one year did not come down,” unionists said.