Non-payment of minimum wages, violation of other labour-related regulations, and harassment were rampant in majority of the garment units in and around Madurai, which primarily employed women workers, P. Muthu Raja, president, Textile Workers Union alleged.
Speaking at an interaction meeting of garments manufacturing unit workers with non-governmental organisations, trade unions and other stakeholders, he said that it was difficult to address these issues since most of the units maintain stringent vigil over the activities of their workers and prevent them from organising themselves.
“Majority of the workers in these units are not even aware of their rights, including the minimum salary they are eligible to receive,” he said.
Addressing the workers, who turned up for the event in minimum numbers, B. Thirumalai, senior journalist and writer, highlighted how eminent women like Muthulakshmi Reddy, Thillaiyadi Valliammai and K.P. Janaki Ammal, who played active role in public life, and urged the women workers take inspiration from those leaders.
Stressing the need to unite and organise to fight for their rights, he said that the women workers, apart from their employment-related issues, must also fight against the rampant alcoholism due to the presence of State-promoted TASMAC shops.
Appealing to the workers to rise their voices against the injustice they faced, S. Selva Gomathi, managing trustee of Justice Shivaraj V. Patil Foundation, which organised the interaction meeting, said that the problems faced by women workers under the infamous ‘Sumangali’ scheme came to light only after many of them began to speak about it.
Bala Sundari, advocate and member of Madurai district Child Welfare Committee, said that legal remedies were available for the issues and only when workers become emboldened about their rights, the garment units will begin to treat them fairly.