COVID-19: In garment units, it’s business as usual

Order by Mandya DC to close garment factories withdrawn within a few hours

Employees of most companies have been working from home for some time now as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 outbreak, but thousands of garment factory workers across the State have had no such facility. They continue to follow their daily routine for daily wages: travelling by public transport, working in a hall full of people for long hours, and heading back home in the evening. It is as if nothing has changed. This, union leaders and labour rights activists say, is putting a whole section of the population at risk of being exposed to the virus.

Garment manufacturing units across Mandya district, which employ at least 15,000 women, were instructed to shut operations following the outbreak. But hours after the closure order was issued, the district administration withdrew it on Friday following a directive from the Additional Chief Secretary, according to a communiqué from Mandya Deputy Commissioner M.V. Venkatesh.

The withdrawal of the order has been widely criticised by labour leaders and employees of garment units. Terming the order as “against the interests of garments workers”, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) State president Devi Malavalli alleged that the government was under pressure from industrialists. Over 80% of the workforce in garments units in Mandya district are women, and almost all the workers are from economically weaker sections. They may not be able to afford healthcare if they contract the disease, she added.

There are nearly a dozen garment units at Shettihalli, K.R. Pet, and D. Halasahalli, near Thubinakere; and in industrial sectors at Gejjalagere and Somanahalli in the district.

The government put out “preventive measures” for garment and textile units in the State on Friday, which lists installation of thermal scanners, provision of masks, sanitisers, and hot drinking water, and maintaining 1.5-m distance between employees.

However, Jayaram. K.R., legal adviser to the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU), said this was not enough. “Thousands sit inside one room within close proximity, making them susceptible to contracting and spreading the virus. We are planning to meet government representatives next week regarding this,” he said.

Labour leaders are demanding that the State government consider garment industries as “high-risk areas”, and grant paid leave to employees.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 10:58:53 AM |

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