Garment workers and people employed in security services have been badly hit by the extension of the lockdown. Most of them lead a hand-to-mouth existence and many say that they have not received their salaries.
Nearly 4.5 lakh people - mostly women - work in garment factories where they are employed on a contract and are usually paid only for the days they report to work. Violating a Labour Department directive that made paying the full salary of March mandatory, several factories have treated March 25-31, when the factories were closed due to a national lockdown as earned leave of the employees for the year, while a handful of factories even deducted pay for these days, said K.R. Jayaram of Garments and Textiles Workers Union (GATWU). “Most of the garment factories while paying salaries for March, orally told workers not to expect any pay for April if the factories do not open again. This is going to be disastrous,” he added.
Rajamma, a garment worker from Kengeri, says she’s better off than many of her colleagues as she has a BPL card which she uses to get ration. “But I will have to pay rent and other bills including medical expenses. I am the breadwinner in my family. A month without salary will push me into debt that will take over a year to come out of,” she said.
GATWU is affiliated with IndustriAll Global Union, a global union of trade unions based out of Copenhagen, which has taken up a global campaign for garment workers. “The principal employer of garment workers are apparel brands. In times of crisis like these, the apparel brands need to share responsibility. Through IndustriAll Global Union, we are lobbying with the apparel brands which get their apparel produced in Bengaluru to reach out to us,” Mr. Jayaram said. “But the brands are not responding positively. Most of them have suspended even orders they had already placed,” he said.
GATWU is also lobbying with the State government to ensure all garment workers are paid full wages.
Security guards are deemed an essential service and most of them are indeed working. However, nearly a lakh guards of the estimated four lakh have been told not to report to work. “Deployment at commercial establishments like factories, tech parks and malls has reduced by half. Many firms have expressed that they were already reeling under losses and they cannot pay for those not deployed on their premises. Negotiations are on with them. The security firms are also trying their best to pay by availing loans,” said Flt. Lt. Nagesh, a mentor with Karnataka Security Services Association.