Garment workers place demands in front of Karnataka govt.  

Several garment workers in Karnataka have demanded State govt. to provide better transport facilities for them.

Several garment workers in Karnataka have demanded State govt. to provide better transport facilities for them. | Photo Credit: File photo

“I have worked in the garment sector for over a decade now. Yet when Covid hit the nation, I was forced to resign from my job. Now, I have somehow managed to get my job back, but my salary is not enough to bear today’s living costs. Even after so many years, I feel like I have not been valued at the factory. The factory owners barely care about our well being,” lamented Jayamma, a garment worker in Bengaluru. She was speaking at a discussion on ‘State Inaction towards Garments Workers’, organised by Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU) and Alternative Law Forum on Sunday in the city.

Garment workers say that their sector has been neglected by the government for a long time as their problems are palmed off to the factory owners, who also do not care about them. “Be it the minimum wage revision, payment of Dearness Allowance or even the extensive job losses during Covid-19, neither the government nor the factory owners cared about us. Our problems remain unsolved even to this day,” said Prathiba R. President, GATWU, speaking to The Hindu. Among the demands placed by the workers to the government were those pertaining to minimum wages, action to stop workplace harassment of women, provision of better transport facilities, making ESI more labour friendly and the intervention of the Labour Department when union workers are dealt with violence by the factory owners.  

“Injustice in the minimum wage revision has been going on in the garment industry for the past forty years. Although the law states that the minimum wage should be revised every five years, due to the negligence of successive governments and employers’ lobbies, the average wage revision has become once every ten years for the industry. As a result, garment workers are getting the lowest minimum wage compared to all other scheduled industries in Karnataka, a press release from the meeting said. 

A report ‘Forced Resignations, Stealthy Closures’ which was released during the meeting spoke about the way garment workers were forced to resign from their jobs during the lockdown period. Out of the 81% workforce in garment factories which resigned during the pandemic, 85% were forced to resign. The survey included garment factories from three clusters in Bengaluru.  

“Many workers reported that when their factory announced that it was closing, they were presented with two options: resigning and getting their dues; or to not resign and delay/lose out on their dues. This fear pushed a majority to resign without protest,” the report said. However, many who resigned during that time have still not received their dues. A worker who was present at the meeting shared how every time she goes to the factory to collect her dues, she is asked to return two or three months later only to hear the same response again. 

The workers who were out of jobs during the time received no help from the government. Another report ‘Garment Workers, COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown’ which surveyed garment workers from southern parts of Karnataka, said that 60% of the respondents reported not receiving any help from the government during the pandemic.  

“There is a lot of job insecurity which forces us to not come to the frontline and deal with our problems. The reason why we usually get out of organisations after a few years is the fear of uncertainty. The owners often put us in a situation which makes us feel uncomfortable, but we cannot question them or the other authorities at the organisation,” said Ms. Prathibha 

Jayanagar MLA Sowmya Reddy who was responding to the workers’ demands demanded that the minimum wage should be increased immediately and that the government should take action to prevent all forms of harassment against women including sexual harassment at the workplace. 

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2022 12:59:19 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/garment-workers-place-demands-in-front-of-karnataka-govt/article65595769.ece