The verdict of a tribunal to assess human rights abuses faced by workers in the Indian garment industry was announced today in Bangalore.
Judges found overwhelming evidence of ‘grave and systematic violations of individual and collective human rights’ suffered by garment workers and called for immediate action to be taken by a variety of stakeholders.
The verdict follows a two day hearing in which over 250 garment workers from Gurgaon, Tirupur and Bangalore gathered to give evidence pointing to the fact that a living wage and decent working conditions are a pressing necessity in the industry. Continue reading →
Ashok regularly works up to eight hours of over time, producing for brands like GAP
My name is Ashok Kumar Singh and I am from village of Jaunpur District of Uttar Pradesh. Due to miserable economic conditions, I came to Delhi ten years back with my elder brother. I am working in Modelama Export for the last six years, which makes garments for a brand like GAP.
Even though I work as a layer man, they pay me the semi-skilled grade of Rs. 5097/- per month. This is how our wage theft is done. Salary is so low that six to eight hours overtime is necessary to meet our expenses. My company gives us a double rate for the first two hours and after that a single rate. The increased salary of January was actually paid in April. We never get paid for our late night meal and even gratuity is not paid to the workers.
Minimum Wages for garment workers should be fixed at Rs. 12,000
Experts testify that minimum wage presently calculated grossly inadequate
Major clothing brands and garment manufacturers condemned for wage theft
Unions point to policy deficit which is contributing to low wages
Experts and unions show how nature of garment industry is continuing to keep workers in the cycle of poverty
The National Peoples’ Tribunal for living wages and decent working conditions of garment workers continued today at Kannada Sahitya Parishad, with much rigour and conviction with the participation of experts, union leaders, brand representatives and workers.
In a short film on the lives of garment workers’ experiences, one of the issues highlighted was that unfortunately workers still consider sexual harassment as a norm, as it is tacitly condoned by those who are responsible to monitor and prevent it. The harsh environment of the factory does not enable workers to share or communicate these issues with each other. If it is considered a norm, there is no opposition to sexual harassement. Continue reading →
“You end up like a machine working on a machine,” said Akshay Kumar, 36-year-old garment worker from Gurgaon, speaking of what it feels like to cope with inhuman production targets in bad working conditions in one of the several apparel units in the industrial city adjoining the national capital.
Jerusani (21) from Tirupur stayed with 500 women in a hostel nearby a textile mill. Together the group shared two toilets.
My father Dass and Mary are working as agricultural labourers in the farms of land lords in nearby villages and we do not own agricultural land. I have one elder brother and three sisters. I studied up to 10th standard and after that I could not continue my studies due to the financial problems in my family.
After completing my 10th standard, I was at home doing household activities. My father was approached a labour broker from a nearby village and briefed about the employment opportunities in textile mills in the Coimbatore district. He said that if I work for three years I would get Rs.35000/- after completing the contract period and I would be given a monthly salary of Rs.2000/-. The broker also said that accommodation and food are free of cost, so the monthly earnings could be sent to the family. My father was convinced about the scheme and asked me to join the mill. I didn’t know about the nature of job so I was hesitant to work in a spinning mill which is far away from my native place. But the family situation made me to work and so I joined in the mill in the year 2006.
Tobias Fischer, Relations Sustainability manager and Niklas Klingh, Country Manager-India spoke about their role in the supply chain. “We agree that wages should be enough to live on. We are working with our suppliers to ensure compliance on this.”
The brand acknowledged that overtime was also a problem in its supply chain with around 83% of suppliers involved in non-payment of overtime wages. While Fischer acknowledged this to be a problem, he failed to connect the prevalence of overtime hours to extremely low wage levels. Instead, he tried to link the overtime issue to worker’s own wish for more hours and offered to ‘investigate’ the reason behind these wishes.
The wage was very low; I could not even feed my three children with at least bread and milk. My daughter asked me one day, ‘Why you gave birth to me if you are not able to feed me properly?’ I still don’t have an answer to this question. I even pledged my mangalasutra (wedding necklace much like a wedding ring) to pay my children’s school examination fees but it was still not enough.
Yamuna, 37, producing for GAP, H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch
37 year old Yamuna, worker, mother and union member of Garment Labour Union (GLU), testified about a factory producing for the middle man Bombay Rayon’s Fashions Ltd. which supplies to Gap, H&M, Abercrombi and Fitch, and Armani:
‘When I joined the industry, I was 14 years old and started earning to support my mother. As a helper my wage at that time was Rs.317/-. I was getting 75 paise for each hour of overtime. I joined another factory as tailor and I was getting Rs.1000/-. Later I changed factories about three times. In 2001 I joined Vidya creation, a unit of Texport Overseas group of Companies.
I was not allowed to take my 6 month old baby to a factory crèche. After a long time, I got permission to take my child to the crèche, though the condition there was very bad. The Production Manager was very rude. He used to make us stand near the table for more than a week if we took leave without notice. He used to scold and scream in vulgar language. We were not able to see the day light at all, since we were working over time without wage till late evening. One day, I passed a garment piece without cutting the extra small threads. He called me and said ‘Have you forgotten to wear your saree [clothes red.] today..? If not.. How can you forget to cut the thread..?’ I was shocked and felt ashamed that day.