Over 100 women workers belonging to Garment and Fashion Workers Association and Penn Thozhilalar Sangam organized a demonstration before the Office of the Collector on Feb 18th,demanding better working conditions, regular hours of work and a notification for a minimum wage of not less that Rs 48 an hour. Most of the workers were employed in the Export Garment industries or as domestic help. They presented their petition to the Collector of Chennai, urging
her to present their demands to the government and ensure that their rights as workers is protected.
Speaking about the protest, Ms.M. Dilli, President of GAFWU maintained that the conditions of work in their factories were abysmal and they had to fight constantly with the management to protect their wages. She works in Celebrity Fashions in MEPZ, Tamabaram. She said “when new owners bought our factory, they had maintained that they will continue all the wages and bonus agreements between the previous management and us, but went back on the agreement when bonus was to be given. They cited losses as a reason for not paying the agreed bonus; we went to the labour commission and also struggled through the union to get our bonus back. We have to struggle for every little thing in order to get it”. Justifying their demand of Rs 48 an hour she maintained that many women are working in informal conditions and it is imperative that an hourly minimum wage is legislated and implemented. “The rising prices has made it difficult to run a household with anything less than Rs 10000, it is in this regard that we are demanding a minimum wage of Rs 48 an hour. We are also demanding that the women employed under the rural employment scheme (MGNREGS) be provided not less that Rs 368/- for a day.”
After an hour long demonstration, members of the Unions met the collector and gave their petition to her and sought her support to take it to the Chief minister and other concerned ministries.