Revision of minimum wages for garment factory workers long due

Garment and Fashion Workers Union has stepped up the campaign to revise the minimum wage for garment factory workers in Tamil Nadu after a long struggle to vacate the petitions filed by employers in Garment Industries. Ms. Meghna Sukumar, secretary of the union says that this is a regular strategy employed by the factory owners to deny the minimum wages for garment factory workers.

The State Government Order on the minimum wage for garment workers was passed in 1994. The industry quickly moved to get an interim stay order keeping the GO from being implemented. After a decade, the stays were vacated and the second GO was passed in 2004. Employing the same strategy, 13 employers had again got an interim stay order on the implementation of the GO. The cases were never resolved due to the apathy of the Government says Meghna.

The Garment and Fashion Workers Union impleaded in over  13 petitions in 2010 arguing that the stay was violating the constitutional rights of the workers . In 2011, the Madras High Court vacated the 13 petitions, following which the union petitioned the Government for revision of the minimum wages. To their surprise, the union was told by the Government Officials that there were 4 more petitions prohibiting the officials to take any action. ‘The Government’s apathy has meant that the workers’  wages are being revised every 10 years ‘ said Meghna. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 requires the State Governments to revise the wages for workers every 5 years. Finally after getting the remaining 4 petitions vacated on June 2012, the union has demanded for immediate revision of the minimum wages for garment workers.

‘The current minimum wage for a skilled tailor employed in a garment factory in Tamil Nadu is the lowest in the country’ says Meghna. As per the Government Order, the salary in Garment Industry is around Rs 2215 for a skilled tailor, Rs 2306 for a machine operator and Rs 1980 for unskilled workers and this is for Zone A which includes major cities. The wages decrease in town panchayats and other regions. This is less than what workers get in other states. The other two garment manufacturing hubs Gurgaon pays Rs 240/day, and Bangalore pays Rs 149/day. ‘We are demanding revision of wages as per 15th ILC norms‘ says Meghna.

The Garment and Fashion Workers Union has been building campaigns on the revision of the wages for workers.  A signature campaign was conducted in May this year and the workers protested in June 2012. Will the Government listen and heed to the demands of the workers before the next decade is up?


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One Response to Revision of minimum wages for garment factory workers long due

  1. J. Rajavelu says:

    Inferno in Bangladesh Garment Factory:

    Death Traps of Globalisation

    On November 25th this year, a fire engulfed a garment factory – Tazreen Fashions – outside Dhaka, claiming the lives of 120 workers, who were killed because the exits were locked, preventing their escape. Among the charred remains, were found clothes with the labels of leading global retailers, including the American Wal-Mart, Sears, and Disney.

    The Tazreen fire exposed the ugly underbelly of globalization, whereby the giant clothing brands and retail chains outsource their production to benefit from cheap labour in Asian and South Asian countries. Appallingly exploitative conditions of labour, which would no longer be countenanced in the advanced capitalist countries, are the norm in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India. The Tazreen fire is not a one-off tragedy; since 2006, over 500 Bangladeshi garment workers have reportedly been killed in factory fires. In September, two factory fires in Pakistan claimed the lives of more than 300 workers.

    Bangladesh’s garment industry has seen fierce struggles by the workers against the low wages and exploitative conditions. In December 2010, a fire broke out in a garment factory, claiming 24 lives, in which workers were forced to jump from the ninth floor of a 10-storey building because management had locked the exits. Police fired on the garment workers’ agitation that month, killing four workers, injuring hundreds, and arresting the leaders. The Ashulia industrial zone, in which the Tazreen factory stands, has witnessed repeated eruptions of workers’ protests. In June this year, workers of Ashulia campaigned for a hike in the abysmally low wages, and the owners responded by shutting down all 350 factories in the zone. Following the Tazreen fire, thousands of workers hit the streets in militant protests, forcing factories to close, blockading highways, and clashing with the police, who unleashed batons and tear gas.

    The global brands amass huge profits by sourcing clothes from countries where workers work for low wages, in exploitative and unsafe conditions. In the dense web of contractors and sub-contractors, responsibility can be easily shrugged off. The government of Bangladesh colludes in the exploitative conditions, unleashing severe repression on workers’ protests.

    In March 1911, 140 garment workers, most of them women, were killed in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York. Finding themselves locked in the burning factory, women jumped to their death from the windows. 100 years later, the same macabre scene is reenacted – but this time the death-trap factories have moved to Bangladesh and Pakistan.

    The ongoing resistance of the Bangladeshi garment workers calls for our wholehearted solidarity and support. From Karachi to Dhaka and Delhi to Colombo, the ghettos and death-traps of globalization will have to be challenged head-on by united waves of South Asian resistance.

    Below we reproduce a poem by Annie Meharg penned on the hundreth anniversary of the 1911 tragedy at the Traingle Factory in the United States

    The Triangle Factory Fire

    March 25, 1911

    There are thousands whose fingers thread needles today

    With long hours, bad conditions and not enough pay;

    Young girls and young women, heads bent at machines

    Sewing trousers and blouses and dresses and jeans;

    Overworked, underpaid. But who cares? And who knows

    Of the lives of the people who’re sewing our clothes?

    It was March 25, year of 1911

    In the Triangle Factory in downtown Manhattan,

    In the famous Asch building, floors ten, nine and eight

    Where the seamstresses sewed clothes from early ‘til late.

    There were five hundred workers, some only thirteen,

    In the immigrant workers’ American dream.

    The nightmare broke out in the late afternoon

    When a fire in a scrap bin spread fast through the room.

    The terrified workers jumped up and took flight

    As from table to table the cloth caught alight.

    In the smoke and the flames they were panicked and shocked

    And they ran for the doors. But the doors were all locked.

    Like prisoners! The workers were starting to choke

    In the fumes and the flames and the heat and the smoke.

    A girl ran to the firehose then started to shout

    When she turned on the valve but no water came out.

    Some women were screaming as flames licked their hair;

    Others ran to the fire escape gasping for air.

    The fire escape started to buckle and groan –

    Then it broke from the wall and the people were thrown

    Down into the street, splattered dead where they landed –

    Whilst still up above them their colleagues were stranded –

    To jump or to burn was their terrible choice

    As they stared without help, without hope, without voice.

    The firemen were quick, bold, courageous and tough

    But they knew that their ladder was not long enough –

    Women swayed at the windows with flames in their hair

    And then like human torches they fell through the air –

    The safety nets tore, bodies smashed in the street.

    The paralyzed bystanders never forgot.

    Sixty-two jumped or fell that day from the ninth floor

    And the smoke and the flames swallowed up many more.

    It was all so unnecessary – what was it for?

    Why should sewing a shirt be as dangerous as war?

    Next day in the paper the New Yorkers read

    That one hundred and forty-six workers were dead.

    Dead. Killed by neglect. Each young mother, wife, daughter.

    By lack of extinguishers, hoses and water,

    Inadequate fire escapes. By the locked doors

    Which made workers prisoners on those three floors.

    One hundred and forty-six families were wrecked

    By men blinded by profit; inhuman neglect.

    In 2011 it’s not in Manhattan;

    It’s further away. Is it easier forgotten?

    Disasters in clothes factories in Pakistan,

    In China, in Bangladesh, in Vietnam.

    People work dawn to dusk earning less than they need;

    Desperate women and men with a family to feed.

    There are thousand whose fingers thread needles today

    With long hours, bad conditions and not enough pay;

    Young girls and young women, heads bent at machines

    Sewing trousers and blouses and dresses and jeans;

    Overworked, underpaid. But who cares? And who knows

    Of the lives of the people who’re sewing our clothes?

    Annie Meharg, 2011

    source: ML UPDATE

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