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?