Beyond the Bengaluru Protests: PF Policy Was Only a Trigger

“We are made to work until we meet unreasonable targets set by the factory supervisors,” the workers claim.

2 min read
Police charge the garment factory workers who were protesting over EPF withdrawal norm, in Bengaluru on Tuesday.(Photo: PTI)

Most media narratives about the two-day garment factory employee protests in Bengaluru on 18 and 19 April merely explained that workers were agitated over new provident fund norms passed by the central government on 10 February 2016. However, garment workers’ union claims that the PF rule was merely a trigger.

Addressing the media on Saturday, the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU) members claimed that the protests were more because of the pent up anger against the continuous harassment of women at workplace.

A member of GATWU, Rathna, who has worked for 23 years at garment factories in Bengaluru said that harassment takes place even before a worker can step into the factory. She added that sexual harassment of new employees, especially young girls often goes unnoticed even by the victims who are unaware of their rights on the issue.

If we are late by 5 minutes, they make us stand outside the gate, I almost resigned from the company in 2002 because my supervisor was acting in an inappropriate manner. That was when I felt that there was a need for a union for garment factory workers, We are made to work until we meet unreasonable targets set by the factory supervisors. They verbally harass us and force us to do overtime, but the pay never increases.

Jayaram, legal advisor to the GATWU, said that supervisors often lock the gates until the workers meet the targets set for the day.

GATWU, which has members from garment factories in Mysuru, Srirangapatna and Bengaluru had come up with a report Wage and Work Intensity in Garment Sector: Study of Bangalore and Karnataka in 2015.

These are factories that export foreign brands and the workers don’t even get 2% of the amount that the final product is sold for as their daily pay, Close to thirty years since the industry came to existence in Karnataka, the first major hike in pay was in 2013 when it was hiked from Rs 120 per day to Rs 250 per day, that too after an elaborate struggle. The high court ruled that the pay should be revised every 4 years. Now the workers are due for a hike in 2017 and the the union plans to send a letter to the central government saying that the pay should be revised to Rs 15,000 from Rs 7,027 that the workers are getting now. Currently we are focusing on creating awareness among workers on how they can tackle harassment and other issues. We are trying our best to get cases filed by police on the garment factory workers withdrawn.
Pratibha R, President, GATWU

However, Shahi Exports Private Limited company, one of the biggest garment companies with over 75,000 employees had written a letter in February 2015, a copy of which is available with The News Minute, asking the central government to decrease the monthly salary.

Also Read: Bengaluru: Garment Factory Workers Block Roads for Second Day

(This article has been published in arrangement with The News Minute.)

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