Garments factories forcing workers to resign: Survey

Garment and Textiles Workers’ Union and Alternative Law Forum sampled 25 garment factories

A survey of 25 garment factories in the city has revealed a disturbing trend of ‘forced resignations’ leading to more job losses in the sector, than the Karnataka government had recently admitted to in the Assembly, owing to ‘non re-opening of several factories post lockdow’.

Labour Minister A. Shivaram Hebbar had recently said in the Assembly that 2.86 lakh workers, mostly women, were employed in 983 garment factories in Karnataka before the lockdown, of which over one lakh haven’t been able to rejoin work yet as many factories have not reopened yet.

However, a survey conducted by Garment and Textiles Workers’ Union (GATWU) and Alternative Law Forum (ALF) revealed that even in the factories that have reopened, workers are being forced to resign. “Workers at 17 of 25 factories surveyed reported that they had been asked to resign by the company due to ‘losses’ suffered by the latter. Eighty-one percent of workers we spoke to said they had resigned. The rest were protesting the closure or were yet to resign,” stated the survey report, which was released on Sunday.

Workers were allegedly threatened that if they did not resign voluntarily, their dues would not be settled. According to the report, factories have also employed other coercive measures, such as stopping transport facilities and transferring workers to far-off factories within the company but refusing to provide transport, workers said.

Some factories also reportedly promised workers that they will be re-employed when the situation stabilises, but that they should resign now. “Workers resigned also because they had little to no money during the months of the lockdown, and which had left them destitute. Faced with loss of employment, workers ‘chose’ the only alternative of resignation because it would mean receiving some income immediately,” the report noted.

Of the 25 factories surveyed, three have shut down completely. While the Labour Minister said several factories “were yet to reopen”, there is no clarity as to whether these factories have been “closed” or will reopen. The survey found that several factories were “closed” without due legal process, denying workers rightful retrenchment/closure compensation. It recommended that the Labour Department conduct a large-scale inspection of garment factories, examine resignations to assess whether they were voluntary or forced, and ensure that retrenchment or closure compensation was provided to workers at the time of ‘resignation’.

Impact on nutrition and education

The survey conducted by Garment and Textiles Workers’ Union (GATWU) and Alternative Law Forum (ALF) noted that the job loss in the sector has severely hit garment workers and their households impacting nutrition and children’s education. While 96% of those surveyed reported a reduction in household income since lockdown restrictions were eased last year, its most serious impact was on nutrition and education.

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“A major reduction in expenses had come in the form of expenditure on food. Workers reported primarily cutting down on meat, vegetables, fruits, snacks and beverages such as tea and coffee; in some cases, the number of meals was cut from thrice to twice or even once a day,” the report said.

It noted that families were shifting their children from private to government schools either in the city or in their village in an attempt to reduce expenditure. “In some cases, workers reported enrolling one child in school while leaving the other out of school or college for this academic year.”

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