International pressure helps some garment factory workers

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2020-05-27 12:04:57 – India

If institutional support to workers has been mostly missing for the state’s workforce, a section of garment workers received wages thanks to pressure from the U.S. and E.U.-based international agencies on apparel brands that have outsourced production to garment factories in India.

Organizations such as United Students Against Sweat Shops and the Workers Rights Consortium have brought intense pressure on leading global brands to ensure that workers are paid in factories in Bengaluru, said the Garments and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU), which has worked on similar lines in the past to improve working conditions. In the COVID-19 conditions, not only are factories forced to pay wages, international agencies have ensured that leading apparel brands do no cancel their orders, which in turn could harm the factories finances’ to pay wages.

“By our estimates, about 40% of the over four lakh garment workforce has received wages for the lockdown period. In some companies, wages have been paid only to those who came to work after May 4. Without public transport, it is impossible for rural women to reach their factories,” said GATWU secretary K.R. Jayaram said. “Wherever possible, pressure has been brought through the International League of Brand Responsibility to ensure that workers get their dues. In fact, orders that were canceled by at least eight leading brands to garment factories in India were withdrawn after intense pressure.”

With three factories in Bengaluru having closed already in the past month, workers in the garment sector are going through anxious times. While the current work is related to previous orders, fresh orders for the city’s garment sector, whose peak season starts from July, are still to come in. “So far, there is not much retrenchment. Many of the non-Kannadiga workers have left the city. If fresh orders do not come, the worst may start happening after mid-June. Factories without orders may close, leaving thousands without jobs,” Mr. Jayaram said.

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