Textile industry wants timely review of minimum wage than sudden raise

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2015-01-24 10:00:00 – Coimbatore

The Textile and clothing sector has around eight schedule employment (under the Minimum Wages Act) such as cotton ginning, pressing and waste cotton industry, handloom and weaving industry, handloom silk weaving industry, hosiery manufactory, powerloom industry, silk twisting industry, tailoring industry and apprentices in textile mills.

Besides this, there are many industrial establishments engaged in the manufacture of knitted and woven garments and made-ups (home furnishings). Some of them cater to both – the domestic and export markets.

Industry sources are yet to come to terms with the exorbitant increase in minimum wages for employment in the tailoring industry. Coming as it does after 10 years, the 64 per cent increase is considered sudden, huge and one that cannot be absorbed by the industry. The last revision took place in 2004.

While admitting that the revision was being notified after 10 years, a cross section of industry stakeholders said that they were not against an increase in the basic minimum rate, but feel that a periodical review of the same would have been better than a sudden and steep increase.

Citing the gazette notification dated December 3, 2014, textile industry sources pointed out that the basic minimum wage for a cutter in tailoring industry has been hiked from Rs. 2,306/ month to Rs. 5,789/ month across all municipal corporations (classified as Zone A), and for the machine operator/tailor to Rs. 5,639 from Rs. 2,215/month.

After taking into account the dearness allowance (DA), which has been revised to Rs. 2,299 from Rs. 1,769.85, the total monthly wages payable to a cutter has shot up to Rs. 7,559 (Rs 4,605) and that of a machine operator to Rs. 7,409 (Rs 4,514).

The current notification comes under The Schedule – Employment in Tailoring Industry, and is applicable to tailoring shops, export garments manufactory and administrative staff – for both tailoring and export garments manufactory).

Yet another confusion that seems to have cropped up is from the fact that the TN Government had already notified the minimum wages for hosiery manufactures. If the unit does both – knitted and woven fabrics and engages the same machine operator, under which schedule of employment should such tailors be classified, posed an industry source.

To tide over such issues and bring in more clarity, the Southern India Mills' Association Chairman, T Rajkumar, has proposed to bring the minimum wages across the state under one schedule in respect of the textile sector.

The state should come out with a comprehensive policy on minimum wages in consultation with industry stakeholders, whether it is powerloom, tailoring or textile mills, the minimum wages (which is the barest minimum for the textile sector in TN) should be only one.

They can constitute a specific committee to look into the various aspects, do a scientific study by engaging a competent authority and finalize the common minimum wages based on inputs, the SIMA Chairman said.

The Secretary General of SIMA, K Selvaraju, has suggested bringing down the zoning classification to 2 (at present, Zone A comprises all municipal corporations, Zone B – all municipalities and Zone C – other areas not covered under A and B) and skill level to four grades such as highly skilled, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled.

There is no parity in wage payment between the skilled and unskilled. The units are complying with the minimum wages Act. They have been paying the market rate depending on the cluster and giving the annual increment.

The textile industry is already in a disadvantageous position due to host of issues such as rising cost of power, VAT (5 per cent in Tamil Nadu, whereas it is 2 per cent in Maharashtra), dependency on transport of cotton (for processing) from upcountry markets and stern pollution norms. It is time the Government puts such issues in the proper perspective.

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