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Karnataka apparel sector workers endure lower wages
Apr '12
The workers employed in garment production units in the South Indian state of Karnataka are being paid low wages compared to their counterparts in other states across India.

Ironically, Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka, which is a major hub for export of premium garments from India, is also the costliest city to live in, according to a recent report based on Consumer Price Index (CPI).

While the minimum wage for a person stitching apparels in Karnataka is Rs. 172 per day, the wage for same type of work in the national capital of New Delhi is more than Rs. 300 per day. Even in states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra, the minimum wage for such a work is over Rs. 200 per day.

A person working under the Central Government's National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in Karnataka's rural areas is entitled to a wage of Rs. 150 per day. In comparison, a person working in clothing industry in a metro city like Bangalore receives only Rs. 22 more for a day's work.

In Karnataka, the last wage hike notification was issued in 2009, and now the state is gearing up for another minimum wage notification.

Fibre2fashion spoke to Ms. Suhasini Singh, Programme Director, Cividep-India, a Bangalore-based NGO which helps workers in garment manufacturing sector unionize and campaigns for workers' rights and corporate accountability, on the issue.

Analyzing the reason for wages in the garment sector being low in Karnataka, she says, “The primary reason is that there is no freedom of association in the garment industry. Any attempt of workers to unionize themselves inside the factory is curtailed with threats or workers are harassed at the shop floor. Since there are no factory level unions, workers cannot put forth their demand of increasing wages the way it should have been done had a union been present inside the factory.”

“Secondly, there is a strong lobby of garment manufacturers in Bangalore. The last time when the minimum wage of Karnataka was revised in 2009, it was done after a gap of seven years. This was because every time a committee would be set up to discuss minimum wage, the manufacturer's lobby would get a legal stay on the matter,” she adds.

Elaborating the crucial role of labour unions in minimum wage and other matters, she avers, “Labour or workers unions can play a critical role in increasing the wages of workers in the garment industry. Unionized workforce has a louder voice and carries greater weight while communicating their demands. Unions can bargain for a higher wage with their factories and enter into a collective bargaining agreement on it. Moreover, if the workers demands are met then the factory management can also be assured of a steady and dedicated workforce throughout the year. It can be a win-win situation for both the parties.”

Informing about the steps being taken to increase the minimum wage for apparel sector workers in Karnataka, shereveals, “Workers are being mobilized to demand for higher wages in Bangalore. Reports published by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) on wages by paid to garment workers in Bangalore made a lot of news last year. We will keep up the pressure through meetings and campaigns.”

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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