The workers of the garment industry across the state are languishing without income during the lockdown period. The requests of the Prime minister and Chief minister to the companies have not ensured any relief from the companies. The garment workers are covered under the Factories Act and hence are ineligible to get the cash relief of the state government. The workers, including a large number of migrant workers, are depending on the rations provided by the trade unions and other individual donors.
The condition of tailors and small scale tailor shop owners are no better. The delay in disbursal of the relief even after several weeks of announcement bothers the registered workers of the welfare board.
NO RELIEF FROM COMPANIES
The district secretary of Tirupur District Banian Workers’ Union G Sampath said, “The chief minister and prime minister appealed to the companies to provide salary to the workers during the lockdown period. But, to our knowledge no worker has received any relief from the companies they work for. Only a handful of companies have provided advance salary to the workers, which would be deducted once the lockdown ends”.
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The Manufacturers’ Association in a meeting held by the district collector of Tirupur informed them of their inability to pay the wages for their workers. The multiple workers union representatives present during the meeting demanded the wages to be paid to the workers, but to no avail.
TRADE UNIONS SAVE MIGRANT WORKERS
The chief minister claimed that the number of migrant workers in the state was 1.5 lakh in a media briefing before correcting it to two lakh. But, the leaders of the trade unions claim that around two lakh migrant workers are stranded in Tirupur itself. “The state government doesn't have any framed policy to maintain the details of the migrant workers. In Tirupur district alone, there are around two lakh migrant workers in the textile and other industries. The relief measures announced by the state government is highly insufficient considering the pathetic data they have,” Sampath added.
The distribution of ration through the Public Distribution Shops (PDS) has been a story of failure. The government had announced 15 kg rice, 1 kg each of dal and cooking oil for each family of migrant worker. But, in reality the families of migrant workers have received a maximum of 2 kg rice and 250 grams of dal by April 4. These workers have been fed by the trade unions and volunteer groups for the past two weeks.
RELIEF DELAY WORRY WORKERS
The status of several tailoring workers registered with the Tamil Nadu Tailoring Workers Welfare Board continues to be pathetic. The distribution of relief measures to the tune of Rs 2,000 has not even begun. The Chief minister announced this relief in two terms during the lockdown period. There are around 4 lakh workers registered (as per 2009 data) with the welfare board in the state.
“The labour department has not even distributed the Rs 1,000 relief announced initially. The workers will be left to starve if the minimal relief measures are not distributed at the earliest. The delay in distributing the relief is a huge worry for the workers,” said Ida Helen, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Tailoring Workers’ Union.
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The cooperative workers of 79 societies involved in stitching free uniforms for the government school students have not even received their wages so far. These 80,000 workers are not members of the welfare boards, which makes them ineligible for the relief.
PENSION PENDING FOR MONTHS
The workers above the age of 60 are not eligible for the cash relief of Rs 2,000 as they are considered retired workers. Even worse, these workers have not been paid the retirement benefit for the past five months.
“The government is literally trying to stop the funds for the welfare boards of late. Such activity has ended in the suspension of pension for the workers above 60 years. These workers are unable to meet their daily needs as the government policies work against them. The government should ensure the workers of all sections are provided with cash reliefs and rations without any delay,” added Ida.
Such details on huge shortcomings of the state government on implementing the relief measures are popping out everyday. The tall claims of implementation of the relief measures are being repeatedly proved wrong. Amid this state apathy, different trade unions and civil society organisations have stepped in and are distributing relief measures to the workers and migrant labourers to prevent them from starving.