Karnataka: 2nd Day of Garment Workers’ Protest as Gokaldas Exports Sticks to Decision of 1300 Lay-offs
Gokaldas Exports Ltd, Karnataka’s oldest apparels manufacturer company, shut one of its plants in Srirangapatna town in Mandya district of Karnataka on June 6 evening, abruptly laying off nearly 1300 workers, majority of whom are women. The workers' protest demonstrations entered the second day in front of Euro Clothing Company II (ECC II), as the company management did not agree to take back its shutdown notice in the negotiations with workers’ unions and state labour department authorities on Monday.
In its indefinite lay-offs notice, the company cited the Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty in the market conditions as reasons for reducing its workforce.
Gokaldas Exports Ltd has been a profit-making company and the sudden lay-offs are illegal as per Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, says Jayaram, treasurer of Karnataka-based Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU). “During the negotiations, the management was not even ready to listen to the workers’ demand. Whereas, the state authorities have told the workers that proper legal action will be taken against the company,” said Jayaram while speaking to NewsClick. He added that the female workers will protest day and night against the illegal lay-offs.
GATWU has about 900 workers in ECC II as its members. The union has raised suspicions with the management and Labour Commission when the machinery and finished products from the plant were moved from the plant during last week. According to the union, the workers were paid a minimum wage of Rs 8,866 per month.
Gokaldas Exports Ltd has over 20 garment manufacturing units in Karnataka and has reported its total income to be Rs 330.06 crore and a net profit of Rs 11.33 crore during financial year 2018-19.
New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) alleges that H&M, world’s second biggest clothing retailer, has reduced its orders that prompted the lay-offs. “H&M is the only MNC for which ECC-2 has been manufacturing in 2020. In 2019, ECC-2 manufactured almost 90% production for H&M. Therefore, H&M was clearly aware that they were reducing orders leading to the shutting down of the factory,” noted Gautam Mody, general secretary, NTUI.
The plant workers are demanding that Gokaldas Exports Ltd must immediately resume its operations at ECC II and pay all outstanding wages to the employees.
According to reports, the Covid-19 pandemic and the two-month lockdown has adversely affected workers' garments industry in Karnataka. As per a survey report prepared by the Garments Mahila Karmikara Munnade (GMKM) and the Alternative Law Forum (ALF) in Bengaluru, “63% of workers in garment factories did not receive the April salaries. Of the rest, many were paid 30-50 per cent of their wages, which means they received between Rs 3,500 and Rs 5,000.”
Karnataka has over five lakh workers employed in the garment industry.
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