Protests of over 1,300 garment workers of Euro Clothing Company II (ECC II) in Srirangapatna town in Mandya district of Karnataka continued on Monday for the ninth day as the management of the apparel manufacturing unit did not agree to resume operations of the unit after abruptly laying off all its workers on June 6.
Meanwhile, in a second tripartite meeting held on Monday among workers’ union leaders, ECC II management and the district authorities, the management did not agree to the workers’ demand of restarting the unit.
ECC II is one of the units of Gokaldas Exports Ltd, Karnataka’s oldest and giant apparel manufacturer which has been a profit-making entity. In its indefinite lay-offs notice, ECC II management cited the Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty in the market conditions as reasons for reducing its workforce.
As per the workers, most of whom are women, the decision was in violation of the section 25M of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 as the layoffs were made suddenly without informing neither workers nor the state government.
“Most of the workers are the sole breadwinners of their households. It is illegal to suddenly lay off all the workers without even having any dialogue. We have no other option but to continue the protests until the manufacturer gives our jobs back,” said Saniya to NewsClick. She is one of the female workers who lost her job at the unit and has been participating in the sit-in protest along with hundreds of her co-workers.
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.
It is not yet clear why Gokaldas has chosen to shut the ECC II unit among its plants. “For the last two years, ECC II has been mainly manufacturing for H&M (Hennes & Mauritz), world’s second biggest clothing retailer. It is not clear whether H&M has reduced its orders or it is an act of union busting by Gokaldas company,” says Jayaram KS, treasurer of Karnataka-based Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU). GATWU has a membership of over 900 female workers in the unit. According to GATWU, the workers were paid a minimum wage of Rs 8,866 per month.
In a statement, IndustriAll Global Union said that the ‘illegal’ lay-offs is a clear case of union busting. “We commend the courage of the workers fighting for their jobs. We strongly oppose the illegal actions of the management, especially as we see a trend to close unionised factories and retrench union members using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse. We call on ECC management to engage in negotiations with GATWU and on H&M to intervene and fulfill the commitments at our joint global framework agreement,” said IndustriAll General secretary Valter Sanches.
In November 2015, IndustriALL signed a global framework agreement with H&M, protecting the interests of 1.6 million garment workers.
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