Garment factory workers' problems discussed

Since August 2009, however, Kala has stopped receiving her salary. She  lamented that she is unable to pay her children's school fees and is finding it hard to run the household expenses.

In a first-of-its-kind, Bangalore chapter of Akhil Bhartiya Janavadi Mahila Sanghatana (ABJMS) held Mahila Adalat, which discussed the exploitation borne by garment company employee as most are women on Saturday.  

Focusing on the issue of Koneka International Pvt Ltd, which has not paid two months' salary to 900 garment workers with women comprising 99 per cent of the workforce, the Adalat invited advocate Hemalatha Mahishi, writer, journalist Dr Vijaya and freelance journalist Karthiayayani Chamraj as judges. Besides serving as a platform for the women employees to voice their concerns, the adalat also attempted in providing solutions to resolve the issue.

"A criminal case has been lodged against the owner of the garment company. However, the employees need to pursue it seriously. It shouldn't get diluted," said Mahishi, adding, "There is provision to arrest the owner and to convict him under Provident Fund and Gratuity Act." She also said that as women made up for a large chunk of workforce, the entire garment industry employees should come together and object to late night and more than eight hours of work, as it amounted to exploitation.

Pointing out the lacuna in one of the government schemes, KN Umesh, general secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), which is supporting the Koneka garment workers, said that they had asked the ESI to provide unemployment allowance to the workers under Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana, since the company has been locked out since November 10, 2009.

Submit letter

“However, a clause in the yojana states that the employee has to submit a letter with the employer's signature to get the allowance. Under the present situation, how is this possible?"  questioned Umesh. 

The adalat concluded with the garment workers deciding to protest in front of Labour Minister's house on January 6 to pressurise the minister to take some action against the garment company owner.

Salaries stopped

Koneka International had stopped giving salaries to its workers since August 2009. On October 7, the garment workers stopped work as they hadn’t received two months’ salary. On November 10, the company owner, who is based in Mumbai, officially decalred lock up of the company. This was prohibited by the government and on December 3, the Labour Commission ordered action against the owner.

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