All's not smooth and silken for these unfortunate lot

All's not smooth and silken for these unfortunate lot

All's not smooth and silken for these unfortunate lot
The pent up frustrations of the garment workers, who are made to work under deplorable conditions, poured out onto streets of Bengaluru last week. The trade union leaders say that the restrictions imposed on withdrawal of PF was just a last straw or trigger. 

A study revealed the disturbing plight of the garment workers at the workplace.  The fact-finding report ‘Production Torture’, prepared by Garment Mahila Karmikara Munnade in association with several non-governmental organisations, underlined the abuses and their deleterious impact on the workers, thereby suggesting measures for redressal of complaints.

The report consists of 27 interviews and eight Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) of at least 25 workers each. The working conditions at the factory are marked by lack of amenities, resulting in inhumane and hostile working conditions. The study pointed out lack of clean drinking water, clean toilets, absence of proper commute to factory, poor creche facilities, unsatisfactory medical facilities, no communication with family/outside world, substandard safety equipment among others in the garment factories.

The workers are also subjected to both subtle and more tangible forms of mental harassment over a prolonged period of time. It includes extreme pressure to reach the production targets, which sometimes leads to poor quality of the garment stitched. The workers, however, are expected to meet both quantity and quality, failing which they face humiliation and insults from the supervisor, Vinay Sreenivasa of Alternative Law Forum, who was part of the study, said.

The women workers are allowed very few toilet breaks, many reported that if they exceeded two minutes, the managers would ask the security officers to pressure the workers. In order to avoid going to the toilet, the workers have considerably reduced consumption of water, he said.

The report points out that the common form of harassment was to make the worker stand in the presence of supervisor and other garment workers for hours. The women workers have also said that they are being subjected to sexual harassment and made to endure sexually-coloured remarks and jokes, including comments on their appearance, the study stated.

They also have reported financial exploitation and harassment during the interview conducted for the study.

The study has recommended the state government for audit and checks by the brands as well as Labour department and inspection of the facilities. “Constitute ‘Living Wage’ tribunal to curb exploitative financial practices of the management such as extracting unpaid work often beyond the working hours, overtime without compensation,” it pointed out.

The state must upgrade ESI facilities provided for workers by ensuring up-to-date diagnostic treatment facilities and address the fundamental economic issue and create conditions for women workers to make a dignified choice, the report stated.

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