By Abhimanyu Singh for Youth Ki Awaaz:
With denial of rights of workers becoming daily headlines these days, a protest demonstration demanding the payment of minimum wage for garment factory workers in Udyog Vihar, a textile hub, was held on Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Gurugram, Haryana.
The demonstration, which covered other issues as well, was organised by the Garment and Allied Workers Union (GAWU) and it was supported by other trade unions like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) backed Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
The Haryana government had issued a notification last year regarding an increase in minimum wage, raising it to Rs. 7,600 for unskilled labour, and more for other categories. However, the implementation of the same is still patchy, as a YKA investigation found out earlier this year. Moreover, the companies have allowed contractors to hire workers and pay them which is a bone of contention as many allege – especially the daily wage earners – that they are paid less than their due, apart from being fired on a whim. Hence, GAWU and other unions want that this practice should be discontinued.
These two demands were included in the memorandum that GAWU submitted to the senior officials in the labour department of the city, following the protest demonstration.
The demonstration was led by Ananya Bhattacharya, president of GAWU. She explained that the rally was held without prior notice to the police – the venue and date were revealed to journalists only the night before the event – as they were simply not allowing any protests to take place in the area off late. “I have received texts at midnight asking for protest demonstrations to be cancelled,” Bhattacharya told YKA which too received an email about the protest just the night before. Bhattacharya added that a lack of dialogue between the authorities and the public gave rise to a “dangerous situation”.
Garment factories do not have any unions working actively at present, except GAWU, she said.
Highlighting the issues faced by workers in forming a union in the garment factories, she pointed out that the management acted vindictively if it came to know of any such activities. This could include “physical violence,” she claimed. YKA spoke to some of the workers who had assembled for the rally and they confirmed that they had come without informing anyone from the management of their companies. They added that they were worried about the management getting to know of their participation in the protest.
The workers were addressed by Satvir Singh, senior leader of the CITU, before they marched to the office of the Additional Labour Commissioner to submit the memorandum. Singh told YKA that initially, it was decided by an advisory group formed by the previous Haryana government that an unskilled worker should be paid Rs. 15,000. However, the government decided to make it Rs. 7,600. “Even that is not being paid to them. Also, the state government has amended three labour legislations recently which will have an adverse effect on workers,” Singh claimed.
Gunjan Singh, a lawyer who takes up cases of garment factory workers, told YKA that at present, the majority of his briefs were about alleged non-payment of dues and unfair termination from service. “Issues of minimum wage are yet to be taken up in large numbers in the courts here,” he said.
To know more, find out How 20,000 Textile Workers In Haryana Are Living A Life Close To Hell: YKA Report.