for building a democratic labour movement in India
Report of the Survey of Working Conditions of Garment Workers
The survey on working conditions of garment workers in Noida and Okhala Industrial area was conducted from September 2011 to March 2012. Workers of following four factories were interviewed at the gate of factories:
1. A, Noida PhaseII (total strength about 1000 workers)
2. B.Okhla Industrial Area,Phase-2, New Delhi-110020 (total strength about 400 workers)
3. C. Sector-8, Noida. (total strength 200 workers)
4. D. Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-2,New Delhi-110020 (total strength 750 workers)
Finding of the survey
Majority of the workers were migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and west Bengal. Females represented less than 25 % workers and mainly engaged in Finishing—including checking, dhaga cutting, press and washing etc. and some were engaged in sampling and stitching. Age of workers ranged between 17 years to 35 years. All elder workers aged more than 22 years had experience of working in more than two factories. According to workers, those who cross the age of about 45 years have only rare chance of getting job in garment factories.
Only about 2-10% workers in the factories were reported to be regular company workers and the rest were engaged through contractors on contractual basis. The workers were hired and fired frequently. In two companies the workers also reported a practice of sending large number of workers on leave without pay for a longer period (15 days to more than a month)in off seasons when there is no enough work orders. Generally it happens in two seasons-Feb-April and Aug-oct. But time periods are not fixed, it may happen any time when there are not enough work orders.
The workers in general are not provided with any employment letter or salary slips and therefore they are not in a position to prove the employment relationship. This is why the workers are also never able to claim their provident fund. In all the four companies, the contract workers reported that the PF and ESI contribution is deducted from their salary but they are never informed about their PF account number and never provided with the ESI card. Therefore when they are never able to avail the benefits of ESI; and when they are thrown out they are never able to claim their PF. Therefore the PF contribution deducted from their salary is lost.
According to workers, the management never legally retrenches the workers. Even if workers are thrown out on the ground of indiscipline, the management compels them to submit resignation letter. Without submitting resignation letter, their accounts are not settled. By this strategy, on the one hand, the management never takes blame of throwing out workers on its head; and on the other hand, it safely denies paying any retrenchment compensation (notice pay) to the workers.
Workers reported that particularly in seasons work targets for both piece rated and salaried workers are heavy and many times impossible to achieve. The workers face both mental and physical harassments. They have to take permissions for going to toilets and supervisors use abusive language.
In all the four factories the workers reported that overtime working is compulsory. In seasons, the overtime period may range from few hours to whole one shift. In one of the factories in Okhla, the workers reported that they worked two shifts continuously that day. According to workers, According to workers, generally, whenever, there are enough orders, factories run daily from 9.30 am to 9pm in the night. Factories many times also run on Sudays-9.30am to 4pm and the working hours are counted as overtime. Therefore, actually there is no weekly off in seasons.
Going on leave in seasons (even on Sundays) is treated as indiscipline and many times this becomes a reason for throwing out a worker. As per rules, the workers can take few days paid leaves but whether they will get the permission for leaves, depends on the work load in the factory. One worker reported that once his son was ill and even then he was denied leave.
Many workers reported that they frequently suffer from muscle pains, posture related problems. Majority of workers need to work in standing position and this creates problems of body pains, leg pains. Women particularly face serious posture related health problems.
The workers of all the four factories told that there were three categories of workers: skilled, semiskilled and unskilled. According to them, the workers directly engaged through company were getting monthly minimum wage rates fixed by the government, and the workers engaged through contractors were getting daily minimum wage rates i.e. they were not getting any payment for weekly offs or any other holidays.
The overtime payment is made only at the rate of single hourly wages and not at the premium rate (double wages). Overtime payment is recorded on a separate sheet and paid in cash to workers. It is never entered in the salary slip.
Main problem regarding the wages is that the minimum wage has become the maximum wage. Many workers in the company are having experience of 5-10 years in the garment industry (not in the same company), but they are getting only the minimum wage rates.
5. Trade Unions
There were no organization of workers in any of these companies. The workers having experience of working in more than two companies reported that wherever they worked in both the industrial areas, there were no unions in any of the companies.
However, there were some unions working in the garment sector like Garment Workers union affiliated with AITUC. But all such unions are registered as industry unions and they have no affiliated shop floor unions. These unions have members from different garment factories. Generally when the garment workers are illegally thrown out and denied legal benefits, they approach these unions and then these unions make them their members and pursue their cases in labour court and some times also organize demonstration for bargaining with management.