Bengaluru: One year after the workers of garment factories were forced to resign, they are struggling to make their ends meet.
A survey by the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU) and the Alternative Law Forum (ALF) says more than 50 per cent of garment factory workers have been forced to resign since the outbreak of Covid-19. According to the survey report, “Forced Resignation, Stealthy Closures”, more than 5,600 workers of 25 factories in three government clusters in Bengaluru lost their jobs. The survey was conducted in two phases: between September and October 2020, and between January and February 2021.
Ratna, from Channapatna, a former employee of Texport Creations, Kenchanahalli, said she had to stay back in Bengaluru as she didn’t get any alternative job after the factory closed down.
“I have not found a proper job. I worked as a domestic help for a few months, but that didn’t support me financially,” Ratna informed The Observer. “I have been facing a lot of financial issues since I quit the job.”
Texport Creations, which made garments for the GAP and Old Navy brands, informed its workers in March 2020 it was closing the factory for a few days. However, on discovering that machines that were shifted out of the factory a few days after the lockdown, workers got to know that the factory was permanently closing due to recurring losses.
The workers staged a protest after the incident demanding their dues be cleared. The dues were cleared, but they lost their jobs. According to the survey, all the 600 workers of the factory lost their jobs.
The Observer contacted Divya, a worker from Texport Creations who now works at Shahi Exports in Gejjalagere, Mandya district. Nine factories of Shahi Exports have been mentioned in the survey. More than 16,000 employees of the company had to resign or were dismissed.
Divya began working at Shahi Exports about four months ago. “I do not know of closure yet, but two or three people resign every month due to issues in payment,” she shared.
According to the survey, several workers did not know the exact settlement amount or whether they had received the full dues. The workers preferred resigning to being sacked as they would get some money.
Garment workers, who earn Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 a month, do not have any savings. It becomes very difficult for them if they are sacked. So they choose to resign.
Bhavya, a garment industry worker, from SS Fashions, Nelamangala, said: “I didn’t face any issues during the lockdown or now. The PRO is threatening that the factory may be closed and we may be forced to resign due to losses, but nothing has happened yet.”
The survey also points out that forced resignation directly affects the pension a worker can get from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). To avail of a pension, a worker has to work for a minimum of ten years. The workers were forced to resign before they met this criterion.
The Observer tried to contact the industries named in the survey but it couldn’t reach most of them. A management representative of Texport Creations identified himself in the beginning, but when he heard that the call was about the survey, he denied he was from Texport, and said he was from Kolkata. Likewise, a representative of Shahi Exports hung up after The Observer identified itself.
Jayaram K.R., legal adviser of GATWU, said: “The managements are forcing workers to resign by spreading rumours.” They promise the workers various benefits if they resign. The workers fall prey to this and quit. He gave the example of Shalini Creations in Timberyard Layout, which told its workers that due to lack of orders after the lockdown, they would be given leave for two months, for which they will be paid their salaries. But they spread the rumour that the factory was going to close.” Fearing a shutdown, the workers resigned their jobs voluntarily.
The managements are misusing labour laws for this, Jayaram alleged. The old labour laws state that factories with less than 100 employees need not apply for permission from the government before shutting down. The number has been changed to 300 according to the new labour laws. Almost 60 per cent of the factories that closed during and after the lockdown, employed less than 100 workers.