The new Chief Minister, who claimed his government will pre-empt protests with talks, seems to be facing several challenges already. It’s not just farmers who are disgruntled, so are garment workers.
Garment workers are all set to launch an agitation demanding that the new government implement the revision of minimum wages that the Siddaramaiah-led government attempted by issuing a draft notification in February 2018, but withdrew in March 2018. The industry employs around 4.5 lakh people in the State, mostly women, with nearly 3.5 lakh workers in Bengaluru alone.
The Labour Department issued a draft notification on Feb. 22, 2018, proposing to double minimum wages in the tailoring industry. The wages were proposed to be revised to ?445 a day for an unskilled worker in the tailoring industry in Bengaluru, more than double what is presently paid at ?220 a day. The highest wages proposed was for highly skilled workers in Bengaluru at ?593/day and the least for unskilled workers in taluks and panchayats at ?385/day.
But the garment workers’ hopes were dashed when the Labour Department issued an order withdrawing the draft notification. The department said the industry management objected to the revision on the grounds that minimum wages in Karnataka were higher than in other States and it would have an adverse impact on an industry that is already facing tough international competition.
“This is a false argument. Minimum wages in China, which dominates the garments industry across the world, pays almost double the wages paid here. Industrialists have held up minimum wage revisions earlier as well,” said K.R. Jayaram, secretary, Garments and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU). The last revision in 2009 was implemented in 2014 only after labour unions won a case in the High Court.
But the justification for the withdrawal of the draft notification was that it was to ensure pay parity between the tailoring industry, spinning mill industry, silk industry, and dyeing and printing industry. A tripartite committee of the government, industry, and labour unions has also been formed to ensure pay parity. A copy of the order is available with The Hindu.
GATWU argues this is only a fig leaf and a deliberate obfuscation of facts by the government.
“The same Labour Department had even issued final notification revising minimum wages for spinning mill, silk and dyeing, and printing industries on December 30, 2017, and the new wages that have come into force are exactly the same as proposed in the draft notification for tailoring industry. Pay parity will be achieved if wages are revised for tailoring industry as well,” said Pratibha R., president, GATWU.
“We demand that the new government scrap the Labour Department’s order withdrawing the draft notification and implement the revised wages with immediate effect. If they don’t, we will hold a large agitation in Mandya on June 12,” Ms. Pratibha said.