Workers’ Rights in the Garment Industry: Challenges and Possibilities

Consultation with Trade Unions and Civil Society Organisations

Friends,

The garment industry in India, especially the export segment, has been growing, contributing significantly to export earnings, the GDP and employment. However, similar to the conditions in other garment exporting countries in the developing world, wages and working conditions in the sector in India too have remained abysmally low. Violations of labour laws and human rights norms are prevalent, but rarely reported or addressed as the workforce has not been organised sufficiently.

Meanwhile, industry associations representing the garment sector, like others in manufacturing, have been demanding liberalization of labour regulations. Demands of the industry, among other things, have been to allow contract labour, permission to employ women workers in night shifts and extension of working hours. It is learnt that the Group of Ministers constituted to study labour laws in the textile industry has submitted its recommendations to the central cabinet.

There is an urgent need for workers’ organisations and those concerned with human rights to come together, assess the implications of the industry’s demands on workers rights and evolve common understanding and strategies to uphold workers’ rights.

The present consultation is an attempt in this direction.

The consultation proposes to focus on:
1. Fair minimum wages to workers and industry’s ability to pay.
2. Strategies for organising workers for collective bargaining.

The consultation is being hosted by the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU), Bangalore, and will be held in Bangalore from the 13 to 15 October 2006. Trade union representatives and human rights activists who are concerned with the issues are cordially invited. Travel and accommodation costs would be borne by the organisers. A detailed programme schedule and other information would be made available to participants in a few days.

Kindly write to K R Jayaram, Vice President, GATWU, to confirm your participation at gatwu@rediffmail.com or by post at 7th floor, Vokkaligara Bhavana, Hudson Circle, Bangalore – 560 027.

For Garment and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU)

Rukmini V. P. Ashim Roy
General Secretary President