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Bengaluru: Survey finds over 50% workforce in garment sector was asked to resign during lockdown

The Garment and Textiles Workers’ Union and Alternative Law Forum, citing the study, urged the Labour Department to inspect the factories and examine the resignations.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru |
Updated: March 23, 2021 8:05:02 am
Workers at 17 of the 25 garment factories surveyed had been asked to resign by the company. (Representational)

In yet another tale of job loss owing to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, a survey conducted among workers of garment factories in Bengaluru have estimated that over half of the workforce suffered from “forced resignations”.

According to a survey conducted by Garment and Textiles Workers’ Union (GATWU) and Alternative Law Forum (ALF) in 25 garment factories in and around the Karnataka capital, an estimated “50 to 62 per cent of the workforce” were forced to resign in 2020. Researchers indicated that at least 30,000 workers were employed in the 25 factories picked for the study titled “Forced Resignations, Stealthy Closures”.

The study noted that workers at 17 out of the 25 factories had been asked to resign by the company and found various “coercive situations constructed by factory managements” which left workers with no choice but to quit. Some of them included telling workers they would be deprived of a final settlement if they hadn’t resigned when the factory was shutting down, stopping bus transport provided to them, and promising workers of re-employment once the situation stabilises.

While 81 per cent of the respondents said they had resigned, others were protesting the closure or were yet to resign. Among those who had resigned, 85 per cent admitted that they did so on being asked by the factory managements. “They (garment workers) resigned out of fear that they will lose their dues if they did not tender resignations,” the study revealed.

Impact on household incomes, consumption

The study also found that such resignations directly impacted household incomes which then affected nutrition and even education of children to an extent. “Workers reportedly primarily cut down on meat, vegetables, fruits, snacks, and beverages such as tea and coffee. In some cases, the number of meals were cut from thrice to twice or even once a day,” it highlighted.

Certain workers, further admitted that they had to shift their children from private to government schools in the city of at their native village. “In some cases, workers reported enrolling one child in school while leaving the other out of school or college for this academic year,” the survey report mentioned.

‘Labour dept must undertake factory inspections’

Earlier last week, Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar said that over one lakh women were not able to re-join work at garment factories. He specified that 983 garment factories were functioning last year and 2,86,747 women employees were working in those. “This year almost over 1 lakh women have not been able to join duty yet as many garment factories have not opened yet, after the coronavirus pandemic,” he told the Karnataka Assembly.

“But the question is when such a large number of women workers losing employment during the pandemic, did they get legally mandated compensation? Has the labour department kept track and ensured workers got their compensation?” GATWU and ALF said in a joint statement.

Citing the findings of the study, they urged the Labour Department to inspect the factories and examine the resignations. “The state government must consider issuing zero-interest housing loans to workers… The Women’s Commission must undertake a baseline study of the state of nutrition and health among garment workers and suggest interventions necessary within existing public food and healthcare delivery systems,” it added.

The survey was conducted in two phases between September and October 2020, and January and February 2021. While 89 workers were interviewed for the first phase, 65 workers responded to the second phase, the team behind the survey clarified.

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