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Karnataka garment workers demand agreed minimum wage

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19 September, 2019Karnataka government’s long delay in announcing minimum wages triggered massive protests on 12 September at Bengaluru. Hundreds of  thousands of workers have been waiting for the new minimum wage since February last year.

Frustration among garment workers in Karnataka has been growing as a government proposal of minimum wage revision in February in 2018 from Rs 8,346 (US$117) to Rs 12250 (US$ 171) per month was withdrawn within a month after intense lobby from the employers. Since then, there has been no progress and more than 350,000 garment workers, 85 per cent of which are women, are losing money due to the government’s inaction.

Meanwhile, the government has announced minimum wage revisions for 73 scheduled employment, while excluding workers in the garment industry.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary says:

“We are disappointed at the government of Karnataka’s lack of commitment towards the welfare of women garment workers. The government should announce the just revision of minimum wages without delay.”

Prathibha, president of Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU), says:

“Garment workers in Karnataka face enormous hardships. Delaying the wage hike is not the way to promote women empowerment in India.

“Who will compensate our loss after the withdrawn proposal? Delay in implementing wage revision is wage theft and it is pushing workers into poverty. We demand that the government immediately announces and implements the wage revision.”

GATWU is demanding that the government incorporate food and clothing, house rent, electricity and water needs, children’s education, and healthcare in the minimum wage calculation, and that the benchmark of family be raised from three units to five, by including parents as dependents in the family.

According to the union's calculation, workers need at least Rs 24,000 (US$ 336) per month to live a dignified life. GATWU maintains that, until a decent living wage is established, garment workers’ minimum wage should be at least of Rs 11,557 (US$162), which has been provided to other scheduled employment.

Karnataka’s garment industry contributes to about 20 per cent of India’s garment exports. Many of the leading brands, including H&M, Inditex, Walmart, Old Navy, JC Penny, Target, Khols source from the Karnataka garment factories.