4 August, 2022Around 100 women workers at Brandix India Apparel garment manufacturing unit in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Atchutapuram, fell sick after inhaling poisonous gas.
On 2 August, the women workers complained of difficulties in breathing, suffocation, nausea, coughing and headaches while some of them also fainted before they were hospitalised. The incident took place when more than 4,000 women were working in the factory.
This is not the first time that the poisoning is happening. A similar incident occurred in this factory on 3 June. was taken by Brandix to prevent the recurring of the incident, further exposing the garment workers to another noxious gas leak. According to recent press reports, this time the government has ordered a temporary closure of the manufacturing unit to allow for an inquiry to be carried out.
Most of the women are contract workers who make up the majority of the workforce in SEZs. Since trade union recruitment and organizing in SEZs is restricted, it becomes difficult for workers to speak out against plant owners’ negligence that is threatening their health and safety which is protected by labour laws. Although Brandix’s corporate social responsibility expresses commitment to women’s health, the contrary is happening to the contract workers.
Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL Global Union South Asia regional secretary says:
“It is shocking that such an incident has taken place in the same factory in less than two months. This should have been prevented by the management after the last gas leak. Neither employers nor government departments are concerned about workers’ lives. Trade unions should be given access to SEZs to protect workers’ rights to health and safety at work.”