Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Wage theft in India

In Tamil Nadu state - the largest hub in India's $40 billion-a-year textile and garment industry - tens of thousands of workers are seeking millions of dollars in compensation following a landmark court ruling last year that declared they had long been grossly underpaid. The Chennai/Madras High Court ordered that the garment workers should receive a pay rise of up to 30 percent - the first minimum wage hike for 12 years - and that they could claim arrears going back to 2014. But 12 months on, many factory bosses have failed to pay up. 

Under the 1948 Minimum Wages Act, state governments are required to increase the basic minimum wage every five years to protect workers against exploitation, but textile manufacturers have repeatedly challenged pay rises in Tamil Nadu. Under the 2016 court ruling, Tamil Nadu's garment and textile workers should see their pay rise from a monthly average of 4,500 to 6,500 rupees - which campaigners say is comparable to wages for textile jobs in most other states. But workers say managers have defaulted or delayed on payments since the ruling, with some even introducing pay cuts.Despite the state's minimum wage laws, salaries continue to be "grossly low" for thousands of workers who are still not given pay slips or are often hired only as apprentices, campaigners say. 
"Instead of paying workers their correct salaries, companies are finding ways to surreptitiously squash their rights," said Selvi Palani, a lawyer helping workers' unions fight their cases. "There is a court order but the money is not on the table. Workers continue to be underpaid."  

Sujata Mody of Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam, a women workers' union, said some companies that had raised wages were now docking pay for sick days, and for factory meals and shuttle buses which were previously free, meaning many workers had seen little or no change in pay. Some factories were also firing more expensive workers on trivial grounds, she added. "The workers are struggling to be heard and the managements are coming up with new forms to deduct their income," Mody said.

End employer exploitation, contact:

The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

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