The government unveiled a Rs 6,000-crore special package and the flexible labour norms for the garment industry as it felt its employment potential is hugely undermined; a goal was set to create 1 crore additional jobs in the industry over the next three years
The government’s decision to accord the garment industry a fair degree of labour-market flexibility to win its spurs in the global market has met with strong resistance from trade unions, including the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS). The Cabinet on Wednesday introduced fixed-term (seasonal) employment in the industry, raised the over-time work limits to eight hours a week and made EPF contribution optional for employees earning under Rs 15,000 per month.
“We are totally against these proposals. The proposal to make the EPFO contribution optional for workers is going to make workers’ future uncertain. By doing this, the government has gone against the basic principles behind the EPFO,” said BMS general secretary Vrijesh Upadhaya.
Speaking from Nagpur, where BMS is holding its two-day national office-bearers’ meet, Upadhyay also termed the fixed-term employment proposal “anti-workers” and asserted that BMS would oppose it.
Toeing the same line, CITU general secretary Tapan Sen refuted the government’s argument that the garment industry is seasonal as “bogus”, saying this was just a “plea to introduce the fixed-term employment and facilitate hire and fire of workers as per the convenience of the employers”.
The government unveiled a Rs 6,000 crore special package and the flexible labour norms for the garment industry as it felt its employment potential is hugely undermined; a goal was set to create 1 crore additional jobs in the industry over the next three years. While India’s textile and clothing segment is equipped with rich raw material base and relatively low labour costs, countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam have in recent years outdone it in the global markets.
Among other measures, the government also decided to bear the entire 12% of the employers’ contribution of the EPF scheme for new employees in the garment industry earning less than Rs 15,000 per month for the initial three years. However, unions see this as a move to help the corporates. By making EPF contribution by employees earning less than Rs 15,000/month optional, the government wanted to increase the take-home pay of garment workers.
However, demanding immediate withdrawal of the special package, Sen said the making EPF optional is also indicative of “the government’s persistent attempts to pave the way for demolishing the time-tested social security scheme.”
Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) president G Sanjeeva Reddy said the proposals are aimed at strengthening the hands of the employers to exploit the workers. Through these moves, the government is actually forcing the workers to fight against the establishments.
Staffing firm Teamlease Services’ co-founder and executive vice president Rituparna Chakraborty, however, said, “The move has innovation written all over it and I expect every sector to take cues from it and come forward with similar innovations and reforms which would aid business, which would
Warp & Weft
People employed in the textiles and garments sector
Additional jobs creation over three years targeted