Monday, October 29, 2007

Needed: A stitch in time

Needed: A stitch in time
The booming garment industry in Bangalore is hailed as the next big thing after IT and BT. But workers have to put up with poor working conditions and could do with better remuneration. Prashanth G N reports

Bangalore: “We are the labourers behind the labels’’ is how a placard describes garment workers. The labels are doing fine, but what about the labourers?
The bylanes of Peenya, Mysore Road and Hosur Road probably host the largest garment industry in Asia, with over 1,000 units. Garments worth Rs 24,000 crore are exported annually, making up about 20% of the national share. There are about 5 lakh workers.
The hands behind the impeccable stitches that make a brand are of the machines right now, in protest. Low wages, absolutely no perks and bad working conditions have demoralised workers in garment units.
What is the scene? Once in the unit, there’s not a second to waste. Thousands of shirts come in on a conveyor belt one after the other. A miss in stitch or wrong stitch means the shirt is removed from the lot and an oral abuse follows.
“The workers are under pressure to maintain the production line continuously. They can’t afford to miss a single stitch.”
In some factories, they can’t take a break for anything, not even for water or other basic needs. Even lunch is very quick. If a target is fixed, then it has to be met even by working late hours. Any break in the continuous flow of garments will invite the wrath of seniors.
In some companies things are tolerable, but in the industry as a whole working conditions are pressure-oriented,” says Jayaram, a professional with 20 years experience in the field. All the workers have to report as soon as the gates open. A delay of even 10 minutes would mean a loss of day’s wages.
The worker can only report back to work the next day. While many women live close to the garment units, hundreds of them come from Srirangapatna, Tumkur, KGF, Nelamangala, Hosur and Doddaballapur by bus and train. Apart from better working conditions, the garment workers are asking for higher wages.
A shirt produced in these units costs up to $23 (Rs 900 roughly). Workers get about 3% of this, ie Rs 25 per shirt.
The workers are asking to be paid at least Rs 35 to Rs 40. This is just 6% of the cost of a shirt sold in the US.
The garment industry — a prime export sector of the state — is yet to bring in order. It’s high time policy makers focussed on improving working conditions and wages, otherwise the industry may die a natural death.
Fabric of garment industry
Garment units are concentrated in Peenya, Mysore Road and Hosur Road; Bangalore has 800 to 1,000 units with 5 lakh workers
10-15% of Bangalore’s population depends on the industry
Bangalore exports garments worth Rs 25,000 crore a year, which is 20% of the national contribution, second only to Delhi, which is 27%
Women workers in garment industry also come from Srirangapatna, Tumkur, KGF, Nelamangala, Hosur and Doddaballapur
Minimum wage in New Delhi is Rs 131, in Tirupur, it’s Rs 141 and in Bangalore, it’s Rs 93.
Roughly 5 lakh shirts are shipped out of Bangalore every 60 days Bangalore-Southeast Asia connection
The connection between Bangalore and South East Asia is not only one of flights in the air, but also grounded alliances. Garment workers from both regions are joining hands for better wages and work conditions. One such meeting has just concluded in China and more are in the offing as the entire manufacture of garments for consumers in Europe and US is now in South and South East Asia. Connections with US universities and consumer groups are already high.


At Monday, October 29, 2007 at 3:48:00 PM GMT+5:30, Blogger Unknown said...

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At Monday, October 29, 2007 at 10:47:00 PM GMT+5:30, Blogger kivina said...

It is very sad to note the conditions in which these people have to work. What do the owners of these garment factories have to say about this. I live in the US. What can I do to bring awareness to American consumers of the conditions in which their clothes are made?


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