In­dia’s low-paid gar­ment work­ers seek $7.6 mil­lion com­pen­sa­tion

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

On a swel­ter­ing sum­mer morn­ing in the south­ern In­dian city of Chen­nai, a dozen gar­ment work­ers crowd into a small court­room for the lat­est hear­ing in a pro­tracted bat­tle over low wages in fac­to­ries sup­ply­ing global fash­ion brands. The women are among tens of thou­sands of work­ers in Tamil Nadu state - the largest hub in In­dia’s $40 bil­lion-a-year tex­tile and gar­ment in­dus­try - who are seek­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in com­pen­sa­tion fol­low­ing a land­mark court rul­ing last year that de­clared they had long been grossly un­der­paid.

The 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. Squeezed into a cor­ner at the back of the stuffy Chen­nai court­room, a mid­dle-aged woman leans against the blue walls, clutch­ing poly­thene bags full of doc­u­ments to prove her claim.

Nor­mally she spends her days hunched over a sewing ma­chine, stitch­ing skirts, shirts and dresses des­tined for high streets around the world. But for months she has been tak­ing days off work to at­tend court. “I forgo a day’s salary to come for these hear­ings. It may not seem like a big amount, but for us it is hard earned money,” said the 48-year-old seam­stress, who did not wish to be iden­ti­fied fear­ing it would im­pact her case.

“I am only ask­ing for what is right­fully mine. And they won’t even tell me how they are cal­cu­lat­ing my dues.” More than 150 claims have been filed against tai­lor­ing and ex­port gar­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing units in the Chen­nai re­gion alone, ac­cord­ing to data re­quested by the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion un­der the Right to In­for­ma­tion Act. —Reuters

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