Step Across the Border: Lakhani Workers in Faridabad and in Uttaranchal

Reports from Indian garment workers on their conditions, February 2011.

Submitted by Steven. on March 8, 2011

We translated reports from Lakhani workers in Faridabad and Uttaranchal – a state further north of Delhi/Haryana. Lakhani is a major company engaged in garments, plastic and rubber manufacturing – from sandals, shoes (AllStars, Puma, Adidas) to car parts. Lakhani has recently opened factories in Uttaranchal, in addition to the long-time established and often conflict ridden factories in Faridabad. In some cases a division of labour and mutual dependency has been created between the two industrial centres. The reports from Uttranchal are translated from the Marxist-Leninist journal Nagrik.

Lakhani Apparels Worker

(Plot 136-b, Sector 24, Faridabad)
After July wages had not been paid by 20th of August workers stopped working. After four hours the production manager said that wages will arrive tomorrow, so people should go back to work. We started working… the July wages were paid on 2nd to 5th of September, but the August wages were not paid. Now 350 workers are left, about 400 to 500 workers have left the job. We manufacture garments, amongst others for Motherhood and Global. Up until July there was a lot of work. The daily working-times were from 9:30 am till 1 am, they often made you work till 4 am. They give you vouchers for the canteen, but the food is of low quality and won’t fill your stomach. When they force you to work Sundays, it is shown as worked on saturdays. Those workers directly hired by the company get the minimum wage. The other workers work on piece rate and/or a paid by one of the four contractors: 3,000 to 3,500 Rs per month, no ESI, no PF. The permanents are supposed to get PF, but when they leave the job they find that no money has been put into the fund. Once the buyers come, the factory is clean and workers get masks and so on.

Lakhani Footwear (Adidas, All Star)

(Plot 130, Sector 24, Faridabad)
There is one line manufacturing for Adidas, one for AllStar and two for Lakhani Shoes. At the Adidas line 500 pairs of shoes are manufactured per shift, once a representative of Adidas arrives the number is reduced to 250 pairs – they want to show how much they care for quality. The same happens at the AllStar line: normally 800 pairs, during visits 400 pairs. At the Lakhani line things are different, one line churns out 2,400 pairs per shift. While there are stools to sit at the Adidas and AllStar line, there aren’t any at Lakhani line. No time for toilet, the feet swell up. Once a representative of the buyers comes, management hands out ear plugs, masks, aprons, gloves etc., but they take it back once the visitor has left. The lines are right next to each other, but the buyer’s representatives won’t even look at the Lakhani line. When the inflation compensation of 134 Rs had to be paid according to law, they immediately increased the price for tea in the canteen, from 2 to 3 Rs. Money is cut for ESI and PF, but the 1,400 casual workers don’t get an ESI card.

Lakhani India Worker (Puma)

(Plot 265, Sector 24, Faridabad)
We worked 150 to 200 hours overtime in May, we received the payment as late as October. June and July over-time was not paid – no money. They say that overtime is paid one and a half-rate, but actually people get only 25 or 27 Rs per hour. For three months there were less orders, there was less work here. Now work has started again, amongst others for Puma. The company demands over-time from us, but we say that they should pay the outstanding wages first – we refuse to work overtime. They also did not pay the July inflation compensation of 134 Rs. In this factory 1,500 male and 1,500 female workers manufacture sandals and shoes.

Lakhani Factory -, Haridva Sidkul, Uttranchal

(from: Nagrik, 16 – 31 December 2010)
The Lakhani Vardan Group runs three factories in Haridvar Sidkul, Sector 4, Plot 20, 21, and 22. The first plant runs under the name of Lakhani India Ltd. In this plant shoes are manufactured, amongst others, for Puma, Canvass and Woodland . The second plant runs under the name of Lakhani Auto Privat Ltd. In this factory soles for shoes are manufactured. The third plant runs under the name of Lakhani Detergent and Soap. The Lakhani Vardan Group has started production in Haridvar in 2005. The following report concerns the Lakhani Auto factory.
The hall is 130 feet long and 120 feet wide. Currently they use three lines (conveyor belts), one chiller machine, three – four different kinds of grinders, in total about 22 to 24 machines. various chemicals are used for raw materials to produce the layer, the mid and the sole – and to glue them together. The material comes from Lakhani’s main plant in Faridabad. As a first work-step the layer and the mid are roughened with the buffing machine and the sole is worked with a hand-grinder. The chemicals 5050 / 6316 RC, Hardener ARF, 948/24 B, P-300 are used to clean and roughly glue the different layers, which are then put on the conveyor belt. On the lines the three layer, mid and sole are put together and proceed to the heater, the press and the chiller. Around 50 workers are employed for this stage of production. The finished pieces are then put into size-frames and the outlines are marked. The soles then process to the side-grinding machine, the quality check and the packing station, where a pair of soles is put into a plastic bag. Around 15 to 20 workers perform this work-step. At the three lines workers manufacture between 1,400 and 1,700 pair of soles per day, the final side grinding machine has a capacity of 1,500 soles per day. The production costs for these soles are about 125 Rs per paid, the 5 Rs wage costs are included. Lakhani India Ltd. pays about 150 Rs per pair.
For a six-days week the workers receive a monthly wage of 3,632 Rs plus 300 Rs incentive bonus. Out of the 70 workers working in the plant no worker is employed as an operator, all are employed and paid as helpers, although actually they operate machines. The main problem for the workers is the fact that the chemicals stick to the hands and clothes of the line workers. The clothes are destroyed and workers develop allergies. The gases trouble lungs and eyes. The halls are filled with rubber dust, floating in the air like fog. The company issues no masks. If people complain they are threatened with dismissal, some workers who talked about these problems were forced to sign their ‘own’ notice letter. The wages tend to be paid delayed. Because of this workers have engaged in sudden stoppage of work several times.
The sole production has started this year in April. Before that Lakhani had produced auto parts in this plant, but the production has been shifted to Faridabad. Only 25 to 30 workers in the plant have worked there for more than six month, about 15 to 20 for four months and the rest for less time. Most workers are from Bijnour and Shahjahanpur. The workers are not issued the obligatory company documents (work contract, company ID) or ESI cards. Although half of the workforce are women, the management does not provide the obligatory facilities (separate restroom, toilets, health care, creche for children). The canteen is only called canteen, no food is provided, it is only a place to sit. There is a guest house provided for management.