The Empire’s New Clothes: Reports from Textile Workers

Reports from textile workers in India in February 2011.

While automobile workers fight mainly within/against the ‘flow’ of a vast production system, garment workers fight with the ‘rushes’ of the market in a more mobile and less ‘mutually integrated’ industry – the form of struggle reflect these conditions.

While struggles in the automobile sector tend to have a higher degree of ‘coordination’, the structure of garment industry forces workers to ‘grasp the instantaneous chance of irruption’. The industrial relations are characterised by enormous pressure on global prices, sudden income of orders followed by slack period, dead-lines which require to make workers work 16 hours or more in order to be met. The big industry can rely on patriarchal family structures, small workshop industry and village systems to produce the necessary skilled tailors – the industry has little costs for training, but the workforce comes with it a certain professional pride. Major companies like Modelama try to undermine the bargaining position by ‘chain systems’ and ‘one-week-free-training’ offers…

Modelama Worker (GAP, Old Navy)

(105, Udyog Vihar Phase 1, Gurgaon)
We have started working yesterday, on 27th of November 2010 at 9 am. Some of the guys are still working now, 28th of November at 4 pm, they will go home at 8 pm… It is ‘urgent shipment’ time and the master said at about 1:30 am last night that ‘crores of Rupees could be lost’. Since three months, after the arrival of a ‘Madam’ [female manager?], the physical and mental torture has eased a bit, but it is still quite a lot. On 27th of November seven women workers were verbally abused nastily and they were kicked out from the factory. On the same day an ‘incharge’ beat a master and swore at a ‘piece leader’ and slapped him. The factory employs 500 female workers, they have to work on Sundays, too. The guys on piece rate work very fast, the company asks the same output from the workers on monthly wages. There is a chain system (several workers work on one piece of garment in division of labour) even for the piece rate workers. Instead of full piece rate (payment for one piece which is the same for all workers), they have part rate (people are paid different rates, e.g. for sewing a collar, a sleeves etc.), which makes it more difficult for workers to link up for higher rates. Management doesn’t count – and pay – all garments you have produced and they pay less than the previously fixed rate. Modelama offers ‘one week of free training’ to new workers every month, with the ‘possibility of later employment’.

Edigear International Worker (Adidas, Reebok, Puma)

(Plot 150 and 189, Sector 4 and Plot 235, Sector 6, IMT Manesar)
We manufacture garments for Adidas, Reebok and Puma. On plot 150 around 300 permanent and 650 workers hired through contractor tailor jackets, track suits and T-Shirts. We work 150 to 180 hours overtime per month. The pay slip shows only 50 hours. Between 22nd of November and 27th of November we worked three days from 9:30 am in the morning till next day 5 am. The same happens on plot 189. On plot 253 around 500 workers do leather work. They used to pay 50 Rs extra when you had to work till next morning 5 am, this has been reduced to 40 Rs. There is a ‘complain box’ near the toilets, a lot of people complained about the 10 Rs cut and put their complain flyer in the box, but nothing happened. The representatives of the buyers arrive once a month, then all three factories are nice and clean.

Kalamkari Worker

(383, Udyog Vihar Phase 2, Gurgaon)
If you arrive five minutes late, they send you back home unpaid. They cut money for ESI and PF from your wages, but even after years of employment you won’t get an ESI card. In the personnel department they always tell you: no time. I was ill and got a holiday application signed by the department manager – in the personnel department they threw the application away and said that there is only one and a half day holiday per month. When they hire you you have to sign 15 papers, but you they won’t give you any document as proof of employment. They say that shift times are from 9 am till 5:30 pm, but actually you work till 9 pm, often till 2 am.

Jyoti Apparels

(158, Udyog Vihar Phase 1)
In the sewing department workers work 120 to 150 hours overtime per month, in the finishing department 200 hours. Paid single rate. Only 25 out of 350 workers get ESI and PF. Currently there is a lack of tailors, so the bosses don’t bother us too much.

Ventage Workers

(Plot 5, Sector 7, IMT Manesar)
The twelve women workers doing thread-cutting get 4,000 to 4,300 Rs for a month of 9 to 10-hours days. The 90 male workers douing stitching work either by hand or by computer work 12-hours shifts. They get 4,800 Rs to 5,200 Rs. Wages are paid delayed, there is no ESI and no PF.

Mac Export Worker

(Plot 143, Udyog Vihar Phase I, Gurgaon)
The helpers are paid 3,600 to 3,800 Rs, no ESI or PF is given. Working-times are from 8 am, to 10 pm. The managers swear at workers, sometimes slap workers.

Chelsea Mills / GAP Worker

(Plot 360, Udyog Vihar Phase IV, Gurgaon)
Shift starts at 9 am and finishes at 9 pm, overtime is paid single rate. Workers get the minimum wage, but it is paid delayed. If you arrive half an hour late they cut 4 hours from your wage. Out of 450 workers only 100 get ESI and PF. GAP is the main buyer of this factory.

S and B Worker

(Plot 669, Udyog Vihar Phase V, Gurgaon)
There are 150 workers employed, out of which only 30 get ESI and PF. We work 70 to 80 hours overtime per month, one to two daily wages get embezzled from overtime.

Bharat Enterprises Worker

(Plot 189, Udyog Vihar Phase I, Gurgaon)
There are 60 permanent and 150 workers hired through contractors manufacturing leather jackets. The helpers are paid 3,300 to 3,500 Rs, the operators 4,000 Rs.

MIC Filter Worker

(Plot 88, Udyog Vihar Phase I, Gurgaon)
There are 500 workers employed in the factory, working 12 hours shifts. The security guards have not received their August and September wages (26th of October). They are employed through Asmat Security.

Eastern Medikit Worker

(Plot 195 – 205, Udyog Vihar Phase I, and Plot 292, Phase II, Gurgaon)
Wages for casual workers are delayed. Over-time payment is less than single rate, between 11 and 16 Rs an hour. September overtime has not been paid yet (26th of October 2010). Without bribe neither permanent nor casual workers get their PF money.