We document six short reports by garment workers about seemingly spontaneous strikes to enforce higher wages, which took place in April 2010. The strikes have two parallels, one in space, the other in time. The strikes correspond with the more violent and widespread mobilisations of garment workers in Bangladesh and they continue the series of previous strikes during the last official increase of the minimum wage – click Gurgaon Workers News no.9.
The combination of the fact that companies do not passing on the wage hike and the fact of current inflation forces workers to react. One of the limitations of these struggles is the fact that mainly the skilled tailors get involved, while unskilled workers tend to remain outside. The struggles also depend on the enormous ups and downs of work/orders in the international garment industry.
Viva Global Worker / Marks and Spencer Worker
(413 Udyog Vihar Phase III)
The March 2010 wages did not contain the 300 Rs DA statutory since January 2010. The workers did not like that. On 8th of April 2010 600 skilled tailors stopped the machines and struck. On 9th of April the tailors continued the strike and some workers in the finishing and sampling department joint them. On the 10th of April the strike continued… when the management promised that the 300 Rs DA will be paid with the April wages the workers started work at 4 o’clock in the evening. Viva Global manufactures garments, among others, for Marks and Spencer. Non of the 200 workers in the finishing department get ESI or PF. Out of the 600 tailors only 150 get ESI and PF. Workers work 80 to 90 hours overtime per month, but payment is at single rate.
Fortune Garments Worker
(Plot 39, Sector IV, IMT)
The wages are delayed every month. On the 9th of April they told the skilled workers: “We will pay you after the lunch-break, now go back to work.” When wages were not given by 4 pm, the workers stopped the machines and went to the office of the general manager. At 6 pm the place was in chaos, the tables were over-turned, the window-panes broken, the company called the police. The skilled workers were given the March wages on 12th and 15th of April, the other workers were told that money will be given on the 17th of April. Then they said that wages will arrive on the 20th… On the 20th of April, after the meal-break, the workers in the finishing department stopped working, they continued their tool-down on the 21st and were paid a day later on the 22nd of April. The workers doing computer embroidery stopped working at 9 pm on the 24th of April and refused to do overtime on the following Sunday. On Monday the general manager told these workers that they will be paid by 2 pm, that they should go back to work… The workers continued working till 4 pm and then stopped the machines. The computer embroidery department was on strike Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday they gave 20 workers their wages, but the machines continued to stand still. On Thursday the 29th of April, after all workers in the department had been paid, work was re-started at noon. The workers in the knitting department did not stop working – they were paid an advance of 3,000 Rs, but they haven’t seen their March wages by 1st of May 2010. At the moment there is little work, so there are only 600 workers – after August there will be more than 1,000 workers, but none of them will have PF or ESI. I don’t know whether the middle-management and supervisory staff gets ESI and PF. In the factories minors of 13 to 15 years of age are employed. The thread-cutters get 3,500 Rs for a 30-days month, 8-hours day. The drinking water is bad, the toilets are dirty.
Boutique International Worker
(B-246, Okhla Phase I)
Around 200 skilled tailors struck work on 28th of March 2010 in order to enforce the new minimum wage of 6448 Rs instead of the old wage of 4,370 Rs, which was still paid by the company. After management reassured workers about a wage increase, they started work on 29th of March. After the management did not publish a written notice about the wages work was stopped again on 30th of March, the management put up the notice and work started at 11 am. The workers in the second factory on plot D-80 stopped work on 29th of March, because the management did not pay the February DA. Since then the company started to sack the ‘old tailors’ and to hire fresh ones, paying them 5,850 Rs.
(B-61 and B-134 Okhla Phase I)
Around 850 skilled workers in both factories struck work on 20th of March 2010, from 9 am till 9 pm. The next day work stopped again at 10:30 am. Work resumed only after the management put up a notice saying that the 400 permanent tailors will get 248 Rs for an 8-hours day and the 450 casual workers 225 Rs. Then the company started to kick out casual workers and hired new ones, paying them 203 Rs. Workers in the factory have to work from 9 am till 3 am on regular levels. The company used to provide transport for the female workers, but they have stopped the transport.
R.V. International Worker
(D-153, Okhla Phase I)
On 14th of March 2010 about 100 skilled tailors stopped work and demanded 248 Rs for an 8-hours day. So far they were paid 175 Rs and they were promised 225 Rs. After two hours of strike the management agreed to pay 248 Rs. The company started to lay off people – end of April about 30 tailors were left. The thread-cutting and stitching female workers get 2,400 to 2,500 Rs per month.
Orient Fashion Worker
(F-8, Okhla Phase I)
On 15th of March around 900 skilled workers stopped the sewing machines. After one hour of strike the company put up a notice announcing 248 Rs for 8 hours-day.