Two big ready-made clothing exporters, Gokaldas Exports Ltd and Texport Overseas, seem unperturbed about reports of investigations by Britain’s major high street retailers into allegations that factory workers who make their clothes here are paid a pittance but forced to work overtime.
Primark, the UK’s second biggest clothing retailer, and Mothercare, reportedly ordered inquiries into the pay and workplace conditions of employees in these two export houses which supply several high-profile UK and US fashion brands. The investigations follow a report in The Guardian that these firms were not paying their workers in consonance with the minimum international labour standards.
According to Rajendra Hinduja, MD, Gokaldas Exports Ltd, the wages for all employees of the readymade garment industry were set by the Karnataka government on the recommendations of the wage board for the industry. These wages are set according to four geographical divisions — urban, semi-urban, rural and backward regions. “In the state capital, the minimum wage at entry level is Rs 95 a day (Rs 2,850 a month) for an eight-hour shift. In addition, the employees are entitled to free health checks, provident fund, a month’s salary as bonus and a month’s annual leave. Employees with experience or with skills (trained tailors) get twice as much as those at the entry level (helper). We don’t have wages to match the cost of living index,” he told HT.
On the incident of a woman ending her life in February 2007 inside Triangle Apparels, a factory owned by Gokaldas Exports Ltd, he said she was an employee for only 19 days and committed suicide because of domestic differences, a fact confirmed by the trade union. On the incident of Rathnamma, a helper, having a miscarriage on March 29, he said it happened because she wasn’t careful enough. “She came back after a three-month medical leave and continues to be on our rolls,” he said. He denied that securitymen patrol toilets to coerce women employees to get back to work.