People are losing their jobs because of the pandemic and that has dropped our economy to a new low.
On June 6, nearly 1,300 garment workers were informed that effective immediately, they no longer had any jobs as the factory was shutting down.
Since then, every day for over two weeks, Pavithra, former worker, has been walking 10 kilometres from her home to the premises of the Euro Clothing Company in Srirangapatna, Karnataka. There she joins hundreds of women garment workers to demand their jobs back!
Pavithra, a 28-year-old mother of two, who nearly spent a decade working at the factory commented that:
It takes me an hour-and-a-half to walk to the factory every day but I still go. It’s a question of life and death. I have to feed my children and mother. We just want the factory open, and we want our jobs back.
A trade union leader shared that in 2019, around 70-80% of the production in the Srirangpatna unit was only for H&M. Even in 2020, they have been the only client so far along with a few small brands.
Garment workers at H&M supplier factory Euro Clothing in Bangalore, India protest the factory closing after H&M cancelled orders and refused to pay for work done. pic.twitter.com/aqJmTnUsu8— jeffhermanson (@jeffhermanson) June 22, 2020
Ever since the video of women protesting for their jobs surfaced on twitter, people have been questioning H&M for allegedly refusing to pay for the work that was done.
Is this true? @hm shameful treatment of your workers!— ronnie neilson (@ronnieneilson) June 22, 2020
Is this true, @hm, @hmunitedkingdom? Are you refusing to pay workers in Bangalore for work already completed?— LGSM (@LGSMpride) June 23, 2020
Do you have a response @hm ?— lynn bhalla (@lynnroylesmith) June 23, 2020
When questioned, H&M replied saying
The drop in customer demand due to COVID-19 will inevitably impact suppliers, however we are placing orders with this supplier and we fully stand by our responsible purchasing practices. We are in dialogue with the supplier and the trade unions to resolve the conflict peacefully.— H&M Customer Service (@hm_custserv) June 22, 2020
Three weeks have passed during which four reconciliation meetings have taken place between the management of ECC II, a unit of Gokaldas Exporters, the state labour department and the garment workers but it hasn’t helped in any way.
Prathibha R, president of the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU) stated that:
In all our meetings, they are not using the word ‘layoff’, they keep saying that there are no new orders. Under the Industrial Disputes Act, layoffs can only be for 45 days. Moreover, it must be preceded by notice to workers and government permission.
Mahadevamma who has been working at the factory since it was first set up 10 years ago commented that:
There were rumours that there would be layoffs. We started doubting when they started removing the machines a few days before. We asked the HR also, he said there is nothing to worry about.
Several garment workers even shared that the company representatives turned up at their homes, called them at odd hours to resign and stop protesting.
The management wants us to resign. They don’t want to compromise. They have called people at midnight to ask them to resign. They have also gone to people’s homes and asked them to quit.
The pandemic has not only pushed us to stay at home but also affected people’s lives in the worst possible manner!