On 10th March 2018, garment workers from Peenya Industrial Area came together to stand up against sexual violence at the workplace, to mark International Women’s Day. Garment workers wore black, formed a human chain and silently protested. This is in line with the global Women in Black anti-war women’s movement that began in the 1950s in Palestine and Israel.
The event was held from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm, in two places, namely NTTF Circle, Peenya 2nd Stage, Bangalore and near Mereena Creations garment factory, 100 ft Road, Laggere Cross, Bangalore. Around 300 to 350 garment workers and public gathered in each place.
Women from the Garment Labour Union interacted with the garment factory workers and focused on raising awareness around the issues of low pay (way below a living wage), work pressure and harassments, sexual harassment, domestic and mental health problems, health and safety, poor creche facilities and lack of freedom of association.
The event helped in enabling women garment workers to send across a strong message to the managements of garment factories that their movement to demand and access rights and entitlements will only get stronger. A network of garment worker leaders from across the factories was created and this will aid in resolving the workers’ issues.
“We are here today to send a across a strong message that the garment factory managements, brands and the government can no more push the issues faced by the garment workers under the carpet. There are around 5 lakh garment workers in Bangalore and surrounding districts and this society’s section cannot be ignored by the government. The existing laws should be enforced, and companies must have much more transparency in the way they deal with the garment workers”, said Rukmini, member and President of the Garment Labour Union (GLU).
Saroja, also a member and General Secretary of GLU said, “Companies continuously say that they get no complaints from workers. Does this mean that garment workers, especially women, don’t face issues? Absolutely not! We know of so many women who are not able to speak up about the harassments they face at work place because of stigma and discrimination from the factory managements, community and even from their homes. They have very little awareness about their rights. Experience suggests that the brands, though aware about the workers’ sufferings, use the garb of ‘ignorance’ to maintain friendly business relationship with the factory managements”.
- Minimum wages should be increased to 18000
- Functional ICC committee should be established in the factories
- Sexual harassment complaints should be taken seriously and action should be taken immediately
- Workers who are also union leaders should not be targeted for being active in the union activities and freedom of association should not be violated. Immediately when a union is formed in the factory, Within 40 days the union should be registered through the labour department.