More than a month ago, a nationwide survey by Apparel Resources (rb.gy/lhnwmn) highlighted that order booking is improving with the apparel exporters. And as per industry feedback, the situation is improving by the day, but what is not improving is the plight of thousands of mid-level professionals of these apparel factories, as they are still forced to work on reduced salaries.
As we all know, the pandemic had created a situation wherein factories were compelled to reduce salaries from around 30 to 50 per cent in April, to survive. The other option of laying off people was even more painful. Now after 6 months, nothing much has changed, leading to uncertainties, as these professionals still don’t have any official information as to when they will get their full salaries. At the same time, they are doing extra work, as colleagues that were laid off have not been recalled.
All this is having a negative impact not only on their financial conditions, but also on their personal lives. “For the spring season, our factory has 10 per cent more orders compared to last year, but mid-level staff is almost 20 per cent less. Unlike last year, we are executing this production without overtime, so one can understand how badly we are engaged in work, but despite that, we received an e-mail from the HR that till further notice, we have to work on 30 per cent less salaries. It’s been more than 4 months now that we are working on lesser salaries,” a GM – Operations of a leading export house in Gurugram shared his plight, on the request of anonymity. He further added that ironically, workers are getting good amount owing to labour shortage, but mid-level professionals like them don’t have any platform where they can even raise their grievances.
Many other professionals experienced the same; the only difference was about the amount of salary cut which is anything from 25 to 50 per cent, depending on the companies.
So, what is the solution? For many professionals, finding a new job is the only way out. However, the reality is that it has not proved beneficial to many, as firstly, there are limited job opportunities, and secondly, professionals who could secure new opportunities find new struggles there also. “I quit my old job, as there was too much pressure and I am now working in another factory, trying my best to deliver, but the salary is still very less. Though I have been promised that once the conditions improve, my salary will be upgraded, but no specific timeline has been given,” said an IE manager, again on the request of anonymity.
It is also pertinent to mention here that the struggles are more with the technical professionals who are associated with the shop floor and are directly responsible for ensuring smooth production, so they can’t work from home. On the other hand, their colleagues in other departments like merchandising and design have little liberty in this regard, making the situation comparatively more acceptable and easier.
Not everything is negative…
It is important to point out that the situation is not the same with all factories, as few professionals also shared that their factories still don’t have enough orders, and hence, are honestly not in a position to pay them full salaries. What’s satisfying with such factories is that they are not exerting undue pressure of their staff, so these professionals don’t have much tension and are more sympathetic to the owners.
There are also a few companies that are very committed to the problems being faced by their staff. These companies have a good working culture and treat their employees as an asset. Though such companies are few, their healthy practices are a huge support to their mid-level professionals. These practices include having a nominal cut of just 10 per cent post the lockdown with commitment that whenever conditions will improve, employees will get back the deducted amount. One of the leading textile conglomerates who is strong in domestic branded apparel as well as apparel export earlier had cut down salaries by 30 to 50 per cent, but has revised that to just 5 to 20 per cent now. And the company’s staff is quite happy with this initiative.
Things are very subjective and vary from company to company; factory owners have to understand and accept that just ‘being opportunists’ will not serve their purpose in the long run. In the new normal, they really have to be sustainable, which is not possible without a dedicated, loyal and result-oriented workforce. The professionals, who are currently suffering without any genuine reason, will change their jobs for sure, and without the good intentions of owners, even new professionals will not be able to deliver, which will lead to this vicious circle to continue to spoil the business.