Owing to the chaos and turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic across India, much like various other sectors in the country, apparel industry’s lakhs of employees and millions of workers are also facing a tough time. And as the impact of COVID-19 grows continuously, their worries are also increasing, especially for their salaries and wages.
Many corporates across the textile supply chain and leading textile and apparel companies have come forward and announced that they will give full salaries and wages to their entire workforce. On the other hand, a big chunk of the workforce is worried, as they have not received any official or even unofficial information from their companies/HR. In discussion with Apparel Resources, many mid-level professionals of the apparel manufacturing industry confirmed the same. As the lockdown is currently applied from 23rd to 31st March, the major concern for them is whether or not they will they get their due of these 9 days.
The Union Labour and Employment Ministry and various State Governments have recently issued an advisory to all private companies to give salaries and wages to their staff and workers, asking them not to cut salaries or resort to the layoff of their employees. That is, to treat their workers to be on duty and not deduct their wages if they are compelled to sit at home due to the pandemic.
It is also pertinent to mention here that Uttar Pradesh, a state with leading apparel and textile hubs like Noida, Ghaziabad and Kanpur, has announced daily wage workers to get Rs. 1,000 per month as financial aid.
Various trade unions have urged that workers must be sent homes with 15 days of paid leaves, and in order to compensate for the same, the Central Government should come forward to give a complete exemption from GST for 3 months for the industries.
Trident Group, Pratibha Syntex, V-Mart Retail Ltd. and many other such companies have come forward and made positive announcements regarding salaries and wages. Rajinder Gupta, Trident Group Chairman, said, “Trident will take care of 35 thousand families associated with itself. There will be no deduction in salaries or wages during this phase. We shall make arrangements for food also within our factory premises for all females who live alone or have meagre resources.”
The Group says that its self-sustaining eco-system in its core production states Punjab and Madhya Pradesh are fully prepared to combat COVID-19. And it has ensured advanced salary, availability of food and daily essentials at the housing societies.
One of the most respected names in sustainability and a leading vertically integrated company Pratibha Syntex, Indore, (having thousands of workers) has also announced a similar step. “Few days ago, we asked 50 per cent of our staff to work from home, but now as the lockdown has been announced, we have given paid leaves to all our employees,” informed HS Jha, VP of the company. Not only that, the company has also announced to provide medical assistance to their employees and families.
Not only apparel manufacturers, but some of the retailers have also come forward and showed solidarity like V-Mart Retail Ltd. (having overs 110 stores) assured that the salary pay-outs won’t be affected.
“We have implemented work from home for all employees at our head office by leveraging digital business platforms. I encourage all leaders to stay connected virtually with their employees – both towards constant encouragement and support, as well as to check the spread of any unverified communication vis-à-vis the Covid-19,” said Lalit Agarwal, CMD of the company.
On the other hand, thousands of workers who used to work on per piece rate and contract workers through labour contractors (unregistered) will hardly get any benefit during these days of lockdown, as many factories don’t maintain their official record. “Our members will follow all the instructions of the Government. All employees and workers will definitely get their salaries and wages till 31st March,” informed Aseem Singla, General Secretary, Garment Exporters Association of Rajasthan (GEAR).
Talking to Apparel Resources, Raja Shanmugham, President, Tirupur Exporters Association (TEA), said, “It would not be right to expect the unit owners to pay the workers for non-working days. The government should come forward as it collects PF and ESI. Tirupur pays at least Rs. 200 crore every year for these segments. The industry has already devastated. The Government can easily pass on this benefit to the workers by paying one-month wages out of this kitty of earning (PF and ESI).” He further added that this must be advocated nationally.
The companies of the South Indian textile and apparel industry are offering free food to the workers living in their hostels. “Workers are the backbone of our industry and all our members will pay them their dues. This is a difficult time for all, and we are with our staff and workers, be it on payroll or on contract. We urge the Government to take some decision to support the industry,” said Lalit Thukral, President, Noida Apparel Export Cluster (NAEC).