Indian apparel industry which is labour intensive as well as largely dependent on the migratory labour from states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha, is again worried as workers are planning to go on a long leave for Deepavali and Chhath Puja. This comes at a time when factories are in rush to complete orders on time for Christmas season. Like Eid in Bangladesh, Deepavali is the biggest festival in India while Chhath Puja majorly belongs to Bihar, home to lakhs of workers who work across India’s garment factories. In most of the apparel manufacturing hubs, a majority of garment factories have announced 3 days’ leave on Deepavali but workers are expected to take leaves for at least 10 days or even more as Deepavali is on 7th November and Chhath Puja will be concluded on 14th November. Apart from workers, some midlevel staff are also eyeing a long vacation.
This vicious circle of leaves and holidays is a routine affair for the Indian garment industry, therefore, various factories have planned well-in-advance for this situation but despite their best planning, things are quite challenging for them. If any worker has to go for a long vacation, he will go at any cost. Financial loss or even fear of losing job can’t stop him. Factories working on piece-rates face much difficult scenario as piece-rate workers have less loyalty compared to factories having workers on the payroll.
In all these different scenarios, various factories have decided to go according to their shipment and production status. Apparel trade bodies are concerned about the same and take some measure to minimize effect. For instance, Tirupur Exporters’ Association (TEA) have sent a circular to its members requesting them to commence the exercise effectively, make the workers to understand the fact, and get the expected cooperation for the well-being of their unit.
As an incentive, some of the factories offer some gifts, ticket booking facilities etc. to their workers so they remain on leave as per their pre-planning. Normally workers take long holidays; more than their pre-approved holidays which spoils the production planning of the factories.
TEA also sent a communication to all Knitwear Stakeholders Association to advice their members that with the cooperation of all, the production can be resumed within two to three days to minimize the loss in productivity.
Executive Committee of TEA elaborately discussed the impact of long leave and expressed the impact on delivery schedule, which will naturally lead to cancellation of orders and will also have a cascading effect on working capital and other financial stress. Raja M Shanmugham, President, TEA shared, “It is a fact that the negative factor for us will be a big advantage for our competing countries at a time when we have been struggling to withstand the onslaught of their competition.
Apparel Resources approached some HR managers and mid-level professionals on this issue and explored their preparations. “As we plan our holidays for the coming year at end of current year, we try to make sure that we should have minimum impact on work. But, it also depends on order booking situation which can’t be estimated well-in-advance. So, we are currently paying overtime to our workers to get the required work. Yes, it is adding to the cost but there is no other way,” shared Ajay Kumar Mishra GM, HR, CTA Apparels, Noida. The company employees nearly 2500 workers in its various factories. He further added that the company is expecting 20 per cent less workers from 6th to 15th November. Some of the HR and production managers are of the opinion that the absenteeism rate can be even higher than 30 per cent. These managers don’t see much of an issue with the middle-level management as they are organize things in a better way.
On the other side, this year there is a little twist due to various reasons. In North India, work has been slow in the last few months while now the situation is slightly picking up. So many workers went to their hometowns earlier and now there are fewer chances that they will go again. Even if they go, it will be not a long vacation. Some workers prefer to celebrate one festival, either Deepavali or Chhath Puja with their families at their hometowns. With the growing trend of celebrating Chhath Puja in North India, some workers do celebrate the festival here with their other close relatives rather than going to hometowns. As per industry estimates, at least 40 per cent workers of the garment factories are migratory and go back once a year to their hometowns during the festival or during the various crop seasons.
Some factories are hardly bothering with this situation as they have minimum orders and don’t have any pressure or rush of work. “Recently we had some layoffs and currently orders are not as they used to be earlier; so, we don’t have any such concern about leaves or holidays on Deepavali,” told a Noida-based exporter who doesn’t want to be quoted.