Vetan chori (wage theft) is a variety of ways in which garment workers are being denied their wages by the companies that they work for.
Many people can sympathise with the Robin Hood ‘stealing from the rich to give to the poor’ ideology, but in Haryana the opposite is happening. Profitable businesses are stealing from their workers’ already very low wages, making the practice even more appalling. The minimum wage for a garment worker in Haryana state is 178.61 Rupees, or about €2.50 per day.
We are calling for the government of Haryana to put an end to this disgraceful practice by enforcing the existing laws to protect workers from wage theft.
Workers have recalled their experiences of wage theft to us and explained the variety of ways in which it happens.
Garment workers are paid according to their work experience. The idea is that as workers gain more experience they move up through the grades and earn a higher wage. However many workers are currently being paid at a lower grade than the grade at which they are working. We are asking for workers to be paid according to grade at which they work.
Women are often paid 300-400 Rupees less per month than their male counterparts, even though they are doing the same work. We are asking for equal remuneration for male and female workers.
Every year workers are supposed to receive two increments in their wages which come into effect from January and July. However many workers have told us about long delays with their increment being implemented and when it is finally implemented no arrears are paid. We are asking for the increment to be paid to workers on time and if there is a delay that workers should receive payment in arrears.
Workers also face illegal deductions from their wages. They are told that this money will be paid into a provident fund and the company is supposed to match what workers pay in. In reality neither of these things happen, making the deductions from workers’ wages illegal. We are asking for an end to this practice and for companies to start matching the payments to the provident fund so that workers can benefit from their social security and medical insurance, as they are entitled to.
Garment workers carry out a lot of overtime work and often this is compulsory. If workers work more than 8 hours a day the overtime should be compensated at a double rate. Currently overtime is being compensated at the single rate. We are asking for overtime to be paid at the double rate.
Workers are supposed to be paid no later than 10th of each month but often payment is delayed until the end of the month. We are asking for workers to be paid their wages on time and to receive a payslip.
Garment workers in Gurgaon are usually not part of trade unions so these illegal practices by companies often go unpunished. We are asking the Haryana government to monitor companies and check that workers are being paid correctly and to implement the laws that already exist in relation to minimum wages.