The final hurdle…of the first race!

We’re now in the last week of this stage of the campaign and it’s a busy one! At the start we aimed to talk to 2000 workers that are being affected by wage theft and get them to sign the workers’ memorandum and inform 2000 members of the public about the problem of wage theft and ask them to sign our online petition. Our aim is to have reached these targets by May Day to present both petitions to the Minister for Labour and Employment.

So far the campaign has been going very well. Over 1500 workers have signed the memorandum and over 1700 members of the public have signed the petition. We have a lot of work to do in the next week but we’re confident we’ll reach our targets.

Here’s some of what supporters of the campaign have been saying:

‘The manufacturers/owners should be ashamed of themselves by putting profit before people & stealing from the poorest (of the poor).’

‘This is total exploitation of an already badly paid work force. Is this how India is becoming one of the worlds wealthiest economies, by treating it’s poor as slave labour ?’

‘Protection of the rights of low paid workers is fundamental to any decent society.’

‘To support grassroots initiatives for global justice and to show support for workers in countries from which we buy goods. Also to promote awareness of where our products come from and the impact of lifestyle choices in the global North on less developed countries.’

We know that achieving workers’ rights in practice is a huge struggle and this one campaign alone cannot fix all the problems in the garment industry. We see this campaign as a starting point from which to build support to continue the struggle in various ways in the future. We are at the final hurdle of our first race but we have many more races to run, so while it’s an end of one phase, we hope it’s also the beginning of a strong movement to support workers in achieving their rights.

Please take a couple of minutes to sign the petition and share it with any of your friends who you think would also like to support the campaign.

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What is wage theft?

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.

 

Namaste!

Welcome to the Vetan Chori Band Karo blog!

Thank you for visiting. This blog was set up to support the Vetan Chori Band Karo (Stop Wage Theft) campaign, which is aiming to stop the theft from garment workers’ wages in Gurgaon in the state of Haryana.

Gurgaon is one of the fast growing industrial hubs in the world where the export oriented garment industry is flourishing with the abundant supply of cheap migrant workers. There exist various labour laws including The Minimum Wage Act 1948, and Payment of Wages Act, 1936 to protect the right of workers with regard to the minimum wages and the regular payment of it. However, unfortunately these laws are often not enforced by the state.

So, this campaign wants to raise awareness about the various forms of wage theft happening in the Gurgaon area and to seek your support for the workers’ struggle to stop the wage theft.

This is a very new blog so please do visit again as we will be putting up more information about the activities of this campaign including:

1. Street theatre which raises awareness among workers about the wage theft and the hardships they face due to the wage theft.

2. A memorandum signed by workers which will be submitted to the Haryana government

3. Documenting workers’ experiences and using this blog as a place to share those with readers

4. A petition for members of the public to sign to support the Vetan Chori Band Karo campaign which will also be submitted to the Haryana government and the Union Government of India