Many workers have lost jobs on quota crisis
The Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union has sought a meeting with Minister of Labour and Manpower Athauda Seneviratne to discuss the economic fallout of the end to global garment quotas.
It said loss of employment has been the biggest setback. Anton Marcus, the union’s Joint Secretary, said that the main discussion so far has focussed on the problems which the apparel industry would face and only minimal attention has been paid to the problems which the workers employed in the sector would face.
“Opinions expressed by the employers in most of the discussions held has been that the abolition of the quota system would open new opportunities for the development of the industry and that it would not pose any serious problems to the industry or the workers employed in it,” he said.
The union recently held a conference to discuss the fallout with the participation of workers who have lost employment due to closure of factories.
In a memorandum to the minister, the union said:
Out of the workers in the factories which were closed down, only female machine operators have received employment in garment factories.In giving employment, employers placed an age limit of 18-25 years, thereby depriving female workers who had served a large number of years in garment factories of employment due to being overage. Due to the policy of taking for employment only machine operators, other workers such as helpers were deprived of employment.
Due to this policy male workers who worked in the factories which were closed, lost the chance of getting re-employment.
As the factories were closed down without any prior notice, the workers were deprived of the opportunity of finding alternative employment or getting trained for other employment.
In most of the factories which were closed down, statutory dues of employees such as EPF and ETF have not been deposited.
On occasions when factories were closed down, employers falsely showed that the workers had been dismissed for disciplinary reasons, to avoid payment of compensation due to them under the Termination of Employment of Employees Act.
For example, transferring to another factory, creating a situation where it is impossible for the workers to go and work there and then serving letters of vacation of post.
Workers are being forced to perform more duties than they have hitherto done.
The number of employees are being kept at a minimum level, and workers forced to maintain the same production targets which were achieved when there was a larger number of workers.
Employers pretend that the abolition of quotas has put the entire apparel industry in a state of crisis, compelling the authorities to exempt the apparel industry from the salary increases granted to other workers in the private sector and the employers thereby resorting to discriminatory action. For example, the budgetary relief allowance of Rs.1000 which was granted to workers in the private sector with effect from August 2005 was paid to workers in the garment sector with effect from January 2006.
The garment workers who participated in this conference submitted the following proposals to minimise the above problems which they are facing:
- Introduce legislature making it necessary to give a minimum of three months notice before a factory is closed down.
- Establishing a special unit in the Department of Labour to look into the statutory dues of employees and obtaining such dues during this period.
- Lay down conditions to lending banks that in giving loans, keeping movable and immovable property of companies as security, they should make an assessment of the responsibilities of the company, and only an amount commensurate with such responsibilities should be given as loan.
- Social security insurance scheme for the maintenance of the employees until they get alternative employment, as promised when the present compensation formula was introduced.