Madras High Court upholds Government Order on MInimum Wages for Garment Workers

Chennai, 13 July 2016: The Garment and Fashion Workers Union (GAFWU) welcomes the decision of the Division Bench of the Madras High Court constituting of Justices Ulavadi G. Ramesh and M V Murlidharan, upholding the Government Order 59 2D, dated 3 December 2014.

The Division Bench upheld the Tamil Nadu government’s writ appeal (WA 867/2015) and dismissed about 550 petitions filed by garment manufacturers to quash the revision in minimum wages for tailoring industry.

The final notification for minimum wage revision in the Tailoring Industry was issued on 3 December 2014 after 8 years.

Earlier in 2005, the government had issued a notification on minimum wage which was not implemented by the garment manufacturers. The manufacturers had gone to court and obtained a stay order in their favour. It had taken a huge effort from GAFWU to get all the petitions of the manufacturers dismissed. In 2012, the government once again started the process of revising the minimum wages, and finally notified it by the GO 59 dated 3 December 2014.

The two-member Division Bench in their order held that given the long history of non-payment of minimum wages, an exemplary interest of 6 percent should be paid on the unpaid wages/arrears since December 2014 within a period of two months. Further, the court directed the government and GAFWU to ensure effective implementation of the revised minimum wage and the payment of arrears.

GAFWU and Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam take note that the Government of Tamil Nadu and especially the Department of Labour ensured that the minimum wage notification was strongly defended by the governments’ law officers.

The recent Textile Policy of the Government of India claims to promote both employment and exports. A 600 crore incentive package has been proposed for this sector. The policy is aimed at deregulating this sector further in terms of statutory obligations of employers towards workers. The government, in fact, is legalizing longer hours of work, non-contribution of employers to statutory PF for new workers, providing tax breaks in the name of employment generation to incentivize employers. The protection to workers has virtually been reduced to the protection under minimum wages. In this policy context, the implementation of the revised minimum wages is crucial for over 1 million garment workers, mostly women, in the state for survival.

We, the members of GAFWU urge the Government of Tamil Nadu to ensure:

(1) Implementation of the new minimum wage as per the GO 59

(2) Payment of Unpaid wages of workers from 3 December 2014 with additional 6 percent interest.

(3) Payment of unpaid wages within the next 2 months.

(4) Wide publicity through print and electronic media so that workers become aware of their wages.

We further urge the Government of Tamil Nadu to direct its labour department to ensure payment of unpaid wages in the period from 3 December 2014 to date to all workers, including those who may have even left the garment industry now.

The Garment and Fashion Workers Union calls upon all garment manufacturers in Tamil Nadu to respect the rule of law and immediately implement the order and ensure justice to the workers who contribute to their profits, foreign exchange for the country and towards the development of the country.

Sujata Mody

President

Garment and Fashion Workers Union

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