Behind The Label: The Many Layers of Workplace Discrimination at Garment Factories

Garment industries provide job opportunities to thousands of women in the city. These women often have limited work options available to them due to their low educational qualifications and skill-sets, or due to them being migrants. A lot of these women are also home-makers who are looking to earn an income. While there are jobs on offer, the environment at the garment factories is riddled with harassment and production pressure. The radio show, Behind The Label, features the voices of these women garment workers and highlights the everyday working conditions they have to endure.

In this episode, RJ Asha speaks with Sunanda.

Sunanda lost her mother at a young age; she was bought up by her grandmother and was married off at the age of 16. Following the marriage, she shifted to the Kanankpura area and joined a garment factory. Initially, she was paid Rs. 2,500 per month. This amount has increased over the years, but the salary is still not commensurate with the amount of work they are made to do. “The higher authorities in the factory, like the general public, look down on us labourers. They think that we are cheap workers.” It is not a stretch to suggest that the factory managers treat their employees like workhorses. “We don’t get respect at the workplace. Women need to be respected.”

Even as work conditions remain stressful, workers struggle with a lack of basic facilities. At most garment factories, rightful facilities like clean washrooms, first-aid and ambulance services, and even ample water supply are missing. “Supervisors should be humane towards the labourers. The salary being paid to us is not sufficient. There should be no partiality when it comes to employees. Each and every employee should be provided with the right number of masks in order to protect themselves from skin infections.”

Gender discrimination is rampant in these factories. Men are routinely paid a higher salary even when women produce the same products in the same quantity as them. “The authorities do not bother men, they only always hold authority over innocent women who never argue with them. These women are constantly exposed to health dangers as they are not supplied with a sufficient number of gloves. Skin allergies are common.”

Another garment worker who spoke with RJ Asha, Sarasvathi, highlights the illegal functioning of middle-men. “These middle persons take away the money given to the labourers. Managers often do not show the amounts that get deducted from our payments clearly. They are making fools out of us innocent people. They make us believe that the amount for our pick-up and drop transport is not being deducted from salaries but in fact, they are being deducted. This is illegal.”

Listen in for more…

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