These are very difficult times for workers, especially for workers from the garment sector, and more specifically those from small-scale enterprises and cottage industries.
In Tamil Nadu, the government has been procuring materials from masks to uniforms of doctors, school children, drivers, conductors and the police. We have seen that the contract for school uniforms largely goes to small firms, not big brands. This is a good initiative.
All the corona warriors – from sanitation workers to health workers to police – are required to wear uniforms.
This year, we demand that the procurement for uniforms should start early and with force. All contracts should be valued at least 15 per cent more than the current contract rates. This additional 15 per cent should mandatorily go to workers and petty contractors in the lowest income bracket across the garment sector supply chain, including agricultural labourers working in cotton fields, with a focused attempt to reach out to women, Dalit, migrant, workers and those who are engaged in unorganised and casual work. This step will enable workers in the supply chain to access their livelihood in a dignified way without burdening the industry at this critical time.
This might be a challenge, but it will be good for the government to take up this challenge and start exploring how to overcome it.
We urge the International Labor Organization, the Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association, trade unions, as well as civil society organisations, to work together to create a plan to achieve this demand.
Gradually, the government must extend this step to all procurements that are currently being made or those that will be made this year.
In solidarity with all workers,
Garments worker-led think thank
01 May 2020