Indian Garment Industry’s Shutting Down of Creche Services is Anti-Women

Garment factories have opened but creche services remain dysfunctional, leaving lakhs of women employees distressed and compelled to leave their jobs amid the pandemic.

Young girl employed in the garment industry | Photo Credit: @ILO/A.Khemka/ Flickr

The Indian garment industry is among the worst hit amid the coronavirus pandemic and during the nationwide lockdown, it was among the industries which suffered the biggest blow. 

The Indian clothing and garment factories were finally opened up after a long haul as the country’s coronavirus restrictions were eased. But the easing of restrictions wasn’t enough to ensure that the severe blow that the industry suffered would immediately be compensated for, what went on for weeks was a severe loss of livelihood, thousands of unpaid and underpaid workers and owners who were clueless about the prospects of the sector in the near future. 

Thousands of workers were told by factory owners to stop coming to work randomly and many were denied payment for the last couple of working months too.With their meagre savings already exhausted and wages denied, thousands of people employed in the Indian garment sector had no refuge, no option but to return back to their native towns and villages. 

Closing Down of Creches Leaves Women Workers in the Garment Industry Distressed 

What added to the problem of the women workers in garment factories that had creches to cater to the needs of children while their mothers were busy working in the factories prior to the lockdown, now decided to pull down the shutters and put an end to all such services. 

With creche facilities are no longer available, many women continuously find themselves in a dilemma about being unable to care for their children during the day and on days when they have to stay back to care for the child especially when he/she is unwell, they have to be prepared to miss out on a day’s pay. 

Many parents working in the garment industry are haunted by this dilemma and don’t know how they would be able to manage their children as well as go to work, if such services aren’t resumed very soon. Many such parents were called by factory managements in the state of Karnataka and told to stop coming to work as the creches are indefinitely closed, there was no discussion or search for solutions as many garment industry workers have been complaining.

textile industry
The garment industry employees a large number of people in Bangladesh and the workers are in a particularly strange stage at the moment. Wikimedia Commons

India’s multi-millions dollar garment industry employees more than 12 million people and it has been reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, many global brands which relied on their products have gone ahead and canceled their orders or are demanding steep discounts as store closures batter their sales. 

With workers in the garment industry in India facing a major blow and payments being denied and jobs being lost, there are predictions for a greater curtailment of labour rights in the garment industry.

If Factories Can be Sanitised and Functional,Why Can’t Creches be Operated With The Same Logic?

Factory owners suggest that the closure of creches was important to curb the spread of infections and make sure that both children and factory workers were as safe as possible but workers are seeing it as an effective strategy to lay off women workers, without having to sack them formally.

This is a matter of grave concern because the majority of workers in the Indian garment industry are women and they are jointly responsible for taking care of the household and earning a livelihood, if creches are closed many mothers will no longer be able to come to work and employers wouldn’t even need too sack them formally. 

With many working women being single or having little baby-sitting help from their husbands, this is indeed a grave problem for Indian women workers in the garment industry. This decision by the factories has pushed many women and toddlers into deep crisis. The closure of creches is illegal and violates a worker’s basic rights and clearly infringes a workers dignity

While there is no formal directive that has been issued to factories to close creches, most factories that did have one decided to close down all such facilities, citing the pandemic as a reason.

 According to the Indian Labour Laws, factories that have more than 30 women employees have to provide for creches for children under the age of 6 years. With the pandemic still on and no clear instructions from the government, it is not clear when these creches would open again. 

It is high time that this problem is reconciled and safe creche services are resumed to help out and help sustain thousands of women employees who run the Indian garment industry. 

Women employees are stressed and struggling and are appealing to unions to come to their aid, but nothing has been concretised so far. Trade unions and workers’ associations must also have a role in key decision making processes and their needs and aspirations should be the key priorities. 

If the management is prepared to sanitise and run a factory and adhere to social distancing norms amid the pandemic, why can’t the same be done for creches?

 These services should be resumed and workers should be given a choice whether they want to bring their children to these facilities. 

With schools closed, homes empty and creches closed, women workers in the Indian garment industry have no place to go.

 

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