Working for better standards of workers in textile industry

Sumangali Scheme

In Indian Society, parents are happy when their girl child is married at the right age. This prejudices is much more strong in rural communities. This has been misused by rich spinning mill owners to employ and exploit the young Dalit girls in the name of marriage scheme called ‘Sumangali Thittam’. The girls at the age of below 14 to 18 years are eligible to work under this attractive scheme. The employer guarantee a lump sum of Rs. 30000/- when they complete a job contract with them for a period of three years. Most parents are attracted to send their young girls thinking that their girls will get a very good working environment as well as the money guaranteed, in order to use that money to get their daughters married. But it is not the case in most of girl’s lives that chose to work in the so called spinning mills. Textile Industries (1)

As per our comprehensive study, we have found out that

  • Most girls enter this scheme under the age of 14 and till 18 years
  • Most of the girls worked for more than 12 hours a day
  • Most of the girls do not get weekly holiday
  • Verbal abuse is very common at the work place

None of the girls who were not able to complete the full contract were paid any compensation for the work done by them

We have been front runners in the fight against the Sumangali Scheme. We have been campaigning against the Sumangali Scheme by mobilizing media support and conducting community engagements to reveal the truth behind this scheme. We conduct street plays and visit several local schools to talk to both elders and young girls about the atrocities under the Sumangali Scheme. We approach factories and companies involved in Sumangali scheme and educate them about the hazards of Child Labour. We often take the support of the Labour Department to help rescue children form such workplaces. We help a State level consultation to present findings of the study and provide recommendations for change.Textile Industries (2)

READ experience with Factory engagement for Textile industries workers 

  • Workers help line: Fair Wear Foundation has partnered with READ to establish a worke’s helpline to receive complaints and to address work place issues. Complaints were received through the Help Line and FWF will communicate with Brands to resolve the issue amicably.
  • Social Auditing: READ has executed Social Auditing at Major suppliers in Tirupur and Erode districts in their production units. Auditing covered Working conditions, Social Benefits and dormitory conditions.  Our Auditing helped the suppliers to make positive changes within the production units towards better working conditions.
  • Formation of ICC: READ has collaborated with Spinning mills in the region to facilitate and form Internal Compliance Committee (ICC), as required by law.  With the support of Labor Department and Suppliers, we were able to train the ICC members for effective functioning of ICC.
  • Consultation on running Dormitory: READ conducted consultations with the participation of Employers, Government Officials to facilitate Registration of Dormitory under law. Representatives from 126 Spinning mills participated in 6 Consultations and officials from Labor department and Social Welfare Board explained the need and procedure to get the Hostels registered with government departments.
  • Registration of Hostels: 33 Spinning mills in Erode district has registered their Hostels with government department as required by law. READ is continuously engaged in monitoring of the running of hostels with the support of Employers.
  • Training: We have conducted training to workers and middle level management on various topics that enabled them to make positive progress in the work conditions and attitude. Life skill training, Coping mechanism, Health and Safety are some of the main areas of our training.
  • Publication: READ had published many reports on working conditions in textile industry in association with global players.  Field researches were conducted to analyze and assess the employment practices along with recommendations to improve the welfare measures of workers.
  • Community work: Community level awareness campaign, Trainings, Rehabilitation ,Counseling
  • Working with Government: Consultations, Legal support,ICDS,PRIs

In the recent years, few Employers volunteered themselves to initiate change process in their factories in association with civil society stakeholders.  Though very few employers have come forward, it is envisaged that the impact of such joint action will pave way for other employers to replicate the strategy in their units.  It is also expected that such a collective recovery mechanism with the support of NGOs coalition and the anticipated results will set a model in the industry.  Assurance of cooperation by Employers in promoting labour standards will lead to achieving a socially responsible business which will be welcomed wholeheartedly by international brands and media as well.