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Garment units `leave workers in the lurch`

By Amjad Mahmood 2020-04-14
LAHOR E: Thousands of workers, including managerial staff, have been laid off by garments manufacturers in the Punjab capital, adding to the woes of the low-income families already facing financial crunch because of the ongoing `partial` lockdown in the country.

Those sacked have not been paid at least their half month salary as per relevant laws.

`Most of the workers at the unit where I work in Gajjumata were assembled at lunch time on the first day of the announcement of the lockdown, and were pushed out of the factory gate by the security guards telling them that their services are no more needed,` says Aneesur Rehman, assistant quality manager at a garment unit.

Most of the workers (daily-wagers who are paid on per piece basis) sacked unceremoniously were not even paid for the work they had doneonthatday,he adds.`The managerial staff members like me were shown the door a couple of days later. When we went to biometric attendance machine for checking out at 5pm and the machine didn`t work; we were told that we too had been dismissed, Anees tellsDawn.

`We were, however, paid for the rest of the days of the month (March) unlike the daily-wagers or third-party contract employees.

Mohsin, supervisor at the unit of another well-known garment brand, says that all the staff on 20 lines (around 70 to 80 people work on one line) of the factory, were terminated on March 22.

`Two of the three industrial units of the garments manufacturing group have been totally shut down and the confirmed employees were invited one by one and paid their salaries for the full month of March, while the daily-wagers totaling over 1,600 were not paid even for a single extra day.

Mohsin claims that each piece of shirt or pants costs,includinglabourand material expenses, not more than Rs150 and the same is sold in the world market for at least $20 per piece, wondering that the proprietors earning such a huge profit are reluctant to pay their workers for a couple of months during the lockdown in spite of the tax exemptions and other facilities announced by the government for them.

Worried at the social consequences of these sackings, he claims thatatleasthve generalprovisional stores in the slum area where he lives have been broken into during the last few days, fearing a rise in the lawlessness because of increasing economic miseries of jobless workers.

Almost all the stitching, hosiery and allied sectors` units, mostly related to export business, have been closed since beginning of the lockdown, says Murtaza Bajwa, a trade unionist in the textile sector.

He laments that the large-scale dismissals are coming at a time when finding new jobs has almost become impossible, while themonth of Ramazan and Eidul Fitr, when expenditure of every household almost doubles, are round the corner.

Experts say both the government and employers are responsible for ensuring payment of at least halfmonth salary to the workers before they are laid off.

`Employees have the legal right that their jobs cannot be terminated at once and they must be paid 15-day wages in case of termination without notice,` says Khalid Malik, director of Labour Education Foundation, a platform for workers awareness and rights.

Regretting the government`s apathy towards the workers, he says the owners of some of the 1(nown garment manufacturing units are sacking them ruthlessly and without following the rules despite the fact that a fabulous package worth billions of rupees, including tax exemptions, has been announced for industrialists, while State Bank has also offered them soft loans for payment of staff salaries.