Update on Wages Owed to Karnataka’s 400,000 Garment Workers
Update Feb. 17, 2022: After 22 months of refusing to do so, several major Karnataka garment suppliers have finally committed to pay the legal minimum wage, along with all arrears owed to workers; however, some suppliers are still refusing to pay. On February 28, the WRC will post the names of those suppliers that have committed to pay, and those that have not, along with the names of the brands that source from these suppliers.
In April 2020, a minimum wage increase went into effect in the Indian state of Karnataka, one of the country's largest centers of garment manufacturing. Factory owners producing for leading apparel brands refused to pay. As a result, 400,000 garment workers across over a thousand factories were cheated of the legal minimum wage.
Workers report that the impact of not receiving this increase has been concrete and significant: reduced access to food staples, lost housing, lost schooling for their children.
This is the worst wage theft the WRC has documented in the global garment industry. Apparel brands were aware of the theft and allowed it to continue.
In early February of 2022—after a successful lawsuit by the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU), after months of engagement with brands by the WRC, and after a growing list of labor rights advocates brought their voices to bear—India's largest garment manufacturer, Shahi Exports, became the first supplier to commit to pay workers properly. Shahi announced that it would immediately begin paying its 80,000 employees in Karnataka the correct minimum wage. The company also committed to pay all arrears, to both current and former workers, in two tranches, one in February and one in May. Other suppliers soon followed suit. The week of February 7, these suppliers paid workers millions in overdue wages, with much more to come.
Now, it is time for brands to ensure that all their suppliers in Karnataka obey the law and pay what they owe to workers.
For more info:
- Indian supplier to UK fashion brands agrees to pay £3m in unpaid wages
The Guardian — February 11, 2022
- Zara, Nike, and Abercrombie’s Indian Factories Weren’t Fully Paying Workers
Vice — February 9, 2022
- 80,000 Shahi Exports Workers Will Finally Get Their Back Pay
Worker Rights Consortium — February 2, 2022
- India Wage Theft ‘Worst’ Fashion Has Seen
Sourcing Journal — January 7, 2022
- ‘Worst fashion wage theft’: workers go hungry as Indian suppliers to top UK brands refuse to pay minimum wage
The Guardian — December 16, 2021