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24 Jun 2020

India: Unions accuse factory producing for H&M of union busting after dismissal of 1,200 garment workers during COVID-19; Incl. comments by H&M

On 6 June 2020, Euro Clothing Company II (ECC-2) in Karnataka, India, abruptly laid off all of its 1,200 mostly women garment workers, citing a lack of orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. ECC-2 is owned by the Gokaldas company, which has over 20 other garment-making units in Karnataka, all of which remain open. According to reports, ECC-2 has primarily produced for H&M for the past two years.

Unions say the dismissals were made without the mandatory one-month notice period and the majority of workers have not been paid wages during the lockdown period or after. The dismissed garment workers have since staged protests outside of the factory. 

The President of the Karnataka-based Garment and Textile Worker Union (GATWU) - which has a membership of over 900 female workers in ECC-2 - alleges the factory was targeted for a reason: “The factory management shut this one down only because it was unionised. No other units of this supplier have unions." IndustriALL has also concluded that the layoffs are illegal and made "in order to bust the union that is active in ECC-2".

H&M has said: "We are fulfilling our payments in accordance with contracts, on time and at the originally agreed price. The conflict between supplier and trade union is about different interpretations of the law in India and we are in dialogue with both parties to help them reach an agreement." A further statement from H&M is included below, where it said after negotiations with its supplier had failed, it had decided to phase out the business relationship with Gokaldas.

This case was featured in our union busting and unfair dismissals report in August 2020.

Update: After an eight-month struggle and international solidarity campaign, on 1 February 2021 GATWU signed an agreement with Gokaldas Exports that recognizes the union and reinstates all the 1,257 workers – mostly women - who were fired. ECC-2 will remain shut, but workers will be offered employment in two other factories.