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21 Ene 2022

China Labour Bulletin

India: Brands refuse to engage in collective bargaining negotiations on wages with garment workers' union & supplier

"Garment workers’ union in India calls on international brands to fulfil their commitments", 21 January 2022

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, international garment brands have made promises to do their part to ensure workers in the global supply chain are protected, but consecutive waves of infections and production stoppages in India have left countless workers without their full wages.

In Bangalore, a union has successfully initiated a new round of collective bargaining with Shahi Group, India’s largest garment exporter, after an initial round in July 2021. The Karnataka Garment Workers Union (KOOGU) proposed that the three main parties in the global supply chain - workers, suppliers and international brands - should work together and agree to take on a fair share in these unprecedented times...

...Shahi Group stressed that, as a result of the purchasing prices dictated by the international brands, their profit margin is too thin for the manufacturer to pay workers full wages during the lockdown periods.

KOOGU then invited eight of the international brands supplied by Shahi, and other major manufacturers in the Karnataka region, to join in the ongoing bargaining process with workers...

Among the eight international brands KOOGU contacted, only three - Carhartt, Decathlon and H&M - responded.

Carhartt replied that it encouraged all business partners to make payments “according to local laws,” stopping short of committing to participate in negotiations...

Decathlon defended its position - saying that the brand had not cancelled or delayed any standing orders - and then emphasised that the dispute in Bangalore should be resolved between the employer and the employee. Decathlon stated that it is outside its purview to make any comments on the negotiations....

H&M emphasised in its response to KOOGU that it was committed to making timely payments and consistent orders to ensure steady cash flow and business continuity for their suppliers. In addition to stressing compliance with local laws, H&M added that it was willing to establish a platform to find an appropriate solution in this situation. ..

The fact that only three brands responded and that none of them would directly join in the negotiations between KOOGU and Shahi shows that despite the corporate social responsibility commitments to the general public and consumers, international brands are reluctant to incur responsibility when workers take initiative to call on these brands to fulfill their promises.

The Workers Rights Consortium uncovered in December 2021 that over 1,000 garment factories in the Bangalore area and the state of Karnataka “are continuing to violate [India’s] minimum wage laws.” Some manufacturers packaged the wages as “loans” or “advances,” arguing they were forced to do so to stay afloat, otherwise they would have to lay off workers altogether.


On 23 December 2021, KOOGU and Shahi Group sat down once again at the table....both parties discussed and agreed on procedural rules presented by the union, including matters such as the frequency and length of sessions, alternated chairing of sessions, length of each party’s interventions, recording of meeting minutes and mutual communication.

Agreeing on non-monetary issues was a strong start, but eventually the core demands from workers - non-payment of salaries during the lockdown and, more importantly, decent wages - will be on the bargaining table. KOOGU and Shahi have agreed to reconvene on 28 January 2022.

...The union and the supplier have managed to resume the dialogue under the exceptionally difficult circumstances of the pandemic. However, the international brands, which have been taking the largest share of the profits in better times, continue to be absent...