Position Paper: Minimum Wages for Textile Workers

Background :

Founded in 2017, the Tamil Nadu Alliance (TNA) is a coalition of civil society network organizations working for improving the conditions of young adolescent workers in the textile sector of Tamil Nadu. TNA aims to promote fair and equitable labour standards in textile and garment sector across Tamil Nadu.

One of the major strategic policy objectives of TNA is to ensure the fixing of a minimum wage for textile workers in the state. A fair wage would ensure that workers are compensated adequately and able to maintain a decent standard of living. Raising the minimum wage is also important to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 8 which talks about “promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.

TNA’s position

The need to set a minimum wage: For many years, a minimum wage has not been set by Tamil Nadu government for textile workers in the state. This has left hundreds of thousands of workers, especially in economically disadvantaged communities, vulnerable to extremely low pay. Poverty wages feed into desperate efforts to work more hours in order to make a living with resulting exhaustion and physical and psychological harm. TNA believes it is urgent that the state should set a minimum wage for textile workers.

Setting the level of wages for textile workers: TNAs position is to both protect workers’ rights and ensure businesses remain competitive. As a reference point for its position on minimum wages, TNA considers the current trends in India, including the National Floor Minimum Wage fixed in August 2019 of Rs 178 as well as the wage fixed by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2019 for apprentice workers in the spinning mills, Rs 433.80. In addition, in 2019, an expert committee established by the Ministry of Labour and Employment published a “Report on Determining the Methodology for Fixing the National Minimum Wage” which considered an array of socio-economic indicators and grouped all major Indian states into four different regions. The state of Tamil Nadu falls in region III for which Rs.414.40 per day and Rs.10,775.50 per month was recommended as minimum wage based on the update of monthly household expenditure in July 2018.

Therefore, aligning with the stance made by trade unions in 2017, TNA recommends that spinning mill workers should be paid Rs.18,000 monthly and Rs.692.30 per day.

Current Status

As of February 6th, the Tamil Nadu Dept of Labour has formed the Minimum Wages Committee (MWC) which includes representation from unions, workers, businesses and business associations. They have six months to consult with all stakeholders and submit a written recommendation for the fixing of a minimum wage. TNA is planning to follow up with members of the MWC and will appeal to the committee for fixing Rs.18,000 per month. It will also facilitate workers at district level to represent their views to the MWC.

For more information please contact Dr. J. Paul Baskar, convener,
TNA – convener@tamilnadualliance.com