In February 2018, the Tamil Nadu government released a new order, clarifying the status of workers manufacturing hosiery or engaged in tailoring work. According to this order, factories manufacturing knitwear now fall under the “Hosiery Industry” designation – a category with a minimum wage significantly lower than the “Tailoring Industry.”
Prior to this order, most factories in the region producing knitwear for export followed the higher “Tailoring Industry” minimum wage rates. The table below shows the gap between “hosiery” and “tailoring” rates for selected occupations, demonstrating how former tailoring workers stand to lose significant income, if moved to the hosiery rate. Moreover, even the highest tailoring rate in the area (8,700 rupees per month), falls far short of the lowest living wage estimate (15,000 rupees) published in the FLA’s 2016 fair compensation report.
The FLA urges all affiliated brands sourcing knitwear from Tamil Nadu to work with suppliers to support wages that continue to meet at least the tailoring level, in pursuit of wages that cover workers’ basic needs plus discretionary income.
In addition, because the category of “knitwear” by definition includes many types of garment – including hosiery – the FLA will seek clarification from the government on the reason behind the re-structuring and the process for verifying a factory’s classification. Furthermore, the FLA calls for public consultation with workers, unions, and workers-rights organizations whenever factory re-classifications could result in loss of income for workers. Workers should have their voices heard on issues with such a direct effect on their livelihood.
An FLA source in India indicates that an update to the minimum wage structure in Tamil Nadu may be expected as soon as April. The FLA will continue to monitor the situation, issuing further guidance as necessary.