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India: Karnataka workers get poverty wages

Garment workers in Karnataka get paid wages that are 25 per cent below the urban poverty line. Though in many families, there are two wage-earners earning subsistence wages, one in seven garment families has only a single woman wage-earner.

The industry refuses to consider any substantial increase in wages, claiming that it would undermine profitability. The garment industry uses low wage states as the reason to oppose wage increase in states with higher wages. This is exactly what the garment industries in Karnataka are doing. They argue that since minimum wages in Karnataka are higher than in other states increasing wages would have an adverse impact on an industry that is already facing tough international competition.

Garment manufacturing in Karnataka is mostly for export to developed countries. In fact a large proportion of the manufacturing in the Indian garment industry is for the export market. In Karnataka the RMG export industry is mainly concentrated in urban regions around Bangalore. These units threaten to shift to Telangana especially when the issue of wage revision comes up. That means management has the upper hand in determining the minimum wages of workers in the textile industry, spinning industry and the printing and dyeing industry.