In the already labour-starved textile hub, the pandemic has deepened troubles following migration of guest workers to their hometowns. Of the two lakh guest workers, very few have returned despite restoration of public transport. Therefore, 36 garment manufacturers from the knitwear hub of India have evinced interest and taken permission from the government to commence production in the textile park at Vedaranyam in the Nagapattinam district.
“Only labour intensive production work like stitching, ironing, packing, dispatch will be moved to the park. Availability of cheap labour there may help in tiding over the staff shortage and cut down production cost giving us an edge in the competitive global market,” said MP Muthurathinam, president of Tirupur Exporters and Manufacturers Association (TEAMA).
Each of the production units will be established in an area of 10,000 sq ft and may generate employment for 7,000 people comprising 80% women.
Migrant workers were a boon when textile units began to close due to labour shortage 10 years ago. “But the COVID crisis has exposed our vulnerability. Even units who set up facilities in other states eyeing cheap production are facing operational issues. Hence the way forward is to look for alternative options in TN,” said Muthurathinam. Apart from Nagapattinam, garment exporters have identified Tiruvannamalai, Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli because of availability of cheap labour. The manufacturers are firm on only shifting production as business operations will continue from Tiruppur district. Currently, knitwear units have resumed production, but are yet to perform to their full capacity.
Meanwhile trade unions have claimed that poor living conditions in Tiruppur has led the migrant workforce to look for other options. “A database on the migrant workforce should be collected and their needs addressed by the government to woo them back to Tirupur,” said G Sampath, general secretary of CITU, Tirupur district.