Lakhs of workers face bleak future due to looming job loss threat

The slowdown in production has forced thousands of workers to stare at a bleak future due to the looming threat of job loss.
Lakhs of workers face bleak future due to looming job loss threat

COIMBATORE: The garment sector in Tirupur is facing a double whammy. On the one hand, the spiraling yarn prices had pulled the entire labour intensive textile sector into a deep crisis.

Secondly, the slowdown in production has forced thousands of workers to stare at a bleak future due to the looming threat of job loss. A majority of the MSME units, which functioned non-stop churning out garments for both exports and domestic consumption are now functioning for just four days in a week.

“Also, night shifts have been stopped in units due to lack of work. As the ailing textile sector is already facing 50 per cent labour shortage, the industries tend to retain workers. However, if the crisis is not resolved soon, then job loss is imminent on a massive scale,” said MP Muthurathinam, president of Tirupur Exporters and Manufacturers’ Association (TEAMA). Tirupur textile industry captions used to take credit in the motto, ‘today’s worker is tomorrow’s owner.’ “But this scenario has changed now to say ‘today’s worker will ever remain a worker,” he added. Roughly, around seven lakh workers, including three lakh north Indian workers are employed directly and indirectly in the textile sector in Tirupur. Their livelihood is now at stake.

“Job loss has already occurred on a massive scale in Tirupur. It may not be apparent because a majority of them are employed on contract basis from north India and other neighbouring states. Over the last few days, reverse migration has begun with thousands of people heading back to their home towns in trains bound to north India. They all came back to Tirupur after normalcy resumed following COVID-19 impact,” said G Sampath, general secretary of CITU, Tirupur district.

However, the quantum of job loss could not be furnished either by the industrial sector or by the government due to lack of any valuable data on the existing workforce in Tirupur.

“A much preferred route taken by garment manufacturers to appoint workers on contract basis has itself become a setback now by depriving them of their bargaining capacity with the government during such crisis times,” he added.

Attributing the slowdown in the garment industry to yarn price hike and Russia-Ukraine war, the exporters sought for immediate government’s intervention for survival of the MSMEs in the garment sector. Almost 90 per cent of textile units in Tirupur are MSMEs.

“The entire industry is bleeding due to yarn price hike. The survival of MSMEs is important to tide over the crisis and if they collapse, then it may have a cascading impact in terms of job loss,” said Raja M Shanmugam, president of Tiruppur Exporters Association (TEA).

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