Women working in garment factories in Bengaluru are facing health issues due to unhealthy working conditions.
According to a report by the International Journal of Advanced Community Medicine, women working in garment factories are facing increasing health concerns. Among various others issues, the main ones include musculoskeletal disorders which are faced by 52 percent, anaemia by 43 percent, menstrual irregularities by 12 percent, and respiratory ailments by 10 percent of the women workers.
Anu R., a garment worker at Wonder Blues said, “We do face problems here; we work for long hours and don’t get enough wages also. Many of us have developed breathing problems, issues of back ache and all that but we cannot do anything – it is a necessity. We don’t know any other skills.”
Bengaluru city has five lakh workers in 12 thousand factories, and women account to around 80% women of it. The workers have to sit and stand for prolonged hours, lift heavy objects, do repetitive work, work with bent or twisted backs, and stay in excess heat for long, due to which they develop various issues.
Saroja K., General Secretary of Garment Labour Union said, “The workers usually don’t complain because they are afraid. There are a lot of women workers and sometimes the machines let out heat. From 9-5 there is a fixed production target. And if they don’t complete it, the manager shouts at them and even drags them outside to scold them. Thus, to meet the target they can’t even drink water, eat food properly and go to the toilet.”
She further adds, “They fall seriously ill due to the excess heat, same posture, metal seats, long working hours, etc. In case of women, they also experience hormonal changes, period problems, discharge issues and much more. Pregnant women even have to go through abortions sometimes.”
Another report by the International Journal of Recent Technology and Industry suggests that most of the workers in the garment industry are dissatisfied with their salaries, safety facilities, leave policy, promotion policies, and behaviour of the owners. The managers of these factories, on the other hand, believe that the condition of the factory is fine and workers are given enough rest and wages.
Motilal D. Rathod from the Karnataka Welfare Department said, “For workers, we have mechanisms. They can give us in writing that something is wrong and action will be taken. Every three months to six years we also have someone who visits the factories and inspects it properly.”
According to the Karnataka Labour Welfare department, if the inspector finds that the working condition of women workers in the factories is not adequate, action can be taken against the managers and they may be removed from their post. However, the Garment Labour Union believes the opposite to be true.
Saroja K, General Secretary of the Garment Labour Union said, “The government should create committees and do regular inspection. But they don’t do that. Once the factories are registered, they do not bother to come and inspect. They only come when a case is registered, not regularly. There is no grievance mechanism as well which makes it difficult to keep a track of these cases as the workers have no one to complain to.”
Workers also say that they are not able to live in proper conditions since the wages are low, and most of them develop one or the other disease due to unhealthy working conditions.