Bengaluru garment workers protest change in PF law

Bengaluru : About 15,000 women garment workers on Monday staged a massive demonstration on the outskirts of Bengaluru, protesting change in the Provident Fund Act, which denies the right to withdraw employer’s contribution till 58 years.

“We are protesting against the central government’s move to amend the PF Act, which prevents our workers, including mostly women, to withdraw the employer’s contribution till they turn 58 years,” Garment and Textile Workers’ Union leader K.R. Jayaram told reporters.

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Terming the move to deny workers their fair due as anti-labour, Jayaram said the amendment to the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, would also make them wait till 58 years to withdraw the employer’s contribution though they can withdraw their contribution to PF before turning 58.

“As contribution to PF is an option, workers who cannot afford monthly deduction due to inadequate salary and high cost of living, and will be entitled to only three years’ interest on their employer’s contribution,” Jayaram said.

Highlighting the workers’ plight over their future, Jayaram said many of them were unsure of being employed after 40-50 and retained till 58 years in the unorganised sector without legal or financial protection to their welfare in old age.

“With increasing automation and mechanisation, senior workers are worried about their future, as they may not get a suitable or alternative job after 40-50 years in the garment industry,” Jayaram said.

Hundreds of women workers from five garment units, including Shahi Exports Ltd., Mohan Exports and Jockey, struck work at noon and marched to the Bengaluru-Chennai national highway and Bengaluru-Mysuru state highway, blocking vehicular movement and causing massive traffic jams for over four hours.

“Our central trade unions will decide on April 26 our next course of agitation. We are collecting one lakh signatures of workers on a memo to the prime minister if the government does not withdraw the amendment to the PF Act,” Jayaram added.

The city’s Additional Commissioner of Police P. Harishekaran later said police contingents, including women constables, were rushed to the spot to disperse the workers as they were blocking the heavy vehicular traffic on the busy highways on the first working day of the week.

“Our police personnel had to use force, including caning many men workers, as they were not withdrawing the road blockade on both highways, holding thousands of people to ransom on a hot working day,” Harishekaran said.