Indian Workers Who Make H&M’s Clothes Claim Factory Used Pandemic to Bust Union

Credit: New Trade Union Initiative The laid-off workers for an Indian garment factory that produces clothing for the multinational retail juggernaut H&M are holding sit-in protests against their former employer, claiming that Gokaldas Exports hid behind the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for getting rid of all 1,200 employees at the heavily unionized factory. “They have closed…

Indian Workers Who Make H&M’s Clothes Claim Factory Used Pandemic to Bust Union

Credit: New Trade Union Initiative The laid-off workers for an Indian garment factory that produces clothing for the multinational retail juggernaut H&M are holding sit-in protests against their former employer, claiming that Gokaldas Exports hid behind the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for getting rid of all 1,200 employees at the heavily unionized factory.
“They have closed this factory to get rid of the union. This pandemic is only a pretext to break our union,” Padma, a 50-year-old who worked at the factory since it first began operating 10 years ago, told VICE News. “We are being punished for our union work.”
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On the surface, H&M’s coronavirus-related struggles seemed to have played some role in the June 6 layoffs at the Gokaldas Exports factory in the town of Srirangapatna, India, in the Mandya District in the State of Karnataka. Three months earlier, in March, H&M had publicly announced the pandemic made it necessary for them to cancel orders, while saying they would fulfill all contractual agreements with suppliers.
The retail giant had been the Srirangapatna factory’s only buyer for the previous year, factory workers told VICE News. And the day of the layoffs, management posted a notice after a work shift that claimed the factory had received a reduction in orders due to the pandemic.
But the factory workers said they believe their employer targeted the Srirangapatna factory for layoffs because of its union ties. H&M spokesperson Laura Engels told VICE News in a statement that the company’s “orders at this specific supplier are on similar levels as during the same period last year.” And while Gokaldas operated five factories that made clothes for H&M, and 20 in total, the company only laid off the workers at the Srirangapatna factory, where
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