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Co-operation between the Clean Clothes Campaign and Indian Trade unions and NGOs

Below you find a report about a visit of the Clean Clothes Campaign to India in
October-November 20011
. The aim of the visit was to find closer co-operation with Indian trade unions and NGOs.

Research documents about working conditions in the garment and sporting goods industry in India

In the year 2001, the Clean Clothes Campaign has conducted an extensive evaluation and strategic discussion. During a conference, in Barcelona, Spain, a common agenda for the different spheres of action was developed with international partners of the CCC network. High on the list of priorities for the years to come, is the improvement and clarification of the relationship between active organisations, both NGOs and trade unions, in Western Europe and partners in producing countries.

Within Asia, India is both in size and in its share of international garment production an important player. Until now, contacts between the CCC and Indian trade unions and NGOs have been fragmented and were mainly related to specific projects. Besides, there is relatively little co-operation between these organizations at the national level. Large differences exist between trade unions and NGOs as well as between different Indian regions.

As a result of the Barcelona conference, CEC (Centre for Education and Communication, based in New Delhi) offered to facilitate meetings in Delhi, Mumbai and Tirupur in which the CCC, Indian trade unions and NGOs could participate. The aim of the meetings was to stimulate interaction, increase understanding of each others work and to exchange ideas.
CEC is working on a big research project on working conditions in the garment industry in India within the changing global context. A major development for India is the phase out of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (MFA). The research is conducted in three areas, Delhi, Mumbai and Tirupur and will provide input for a multi-stakeholder dialogue to be organised by CEC in the three cities at the beginning of 2002. CEC felt that an exchange with the CCC would also benefit this process.
The meetings facilitated by CEC, each lasting half a day, took place in the last two weeks of October and the first week of November 2001. On the CCC side Ms Jantien Meijer from the India Committee of the Netherlands, coalition partner of the CCC and Ms Ineke Zeldenrust from the CCC International secretariat were present. CEC sent a team of two to each meeting: Mr. J. John, executive director and Mr. Souparna Lahiri, campaigns co-ordinator. Sujana Krishnamoorthy, the researcher of the garment study, was present in the Delhi meeting.
In Tirupur, the T-shirt town in Tamil Nadu, a fourth strategy meeting was organised by Save, an NGO that has been a long term partner of the CCC. This meeting took place at the beginning of November 2001. About twenty NGOs from the region participated and the meeting led to the establishment of the CCC Tamil Nadu Taskforce.

Labour conditions

In India over 90% of the workforce is employed in the informal sector2. Also a large share of the workers in the garment industry form part of the informal sector. One definition of the informal sector refers to the activities of the working poor who are not recognized, recorded, protected or regulated by the public authorities3. An example of informal sector workers are so-called self-employed workers who run their own micro-enterprise or homeworkers. Another example of the informal sector are small workshops where people consider themselves as working for a boss but where workers have no contract. One of the consequences is that these workers cannot prove that an employer-employee relationship exists, and subsequently can't make any claims related to job security, social benefits, or other legal claims. If they try to organise or demand improvements in their labour situation they can easily be dismissed. In general it can be said that informal sector workers are in a vulnerable position.

Living and working conditions of garment workers in general are bad. In the meetings several problems concerning labour conditions were mentioned; wages are low and often based on a piece rate system, workers have to work long hours in order to make a living. The government violates its own statutes by not enforcing the labour act in FTZ's4.
Complex chains of subcontracting are present within the country and the sector is characterized by a high number of small units. Even in larger factories minimum wages are not paid.
The large majority of garment workers in India is not organised in trade unions. The industry is organised along layers of middlemen and sub-contracting chains. Often the real owner is not known to the trade unions. Any intervention by the trade unions, for example if they try to organise the workers, in any of those layers is followed by the collapse of the entire chain. As a result the workers lose their jobs. The fact that most workers work in the informal sector hampers the formation of trade unions.

In every meeting it was mentioned that India has to export in large volumes, maintain quality and offer competitive prices if it wants to stay in business. Cheap labour has always been India's competitive advantage. Trade union representatives felt that this point can not be disregarded.

The (possible) effects of CCC

Several times the question was raised as to what the effect of an international campaign like the CCC, which is focussed on companies with global supply chains, is on companies which produce for the local market and consequently for workers in these facilities.
The response of CCC was that the campaign aims to improve working conditions in the garment industry by supporting local organisations. One of the central demands of the campaign is the right to organise and collective bargaining. It is up to the labour movement to command respect for worker rights from employers and the government on behalf of the workers who they represent.

The strategy of international pressure is of course most effective when workers in the export sector are concerned. There are however strategies of international solidarity, for example when governments are addressed with demands to implement the labour law, which can also affect the situation of those workers who produce for the domestic market.

Besides, in the experience of the CCC, often the division between facilities that produce for the local market and those producing for export is less clear than is assumed. Companies can produce partly for the domestic market and partly for export, directly or via a contractor. At the same time, we have seen examples of big foreign brands producing and selling in India. The products are sold in India for huge prices that don't have any relation to the production costs in India, while profits leave the country. One can really question the local character of the domestic market.

Many representatives of trade unions and NGOs fear that international campaigns single out a specific region or country as violating labour standards, which may cause even more business to go elsewhere because their image may be damaged. A way to avoid this is to focus on one retailer or brand, while the information about labour rights violations that is made public in such a case describes the situation in several countries simultaneously. In such a way it can be shown that labour rights violations are central to the dynamics of the garment industry rather than a characteristic of a country or region.

General conclusions

Some common conclusions can be drawn from the meetings in Delhi, Mumbai and Tirupur. In the next section some specific outcomes per meeting will be described.

In the global organisation of industry, the local market may not be local anymore, therefore the globalized industry needs global intervention through international labour solidarity. Many of the participants in the meetings felt the need for international solidarity work and appreciated the work done by CCC. It was felt that more co-operation between Indian trade unions, NGOs and CCC is needed. A majority found the work on a voluntary code of conduct for industry acceptable, though some felt the need to discuss this strategy more elaborately. Several participants wanted to start the interaction with the CCC by an exchange of information.

Due to particular local circumstances and power dynamics a successful campaign strategy can only be developed locally. Many participants felt for instance that in India for a labour rights campaign to be effective it will be key to raise awareness among employers as part of a larger strategy.

Because large brands are making a clear effort to conquer the Indian market and because there is a large Indian middle class there seems to be ground for awareness raising activities in India. By making these consumers aware political support for worker rights could be generated.

About every meeting some distinct remarks can be made:

In Delhi the secretaries of the national trade union federations came to the meeting, which meant that we had the chance to discuss the work of CCC with high level representatives. They responded positively to the work of the campaign. It was the first meeting between trade union representatives at this level and a foreign campaign.

A major point of discussion in Delhi was the question whether the CCC highlights the link between trade and labour standards, and what the consequences of such a strategy are. It was explained that promoting a linkage between labour standards and trade agreements is not part of the CCC strategy. Instead, CCC focuses on the responsibility of corporations; garment retailers and producers (brands) who operate internationally, because it is these corporations who control the international supply chain of garments and who set the standards of production. Such a strategy has enabled trade unions and NGO's in Western Europe to co-operate without getting caught up in the 'social clause divide' (many NGO's in Western Europe oppose the social clause, while many Western European trade unions are in favour of the social clause).

The outcome of this meeting was the willingness of both trade unions and CCC to ensure information exchange in the future.

At this meeting both representatives from trade unions and NGO's were present. Several of the participants had quite some understanding about the CCC already. The result was a lively group discussion, leading to several suggestions for local activities which could be supported by the international CCC network.

The garment industry in Mumbai is characterized by many small scale units, supplying buying houses or traders, both for export and for the domestic market. Garment workers in Mumbai are hardly organized. The trade unions have traditionally focussed on textiles, while the mills are closing down or have closed already. Unemployment rates are high and create great problems for the laid off workers. Some of them have managed to shift to the garment industry. Attempts to organize garment workers are usually met by an immediate shift of production to a different unit. The factory owners constantly pass on the message that the sector is in trouble, that therefore they can't improve the situation for workers and that the situation will deteriorate after the phase out of the MFA in 2005.

One suggestion made in the meeting was to start a broad based local campaign on a specific issue, for example on social security or the demand for a sectoral minimum wage. To prevent that factory owners in response to these demands shift production to another facility and dismiss the workers, the campaign should not target on one company but on the sector as a whole. Neither should such a campaign address industry alone but also the local- or state government. It could benefit from international support, pressuring government and industry organizations via the large buyers.
Existing local regulation concerning headloaders provides an example of regulation that has allowed for recognition of the so-called 'self-employed' as workers. A special government board oversees the implementation of the headloaders act while local bodies pool workers and divide the work5.
Certification systems were mentioned as another possibility for improving conditions, if a genuine system would be developed whereby those companies that do provide good conditions and space to organize would receive such a certificate, and buyers would commit to preferring these, this would definitely be a benefit. Some criticism was raised regarding existing certifying initiatives such as for example Rugmark. Participants felt that this initiative failed because it does not sufficiently involve trade unions and civil society.

A third suggestion was to make sure that a good code of conduct is included in the contract between buyer and supplier, thereby making observance of the standards outlined in the code part of the national law. If trade unions and NGOs in India know in which factories this is the case, they can monitor certain suppliers and the companies concerned can be taken to court also internationally. Contract law is very strong, and can be a valuable tool for trade unions and NGOs in India to use and would also focus more on the legal obligations of companies and less on voluntary initiatives, with their inherent risks.

The outcome of this meeting is that trade union representatives and NGO's came up with some inspiring strategies to improve the situation of garment workers in Mumbai.

Trade union meeting in Tirupur
A major point that was raised in Tirupur was the very low level of organisation in the area called the 'T-shirt belt', which is Tirupur and surrounding towns. The problem of this very low organisation rate was recognized by all present in the meeting.

The main worry for those working on behalf of workers in Tirupur is the process of relocation, both within the region as well as abroad, leading to job losses and insecurity of employment. Consequences of the WTO entry of China plus phase-out of MFA are considered to be extremely important developments.
Obviously the CCC cannot stop the process of constant relocation. What it can do is raise the issue of cut & run at all levels, and address it as one of the major causes of bad labour conditions in the garment industry. The risk of campaigning is that it can single out Tirupur as violating labour standards, giving it a bad reputation and leading to more relocation. A way to prevent this is to always present the situation in Tirupur within the national and international context and by giving information about several regions simultaneously. In that way it can be shown that Tirupur is not an exceptional case but that poor working conditions are a central dynamic of the garment industry.

The outcome of this meeting was the agreement to ensure information exchange in the future.

NGO meeting in Tirupur
SAVE invited a broad group of NGO representatives from the region for a strategy meeting in Tirupur. The NGOs who participated in the meeting work on issues like child labour, development and human rights. Because the textile and garment industry is shifting from Tirupur to other towns in the region and because the participants are frequently confronted with problems of the workers in these sectors they feel the importance for joint action.

Different NGO representatives feel that if a relationship with trade unions could be developed a strong movement could exist. They see the work done in Europe as an example of how trade unions and NGO's can work on shared issues. The problems between trade unions and NGO's in Tirupur can partly be explained by the fact that employers actively drive a wedge between them. NGOs should consider the question how this gap can be filled and how a new campaign can be started.

As a result of this meeting, 19 non-governmental organizations from the state of Tamil Nadu launched a network to work for the interest of workers in the garment- and allied industries. The network will work in tandem with the Clean Clothes Campaign. A taskforce was created to consolidate this Clean Clothes Campaign network in Tamil Nadu. The taskforce has planned the following activities:

  • Publish a poster and a calendar for the year 2002, highlighting the concepts of CCC among trade unions, non-governmental organizations, labour agencies, consumer groups and other networks in order to attract more membership.
  • Organise a two-day workshop on labour standards in garment and allied industries with 50 participants from non-governmental organizations, trade unions, consumer organizations and governmental institutions from Tamil Nadu, New Delhi and Mumbai. Representatives from regional ILO office, state labour officials, labour researchers, Asian CCC network partners and International CCC will be invited to address the workshop.
  • Launch a network for worker education involving all NGOs and trade unions working in the textile and garment manufacturing region in Tamil Nadu to mobilise women workers and home based workers.

A website has been established at

List of trade unions and NGOs who participated in the meetings

CEC (Centre for Education and Communication) (organiser of the trade union meetings)
J. John, director:,
Sujana Krishnamoorty, researcher:,
Suparna Lahiri, campaign co-ordinator:
173 A, Khirki Village, Malviya Nagar
New Delhi 110017
tel: 00 91 11 668 68 41 / 623 27 58, fax: 00 91 11 628 68 42

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung India
Pravin Sinha:,
K 70 B Huaz Khas Enclave
New Delhi 110 016
tel: 00 91 11 6561361/2/3/4/ext 17, fax: 656 4691

D. L. Sachdev
24 Canning Lane
New Delhi
tel: 3387320, fax: 338 6427

Tapan Sen, secretary
S. Dev Roye
13-A Rouse Avenue
Deen Dayal Upadhaya Marg
New Delhi 110 002
tel: 3221306 / 3221288, fax: 3221284

R.A. Mital, Secretary
120 Babar Road
New Delhi 110 001
tel: 3413519, fax: 3411037

Himmat Singh
A-21, Madhuvihar
Gali No-20, Patparganj
Delhi 110 092
tel: 2221067

Abani Roy
17 B Firozshah Road
New Delhi 110 001

Centre for Workers Management
Gautam Mody
B-137, 1st floor, Dayanand Colony
Lajpat Nagar - IV
New Delhi 110 024
tel/fax: 011 648 6931

Union Research group
Rohini Hensmann:
Chanda Korgaokar:
B-31, Sun N Sea, Near Picnic cottage 25
B Block, J.P Road Versova
Mumbai - 400 061

Nandita Gandhi
Nandita Shah
tel: 00 91 22 431 60 82
Akshara, Women's Library
Neelambari 501, 5 th floor
Road no. 86, Off Gokhale road (Collage Lane)
Opp. Portugese Church DADAR
Mumbai 400 028
tel: 00 91 22 430 96 76 / 431 60 82, fax: 00 91 22 431 91 43

Trade Union Solidarity Committee / Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti
Gayatri Sigh
Apoorva Kaiwar
Engineers House
86 Apollo Street
Mumbai 4000023
tel: 00 91 22 645 8411

S K Damley, State Committee of AITUC
G P Kouli
Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan
85, Shyani Road, Pravadevi, Dadar
Mumbai 400 025

CITU Maharastra State Committee / Mumbai Committee
Com. Vivek Monteiro, State Secretary
Sangharsh, Querry Road
Bhandup (W)
Mumbai 400 078
tel: 564 2427 / 560 0917

Blue Star Employees Union
(also: Trade Union Solidarity Committee)

Sneh Sadan
Dr. Shanti G. Patel
B-11, Shitaladevi Temple Road
Mumbai 400 016
tel: 377 6320

Umraomal Purohit, General Secretary
57, D.V. Pradhan Road
Hindu Colony, Dadar (East)
Mumbai 400 014
tel: 341 35 19

Ms. Pushpa U Metha
5, Besant Street
Santa Cruz (W)
Mumbai 400 054
tel: 649 1478

S S Mehta

Mill Mazdoor Panchayat
Ashim Roy:
19/222 Parishram appts.
Satelite Road
Ahmedabad 380011
tel: 91 79 676 3886

SAVE (organiser NGO meeting Tirupur)
A. Aloysius:,
5, Iswariya Nagar
Dharapuram Road
Tirupur 641 608
tel: 00 91 421 428 100, fax: 00 91 421 428 200

S.M. Prithiviraj, Research Consultant
Community Awareness Research Education
186 Dr. Radhakrishnan Road
Coimbatore 641012
tel: 91-422-491470

CSED (Centre for Social Education and development)
C. Nambi, director
M. Baskaran
N. Aruchamy, field co-ordinator
S. Yessian, field co-ordinator
K.A. Subramaniam, field co-ordinator
38, Narasa street
Avinashi 641654
Coimbatore district
tel: 04296-602969/600089, fax: 04296 600089

ILO NCLP Project
M. Lourthu Mary, project director secretary
Collectrate Coimbatore 18
1591 St. Francis Convent
Trichy Road
Coimbatore 641018
tel: 302553 / 300727

S. Alexander, Development Consultant
2/1109. Ezhil Nagar
Madurai 625 014

E. James Rajasekaran, Project Director
P.B. no. 87
Madurai 635 020
tel: 0452 533493

J. Paul, co-ordinator
J. Mathalai Selvam
S. John
Puduvadavalli Po.
Sathy Tk.
Erode 638 401
tel: 04295 24930 / 43371

Don Bosco Anbu IIIam Fr. John Dharman S.D.B., director
38, G.M.Nagar, P.Box No. 409
By Pass Road, Ukkadam
Coimbatore 641 001
tel: 399758/399778/98422/41098, fax: 0422 399758

Childline, Don Bosco Anbu IIIam
T. Sheela
Charles Prabhu, director
55 Kambar Street
Teachers Colony

Don Bosco Nest
S. Stanley Joseph MSW, project co-ordinator
12 Kuppana Chettiar Street
(Opp. Cotton market)
tel: 0421 714176 / 98422 21098

People's Watch - Tamil Nadu
Xavier Arockiasamy, associate director - IHRE
6A Vallabhai Road
Madurai 625 002
tel: 0452 539520, fax: 0452 531874

International Child Care Trust
Plot No. 156. Roja Street
Kooturavu Nagar
Dindigul 624 005
tel: 0451 421630

A. Dass, co-ordinator
Periyar Nagar 0427
tel: 270489
e-mail: adass@tr.dotnet

M. Sarala, co-ordinator
442, Tirchengode Road
Erode 638 006
tel: 04288 40212 / 0424 216401, fax: 0424 211111

N. Palanisamy, director
4/535, Ramana Magarishi Nagar
Collector Office P.O.
Dindigul 624 004
Coimbatore 641 001
tel: 0451 460791, fax: 0451 432538 / 98422 41098 e-mail:

C. Charles Prabhu, director
55 Kambar Street
Teachers Colony
tel: 0424 274667

Rural Education and Environment Development Service (REEDS)
I. Jayaseelan, director
Plot No. 10 Sivasakthi Nagar
Ellis Nagar (Post)
Dhsrapuram 638 657
Erode. Dt.
tel: 04258 24479 e-mail:

Action for Rural Improvement Service & Training Organization (ARISTO)
M. Baskal Bailon, director
Ulagampatti, Agaram Po.
Thadicombu Via
Dindigul Tk / Dt
Pin 624709
tel: 0451 57296/57507

CEDA Trust
Ramesh, programme co-ordinator
98 - A Kooturavu Nagar
Dindigul - 5
tel: 0451 431090, fax: 0451 431040

Centre For Human Development
N. Vellingiri, director
4/452 Ethiraj Nagar
Mettupalayam 641 301
tel: 04254 75449

Narayanasamy, president
12 Brindavan Colony

Labour Progressive Federation (DMK)
K. Ratnakrishnan
No. 10, Thiyagarajar Street
North Usman Road
T. Nagar
Chennai 600 017

' Thiyagam '
P. Ramahsamy
Rukumani Laxmipathi Salai
Chennai 600 008

A.I.A.D.M.K. Head Office
A. Murugasamy
Avvai Shanmugam Salai
Chennai 600 004

Tamil Manila Trade Union Congress (TMTUC)
TMC Head Office
'Sathyamurthy Bhavan'
General Patters Road
Chennai 600 002
S. Gajapathy
P. Vishwanathan, TMTUC Tirupur
S. Nandagopal, TMTUC Tirupur
G. Tiruvengadam, TMTUC Coimbatore

Shri P.K.G. Menon, general secretary
G R Bhawan 1 st. floor
87 Royapettah High Road
Chennai 600 014
tel: 8114644, fax: 811 22 54
P. Mariappan, INTUC Tirupur
A. Perumal, INTUC Tirupur

A.K. Padmanabhan, national secretary CITU Chennai
27, Mosque Street
Chennai 600 005
tel: 853 0259, fax: 851 1975

CITU Tirupur
Com. C. Govindasami, secretary
K. Ponnusamy
280, Avinashi Road
Tirupur 641 602

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India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - September 7, 2004