Employees replaced by contract workers

published 26-05-2014 15:05, last modified 06-01-2015 14:30
The situation at the Modelama Exports factory in North India has not improved. Around 200 workers on permanent contracts were fired or forced to leave due to the lack of overtime hours offered to them. Many have been replaced with contract workers.
Employees replaced by contract workers

Modelama workers were targeted for unionizing. Photo: United Workers Congress

After this mass replacement, 14 women workers have filed cases with the labour department to appeal against the illegal termination of their contracts.

Intimidation

Freedom of association also continues to be undermined at the factory. Two main union leaders who were transferred in 2014 to work on their own in a separate building away from the main factory continue to be intimidated, with incidents of management visiting their homes to pressure  them to stop organising.

British buyer

The UK-based retailer NEXT, one of the main brands sourcing from the factory, has consistently refused to meet the union's demand to sign a letter to send to all the workers stating that NEXT supports freedom of association in the factory, and that it will not cut its orders if more workers join. The Clean Clothes Campaign continues to support the union's demands on NEXT.

Background

After workers of the Modelama factory in North India registered their union in December 2012, the management dismissed fourteen workers. The union's general secretary and two other workers were transferred to remote factories in retaliation for their work with the union. Others were forced to sign blank documents and harassed and intimidated on a daily basis after establishing a trade union to represent them.
Buyers of the factory include fashion brands Gap and Next. After a long struggle and pressure from the international community, including the Clean Clothes Campaign, Modelama reinstated the fourteen workers in 2013 and paid them the salaries they were owed.

However, there has been no positive change in the management’s attitude towards the trade union in the company.  In 2014, workers who joined the union reported being denied overtime, which they need to supplement their low wages to sustain their families. The lack of overtime has forced many union members to leave their jobs and seek work elsewhere.

After initial hopes were raised for a better relationship between management and the union in late 2013, the management failed to keep up an ongoing dialogue, ignoring repeated requests for meetings and failing to deal with issues such as pay inaccuracies.

The latest reported mass replacement of workers has only worsened the situation.

The buyer Gap left the factory in spring 2014, citing repeated code of conduct violations as the reason. The other buyer, Next, has not managed to resolve issues with the Modelama management and union. The struggle continues.

Picket line