Protest against sexual harrassment results in layoffs

published 26-05-2014 15:05, last modified 06-01-2015 14:52
In September 2013, a female worker was fired after fighting back against sexual harassment. The intimidation had started immediately after she began working in the Richa Global factory in Gurgaon, which was producing for Lidl. After seven months of sexual harassment and intimidation at the factory by her supervisor and a quality checker, the female worker fought back and hit both of them with her slippers. When other workers protested against her dismissal, 87 of them were fired too.
Protest against sexual harrassment results in layoffs

Sexual harassment is rife in the Indian garment industry. In 2012, a People's Tribunal was held where this was one of the focal points, next to wages

Some positive developments occurred in the first quarter of 2014, but no justice has yet been achieved for the female worker who was a victim of sexual harassment.
On the positive side: the management did set up a committee including workers’ elected representatives to deal with general labour issues. The eight sacked workers accepted a proposal by the Labour Department to receive one month’s salary in compensation.

During the last months of 2014 there has been considerable success in terms of organizing workers at the factory. The workers are now considering filing for registration of their union. However, we cannot report any progress in the case of the female worker who was a victim of sexual harassment. Supported by the union, she is still fighting her case with the local administration against the factory management regarding her termination. The last hearing with the Additional District Commissioner (ADC) took place on 30th December 2014. The ADC has given one month time to the factory management to come with a report of its internal committee. Unfortunately there is no evidence on whether management has taken any disciplinary action against the two culprits, who are still employed in the factory. There is also no confirmation of the establishment of an anti-sexual harassment committee.

Lidl and Esmara

Lidl is one of the factory's main buyers. The factory produced items for Lidl's fashion brand Esmara. The Clean Clothes campaign has demanded that Lidl ensure that the Richa Global management sets up a meeting with the union and workers and assists in setting up an anti-sexual harassment committee. The Clean Clothes Campaign is in ongoing communication with Lidl about the case.

Background

In October 2013, seven of the fired workers filed a notice in the Labour Department against the mass layoff following the protest against the female worker's dismissal. They demanded an Internal Complaint Committee be set up, in compliance with Central government's new law against sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The female worker also filed a notice with Labour Department, challenging her dismissal.