A section of workers in Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur knitwear cluster are on strike demanding the rollback of a recent amendment in the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) scheme, according to which the employer’s component in the EPF corpus can only be withdrawn when the employee turns 58.
Currently, the workers are striking in three units in Tirupur. Exporters fear the strike might spread to more units. Tirupur Exporters Association (TEA) has asked the Union labour minister to address the problem immediately as it could cripple the Rs 23,500-crore sector. The amendment was done by the Union labour ministry through a notification in February.
“The amendment in PF norms has created a lot of resentment among the workers,” said TEA president A Sakthivel. The cluster employs around 400,000 workers directly, and out of which 70 per cent are women. There are around 70,000 workers from other states including Odisha, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. There are workers from Nepal as well.
Notably, it’s mostly the north Indian workers who are on strike in Tirupur. These workers typically leave their jobs after working for four or five years owing to various reasons such as marriage, better job prospects in their native states, starting their own ventures, etc. These workers can’t afford to wait to turn 58 years to claim their PF money.
“Due to the strike, production has been got affected and the units will have difficulty in meeting their export delivery schedule. These units might also incur financial losses and lose out on future orders,” said Sakthivel.
Manpower is critical to the garment sector and the success of Tirupur exports is mainly attributed to the prompt delivery schedule. “With the shortage of labour, no export unit will take big orders,” Sakthivel added.