As the Indian apparel industry is lobbying hard with the US to get the `unfair labour practices` tag removed, one of its members has been caught on the wrong foot. Gurgaon-based Viva Global, a kidswear supplier to UK retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has made news after its workers were allegedly roughed up following protest against minimum wage violation.
Viva has been doing business with M&S since six years. However, the contract now has been discontinued. While the company owner Vipin Vohra says malicious propaganda carried out by NGOs and labour unions against him eventually led to the termination, M&S claims, the action was taken following a delay in production.
Companies in the apparel industry say India cannot pass this as an one-off incident considering the amount of attention it has drawn in the recent past for use of child labour and forced labour in the garment industry. India has already been blacklisted by the US federal government for using child labour in the garment exporting industry and is facing the ire of international buyers over abuse of labour in the sector.
The Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) recently made efforts to get India off the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation Act (TVPRA List) which will be prepared by the US in September 2010, and such incidents may put hurdles.
Viva employs about 400-500 workers and churns out close to 80,000 pieces a month. Its reported turnover is of Rs 10 crore in 2009-10.
AEPC chairman Premal Udani, who is trying to set things in order with ethical trade practices, the Common Compliance Code, took a cautious stand on the Viva controversy. He said: “While saying labour unrest is not new to India and China, the incident at Viva Gloval is a case of industrial dispute. At times, the demands of labours is unjustified. But considering we deal with brands and employ an unorganised workforce, such problems do crop up.”