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Women Employees in Tamil Nadu Factories: Lawful Intentions vs Unlawful Pretentions

CASE STUDY, HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
ET Cases, 18 pages

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Women Employees in Tamil Nadu Factories: Lawful Intentions Vs Unlawful Pretentions

 

On June 10th 2014, the Narendra Modi1-led National Democratic Allaince2 (NDA) government initiated action on the labour law reforms. The labour ministry sought suggestions from all stakeholders, including industries, trade unions and experts, on its proposal to amend the 66- year-old Factories Act, 1948. On the same day, the Bharatiya Janata Party3 (BJP) government in Rajasthan had approved amendments to three key labor laws—Industrial Disputes Act, Factories Act and Contract Labour Act. However, in August 2014, the proposal to allow women to work in the night shift was opposed by Mahila Congress (women’s wing of the Indian National Congress4) and the All India Trade Union Congress5 citing their concerns over the safety, security and health of women workers, especially when crimes against women were escalating.

In October 2008, the Ministry of Labour and Employment had proposed few amendments to the Factories Act, 1948, but the proposed amendments had not passed the parliamentary muster until October 2014. The proposed amendments included improved safety of workers, increased penalty for violation of the Act and relaxing the norms for women to work in night shifts.

The Factories Act, 1948, banned companies from employing women during night shifts. But the garment manufacturing factories and textile mills in Tamil Nadu (located in Tirupur, Coimbatore, Erode and Salem districts) were employing women.6 More than half of the workforce consisted of girls and women aged between 14 and 25 years, as they could be employed at a low-cost in the companies......................

 



  • 1 Narendra Damodardas Modi is the 15th Prime Minister of India, in office since May 2014. He is a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and previously served as the Chief Minister of Gujarat state from 2001 to 2014.
  • 2 The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is a centre-right coalition of political parties in India. At the time of its formation in 1998, it was led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and had thirteen constituent parties.
  • 3 The Bharatiya Janata Party (translation: Indian People’s Party) is one of two major parties in the Indian political system.
  • 4 The Indian National Congress, commonly called the Congress, is one of the two major contemporary political parties in India. It is one of the largest and oldest democratically-operating political parties in the world.
  • 5 The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) is the oldest trade union federations in India and one of the five largest. According to provisional statistics from the Ministry of Labour, AITUC had a membership of 2,677,979 in 2002.
  • 6 Aditi Nigam, “If industry complies with labour law, night shifts will be much easier for women”, http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/if-industry-complies-with-labour-law-night-shifts-will-be-much-easier-for-women/article6313867.ece, August 13th 2014 (accessed on September 18th 2014)

Teaching Note Preview

Women Employees in Tamil Nadu Factories: Lawful Intentions Vs Unlawful Pretentions

 

Synopsis

This case study enables a discussion on the health and safety of the workers in manufacturing units in general and women employees working in the textile factories and mills in particular. The Factories Act, 1948, banned companies from employing women during night shifts. But the garment manufacturing factories and textile mills in Tamil Nadu employed women, mostly aged between 14 and 25 years, at very low wages. Non-compliance of laws and exploitation of women workers was widely reported in these factories and the industry was facing severe criticism.

In October 2008, with Madras High Court’s guidelines (circa 2000; R.Vasantha), the Ministry of Labour and Employment had proposed few amendments to the Factories Act, 1948, which included improved safety of workers and norms for women to work in night shifts. But, in August 2014, the move to allow women to work in the night shift was opposed by Mahila Congress (the women’s wing of the Indian National Congress) and the All India Trade Union Congress. Would the new amendments allowing the companies to employ women during night shifts, will be a bane or boon for women workers? Would the exploitation stop or would it increase? How can the government ensure its implementation and compliance by the industry players?

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding (PCU)/Before the Classroom Discussion

A working knowledge along with the business implications of the following concepts would enable an effective discussion leading to more practical solutions than a mere intellectual exercise. The participants were asked to read the following to help them connect the concepts:

  • 1. Gary Dessler and Biju Varkkey, “Chapter 2: Employment Law in India and the United States”, Human Resource Management, 12th Edition (Indian Adaptation), Pearson Education, Inc., 2011 – To understand the fundamental rights, rights against exploitation and constitutional provisions in India under the labor/factory laws and acts and their applicability in the Indian manufacturing firms; and how women labor are exploited with the non-compliance of laws
  • 2. Gary Dressler and Biju Varkkey, “Chapter 16: Employee Safety and Health”, Human Resource Management, 12th Edition (Indian Adaptation), Pearson Education, Inc., 2011 – To understand the labor/factory laws and acts in India and their applicability in the Indian manufacturing firms and how the labor/workers are exploited with their non-compliance
  • • Occupational Health and Safety in India
  • • Cause of Accidents at Work Places
  • • Occupational Security
  • 3. In addition, students were asked to observe and identify the workers/labor exploitation happening in and around their homes/institutions and the generally prevalent working conditions/benefits given at the workplace. If possible, they can visit any manufacturing unit to carry out these observations

 

Expected Learning Outcomes

At the end of this case analysis and discussion, the participants (students) were expected to understand the implications/able to answer the questions that would expend their horizons of the Laws and Acts prevalent in India and their compliance (from the HRM perspective):

  • • An overview of slew of Laws and Acts prevalent in India to safeguard women’s rights and dignity at workplace, taking cognizance of Article 15(3) of the Indian constitution
  • • The current state of women worker’s health and safety record at Tamil Nadu’s garment industry/textile mills in the light of several related laws
  • • The implementation and compliance of the proposed amendments to Factories Act 1948 with reference to women working during night shifts and its effect on textile mills’ women workers

 

Positioning/Case Setting

This case study can be used for either of the following modules/topics in the Human Resource Management Course:

  • • Occupational Health and Safety Laws in India –To understand the labor/factory laws and acts in India and how companies exploit workers by non-compliance of laws
  • • Safety and Security of Employees – The prerequisites for companies to have a crime prevention plan and other security programs
  • • Workplace Health Hazards and Accidents – To understand the need for hygiene and safety of the workers and the cause of accidents at workplace and the remedies

 

Assignment Questions

  • I. What factors do you think are responsible for the majority of women being employed in the Textile industry in Tamil Nadu? What factors are responsible for the textile industry players to flout the laws and rules?
  • II. Why is it that, despite there being many laws in India to protect women’s rights and safety, women are being exploited (financially/sexually) at workplaces or outside? Why do you think, women workers’/employees’ safety seems to be compromised, albeit in few instances but frequently? Who do you hold responsible for this unjust treatment of women workers in the country?
  • III. ...........................

 

Suggested Orchestration

The classroom discussion was facilitated under three broad sections as explained in Exhibit (TN)-I. And the classroom discussion and analysis for this case study could be summarized through the Board Plan [Exhibit (TN)-II].............

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Abstract


This case study, mapped for Employee Safety in HRM course, is structured around women employees of Tamil Nadu's garment industry and textile mills. Tirupur-Coimbatore-Erode-Salem districts together formed a thriving textile hub and while business grew in these districts, the allegations - ranging from exploitation to apathy - have also been on rise. These four districts employ more than 500,000 women workforce and have been facing severe criticisms for their non-compliance of laws, especially related to women safety at their workplaces. With the new amendment proposed to Factories Act 1948, allowing the companies to employ women during night shifts, with Madras High Court's guidelines (in circa 2000; R.Vasantha), will it be a bane or boon for women workers in these four districts? Would the exploitation stop or would it increase?



Pedagogical Objectives

  • To have an overview of slew of Laws and Acts prevalent in India to safeguard women's rights and dignity at workplace, taking cognizance of article 15(3) of the Indian Constitution
  • To examine the current state of women worker's health and safety record at Tamil Nadu's garment industry/textile mills in the light of several related laws
  • To discuss and debate on the proposed amendment to Factories Act 1948 with reference to women working during night shifts and its effect on textile mills' women workers

Positioning/Setting of the Case Study

This case study can be used for either of the following modules/topics in the Human Resource Management Course:

  • Occupational Health and Safety Laws in India - To understand the labor/factory laws and acts in India
  • Safety and Security of Employees - To be aware of the prerequisites for companies to have a crime prevention plan and other security programs
  • Workplace Health Hazards and Accidents - To understand the need for hygiene and the cause of accidents at workplace and the remedies



This Case Pack Includes:
- Abstract
- Case Study
- Teaching Note (**ONLY for Academicians)
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