Over 10,000 garment workers across Bengaluru came on streets to protest against the move by the Employee Provident Fund Organisation to restrict employees from withdrawing their entire contribution to the provident fund till the age of 58. Protesters burnt three buses and police resorted to lathi charge and firing tear gas shells to disperse the protesting workers, majority of who were women.
Over six lakh workers are employed in garment factories in Karnataka, of which four lakh people work in Bengaluru.
“This was a spontaneous protest by workers.They are worried that their life savings will be lost,” said K R Jayaram, President of the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU).
On Monday, thousands of technology workers got stuck in busy traffic on the electronics city road and on Mysore road when workers took to the streets. GATWU and other unions have called for a meeting on April 26 to decide on the next course of action.Average salaries for garment workers is less than Rs 10,000 a month and the PF is the only savings for them, he said.
Even as workers took to streets in Bengaluru, the EPFO on Tuesday came with an amendment that money can be withdrawn for emergency purposes. It stated that a subscriber can withdraw his or her entire savings for housing purpose, treatment of himself/herself or family members suffering from TB (tuberculosis), leprosy, paralysis, cancer or undergoing heart operation, marriage of children as well as professional education (medical, engineering, dental) of children.
“Even the employer’s contribution is part of the salary package of the employee. EPF is a kind of an insurance for workers and if you are unsure of withdrawing it for an emergency, it is a big blow for them,” said an industry executive who does not want to be identified.