On Workers’ Welfare

by Vanisha Pandia

June 10, 2021

One of the most important aspects of business ethics constitutes treatment of workers in an enterprise. This might include ethics of wages, creating favourable working conditions or even ensuring an amount of security from the drastic up-down movements of the market etc.

After privatisation of businesses in India, there came about certain phenomena that weren’t paid heed to for a very long time. This went on being neglected in the course of consequent five-year plans India was trying to achieve in the early decades after independence. The population and low living standards remained uncentered in these following years and contributed towards maintaining the abusive pattern. It counts for lack of job security and replacement fear till date. Some businesses still do not come under the radar of policies in place and go on by manipulation of authorities colloquially known as the babus.

The matters need to be taken in individual hands. Be it through sustainability quotient of the upcoming businesses or staunch paperwork done by the companies being registered in urban India. The issue is undeniable and the solution needs to be inevitable.

The problem arises when there is a normalisation of such exploitative schemes and oppressive designs by the people themselves. The web of their reasons seems well knitted and un-threadable, their vulnerabilities stitched sturdily to the fabric of their lives. The solution cannot be famished off the song sung of the scenario from those who are the verdict of it.

There are terms in our vocabulary that help normalize the system and these words haven’t yet perturbed the changemakers. For example, a ‘sweatshop’ is a term often used to derogatively describe places, especially factories in developing countries. They are characterized as such due to features like low wages, lack of arrangements for workers’ safeguard, inhumanly long hours etc.

The long hours may be well 24/7. The frequency of breaks allowed to the people is shortened by an extreme level. Along tags the torturous culture of a worker sanctioned to ‘keep an eye’ on the employees to never leave their seat or equipment. He also needs to make sures of the energy and ‘motivation’ of the workers so as to keep increasing the intensity with which they are putting themselves in the hay churner.

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Social enterprises in India are moving towards working with local craftsmen and artisans from the rural regions of India. This shouldn’t be looked at as a philanthropic exercise, but a statement of sustainability in their principles. These are the most skilled workers with the art as a part of their muscle memory. It all lies in their hands, and all we need to do is ensure that the Indian urbanity does not starve itself of the talent and Indian rurality does not get shunned in the chase for efficient globalization. We have seen the threat of the same happening when these workers had no alternative but to make pieces for the international market, and receive wages that cannot match even the substandard living amount in their own third-world.  Such an incident was brought to attention with the tragedy that struck garment workers of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, making it collapse in 2013. Apart from the pain of this tragedy, what they found was a workforce unable to go even a day without work, due zero savings, no backup and earning as meagre as $10 a month.

The scenario is worrisome and requires attention. The normal workday situation does not even consider terms like work-life balance and forgetting to ensure medical allowance or life insurance. The living condition workers are able to afford cannot be given the claim of living a ‘life’.

The issue of fair wages has had its chance to come in discussions and be a part of intellectual and academic discourse. Still, the issue hasn’t seen the light of favorable results in many fields and departments. Be it monthly pay, compensations or reimbursements, we have become conditioned to view it as a price for the work that is put in by the worker. The fault in this viewing is that it doesn’t take time to get transferred from being a price attached to the individual’s life. What is the other way to see that wage, is in terms of supply and demand in the market. This method is not entirely a fair game when it comes to a country like India, especially when the workforce counts under the labour segment.

An ethical view holds it as an employer’s duty to solute a fair wage, which is one that enables them to maintain standard living conditions and job security.

Minimum wage standards differ in different states of India. Such variation seems inevitable given the cultural and geographical diversity this country permits. Yet, there needs to be a set standard for what can be considered just. A Fashion Revolution survey report

stated that female garment workers in Bangalore were earning around 7000 rupees (£78) per month and were actually one of the better-paid garment makers in India. The state of Rajasthan minimum wage for garment workers varies from 6058 Rupees for Skilled to 7358 Rupees for Highly Skilled workers. The amount though cannot be justified by the lower expenses in some regions and higher in others, what we can consider is the poll of the people in fixing an amount. The ethos still should be conducted around the dignity of life and an ability to support families without a physical and mental burnout

The hardship workers face due to inhumanly long hours and lack of safety measures taken in the workplace, is an issue yet to be dealt with on a more official basis. What is considered normal is an 8-hour workday, a 12-hour day is not, in any case or circumstances. It is elementary for an employer to provide better working conditions and he is obligated to ensure that their basic human needs are being met in the office premises. This may include frequent breaks, space for movement and interiors that are not suffocating.

The manipulative tricks such as failure to give a full-time job to save on the benefits should also be incarcerated in the past. Travel time of the employee needs to be taken into consideration and such discourse needs to become more relevant in regard to Indian corporates, too.

These basic mandates will not only ensure a healthy, happy and a loyal workforce, but will ensure a quotient of individuality and dignified self, among the fellow-citizens. It is nothing but a win-win situation.

About the Author

Vanisha Pandia

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