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Tamil Nadu Garment Sector Gets First Wage Hike in 12 Years

Thousands of garment workers in Tamil Nadu got some good news last week.

The Madras High Court, which is the highest court in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, ordered that garment worker monthly wages be raised from $67 to $97. The 30 percent increase, with immediate effect, is the first minimum wage hike in more than 12 years, Thomson Reuters Foundation reported.

“It is a huge victory in a long drawn (out) battle to get workers their due,” Sujata Mody of Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam, a women’s workers’ union, said. “Workers have been living in impoverished conditions with inflation and prices on the up.”

India’s Minimum Wage Act, introduced in 1948, requires state governments to raise the basic minimum wage every five years. However, Tamil Nadu’s textile factories have continuously contested these pay increases—and this new ruling is no different. Lawyers for 500 apparel manufacturers and exporters argued that the new wage would be “practically impossible” to implement, given the current market conditions worldwide.

As such, workers’ rights campaigns have asked the state government to ensure that textile firms immediately comply with the court ruling, which includes arrears backdated to December 2014 as well as an additional inflation-linked allowance.

India’s $40 billion garment industry employs about 45 million workers. Factories in Tamil Nadu account for about one-third of the country’s garment production.