New weaving rates pinch income

January 29, 2010

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FAISALABAD, Jan 28 The powerlooms sector stung by power and yarn crises has reduced the weaving rates for which the workers have been protesting for years. About one million labourers are directly and indirectly attached to the textile sector of Faisalabad.

Akhtar Ali, powerloom worker of Iqbal Town, said the shortage of yarn and electricity had made their lives miserable. Exploiting the economic condition of labourers, powerloom units' owners have reduced weaving rates from Rs170 to Rs160 per 100 metres.

He said they had no option but to accept the revised rates as scores of labourers had already been rendered jobless due to the crises. He said revised rates and less work had forced him to sell household items to incur daily expenses.

“Factory owners don't help workers and only offer them a debt of not more than Rs1,000,” Mr Ali said.

“A powerloom worker earns Rs1,000 to Rs1,200 per week after the revised rates. Earlier, a worker would earn Rs2,500 to Rs4,000.”

The electricity shortfall of 4,000 megawatt (MW) has also affected the powerlooms sector.

The usual drone of powerloom units ruling the streets of Ghulam Muhammadabad and adjoining Faizabad localities has fallen silent. Nowadays, powerlooms factories, which otherwise are operational for 24 hours, hold only an eight-hour shift because of the yarn shortage and hours long power cuts.

Fierce anti-government protests erupted at the arrival of President Asif Zardari in the city a few days ago. Powerlooms workers at the forefront of the demonstration demanded that the government supply uninterrupted electricity to them. In the first week of 2009, the workers also took out rallies against the government for not resolving the issue.

A worker, Malik Arshad, sees workers' exploitation behind the politics of protest. He says industrialists are trying to sweep the problems of workers under the carpet.

He said that powerlooms workers have been on roads for the last two years demanding increase in wages, issuance of social security and employment cards and solution to hours-long power outages. Industry leaders, however, highlighted only the power issue in their statements.

GAS SHORTAGE The shortage of gas is another factor bringing down the production of the textile sector. Khurrianwala Industrial Estate Association Chairman Azhar Majeed says industrial production of the city textile units has come down by 50 per cent owing to irregular electricity cuts and a gas load management introduced by the government with the advent of winter. He said 40,000 powerlooms, 1,000 hosiery units, 450 printing mills, 600 dyeing units, 500 sizing units and 1,200 home textile units were lagging behind their export shipments.

More than three million workers remain out of work for two weeks in a month due to arbitrary gas closure costing heavily to textile mills. Mr Majeed said the industry was suffering production loss of Rs40 billion a month due to the gas load management. The situation has further been complicated due to intermittent hike in its price.

He said gas closure was also discriminatory, as the load management plan was not being implemented in Karachi.