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Karnataka: Complaints show 9,000 lost jobs, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg


Bengaluru: About 9,000 people working in garment and manufacturing units in Karnataka have lost their jobs since the outbreak of Covid-19, according to the complaints registered with the labour department. Half of them are from Bengaluru Urban and Rural districts, officials said.

The actual number would be several times that registered with labour authorities, both labour officials and independent experts said. According to them, not everyone who has lost his or her job would have walked into a labour office to register his complaint against his employer, officials added.

In fact, most of the complaints the labour authorities have registered were brought upon by the labour unions, officials said.

The job losses peaked in Bengaluru after the Centre as well as the state government enforced one of the toughest lockdowns for several weeks since March-end, disrupting supply chains, delaying transportation of inputs/components and finished products. Only industrial units producing essential supplies were allowed to function, and later too, industries had to scale down the number of workers to comply with the health department’s standard operating procedure (SoP).

The labour authorities could pretty much do little as the problems are very deep, to solve which the economy has to bounce back, expert on labour laws and labour market SN Murthy said. A lot of small and medium manufacturing units as well as garments, he said, supplied not just to their Indian customers, but also to foreign companies. In a number of instances, these orders have been either cancelled, postponed or reworked. Several small industries have either shut down or are on the verge of closure as their orders have dried up, he added.

Automobile companies, for instance, have cut back on their production owing to a slump in demand. This has led to a corresponding cut in demand for components which has resulted in small component makers laying off workers. “In several instances, the issue is not one of working capital which banks may be willing to provide. The small firms are struggling without orders. They have either reduced their workforce or have simply shut down,” Murthy said.

Labour officials too said the actual job losses in Bengaluru would be much higher as many small and medium industrial units have closed down, or have suspended operations for want of order resulting in large scale layoffs, officials said.

Sounding optimistic, labour minister Shivaram Hebbar said the economy was slowly picking up, and new jobs were getting added. Things will be much better on the jobs front probably after a month’s time and hiring will pick up, he said.

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