Ambur in Tamil Nadu is one of the biggest leather clusters in India and is home to a large number of tanneries and footwear factories. Tanneries and factories provide direct employment to thousands of men and women, in addition to this, many women homeworkers are also engaged by the factories through intermediaries or sub-contractors to stitch shoe uppers.
Most workers engaged at the leather tanneries and shoe factories work there in extremely precarious conditions and constantly face risks of occupational hazards and injuries. A classic example is the Ranipet tannery accident in January 2015 that resulted in the death of 10 workers who were drowned in toxic sludge. On the other hand, the homeworkers’ situation is very unique as they are not employed by the factories directly and are not recognised as workers with entitlements. Extremely low piece rates, lack of social security and irregular flow of work are the main issues faced by the homeworkers.
The focus of Cividep’s work has been to improve the living and working conditions of the homeworkers and research on the occupational health and safety of workers employed at tanneries in Tamil Nadu. Cividep’s collaborations include a partnership with Home Workers Worldwide – UK, to engage with the women homeworkers and research on occupational health and safety of workers employed at tanneries in Tamil Nadu.
Homeworkers Worldwide Project: Organizing Homeworkers in Ambur
Issue: Homeworkers are not recognized as formal employees leading to disregard of labour rights
Focus: Understanding the supply chain structure and organising of SHGs & training programmes
Cividep’s engages primarily with women homeworkers around Ambur. As part of the project, studies have been conducted to understand the supply chain and working conditions of the homeworkers. Cividep has setup a Workers’ Resource Centre to help the women homeworkers to organise Self Help Groups (SHGs). Periodical training programmes on gender and labour rights along with other outreach activities related to their health and well-being are organized by Cividep.
Study of Occupational Health and Safety Conditions in Tanneries in Tamil Nadu
Issue: Lack of information on health and safety processes of Tanneries
Focus: Research to explore and analyse the state of occupational health and safety
In February 2015, Cividep conducted a fact-finding mission in Ranipet after the January 2015 accident in the Common Effluent Treatment Plant. Cividep’s investigation into the reasons for the tragedy and compensation for the workers’ families has led to new research to explore the state of occupational health and safety in three tanneries in Ranipet and Chennai.
Supply Chain Mapping Project
Issue: Lack of understanding of the needs of homeworkers
Focus: Needs assessment of homeworkers to chart out recommendations
Cividep along with Homeworkers Worldwide is working with a retail brand to map the supply chain of their supplier factory in Ambur. The study includes assessing the needs of homeworkers to come up with recommendations to improve their working condition.