IndustriALL Global Union’s Australian affiliates rallied at the Ansell Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Melbourne on 16 October, calling on the company to respect the rights of workers in its Sri Lankan factory.
AMWU, CFMEU and TCFUA members demanded that Ansell reinstate sacked workers, raise wages and negotiate with the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSEU) in Sri Lanka. They were joined by unions representing nurses, teachers and the Victorian Trades Hall Council.
The shareholders of Ansell, whose primary product in Australia is condoms, were greeted with chants and signs that read “Ansell, there’s a hole in your story” and “What about protection for your workers in Sri Lanka.”
Ansell has thus far resisted all attempts to meet and negotiate with IndustriALL affiliate FTZGSEU to resolve a strike caused by Ansell firing nearly 300 workers who struck in defense of 11 sacked colleagues.
“Ansell has refused all attempts by the union to negotiate for fair working conditions for the workers,” said Michele O’Neil, National Secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia.
“Currently Ansell workers are paid poverty wages in terrible working conditions.”
“Conditions in the Sri Lankan factories are so bad that workers are forced to urinate at their workstations because they otherwise won’t meet the outrageous production targets,” said AMWU National President Andrew Dettmer.
Members of FTZGSEU continue to fight for their rights at Ansell. They held a rally on 11 October attended by more than 200 workers and their children to mark the one-year anniversary of the strike.
Lisa Fitzpatrick, Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch), said at the rally that her union is working to ensure that alternate products to Ansell are sourced at Victorian hospitals while Ansell’s abuse of workers in Sri Lanka continues.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:
FTZGSEU is running a strong campaign in Sri Lanka, backed by an increasing number of allies around the world. IndustriALL will continue to support the call for a fair resolution to see the nearly 300 workers reinstated.