25 September, 2014The IndustriALL affiliated FTZGSEU union in Sri Lanka is campaigning for workers’ justice at Palla and Company Ltd. after mass sackings and union-busting by the employer. Bata is one of the major brands to have sourced from Palla and now needs to live up to its supply chain responsibilities.
Palla management unilaterally stopped the long-standing practice of biannual salary increases at the factory from August 2012 onwards. When workers organised in protest of this reduction of their working conditions, management sacked 15 trade union officials in November 2013 and 179 union members the following month.
The FTZGSEU members struck in July 2013, leading to intervention from Sri Lanka’s Labour Commissioner who chaired negotiations culminating in a Memorandum of Settlement ruling in favour of the workers’ claims. Management signed this agreement to end the strike but still went on to conduct the mass sackings.
Not only were the workers sacked for joining a union but they were also blacklisted so that other employers blocked them from earning a living. The sacked workers were only allowed to return to their jobs after signing an illegal document under pressure from the management promising not to join any further union activity.
The Clean Clothes Campaign and IndustriALL Global Union have both called on Bata to act in accordance with the company’s code of conduct, however while the multinational accepts the supplier’s violation, instead of ensuring a fair settlement including back pay and reinstatement, Bata pulled out completely from Palla in late 2013.
You can write to Bata here.
You can write to Palla here.
Anton Marcus, president of the FTZGSEU and member of the IndustriALL executive committee says:
The workers have to be reinstated. Almost all of our union members have been dismissed. Bata was the main buyer at the time that the violations occurred; Bata has responsibility for their supply chain.
We demand full reinstatement plus payment of salary arrears including the owed increments, which in total equal US$40k.
The case of the sacked union leadership is currently before the labour tribunal, and the remaining 179 case is before an industrial court.
Palla and Company is a leather shoe manufacturer, based in Katunayake and exporting to the global market, including a major proportion to Italy. As of December 2011 the company has been part of the Indian group Ceylon Leather Products PLC, which in turn is owned by parent company Environmental Resources Investment PLC (ERI). The group is growing quickly and business is good.
Unfortunately, ERI’s social responsibility commitments do not prioritise its workers and trade union partners:
ERI is an investment company which continuously strives to be a socially responsible business entity which firmly believes in the positive and far-reaching effects of good governance policies and provides financial management, strategic guidance and strong management discipline to help re-structure companies and make good companies even better.