A workshop was organized on 25 October in Colombo under the IndustriALL/Unifor organizing project for women organizers and activists in Sri Lankan Export Processing Zones (EPZs). The participants were from IndustriALL affiliated unions in Sri Lanka involved in organizing workers in the Katunayake, Biyagama & Panadura Free Trade Zones (FTZs) in Sri Lanka.
Apoorva Kaiwar, Regional Secretary of IndustriALL’s South Asia Office, began proceedings by explaining the need to organizing women workers, who constitute almost 80 per cent of the workforce in the FTZs of Sri Lanka. Anton Marcus from IndustriALL Sri Lankan affiliate, the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union, conducted a session covering important labour laws related to the rights of women workers.
This was followed by a brief interactive session on the issues related to occupational health and safety (OHS) in the garment and the plastic sector in the FTZs. It was observed that there are many issues related to the women workers that are affecting their reproductive health, anaemia and also menstruation cycles. A session was also conducted to discuss the various strategies to organize women workers in FTZs.
In the concluding session, participants expressed the need for further training on topics including labour law mechanism, OHS, Global Framework Agreements and ILO complaint procedures. Hence the next year’s activities of the project will be planned to cover these topics that are of relevance and would help in the organizing of the workers in EPZ’s.