On 10 March more than 400 garment workers, members of IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate FTZ-GSEU, demonstrated and demanded that the Sri Lankan government collaborate with unions to keep their industry in the country.
The Free Trade Zones and General Employees Union, FTZ-GSEU, called on the government to commit special attention to fake investors who use Sri Lanka’s workers and then flee the country without paying wages, and putting thousands of workers into unemployment and destitution. The Sri Lankan government has not shown sufficient action to develop a strategy to retain the garment industry, even though it represents 60% of the country’s exports.
Garment workers in Sri Lanka have often made huge sacrifices to leave their homes and jobs in tea plantations to work in garment factories. IndustriALL joins FTZ-GSEU in calling on the Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to take measures to protect these vulnerable workers.
IndustriALL participated in the 10 March demonstration and extended its message of international solidarity with the workers’ struggle to keep their jobs. In IndustriALL’s address to the rally, the vital importance of international solidarity between workers was put forward.
The trend is too common around the world that when unions fight to improve the appalling conditions of garment workers, brands and suppliers threaten to leave the country. This happens in Cambodia, where workers work to exhaustion without sufficient food due to their low wage, in Lesotho where women are denied birth rights and given only one week of maternity leave, Bangladesh and Pakistan where workers go every morning into a death trap without knowing what will happen to them during the shift. To stop the abuse of garment workers, and the fleeing of brands and suppliers to countries that provide the lowest working conditions, IndustriALL works towards strengthening the international coalition and solidarity of workers in the sector. IndustriALL calls for garment workers to speak in one voice while demanding better conditions.