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ATG Ceylon workers protest repeated rights violations

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31 January, 2019ATG Ceylon workers staged a protest in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Colombo on 30 January and handed him a memorandum seeking his immediate intervention to resolve a dispute with the British-Sri Lankan industrial glove manufacturer.

It follows numerous worker demonstrations in recent days after ATG Ceylon unjustly terminated five employees including union office bearers on 11 January, prompting workers to launch immediate strike action on the same day at the company’s plant in the Katunayake Export Processing Zone. 

Since then ATG Ceylon management continues to ignore advice that has come from conciliatory talks, first by the Assistant Labour Commissioner of Negambo division on 16 January and then by the Commissioner General of Labour during mediation proceedings from 21-24 January. 

Meanwhile, the management has used a court order to stop the union officers and leaders of IndustriALL affiliate, FTZ&GSEU, from meeting and addressing the protesting workers, thereby restricting union leaders of the fundamental right of interacting with their members. 

In a letter to the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, expressed disappointment over ATG Ceylon’s lack of effort to end the dispute in line with national and international labour standards. 

Valter Sanches urged the President of Sri Lanka “to act promptly to put an end to the unlawful dismissals, harassment” and expressed hope, “that it will not be necessary for IndustriALL Global Union to call upon all our affiliates worldwide, and in particular our European affiliates, to urge the European Union to reconsider the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) with your country, on account of the egregious violations of trade union rights.”

Anton Marcus of FTZ&GSEU said:

“The termination of five employees is a gross violation of workers' fundamental rights and goes against the Sri Lankan constitution. ATG Ceylon should respect the proposals given by the labour commissioner and take corrective action to resolve the dispute immediately. 

“The company’s aggressive effort to stop union leaders from interacting with striking workers is against the principle of justice. We will continue to challenge discrimination at the workplace, unjust terminations of union leaders and demand dignity and equal treatment of union members.”