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Garment workers in Sri Lanka attacked by employer

15 February, 2024On 9 February, management of Sumithra Group in Sri Lanka physically assaulted union members in the Hasalaka factory and forcefully prevented workers from attending a union meeting scheduled that day. According to the union, brands sourcing from the factory include ASDA, Superdry and Dillard’s.

Union members had called a meeting to discuss management’s notice that workers who had received warning letters during the year would not be given a wage increase and that workers who had received two warning letters would not be entitled to a bonus. The union is affiliated to IndustriALL through Free Trade Zone and General Services Employees Union (FTZ&GSEU).

Responding to management’s act of repression, workers who attended the meeting on 9 February decided to go on a strike. Refusing to accept the strike notice, management tried to force workers to resign from the union.

When workers arrived at the factory in the morning on 10 February, management physically assaulted some of them, including the branch union office bearers, severely injuring one woman worker, while forcefully taking them inside the factory to make them sign resignation letters. Union members were forced to file a police complaint.

Anton Marcus, joint secretary of FTZ&GSEU, says:

“The actions of Sumithra management clearly violate workers’ fundamental rights guaranteed in the country’s constitution, as well as ILO Conventions on freedom of association and the right to organise and bargain collectively. We are willing to continue negotiations with the company provided that management stops all acts of violence and repression against our members.”

Says IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie:

“It is completely unacceptable to use violence against workers who are merely exercising their fundamental rights. IndustriALL Global Union is calling on Sumithra Group to immediately address the acts of violence and negotiate with the union in good faith.”

Sumithra Group has a history of violating workers’ rights. In September 2020, management stopped providing basic rights to workers, including providing meals and transportation, under the excuse of Covid-19. In addition, management had forced union members to resign from their membership.