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Unions and employers urge global brands to support Sri Lanka’s apparel industry

17 August, 2022IndustriALL Global Union affiliates and the employers’ organization in Sri Lanka are urging global apparel brands sourcing from the country to keep placing orders and help the country through the current crisis.

The economic crisis in Sri Lanka continues even though a new president, prime minister, and interim cabinet have been appointed. Depleted foreign exchange reserves have caused inflation to soar, rising by nearly 60 per cent in July alone. The high cost of living has worsened the situation for working people.

In a joint letter, the Sri Lankan affiliates of IndustriALL- Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSEU), National Union of Metal and Migrant Workers in Sri Lanka (NUMMS), Sri Lanka Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya (SLNSS), and Ceylon Industrial Workers Union (United Federation of Labour), and the apex body of garment industry bodies in Sri Lanka, the  Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), are urging global apparel brands to continue placing orders in Sri Lanka’s factories to keep the economy afloat.

Apparel manufacturing is a major source of foreign exchange for the country. Sri Lankan affiliates and JAAF express concerns that if brands stop or reduce orders due to fears over the crisis, the country’s economy may suffer further damage.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary, says:

“It's important that global brands extend their support to Sri Lanka’s apparel industry in this difficult time. They must ensure that workers in their supply chains don’t lose jobs owing to cancellation of orders.”

IndustriALL affiliates and the employers’ organisation assured brands of their cooperation in fulfilling the orders that are placed with manufacturers in Sri Lanka. They also emphasized their resolve to ensure good labour relations in the industry by referring to the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between employers and three affiliates of IndustriALL on Freedom of Association and a Bipartite Dispute Resolution mechanism.

Responding to the joint letter, Swedish fashion giant H&M stated that they are committed to maintaining ties with its sourcing company in Sri Lanka. In a separate communication, American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) assured the same.