17 August, 2022IndustriALL affiliates in Sri Lanka are organizing community kitchen programmes to address the massive food inflation and shortage of cooking gas that makes daily life extremely difficult.
Since the beginning of 2022, Sri Lanka has been experiencing an unparalleled economic and political crisis. Depleted foreign exchange reserves have led to skyrocketing inflation, and a severe scarcity of essential commodities such as food, fuel and medicines.
Inflation soared over 60 per cent in the month of July, upending daily life. A garment worker who previously struggled to afford one nutritious meal a day on an average monthly wage of LKR26,000 (US$72) is now in a considerably far worse situation.
Unions have demanded that households with an income of less than LKR75,000 (US$208) should be able to buy fuel, kerosene, bread, wheat, rice, etc at January 2020 prices.
IndustriALL affiliates in Sri Lanka- Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSEU), National Union of Metal and Migrant Workers in Sri Lanka (NUMMS), and Ceylon Industrial Workers Union (United Federation of Labour), are organizing community kitchen programmes in the Free Trade Zones (FTZ).
Workers living in private boarding houses in Katunayake FTZ are pooling resources, along with financial support from unions, to collectively cook meals on weekends, either in the boarding houses or in unions’ offices. The majority of the workers are women from remote areas, either currently or formerly employed in garment manufacturing units in the FTZ.
“Workers in Sri Lanka are putting up a strong fight in the face of this unprecedented crisis in the country. We urge the government to resolve the issues immediately while taking into account the rightful demands put forth by the trade unions,”
says Anton Marcus, FTZGSEU general secretary.
In addition to the collective cooking initiative, FTZGSEU is using this opportunity to discuss workers’ rights issues and build solidarity among workers.
Swasthika Arulingam, deputy general secretary of Ceylon Industrial Workers Union (United Federation of Labour) says:
“Unions have to step in to fulfil the responsibility that the government has failed to take. We are attempting to address the fuel shortage situation through these community kitchens. There’s still a long way to go.”