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Unions in Sri Lanka sign landmark agreement in global apparel supply chain

11 January, 2022Three of IndustriALL’s affiliates in Sri Lanka, The Free Trade Zone & General Services Employees Union, Sri Lanka Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya, and the National Union of Metal and Migrant workers in Sri Lanka, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to advance workers’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, together with the National Union of Seafarers and the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF).

The MoU, signed on 23 December last year, details the establishment of a bipartite dispute resolution mechanism by the unions and JAAF. Any grievance raised by the unions will be forwarded to JAAF’s executive committee and the trade union collective for review. JAAF and the respective union will then collaborate to resolve the issue within a month, or mutually extend the timeline and seek an independent external investigation to help reach a resolution.

The agreement also contains provisions for bipartite health committees with equal representation from workers and employers in every garment/apparel factory to improve health and safety, mitigate risks posed by Covid-19 and ensure adherence to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health at the workplace.

“This agreement with JAAF is a recognition that trade unions are an integral part of the garment industry. We will work together to ensure that the agreement is implemented and that workers benefit from it,”

says Palitha Atukorale, NUMMS general secretary.

The unions and JAAF have signed a second agreement ensuring that workers will receive 50 per cent of their monthly wage or Rs.14,500 (US$71), whichever is higher, if having to take time off for Covid-19.

“We welcome this landmark agreement promoting workers’ right to freedom of association and ensuring health and safety in the global apparel supply chain. The agreement paves the way for unions and employers working together to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on workers, and for permanent health and safety committees in Sri Lankan companies,”

says Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary.

Photo: ©ILO/M.Crozet