Sri Lanka apparel sector workers are facing difficulties as most of them stranded in their boarding houses during corona virus curfew period following the closure of the majority of garment factories in export processing zones and industrial estates, frontline trade union leader said.
Government and the Board of Investment (BOI) have been urged to provide some relief for these workers as most of them especially the daily paid man power agency employees are in difficulty in finding their daily meals, Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZ-GSEU) Joint Secretary Anton Marcus said.
He noted that he will bring this matter to the attention of the BOI authorities to make some arrangement to meet the daily needs of apparel workers as many Factories are closed for a period of two to three weeks while some are planning to prolong it.
The unions are concerned that if factories close without paid leave for workers this will exacerbate the crisis as workers might return to their villages and potentially impact measures of the government to contain the virus.
A tripartite task force has been set up to deal with the crisis on in the garment sector he said adding that several meeting were held to discuss ways and means to settle issues faced by the workers.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa convened a special meeting to discuss the impact of the virus on the garment industry with four unions, which emphasized the welfare need for workers, he disclosed.
At the meeting unions emphasized the need of paying minimum wages in case of temporary closer and additional payment to cover the loss of overtime payments over a longer period.
The task force also discussed workers' health protection and other welfare issues including food shortage of workers during curfew period.
Garment workers in Sri Lanka face a range of issues including being forced to report for work. even though the government requested to give them leave and factories being unable to give workers paid leave because brands are withdrawing orders.
FTZ-GSEU has urged the government to take action to address the situation; including taking responsibility for worker wages, and calls upon brands to take responsibility for their supply chains.