Sri Lanka FTZ female workers undergo Covid-19 misery

Sri Lanka FTZ female workers undergo Covid-19 misery

18 October 2020 11:03 pm

Sri Lanka Free Trade Zone female workers are undergoing Covid-19 misery with trauma in unsafe conditions amidst the stare authorities taking maximum efforts to control the community corona contagion.  

World Socialist Web Site reporters recently filed on the spot report about the situation in garment factories and the plight of workers and the situation they confront.

Nearly 15,000 PCR tests have been carried out so far in factories under the Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka stated the State Minister of Aviation Services and Development of Export Zones, D.V. Chanaka.

The State Minister said that measures have been taken to carry out PCR examinations covering all factories under the BOI.

The BOI has been preparing for the coronavirus risk since several months earlier and had implemented programs in collaboration with the health sector, he added

The origin of the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka could be a foreign country, says Army Commander and Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva.

He added that no ill treatment had been meted out to FTZ female workers in quarantine centres and the Sri Lanka Armyis assisting health authorities to bring the situation under control.   

FTZ workers spoke this week with World Socialist Web Site reporters about the situation they confront.Workers at Okaya Lanka, a Japanese-owned factory that manufactures transformers, told the WSWS that they face unsafe conditions.Another  said that she went to work on Monday. At midday management told the employees to stop work and leave the factory, saying they would be called for a PCR test, if necessary.

“We asked whether we would be given leave but management said that the  factory will continue to work even though one person is infected,” said another worker. He claimed that management was concealing information about the situation.

Some workers have decided to return to their original homes in distant areas because they face a difficult situation if the entire zone is locked down.Earlier this month four or five workers were sent to the remote Kandakadu quarantine centre after some of them had a fever. The management, however, did not check the other workers at the plant.

The Okaya Lanka plant employed more than 1,000 people before the March lockdown, but management axed hundreds of jobs when it reopened.The workers said that the attendance bonus is not being paid, even though a finger-print attendance machine at the facility is not working properly.

The Smart Shirt Company retrenched about 1,700 employees when the factory reopened, reducing its workforce to 300. Workers are paid just 400 rupees ($US2.2) per day and can only earn more if they do backbreaking overtime.

The number of workers at the plant was further reduced to 150, following the recent rise of infections at KFTZ. One worker explained:

Next Manufacturing employed about 2,000 workers. It has been closed down after 11 workers tested COVID-19 positive. One worker now under self-quarantine at home following a PCR test said she worked in risky conditions for a wage of about $173 per month.

Another worker said: “Even after the infections were discovered at the Brandix factory, we were forced to work without proper safety measures.

“The Next Manufacturing factory is owned by a company in England. The lives of workers have been thrown to the wolves in order to protect the profits of the big capitalists,” she said.Many KFTZ workers are employed by so-called manpower companies. One such worker told the WSWS that he could not find a job.