Breaking news: our contacts in Sri Lanka have informed us that transport has now been arranged and most workers from the boarding houses have returned to their hometowns. We’re glad that this situation is over. It’s clear that pressure from working class organisastions is effective, even in times of health emergency.
The International Confederation of Labour (ICL) has received the following statement, which we subscribe, from our comrades in Dabindu Collective, from Sri Lanka. The situation of thousands of works in the manufacturing areas of the country is desperate. The unexpected enforcement of a nation-wide quarantine, due to the spread of Covid-19, has left them trapped and helpless. Usually, their living and working conditions are harsh enough. Now, they are dismal. Also, due to the quarantine and curfew, unions and other class organisations are not in a position to provide the necessary relief. Lacking other alternatives, the relevant authorities are requested to get involved in the solution of this crisis, created by their improvisation and careless management.
We hope that this problem can be quickly resolved. We send our solidarity to the comrades affected by this situation.
Rendering 35 years of service for the rights of women laborers in the garment sector, our organization also has been affected by the global threat, covid-19 at the moment. As per the present situation, workers of the Katunayake Free trade Zone have been on lock down in the boarding houses due to the curfew situation that has been decreed for the whole island of Sri Lanka, being unable to return to their hometowns.
There are around 82 companies in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone and they provide service to signature brands such as Gap, H&M, Marks and Spencer, Tommy Hilfiger, Decathlon, Victoria Secret.
Majority of these workers are women and they reside in the boarding houses as families with their children. It has been estimated that there are about 20,000 workers are on lock down in these boarding houses.
As the rooms in these boarding houses could accommodate 10-100 people, they live as groups.
These workers use the same limited number of common lavatories and the public well with the small children, adults and the patients.
Further, around 350-500 workers who work in the construction sites of Katunayake Airport are also boarded in these boarding houses.
As the services of the garment factories were considered to be an essential service, the workers were forced work up until 19.03.2020, irrespective of their protest until the government declared island wide curfew on the 20.03.2020. Due to this reason, the workers were unable to go back to their villages within a half a day and without wages.
Majority of the workers buy goods for debts and debts are paid off with their monthly wages. The due date to pay the debts also has been expired and even the boutique shops too suffer from the scarcity of essential grocery items.
It has been estimated by the police that there are about 10,000 manpower workers and these workers have not received their daily payments and in fact they have lost their jobs too with effect from 15.03.2020. Even though the salary advances have been paid to the permanent workers who work in several other companies they have also been spent by now.
Dabindu Collective, 221, Welabada Road, Katunayake, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 011-4851383 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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