Garment worker unions in Sri Lanka have signed a ground-breaking agreement with employer association Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) on Monday, in which both parties reached an understanding about how to address vital workplace issues for garment workers, especially during the pandemic.

Sri Lankan unions and workers groups have been campaigning for been better working conditions, effective protection for workers during the pandemic and an end to anti-union harassment. While installing health committees and laying down assurances on the freedom to organise during the pandemic was tackled first, the more complex topic of wages is not yet included in the document. Thus, poverty wages will also need to be addressed as workers currently do not profit from the growing export rates of the Sri Lankan textile and garment industry.

Unions welcome “historic agreement”

Organisations like the Clean Clothes Campaign, Labour behind the Label, Maquila Solidarity Network, Solidarity Center, War on Want, Workers United call the agreement “historic” and welcome the important progress that this union-employer agreement represents.

“We applaud the fact that separately from signed agreement, unions and employers reached an understanding to continue collaboration to investigate and address the issue of wage loss during the pandemic. We hope for a timely and transparent solution to make workers whole that also includes brands and retailers taking responsibility to settle the problem of lost wages,” they state in a press release.