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23 Dec 2021

Clean Clothes Campaign

Sri Lanka: Employer association & garment worker unions sign 'ground-breaking' agreement on improving working conditions & respect for freedom of association

"New union-employer agreement in Sri Lanka addresses key worker rights issues", 23 December 2021

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


This historic agreement lays out and confirms joint support for fundamental steps towards improving working conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic and importantly towards respect for freedom of association in Sri Lanka’s garment industry.

A joint statement of the Sri Lankan signatory unions, Free Trade Zones & General Service Employees Union, National Union of Seafarers Sri Lanka & National Union of Migrant Workers Sri Lanka, and Sri Lanka Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya said: “This is the first time an industrial sector is represented in a bi-partite agreement with worker representatives. …. This is also the first time both employer and employee representatives have agreed on workplace health management through bi-partite health committees.”

The need to quickly start the work on installing health committees and laying down assurances on the freedom to organise during the pandemic also meant that the more complex topic of wages is not yet included in the document...This must most urgently be addressed, both with factory owners and with major brands and retailers that source from Sri Lanka...We applaud the fact that...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...