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8 Mar 2023

Tom Bithell, EcoTextile News

Sri Lanka: Garment manufacturers refute claims workers were denied emergency allowance during economic crisis

"Garment manufacturers refute report allegations", 8 March 2023

Sri Lankan garment factory owners have refuted campaigners' claims that their workers were wrongly being denied an emergency allowance intended to help them survive the country's economic crisis. 

The Joint Apparel Association Forum Sri Lanka (JAAFSL) has released a detailed statement to Ecotextile News contesting the claims of the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) 

The CCC had claimed that garment workers in Sri Lanka had not been receiving the full emergency relief allowance (ERA) of 10,000 LKR (27 USD) which it said they were due on top of their monthly wages.

However, in its statement, JAAFSL insisted that its members were not legally required to pay ERA to their employees.

“Neither the government – nor any other statutory body – has either mandated or recommended, the so-called ERA,” it said.

“Similarly, they have not come up with a formula to calculate what it should be or provided any other quantitative number. It is basically in the nature of a tacit agreement rather than a legal obligation.”

JAAFSL also challenged CCC allegations that factory owners had been guilty of "wage theft" during the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming “several audits have shown that all wages during the pandemic were paid”.

“Even when the lockdown was imposed, a unique tripartite agreement was reached between unions, employers and the government, that payment of 50% of salary (with a minimum payment of LKR 14,500) was paid to all workers if they were unable to present for work as long as they were on the company’s payroll,” it said.

In the response, the JAAFSL went on to reveal that its members paid employees well above the minimum wage, as well as significant cost of living adjustments, which amounted to 25% increases, in some instances, on 2021 pay...