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20 Oct 2020

Sri Lanka: Complaint filed with national rights commission and IFC over alleged labour violations at Brandix factory, after COVID-19 outbreak

Over 1500 garment workers and their family members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Brandix factory in Minuwangoda, Sri Lanka. The factory reportedly continued to maintain production to achieve set targets and failed to stop the developing health crisis among the workers.

Rights groups filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka after the military rounded up workers late at night on 11 October and allegedly forcibly took them to quarantine centres. Workers - the majority women - report the facilities are unsanitary and they have suffered cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Rights groups have also requested the Department of Labour and Ministry of Health to conduct an investigation into the incident.

Brandix claims to have followed all health regulations and has denied any culpability; however, an investigation found public health inspectors did not supervise the workers’ quarantine process. It says it has also appointed an independent committee to probe allegations that workers were forced to work with a fever.

Rights groups have have urged the Sri Lankan government, factory owners, and the international clothes brands to take better measures protect the safety and employment rights of garment workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. They also urged the International Finance Corporation to better vet and monitor its loan recipients for allegations of labour violations.