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5 Jul 2023

Meera Srinivasan, The Hindu

Sri Lanka: Garment workers struggle for survival with low wages & poor working conditions COVID-19 & economic crisis; union leaders remain under heavy scrutiny by employers

"For Sri Lanka’s forex-earning garment workers, it’s a daily battle for survival", 5 July 2023

Their labour goes into making global brands, but their lives remain precarious amid low wages, exploitation and an enduring economic crisis.


For Sri Lanka’s garments sector, the first big blow came well before the economic meltdown, in the form of COVID-19. As factories were forced to shut, workers were left in the lurch. When operations resumed, many found themselves jobless. Worker unions have estimated about 50,000 job losses in the industry through the pandemic and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.


...[W]orkers’ take-home pay has decreased by LKR 15,000 to 20,000 due to the lack of overtime and other incentives, while targets increased by 50% or more.


...[T]rade union leaders were under heavy scrutiny by the employers, and abrupt, illegal dismissal of workers engaging in trade union activity was not uncommon.

Despite evidence from multiple research studies, garment manufacturers have repeatedly refuted allegations of rights violations or exploitation.