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8 Mar 2021

Stand Up Movement, Commercial and Industrial Workers Union & Asia Floor Wage Alliance

Sri Lanka: Unions file legal complaint against global fashion brands & their supplier over wage & severance violations after buyers pull orders during COVID-19

"Global Fashion Brands Levi Strauss & Co., PVH Corp., ASICS, Columbia Sportswear Company, G-III Apparel Group Ltd. and their Supplier Hirdaramani-Mercury Apparel in Sri Lanka face legal complaint under Sri Lankan laws over labour rights violations during Covid-19 period.", 2 March 2021

Labour unions in Sri Lanka – Stand Up Movement and Commercial & Industrial Workers’ Union (CIWU) – have filed a complaint with the Labour Commissioner to conduct an inquiry into nonpayment of workers’ wages and bonuses, and mass retrenchments without adequate compensation in Hirdaramani Mercury Apparel (Pvt) Ltd, Katunayake. In the complaint, global fashion brands – Levi Strauss & Co., PVH Corp., ASICS, Columbia Sportswear Company, G-III Apparel Group Ltd. – along with their supplier, have been held jointly liable under Sri Lankan laws for labour rights violations during the Covid-19 period.

The supplier informed workers that the non-payment of wages and bonuses and mass retrenchments were a result of all major brands that had been sourcing from the factory over the long term – Levi Strauss & Co., PVH Corp., ASICS, Columbia Sportswear Company, G-III Apparel Group Ltd. – pulling out their production during the Covid period.

Irresponsible purchasing practices of the brands have directly resulted in several months of extreme hardship for workers, who were terminated overnight, without any warning during an ongoing crisis...

Labour unions filing the complaint have stated that brands, whose practices determine the wages and terms of employment of workers in Sri Lanka, cannot be exempt from liability under these laws. They have argued that brands act as joint employers of workers, and are therefore, jointly liable along with the supplier, for labour rights violations in their supplier factories...

The labour unions have demanded compensation for wage loss of workers and the unjust enrichment of brands through labour exploitative practices in their supplier factories. The brands, who have made fabulous profits over the years by keeping their costs low through unfair purchasing practices, are capable of paying compensation to workers to tide over the crisis...