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Sri Lanka: Workers at glove factory strike over alleged union-busting by management

Since 2018, workers at ATG Ceylon Pvt Ltd. –  a British-Sri Lankan industrial gloves manufacturer – have been staging protests over alleged labour abuses and union busting at the company’s two factories based in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone.

Members of the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees' Union (FTZ&GSEU) allege that the company has refused to discuss worker issues raised by the union and has engaged in a series of union busting tactics, including intimidation, harassment and unlawful dismissals. Workers have staged protests in front of the Sri Lankan Prime Ministers’ Office and the British High Commission to raise their concerns.

In January 2019, protests renewed after the company dismissed five workers and union members involved in an arbitration process with the company that had not yet concluded. The workers were protesting for the reinstatement of the dismissed workers, an end to union oppression and against allegations of violent and sexual harassment against a woman worker who was pressurised to leave both the protests and the union.

The FTZ&GSEU, which is affiliated with IndustriALL Global Union, has received support from international groups including Clean Clothes Campaign and War on Want, and from the German Ambassador in Sri Lanka who has expressed concerns of labour violations at ATG Ceylon.

In January 2019, the British CEO of ATG Ceylon responded to a letter from War on Want regarding the alleged labour abuses. ATG said it denies the allegations made by the trade unions, and that it will intensify conversations with workers and employee representatives.

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1 August 2019

Sri Lanka: ATG Gloves responds to allegations of worker rights abuses in factory

Author: War on Want

"Response from ATG Ceylon over Workers' Rights Abuse", 22 February 2019

...[War on Want] sent a letter to Mr John Taylor, the British CEO of...ATG Ceylon (Pvt) Ltd. in response to a request from...FTZ-GSEU...

 ...ATG® categorically denies the allegations and fervently disagrees with the assertions...on labour relations of the company and factories...It was only after sustained disruption at ATG Ceylon and an enquiry that lasted two and a half years that the 5 employees were dismissed...their behavior didn’t leave the management of ATG® any other choice.

ATG will...continue to reinforce the dialogue with workers and employee representatives through the workers’ council and daily contacts on the shop floor. We will intensify these conversations to make it clear that ATG’s priority is the wellbeing of our workers. Indeed, ATG has always strived to create a fair work environment for employees at all levels not least the hhighest (sic) paid workers and the highest 2019 salary increase in the Katunayake Zone..."

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1 August 2019

Sri Lanka: ATG Gloves workers picket British Embassy over alleged labour abuses at factory

Author: IndustriALL

"Time for ATG in Sri Lanka to back off", 22 June 2018

On 22 June 2018, workers at ATG belonging to the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees’ Union (FTZ&GSEU), picketed the British Embassy over labour abuses at the company, which has joint Sri Lankan/British investors...

...In a letter handed to the British Embassy...the FTZ&GSEU said: 

“We take these unholy trends against workers by the ATG very seriously... and would thus set the pace in the FTZ in working against unionisation of workers, a very condition the EU has wanted corrected when granting EU GSP ‘Plus’ to Sri Lanka. We...appeal to you to intervene at the highest level to ensure workers’ rights are guaranteed in the export sector...” 

...FTZ&GSEU has received...support from the German ambassador in Sri Lanka, who wrote to the Minister of Labour...expressing concerns of the violations of labour rights...

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1 August 2019

Sri Lanka: Workers at glove manufacturer go on strike over dismissal of union members and demand an end to union oppression

Author: IndustriALL

"Rubber glove workers in Sri Lanka protest unjust terminations", 16 January 2019

Protesting workers at ATG Ceylon...are demanding the reinstatement of five terminated union officers and members, and an end to union oppression at the company. 

The workers have been demonstrating...since 11 January following the dismissals, leading the company to stop production. The terminations took place even though the five union members are all involved in an arbitration process with the company that has not yet concluded...

...As the union tried to resolve the issue of numerous suspensions and dismissals at the company through the arbitration process, management went ahead in terminating five union members with immediate effect on 11 January 2019...

...Anton Marcus of FTZ & GSEU, said: “The ATG management acted unfairly without respecting the ongoing arbitration process and in violation of the Industrial Dispute Act. All benefits due to workers, irrespective of their involvement in union activities, should be provided to them. We demand the terminated workers are reinstated immediately. We call upon the ATG management to constructively engage with the union towards resolving the dispute as soon as possible.” ...


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1 August 2019

Sri Lanka: Workers reach two months of strike incl. 2 workers on hunger-strike over union-busting by management

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

"Hundreds of women workers part of longest running strike in the Katunayake Investment Promotion Zone ", 15 March 2019

Workers from workwear manufacturing company ATG Ceylon Pvt Ltd. in Sri Lanka have been subject to a range of human rights abuses...hundreds of women workers, part of the Free Trade Zone and General Services Employees’ Union (FTZ-GSEU) have been on strike for over two months, now the longest running strike in the Katunayake Investment Promotion Zone. Two workers are now on hunger strike...

...The strike was prompted when the company illegally dismissed five workers and union members in January 2019, and allegations around violent and sexual harassment against a woman worker who was pressurised to leave both the strike and the union....


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1 August 2019

Sri Lanka: Workers stage protest at Prime Minister's Office demanding intervention to resolve dispute between union and glove manufacturer

Author: IndustriALL

"ATG Ceylon workers protest repeated rights violations", 31 January 2019

ATG Ceylon workers staged a protest in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Colombo on 30 January and handed him a memorandum seeking his immediate intervention to resolve a dispute with the British-Sri Lankan industrial glove manufacturer.

It follows numerous worker demonstrations in recent days after ATG Ceylon unjustly terminated five employees including union office bearers on 11 January, prompting workers to launch immediate strike action...

...ATG Ceylon management continues to ignore advice...from conciliatory talks...meanwhile, the management has used a court order to stop the union officers and leaders of...FTZ&GSEU, from meeting and addressing the protesting workers...

...Anton Marcus of FTZ&GSEU said: “The termination of five employees is a gross violation of workers' fundamental rights and goes against the Sri Lankan constitution. ATG Ceylon should respect the proposals given by the labour commissioner and take corrective action to resolve the dispute immediately. The company’s aggressive effort to stop union leaders from interacting with striking workers is against the principle of justice..."