fbpx

Solidarity with striking garment workers at Sumithra Hasalaka, Sri Lanka!

Feb 16, 2024 | Blog, News

Labour Behind the Label is standing in solidarity with striking garment workers at the Sumithra Hasalaka factory in Sri Lanka, who are protesting an unacceptable pay offer yet face union busting tactics from management. Workers are producing clothing for Asda, Dillards and Superdry.

Union leader Anton Marcus addresses workers

Around 300 members of the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union (FTZ & GSEU) at the Sumithra Hasalaka factory in Colombo, Sri Lanka, have been out on strike since Saturday 10th February 2024.

Workers were left with no choice but to take industrial action after management physically assaulted and sought to obstruct union members from meeting to discuss Sumithra’s unjust wage offer. Not only was Sumithra’s 2024 wage offer far below comparable garment factories in the area – let alone sufficient to compensate for Sumithra’s failure to increase wages at all in 2023 – but management also sought to unfairly exclude some workers from the wage increase and bonus.

Sumithra Hasalaka produces clothes for international brands including Asda, Dillard’s and Superdry. The factory is part of the Sumithra Group, which owns three other sites in Colombo, and appears to be producing for additional international brands including: Dunne’s Stores, Huckberry, J&N Herz Ltd, Marks & Spencers, Prana, and Tom Tailor. In the face of a disastrous cost of living crisis for workers, the Sumithra Group has consistently failed to increase wages and has demonstrated a pattern of hostility to independent trade union organising in its factories.

In recent days, Sumithra management has responded to workers’ lawful industrial action with physical assault, intimidation and union-busting tactics. Management has: not allowed striking workers to use company transport required to travel to the factory picket; harassed striking workers’ family members to encourage them to break the strike; tried to force members to sign letters of resignation from their union; used physical violence; made baseless reports against branch officials to the police; and most recently informed workers that their posts will be considered vacated and they will be deprived of their bonuses if they do not return to work.

Anton Marcus, joint secretary of the Free Trade Zones & General Service Employees Union said: “Workers in Sri Lanka are struggling to survive on poverty wages after years of financial crisis and inflation. At this time they need the power of their unions to negotiate more than ever. It is unacceptable that the striking workers of Sumithra Hasalaka have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and even violence just for standing up for their rights.”

Freedom of association is a basic right. The Clean Clothes Campaign calls on Sumithra Group management to:

  • Immediately stop all repression, intimidation and union-busting tactics against FTZ & GSEU union officials and members.
  • Withdraw threats to consider striking workers’ posts vacated and to deprive them of their bonuses.
  • Declare all union resignation letters workers were coerced into signing null and void.
  • Withdraw all reports to the authorities against FTZ & GSEU branch union officials.
  • Pay workers their wages for the period of strike action in view of management provocation and harassment.
  • Return to the negotiating table with the FTZ & GSEU branch union in good faith, in order to reach a fair wage agreement.

Send a message of solidarity with Sumithra Hasalaka workers and support for their demands to ftzunionlanka@gmail.com and christie@cleanclothes.org.