Sri Lanka’s clothing industry signs landmark memorandum of understanding with unions
Sri Lanka’s garment sector and major industry unions have signed a landmark agreement that ensures business owners and employees work together to maintain continued vigilance on pandemic prevention, discuss issues of mutual interest and jointly participate in the resolution of grievances.
In a key step in the industry’s efforts to continually elevate its human resource practices and protect employees from the Covid-19 pandemic, a memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Joint Apparel Association Forum Sri Lanka ( JAAF) and Union Collective.
JAAF is the supreme body of Sri Lanka’s garment industry while the Union Collective comprises three of the largest unions in the sector; Trade Union of Free Zone and General Service Employees, Sri Lanka Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya and National Union of Seafarers.
According to the MoU, unions will be represented on bipartite health committees established in each garment factory. These committees ensure that guidelines issued by the Sri Lanka Ministry of Health are strictly adhered to in every production plant.
In addition, the JAAF and unions will establish a bipartite dispute resolution mechanism to collaboratively address workers’ grievances in a transparent manner. Any grievance raised by the unions will be forwarded to the JAAF Executive Committee and the union collective for review. The JAAF and the respective union will discuss each valid complaint and resolve the issue within one month, unless it is mutually agreed to extend this period.
The MoU also recognizes employees’ freedom of association and their rights to collective bargaining.
In another historic move, the JAAF and Union Collective signed a second agreement, which sets out how employers and unions will work together to assess and coordinate their efforts to manage the negative impact of the pandemic on all stakeholders. , cooperating as partners to tackle the problems and challenges that the pandemic can create.
“Collaborations between employers and unions have been essential in raising Sri Lanka’s human resource practices above those of its peers in the industry and in ensuring business continuity after the pandemic,” said Secretary General of Sri Lanka. JAAF, Tuli Cooray. “Protecting employees and their well-being is a top priority for both industry and unions; our interests are strongly aligned. These agreements will formalize our cooperation and lay the foundations for future collaboration, thus benefiting our employees.
“The organizations that form the Union Collective have demonstrated their strong and lasting commitment to the health, well-being and respect for the rights of employees in the garment sector,” said Sri Lankan Secretary General Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya Leslie Devendra. “We welcome this agreement, which paves the way for employee representation in the decision-making process on issues of vital importance to them and increases transparency in the handling of complaints. We look forward to working with employers in this regard.
The partnership complements the “Better Work” program, of which JAAF is a partner. The program is the result of a collaboration between the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), with the support of government partners, employers and unions.
It helps to address issues related to improving the economic performance and competitiveness of companies, covering gender dynamics, workplace cooperation through occupational safety and health (OSH) and promoting common interests, in particular emerging challenges arising from the pandemic. (Colombo Diary)
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