FTZ workers in a trouble…

 - December 2nd, 2020 - 

With the Covid-19 epidemic, people in entire world are under intense pressure.  Many people have to live with severe mental and physical stress due to issues such as survival from the plague, loss of loved ones, loss of income or problems with survival due to job loss.  At the same time, they are facing the challenge of being able to do most of their work at home, including their children’s education.

In addition, they face the challenge of complying with the existing legal systems in their country and the new laws and regulations imposed by their respective governments, as well as curtailing their rights.

This global epidemic has created an unprecedented crisis in the work world based on the employer-employee relationship.  The World Labor Organization estimates that 305 million full-time jobs will be lost in the second quarter of 2020 due to reduced work hours.

About 68% of the global workforce is in countries where business closures are recommended, with an employment rate as high as 81%.  In the informal economy, a total of 1.6 billion workers are now at risk of losing their sources of income.

Hundreds of workers at the Brandix fashion warehouse in Minuwangoda have been infected by the second wave of Covid-19 in Sri Lanka, and the government has imposed curfews and area locks in many parts of the Gampaha District adjacent to the Colombo district.

In the first wave of coups, the government imposed a long-delayed lockout on March 20, ordering the economy to reopen in late April, in line with the brutal “return to work” policies implemented by governments in each country.  In a decision with the full support of the unions, the government allowed companies to recall the required minimum number of workers, leading to mass layoffs.

Statistics on Covid infections in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone came to light in early October, after hundreds of incidents were uncovered at the Brandix factory 12 kilometers away.  The Okaya Lanka factory employed more than 1,000 people before it closed in March, but when it reopened, management cut hundreds of jobs.  When the Smart Shirts reopened the factory, it laid off about 1,700 workers and reduced its workforce to 300 workers.

Okaya Ceylon workers in the free trade zone have been protesting since November 18, saying the company was losing money due to the corona epidemic, and against the regime’s slashing the annual wage increase to 700 rupees.

Workers engaged in a black-and-white protest on November 18, wearing black from the next day and working only a limited number of hours.  On November 27, between 5.00-6.00 am, workers who were on their way to the factory by company buses were forcibly dropped off at the entrance to the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, and only workers who agreed to the rulers’ proposal of an annual salary increase of 700 rupees were asked to sign a book and return.  The factory administration officials have also threatened to leave.

All workers went to the factory in protest, despite orders from factory administrators.  The controllers locked the gates of the factory and deployed armed police around the factory to intimidate the workers.  The HR officers at the factory who came to the gate said, “You are also trying to enter through the law.  What do we all do together when there is a corona epidemic? ”  Workers who refused to force themselves off the buses have refused to leave the gate.

Despite threats from rulers, police and government officials, factory operators are urging Okaya Lankan workers to take part in the extremely militant and determined struggle, which is facing attacks, including wage and job cuts, and other free trade zone workers who have been affected by the corona epidemic.  have.  It is in that context that the Okaya Ceylonese rulers have promised to reinstate the slashed wage increase.

The annual wage cuts at the Okaya Lanka factory appear to be another step in a series of plans to slash working class jobs, wages and other social rights put to work by capitalist governments and employers in Sri Lanka and around the world to impose the burden of the crisis exacerbated by the corona epidemic.

Despite the spread of the corona epidemic, the government and bourgeois employers have been able to force workers to work unsafely and destroy their social rights thanks to the support of the unions.  Under the guise of the epidemic, thousands of workers have lost their jobs in factories in and outside factories, including in Katunayake, Koggala, Minuwangoda, and Seethawakapura in Awssawella, and thousands more have been affected by unsafe employment.

The right to legal employment is recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights established in 1966.  Sri Lanka is also a party to these international conventions.  As a result, it was enshrined as a fundamental right in Article 14 of the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the Constitution of Sri Lanka in 1978, giving every citizen the right to enjoy it.

In the face of the recent Covid-19 epidemic of deprivation of this right by citizens in the face of recent violations of fundamental rights by a government executive or administrative body or official, the government is intervening positively to protect the rights of employees whose jobs and wages are being slashed.  Authorities must understand that the government has a moral responsibility to intervene.

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