Garment factories exploiting Northern girls, union charges

By Chris Kamalendran

A garment sector trade union leader charged yesterday that some garment manufacturers were seeking cheap female labour from the one time battle areas of the north.“Factory workers were leaving due to poor wages, work and living conditions. Most in the north are ignorant of the labour laws and are falling prey,” Anton Marcus, President of the Progressive Free Trade Zone and Apparel Union told the Sunday Times.

“After many years of war, the people in these areas are ignorant of workers rights, wages and so on and are easy prey for the apparel operators. Most of the big names currently touring the north and east are known to be serious violators of labour laws,” Mr. Fernando charged.

He said there was a huge dearth of factory hands at the moment because many were leaving owing to poor wages and working and living conditions. “Therefore the apparel bosses have switched to the north and east where there is widespread unemployment. These people are willing to work for any wage and they care less about the working or living conditions. At the end of the day, these workers will be exploited,” he said.

Meanwhile politicians in the north and east have also begun to frown on the ad-hoc system of recruiting workers from the area. In one case a local MP stopped a group of Kilinochchi girls from being loaded into a bus before they were taken to a factory in Kandy.

TNA politician S. Sritharan said they had no objection to the recruitment but it should be done in a proper manner. “These girls are just loaded on to buses. No one knows where they are heading for. There should be some transparency in the whole issue.

I have taken the matter up with the authorities,” he said.He said that even some security forces personnel were openly assisting in the apparel operators’ campaign to recruit unsuspecting girls.
Lasantha De Silva with Timex Garments admitted they were involved in a recruitment drive in the north and east but said there was no illegality in it.

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