Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumarathunge
The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Fax: 941 446657
Demands that should be rnade include:
Taking action to ensure Miss M G Kuarunawathi is reinstated,
Remember to send a copy of your letter to the Womens Center.
** Donate what you can financially.Your contributions will be utilised for the court case as well as provide some financial assistance to Miss Karunawathi, as she may find it difficult to get another job while the court case is in progress.
Kindly send your contributions to:
For further information, please contact: Anton Aarcus 141, Anahda Rajakarana Mawatha, Colombo 10, Sri Lanka.
13,000 workers fired from the Garment and Textile industry
The Zimbabwan Garment and Textile industry is an important part of the economy, but its position is weakened since the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme. In addition to this natural calamities like drought has necessiated the import of cotton, which is too expensive for the local companies. In the year 1992-93 and in 1994-95 the country suffered major droughts, resulting in 11,000 workers tossing their jobs due to the bankrupcy of small companies.Yet the sector accounts for 10% of Zimbabwe exports, of which, 60% is for European Unions.
To reduce the production cost, the employers try to keep the labour cost as low as possible. It is calculated that a 6 membered family in Zimbabwe needs for a week an absolute minimum of 442 Zimbabwe Dollars, which excludes educational expense, medical cost or other unforseen expenses. The workers in the garment and textile industry get payed only 254 Z$, which is not sufficient to make ends meet.
The workers in the Textile and Garment industry are represented by three unions. The unions negotiate every year with the employers organisation on the issue of wages and working conditions in the concerned sector. The National Employment Council (NEC) is a government institution that mediates in case of conflicts.1f the NEC cannot resolve the issue, the parties can
go to the Tribunal of the Ministry of Labour and finally appeal to the Supreme Court.
In April 1997, negotiations between the unions and the employer began for a raise in wages.The employers refuse to discuss the issue seriously, despite the intervention of the NEC. As a result, a wild strike broke out, wherein more than 10,000 workers went on strike.To find a solution, the employers and union agreed to a third party arbitration. The arbitrator suggested a wage raise of 25%. The employers then went to the ministry to end the strike.On 11th July, the minister issued a notification, wherein the employers were allowed to dismiss the workers if they did not report for work within two days. Since it was a wild strike it was difficult to inform all the workers of the order, as a result 13,000 workers were fired from the job.
Since employers needed workers, 11,000 workers were rehired again, but on a contract basis, with lower wages, less working rights and no legal protection. The 2,000 workers who were not hired are, all people who are either unionmen or representatives in the work councils or elder employees. Due to this situation, the work council is hardly operational and the workers have no body to help if they want to complain about the situation in the factory. Workers can be dismissed any day and are often forced to end their membership with the union. In addition to that, the agreed 25% raise in wages have not been paid in all the cases.
International solidarity campaigns have already started. The Zimbabwe Ministry and the European Companies who buy these products need to be questioned.
Kindly send your letter of protest to the concerned authorities to express your solidarity with workers.
Asian Women Workers Newsletter Vol. 17 No. 1 January 1998 15