Garment factories in Sri Lanka will be allowed to temporarily lay off workers and to operate a five day working weeks - instead of the normal five-and-half day week - in a bid to fight off the global recession.

Sri Lanka's Ministry of Labour said the agreement has been reached between factories, trade unions and government agencies in the country.

The garment sector is estimated to see around 30,000-40,000 job losses this year due to the drop in export orders arising from the result of the global recession.

However, the latest agreement is aimed at avoiding such drastic job losses, by giving factories greater flexibility to adjust operations according to availability of orders. 

Factories are required to get worker agreement before applying to the Commissioner of Labour to make use of the special provisions. 

Companies will be allowed to temporarily lay off workers for up to three months, but must come to an agreement with workers to pay them some part of their salaries. This is because Sri Lanka does not have any form of social security to support workers and families at times of sudden job losses.

Factories can also transfer the Saturday half day of work to the five week days, at the rate of one extra hour of work, during the five week days. This will reduce the number of working days from five-and-a-half to five. 

Factories say these provisos will help cut costs when volumes of orders drop.

By Dilshani Samaraweera.