Workers rights groups in Sri Lanka say the EU's GSP+ trade scheme has only benefited employers and not workers, and are asking for mechanisms to distribute benefits to workers.

A press conference was called yesterday (12 November) by a grouping of trade unions and non-governmental organisations called ALaRM, to discuss the GSP+ from a worker perspective.

"The GSP+ has benefited employers and company owners. The workers have not got any benefits from it," said Ashila Mapalagama, the spokesperson for the Stand Up Movement, a non-governmental organisation involved in the apparel sector. 

"So if the GSP+ is going to be available in future, we say it should have some mechanism to allow benefits to reach down to workers," said Mapalagama.

Trade unions noted that although apparel exports to the EU from Sri Lanka increased, the apparel export sector has seen job losses and reduced worker welfare, in the past months. 

Therefore, say the trade unions, benefits from trade growth, using the GSP+, have not accrued to workers. 

The latest export data shows that total apparel export incomes from the EU increased by 8.5% in September 2009 compared to September 2008.

Total apparel export earnings from the EU, for the nine months of January to September 2009, also increased by 4.3%.

ALaRM also wants the Sri Lankan government to ensure that if the GSP+ is withdrawn, it will not adversely impact the working masses.