In a comment made exclusively to Just Style, the Sri Lankan Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) emphasised that the apparel industry is doing its utmost to ensure the sustenance of livelihoods and well-being of apparel workerin Sri Lanka while protecting and upholding their rights in these unprecedented times.

JAAF said, this discourse was between the government of Sri Lanka and trade unions and it was not in a position to comment on overall worker rights on the island.

However, it added: “As an industry we are firmly taking proactive initiatives to strengthen and consolidate our relationship with trade unions and apparel workers. This is demonstrated through JAAF’s collaboration with ILO’s Better Work programme, which extends to a unique partnership between relevant stakeholders.”

Last month, JAAF pledged absolute support to International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Better Work initiative demonstrating the industry’s deep commitment to prioritising people and their well-being.

The programme is focused on occupational safety and health, dispute resolution mechanisms and women’s empowerment, given that women make up the working backbone of the industry.

Better Work Sri Lanka will focus its interventions on the following:

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  • Occupational Safety and Health, in the context of Covid-19 management and recovery, including using risk assessments, strengthening management systems, conducting leadership training and training of trainers, and awareness campaigns promoting improved mental health and well-being.
  • Gender, Diversity and Inclusion, including leadership skills training and career development for women workers, implementing the ILO C190 toolkit addressing harassment and violence in the workplace and facilitating access to pregnancy-related healthcare, childcare and maternity protection.
  • Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), including leadership and financial literacy training for SME management, implementation of a factory improvement toolkit including management systems and productivity interventions, and increasing visibility to supply chain partners.

This comes after the Sri Lanka government repressed protesting union members amidst a political and economic crisis.