Salaries for many garment workers are already higher than the rates set by the national wages board

Salaries for many garment workers are already higher than the rates set by the national wages board

Sri Lanka’s newly elected government has agreed to set a minimum wage for all private sector workers for the first time, including those in the garment industry.

The legislation is due to be presented to parliament shortly, and will see wages backdated to 1 May.

Under the plans, private sector workers will see their wages increase by 15-35%, making the monthly minimum national wage for the sector around US$74 (LKR10,000).

State sector employees, meanwhile, have seen their wages increased by US$74, resulting in a minimum wage of around US$223, including allowances and benefits.

"The increase is a welcome step in reducing the huge gap between the private sector employees and state sector employees, but there is more work to be done," says Leslie Devendra, of the IndustriAll Sri Lanka Council and president of Sri Lanka’s largest trade union SLNSS.

Tuli Cooray, the secretary general of the country’s Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), told just-style earlier this year that garment worker salaries were based on market conditions, and were higher than the rates set by the national wages board for state employees.

A spokesperson for Sri Lanka’s leading apparel exporter Brandix, which employs 30,000 people, said the "industry will comply" with any guidance from the country’s wages board.