Around 140 workers at the Tri Star Apparel Exports garment factory in Sri Lanka have staged a protest over unpaid wages and benefits. 

CIWU, the Sri Lanka affiliate of the IndustriAll global union, says around 200 workers at the factory, of whom 140 are union members, have been facing problems including delayed salaries, unpaid gratuity to retired workers, and company failure to contribute to social security funds.

The union claims wages for the month of October were paid eight days late. As a result, employees stopped work, which "forced management to pay 30% of the due wages". However, CIWU says office staff remain unpaid for the last three months, and management suspended the branch union president and chief organiser for arranging the strike, which took place on Monday (19 December). 

"On 25 November management sent all the workers on leave till 5 December without paying rest of the due salaries," CIWU says. "On 5 December, the factory remained closed and the gathered workers were again asked to come back ten days later and collect salaries due from October 2016. But on 15 December, when workers came to the factory, it was still locked. Neither director, nor CEO was present, and factory general manager and HR informed workers that the salaries could not be paid on that day and the factory would not be opened."

The factory, which produces primarily for the local market, remains under the jurisdiction of the Board of Investment, a Sri Lankan authority responsible for export processing zones (EPZs), the union says.

CIWU is now calling for the immediate payment of pending wages, immediate remittance of the outstanding state social security funds, Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees' Trust Fund (ETF), and the reinstatement of suspended trade union office bearers and organisers.

The union says it will appeal to the labour tribunal and demand reinstatement of the suspended unionists.