JAAF stood in support of the ILO and IFC’s Better Work Initiative and is introducing a continuing programme for industry advisors to strengthen occupation safety and health measures for garment workers.

The national OSH master trainer programme was launched last year , and JAAF tells Just Style exclusively: “The 70 industry advisors representing the Ministry of Labor, Employers Federation of Ceylon, and Representatives of Trade Unions and factories nominated by JAAF were given training on facilitation skills and techniques, communication skills, and technical aspects of OSH, including risk assessments and management systems.”

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By the ILO launching the Better Work Sri Lanka, the next step is to equip 70 trainers with the necessary tools to become “Industry Advisors” and establish bipartite committees within the apparel industry. The participants will go on to implement a common guideline of ILO and relevant stakeholders to improve current practices at their workplace.

The head of the Better Work Sri Lanka Programme, Kesava Murali Kanapathy noted the workshops were a journey for the participants to learn social dialogue in action. The common challenges they faced, areas of improvement and solutions were also discussed.

The objective to promote enterprise-level bipartite OSH committee is being spearheaded by Better Work Sri Lanka and is being carried out in partnership with JAAF, the Employees Federation of Ceylon (EFC), the Ministry of Labour and representatives from Trade Unions.

JAAF’s secretary general Yohan Lawrence stressed that Sri Lanka’s apparel sector is an ethical manufacturing destination and said that despite the apparel sector giving prominence to worker safety, it is crucial to continuously equip and expand the employee’s knowledge of OSH.

He continued: “In December 2021, we entered into a landmark memorandum of understanding (MOU) with trade unions to ensure we build safer workplaces, through a collaborative approach, especially during the pandemic.

“By being part of the Better Work programme, which enabled this partnership to come to fruition, we saw all stakeholders hold conversations with trust and openness, keeping workers’ wellbeing in the forefront.”

Kanapathy said the aim is to achieve a culture of occupational safety and health in the workplace as opposed to simply making it a compliance requirement. The aim is to bring both worker and management reps to an equal platform to address the needs of OSH proactively.

JAAF points out that through these bipartite OSH committees, the representation of women will be increased to encourage more women to participate in OSH matters.

JAAF adds: “In addition, we need to create a national dialogue to strengthen our labour laws to prioritise OSH, which the ILO adopted as a Fundamental Principle and Rights at work in 2022. JAAF and other stakeholders have been supportive, for which we need to strengthen our relationship with such institutions further.”

Kanapathy concluded: “This programme is a testament to how collaborations can be successful and promote workplace cooperation through OSH.

“What we need now is to create a national dialogue and strengthen our labour laws that prioritise workplace safety. JAAF and other stakeholders have been supportive in this endeavour, and we look forward to future partnerships like this.”