The Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSEU) says that the recent decision by US retailer J Crew to pull out further orders from its Sri Lankan supplier Mirrai Pvt Limited, after the manufacturer refused to correct serious labour violations, is sending a message to the garment industry that codes of conduct can be more than paper tigers.
Secretary of the FTZGSEU Anton Marcus told The Island Financial Review that the Industrial Global Union has written to the Ceylon Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) criticizing its knee jerk reaction of blaming the union for the loss of orders and urging the industry to instead tackle the real issues in order to build a viable and sustainable export industry.
General Secretary of the Industrial Global Union Tyrri Raina in a letter to the local supplier has made it very clear that J. Crew’s reason for severing its connections with Mirrai was not the allegations brought by the union nor any violations, but rather its refusal to partner with J. Crew in order to remedy the labour violations.
When Mirrai tried to crack down on its workers last year, the FTZGSEN tried to resolve the problem through dialogue, but when they refuse to even meet, the union sought intervention of the labour authorities, but there was no progress.
J. Crew investigated and confirmed the allegations that Mirrai did not have in place the necessary management systems expected from a company operating in global markets.
Over several months, J. Crew sought the company’s cooperation in implementing an action plan to remedy the violations and deficiencies that were identified, but Mirrai indicated in actions and in writing that it had no intention of making the necessary improvements. The retailer had no option but to cease future production at the factory.
Raina further says that the EFC rather than lashing out at the FTZGSEU, should encourage Mirrai to respect labour rights, and thereby safeguard its business and jobs of the workers it employs.
By Lal Gunasekera