As Sri Lanka struggles under the weight of the ongoing economic crisis with power outages and price increases of essentials, the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) has welcomed the call to action by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) to support the apparel sector’s efforts to ensuring welfare.
ETI has commenced a collective response by engaging with economists, industry associations, worker representatives, and member companies operating in Sri Lanka to better understand the implications of the ongoing crisis on workers, suppliers, and the industry at large. Distribution of dry rations, medicines, groceries, and cooked food has been taken as an initial step in support. Additionally, AAFA has pledged a commitment to work with suppliers ensuring timely payments and adherence to the law, JAAF said in a press release.
The livelihoods and welfare of workers remain a top priority of the industry. JAAF welcomes this collective support as it will enhance and compliment worker welfare measures already taken by the industry during these unprecedented times. Welfare schemes by some factories have been in operation for the distribution of dry rations, with certain factories providing additional meals to employees to take home to feed their families. Provision of school books for children, free medical facilities, and special food packages for pregnant women have also been made available for employees in the SME sector.
As reiterated by the secretary general of JAAF Yohan Lawrence, “Factories are encouraged to implement welfare measures to best suit the requirements of their workers. As of June 2022, around 80 per cent of apparel manufacturers have made cost of living adjustments to salaries over and above the annual increments. In some instances, these represent increases of 25 per cent from 2021.”
This initiative by representatives of the international brands sourcing from Sri Lanka shows the deep relationship that brands have with their supplier partners in Sri Lanka built over a number of years.
JAAF commends the resilience of companies to continue operations and production under such challenging times, while ensuring the welfare of workers. Further, JAAF appreciates the support extended by the ETI and AAFA and renders full backing for their efforts in assisting the industry.