ECONOMYNEXT – A Collective of Workers Organisations representing Garment Factory staff is warning that around 50,000 employees in factories in and around the Katunayake Free Trade area are in danger of contracting Covid 19 after the breakout in the Brandix apparel plant in Minuwangoda.
In a public statement issued today, October 9, they said that the emergence of the disease in the Minuwangoda plant after a period where it appeared the spread of the virus had been contained “is creating fear and anxiety for the workers and their families and must be addressed with compassion and sensitivity.”
The Collective, headed by Da Bindu, points out that fill-in workers from the Manpower Organisation, a loose grouping of employment agents who provide casual labour, have been working in many factories over the past few months. They have been working in factories situated in Minuwangoda, Katunayake, Seeduwa and Welisara the statement said. These workers move from factory to factory and may be in danger of contracting Covid 19.
The organisations also ask the authorities to investigate how the company concerned dealt with the outbreak of fever and whether Public Health officials were given access to the factories and what actions were taken.
It also raised the concern that because the worst affected factory also housed executives who traveled frequently to other plants that belong to the same company those factories may also be infected.
The collective demanded that the government put in place a mechanism supervised by the Health Authorities to ensure that the Covid guidelines are followed by these factories.
They also asked that to prevent future outbreaks the state conduct random testing of workers for the Covid virus to identify infected persons.
Among the demands is that the workers in the factories that have been closed are paid their wages without interruption.
They are also demanding a full investigation as to how employees at the Brandix plant became infected with Covid and want women workers from the plant to be included in the inquiry team.
It also called for all information and instructions to workers to be available in Tamil as many of the workers are Tamil speakers.
The organisations issuing the statement are:
Da Bindu collective
Stand-up Movement Lanka
Development for Human Liberation
Apparel Workers Union
(Colombo, October 9, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana