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Friday, June 21, 2024

Rights Groups Urge Sri Lanka to Halt Labour Law Reforms

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Amnesty International and other organizations have urgently called on the Sri Lankan Government to halt the proposed new Labour Law and ensure that any reforms are made only after consulting workers and their representatives.

“We express our serious concerns over the proposed reforms which, as they stand, would weaken the rights and protection of workers by removing international minimum standards and rights,” the coalition said.

In an open letter to the Government and Parliament of Sri Lanka, the coalition warned that the proposed reforms, if implemented without proper consultation, would weaken workers’ rights and protections by eliminating international minimum standards and rights.

Amnesty International, Clean Clothes Campaign, and Human Rights Watch have raised alarms about the imminent and sweeping changes to Sri Lankan labour laws.

“We fear for the future of Sri Lanka’s garment industry—not just for workers but also how the proposed reforms would negatively impact brands’ human rights risk assessments and responsible sourcing—if these changes are pushed through.”

They urge the government to immediately halt the current reform process and ensure that any necessary reforms to the labour laws are made in consultation with workers and their representatives.

“The concerns expressed in this letter reflect and follow those repeatedly expressed through protests and raised by a broad coalition of unions and civil society organizations in Sri Lanka,” the letter stated.

The proposed draft Act contains many articles that weaken the rights and protection of workers by removing international minimum standards and rights. The draft Act also includes clauses that threaten Sri Lanka’s compliance with international law, including ILO conventions No. 87, 98, 144, and 190.

“While there has been no clarity around the proposed timetable for discussion and passage of the draft Act, we understand that the proposed unified labour code could be placed for voting in the parliament soon.”

The Sri Lankan garment industry has distinguished itself with the slogan “Garments Without Guilt.”

“The imminent reforms threaten to make Sri Lankan’s garment factories synonymous with the worst forms of sweatshop labour instead,” the organizations warned.

“We, therefore, urge you to immediately halt the existing labour reform process and start an alternative process, which is transparent, consensus-based, includes all tripartite stakeholders, and meets the established Sri Lankan democratic processes on consultation, translation, and publication to enable effective participation from all workers and their representatives, aiming for a unified labour code that respects international labour rights standards.”

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