Free Trade Zone (FTZ) workers in the Western Province of Sri Lanka, celebrated International Women’s Day, March 12th, at the Katunayaka Investment Promotion Zone, with the demand of urging authorities to show due respect by giving proper wages for their services that earn dollars by them for Sri Lanka during this critical period.
As this year International Women’s Day, the 08th of March, was on a weekday and If the workers use that day the commemorating Women’s Day, they would lose their wages on that day. ” So we choose Sunday to celebrate our Women’s Day as it is the one and only holiday we get.” It was the response of workers who attended the Women’s day event.
Sunday is the only day off get for trade zone workers who toil day and night shifts throughout the week.
On the occasion of the 112th International Women’s Day celebration, the Dabindu Collective of Katunayaka had organized a protest on March 12th yesterday to highlight some of their urgent needs to the government and the authorities. It was held at Avariwatta Junction in Katunayaka for one hour from 9:30 am to 10:30 am.
Representing the Katunayake, Biyagama, and Free Trade Zone Solidarity, a large group of men and women from the apparel sector employees held over one-hour protest near the main entrance of the Katunayake Investment Promotion Zone to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023.
At the moment when the 112th International Women’s Day is being celebrated, the Free Trade Zone workers are suffering a lot. Their salaries have not increased in three years. There are people who have lost their jobs. The rulers are planning to move these factories to other countries. Preparations are underway to change the Labour law. In the last three years, these workers were unable to find the food they needed to live.” said Chamila Thushari.
Also, she added that they don’t need to face this pathetic situation. it is the responsibility of the authorities to protect these workers who earn foreign exchange for the country.” she said.
“We request the government, the Investment Promotion Zone, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Department of Labor to maintain the dignity of the work of these Free Trade Zone employees , especially to the women employees who earn foreign exchange for the country at this moment when the country has fallen into the abyss by providing justice and equity and giving them proper wages” Chamila Thushari further added.
Lalitha Ranjani who attended to celebrate Women’s Day on behalf of the Textile Garment and Clothing Workers Union told Mojo News, due to the current economic crisis, electricity bills, water bills have increased and the prices of food items have skyrocketed, so the lives of our brothers and sisters in the FTZ who have struggled to protect the country by earning the necessary exchange for this country in the export economy for 40 years, are becoming insecure now.”
“While we are celebrating the Women’s Day today, we request the government and the relevant authorities to make the lives of all these workers who provide labor for the country safe.” She added.
Ashila Dandeniya, the director of the Standup Movement, who participated in the Women’s Day protest, stated to Mojo News that with the changes in the political and economic systems along with the neo-liberal economic policies, the labor has become completely feminized and the women’s labor has become increasingly exploited and misused.
Also, she stated that she is raising her voice for women workers who are serving in the FTZ because women are the most affected in the current economic situation in this country and women are the ones who handle the economy. So all women should stand together to protect their rights.
A large number of representatives of organizations Dabindu Collective, Standup Lanka Movement, Shramabhimani Kendra, Development for Human Liberation, Textile Garment and Clothing Workers’ Union and workers from FTZ gathered to celebrate Women’s Day 2023 in the zone while demanding rights of workers by displaying some placards and banners written in Sinhala, English and Tamil with many demands such as “giving adequate wages to labor, resisting violence in the workplace, respecting women’s rights, and making our jobs safe”.