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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2901

Oppressive conditions in a Sri Lankan garment factory

[b]Oppressive conditions in a Sri Lankan garment factory[/b]

Retrenchments and deteriorating working conditions are producing mounting discontent in Sri Lankan garment factories, where about 300,000 workers are employed, mostly women.

It is now one year since the January 2005 abolition of the previous international quota system, which gave "developing countries" almost guaranteed shares of the world market. Since the quota system was ended at the behest of the major industrial countries—the US and EU—garment exporters have been engaged in cut-throat struggles to maintain their market shares. As in other countries, it is the workers in the Sri Lankan clothing plants who are bearing the brunt as companies drive down labour costs to protect profits and retain markets.

The Super Light Garment Industries factory, in Jamalapura, a remote village in the Kandy district, about 140 km from Colombo, is typical. In addition to garment plants in free trade zones (FTZ), businesses have been allowed to set up factories in rural areas with the same FTZ tax concessions. At the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s, the United National Party government launched a "200 garment factory" program in response to high levels of rural unemployment.

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