In an effort to reduce the burden of the ongoing economic crisis and help workers cope with the rising cost of living, apparel manufacturers have taken measures to provide both financial and non-financial support to their workers.
“We are grappling with tough and unprecedented times. Our workers keep the wheels of our industry turning, and their welfare is our top priority. We are encouraging factories to implement welfare measures that best suit the requirements of their workers and are aware that many have already done so. As of now, around 80% 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% from 2021,” said Yohan Lawrence, Secretary-General of the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF).
Lawrence also said some factories have even initiated welfare schemes for the distribution of dry rations in support of employees across the plants, including outsourced services like janitorial, canteen, and security staff. Certain factories also provide additional meals for employees to take home, so they can help feed their families as well. Other benefits offered to employees, particularly in the SME sector, include the provision of school books for children, free medical facilities, and special food packages for pregnant mothers.
“The livelihoods of our workers are our top priority, and we will take necessary steps to ensure that the disruption on their lives during this difficult period is minimised,” Lawrence added.
Sri Lankan Apparel exports earned US$ 5 billion in 2021, and targeted US$ 6 billion in 2022. In the first four months of 2022, Sri Lanka achieved US$ 1.8 billion in apparel exports, which is slightly higher compared to the same period in 2019 (pre-Covid year). However, Lawrence said a US$ 6 billion target might have to be revised this year, owing to various domestic and global factors. He further said industries are now able to directly purchase fuel from Lanka IOC and CPC by paying in US Dollars, which is helping factories to maintain an uninterrupted power supply to a great extent.
By Rajiesh Seetharam