04/05/2011, 00.00
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Sri Lanka: Textile industry profits on the back of exploited and underpaid women

by Melani Manel Perera
women still don’t earn enough to support their families. In 2010 recorded profits of over € 2.5 billion, but 42% is the result of the low cost of labour.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - In Sri Lanka women employed in the textile sector continue to be underpaid, exploited and are often victims of violence, although the government has asked the industry five yearly wage increases and better working conditions.

According to Apparel Industry Labour Rights Movement (Alarm), not all industries have implemented the new provisions. In at least six textile factories employees work seven days a week for a minimum wage of 60 euro per month. The government data shows that to survive a family must earn at least 350 euros per month, also considering basic medical costs.

These days, Alarm and other human rights groups organized a meeting entitled " Living wages as fundamental rights of Sri Lanka garments factory workers" (see photo). The conference launched a people's court consisting of judges, trade unionists, local and foreign activists who investigate cases of exploitation of women in the textile factories of the industrial districts of Katunayake, Biyagama and Koggala (southern Sri Lanka).

Shanti Dairiam, a female judge of the people's court, says that "in recent years Sri Lanka has signed many international conventions and agreements with various industries. However, workers can not surivive. Their basic salary is not enough to live in dignity and raise a family. "

According to Alarm multinationals that have outsourced their production to Sri Lanka are primarily responsible for the severe state of exploitation of the textile industry, taking advantage of low wages and weal legislation to produce huge profits, condemning women to a life of poverty.

Members of Alarm emphasize that the current global trading system is based on the search for the country offering the lowest production costs, but this places all of the burdens on workers.

Clothing is the main industry of Sri Lanka and employs about 30 thousand people, mostly women. In 2010 the export of textile products made profits of 3.5 billion dollars. According to Alarm about 42% of the gain comes from the low cost of labour.

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