The Global Deal

A Landmark Agreement in the Sri Lanka Garment Industry

This good practice case describes how a process of bi-partite social dialogue between employer and trade union representatives from the garment industry in Sri Lanka resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding covering dispute resolution and workplace health management.

When the second COVID-19 wave broke out in October 2020, employment was abruptly reduced, leading to increased friction and numerous disputes between workers and management. As a result, the Joint Apparel Association Forum (the organisation of employers from the garment sector) and three local trade unions re-opened discussions in May 2021 to address the problems that the pandemic had pushed to the forefront: the lack of an effective dispute-resolution mechanism, the need to set up health committees in factories, and the loss of workers’ revenue.

The negotiations lasted seven months and, although initially challenging, the commitment and willingness shown by both sides to strike a deal resulted in the first agreement of its kind to be concluded at the sectoral level in Sri Lanka. It provides for a dispute-resolution mechanism, which is managed by social partners themselves, and stipulates that each plant must set up a bipartite health committee to ensure that health-related guidelines are implemented.




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