Sri Lanka: 800 Factory Workers Wage Long Strike for Union

Update, November 21, 2013—Hundreds of striking workers at Ansell Lanka marched to the Australian High Commission office yesterday, the 40th day of the strike at the manufacturing plant. Workers sought a response to the union’s request for the office to help achieve a resolution.

You can take action: Tell Ansell CEO and managing director to negotiate with workers at Ansell Lanka here.

Sign a letter of solidarity to striking workers here. The global union federation, IndustriAll, is hosting the  online campaign.

November 19, 2013—More than 800 workers at the Ansell Lanka Ltd., factory in Sri Lanka have been on strike since October 11, seeking recognition of their union and re-instatement of 11 fired workers associated with organizing the union. The union president was among the workers fired, according to Anton Marcus, joint secretary of the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union (FTZ&GSEU), a Sri Lankan affiliate of the global union IndustriAll. 

Women make up more than 60 percent of the workers, who manufacture surgical and industrial latex gloves for export. The strike at the factory, located in the Biyagama Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in western Sri Lanka, is one of the longest to date in any of country’s EPZs.

Management at the factory, owned by Ansell Limited, which operates 29 facilities in 16 countries with corporate headquarters in Australia and New Jersey, rejected all proposals made by the Sri Lanka commissioner of Labor and the minister of Labor to resolve the situation in a just and equitable manner. To date, no settlement has been reached and no inquiry has been held to look into the dismissal of the 11 workers, Marcus said.

Workers sought a union after Ansell Lanka management unilaterally raised production targets and increasingly hired contract workers, who typically are paid lower wages. The factory has a long history of anti-unionism, refusing to accept workers’ choice for a union as far back as 1994, Marcus said.

The workers have drawn international labor support, with the AFL-CIO, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), UNI and other global trade union federations requesting immediate settlement of the strike.

Tell Ansell CEO and managing director to negotiate with workers at Ansell Lanka here.