Sri Lanka: most women do not work more than 5 years in the EPZ

Marcus Waraheha Liyanage is the Joint Secretary of the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union, which has 30 years of experience in the EPZ. Campaigning for workers’ rights, particularly through the use of several international instruments, has been one of the major tools to ensure that workers are organised and to bargain collectively in the EPZs. However working conditions remain quite challenging. The living wage for a family is estimated at 216 US$ but EPZ wages average 53US$ per month. To cover unmet costs, overtime is frequent and even in case of sickness, workers go to work to get the attendance bonuses. Working conditions are so harsh that women often do not work more than 5 years. Sri Lanka has ratified all the ILO core conventions, including Conventions 87 and 98. However, implementation is the biggest challenge and trade union struggles, combined with international trade union solidarity and the use of different international mechanisms, have been the solution to gain more rights for workers, organise them and sign CBAs.