Apparel industry associations, stakeholders from across the world are joining hands to standby Sri Lanka’s apparel industry current facing a tough time due to the ongoing economic crisis which has affected its global competitiveness. Many associations from across the world have come out in support prominent among is the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) that has expressed strong support through a recent letter sent on behalf of buyers to Sri Lanka’s Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF). And as Sri Lanka struggles under the weight of the ongoing economic crisis with power outages, shortages and price increases of essentials, the JAAF has welcomed the call to action by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and the AAFA to support the apparel sector’s efforts towards ensuring worker welfare.
No changes required in current sourcing patterns
Steve Lamar, President and CEO, AAFA wrote in appreciation of JAAF’s efforts in keeping workers employed and safe during the crisis. It applauds the continuous work being done to ensure the industry’s progress and its ability to create new jobs. Lamar also warns, making significant changes in sourcing at this moment would impact both the country’s garment industry and workers engaged in it. AAFA reiterates its commitment to remain mindful of the current situation and consider the impact on workers before making any sourcing decisions. AAFA also commits to remain in constant touch with its Sri Lankan partners, ensuring timely payments to suppliers and guaranteeing a fair treatment to workers, says Lamar.
ETI meanwhile has commenced a collective response by engaging with economists, industry associations, worker representatives, and member companies operating in Sri Lanka to better understand the implications of the ongoing crisis on workers, suppliers and the industry at large. Distribution of dry rations, medicines, groceries and cooked food has been taken up as an initial step in support.
Supporting Sri Lanka with new initiatives
A supplier to global apparel brands and retailers, the Sri Lankan apparel industry needs to be supported during such tough times. Workers and their families need to be safeguarded and economy set in motion, opines Peter McAllister, Executive Director, ETI that has signed a joint call to action in collaboration with the Fair Wear Foundation, Fair Labor Association and British Retail Consortium.
The joint call for action encourages companies sourcing from Sri Lanka to support workers, suppliers and the sector at large. It encourages companies sourcing from Sri Lanka to introduce new initiatives to assess risks to workers, maintain regular communication with suppliers and make regular payments to suppliers. JAAF has welcomed this collective support as it enhances and compliments worker welfare measures already taken by the industry. Secretary General of JAAF Yohan Lawrence adds, “Factories are encouraged to implement welfare measures to best suit the requirements of their workers. As of June 2022, around 80 per cent apparel manufacturers have made cost of living adjustments to salaries over and above the annual increments. In some instances, these represent increases of 25 per cent from 2021.”
No order cancellation and timely payments
AADA’s letter also urges companies to avoid cancelling orders, ensure continued business to suppliers, pay all pending dues to workers and employees; review negotiated prices and include increase in energy, raw material and labor costs in future price negotiations. One of the most important recommendations of the letter includes exploring innovative remedial solutions to support workers and respecting human rights in these times of economic crisis.