Union membership is now 100 percent in two of the five factories organised under the UnionAID Sri Lankan partnership project with the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSE). When the civil war in Sri Lanka ended, garment factories were set up in the north and east of the country to take advantage of the cheap labour and in response to the government’s intention to establish Free Trade Zones there. Under our project, a branch office has been established and two organisers, Ms Sody and Mr Ramachandran, appointed. Their success in managing unlawful dismissals or termination of jobs, failure to pay wages or overtime, and ethnic discrimination, has seen a rapid growth in union membership among the mainly female workforce.
Archive for category: Sri Lanka
Our new project in Eastern Sri Lanka has got off to an active start with the organisation of workers in the Trendsetters garment factory.
The project, organised by our partners the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSE), aims to support and organise women workers in an area which was badly affected by the civil war.
The sixth issue of Solidarity, the newsletter of the Unions Aotearoa International Development Trust, is available below. This issue introduces new projects in Sri Lanka and the Pacific, as well as updates on ongoing projects in Tamil Nadu and Mae Sot.
- New Projects in Sri Lanka, Mae Sot and the Pacific
- Worker co-operatives: Tamil Nadu Labour Union leads the way
- Meeting our fundraising target!
- Raffle ticket winners
- Getting skills for work
- Notes from the Field: Update on Mae Sot Project
- Online database a first for Tamil Nadu project
- UnionAID cookbook
UnionAID has had an active few months developing new project options.
A new project in Sri Lanka, starting in the new year, will establish a Women’s Centre in Eastern Sri Lanka from which two organisers will provide support and union organisation for more than 5,000 Tamil women workers in garment factories which have been established in this area previously under the control of the Tamil Tigers.
In Mae Sot we are funding an extension to our very successful occupational skills training centre, to include cooking and embroidery skills. We are also establishing a scholarship programme to enable twenty graduates from the FTUB high school to gain vocational skills training at the Thai Government vocational training college.
UnionAID is also working with partners in Vanuatu and Samoa on possible projects which will help them to better protect the interests of workers coming to New Zealand on the seasonal employment scheme, and to organise a union for workers in the private sector in Samoa.
Generous support for our fundraising this year has made these projects possible. So a sincere thanks to all of our supporters.
UnionAID has established the following priorities for our project work in 2011:
1. The FTUB Mae Sot project
The establishment of the skills training centre for Burmese migrant workers is our first priority for the year. Funding from the Government’s new Sustainable Development Fund will assist with this desperately needed facility.
2. The Tamil Nadu Labour Union project
Our existing 3 year project ends on 30 June 2011 and our strategy for this project is to work with our partners to develop:an economic development project which meets the Sustainable Development Fund criteria, based on the existing cooperatives, skills training and micro-enterprise work in the present project.a restructuring of the present union organising project so that it moves to self-funding, and to have a stronger focus on the inclusion of new Dalit (untouchable) communities in Tamil Nadu. This project would be funded out of our Solidarity Member donations and fundraising.
3. A Pacific project
A UnionAID Pacific project, with a skills development focus, and possibly a health/education component will be developed if a suitable union partner, opportunity and need is identified.
4. Burma young community leaders project (BYLP)
The BYLP now has 12 alumni and 2011 will see the third intake of six young Burmese students. This programme, which is funded by NZAid, and delivered in conjunction with Victoria University, focuses on English language and development studies to prepare the students for increased responsibilities in their organisations both inside and outside Burma. We intend to build a network of interested organisations to provide ongoing support to the graduates from our programme.
Ross Wilson talking to Chris Laidlaw on Radio NZ’s Sunday Morning Ideas show, 24 October 2010 (Labour Day).
A new UnionAID project is currently being piloted in Sri Lanka which seeks to build relationships, and community activity, across ethnic groups who have been divided by the bitter civil war.
UnionAID has forged a new partnership with the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union which has a record of effectiveness in a very difficult environment.
The FTZGSEU has not only successfully organized workers in the Free Trade Zone factories, but has also previously worked with Christian World Service to establish Women’s Centres for the women factory workers, and to build new housing in the wake of the destructive Boxing Day Tsunamai in 2004.
The new project will work with Tamil Hindu and Moslem workers and Singhalese workers and others, to develop an exchange programme so women workers can stay in the homes of fellow workers of a different ethnicity/religion, in another area of the country for several days and to jointly attend seminars and cultural activities.
The objective is to build a network/organisation which would work together in a community development model to address issues, and to jointly advocate as women workers. There will be lectures and group discussions on the issues faced by them as women and sharing of different and similar aspects of their lives.