Sri Lankan garment manufacturers prioritize worker safety

At a meeting organized by the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) in Sri Lanka on the topic of “The Success of Pandemic Resilient Businesses in Sri Lanka’s Garment Industry”, representatives from several well-known garment manufacturers of Sri Lanka, including MAS Holding, Hirdaramani, Brandix Moose Clothing and the group’s Star Garments, said that while more than 90% of employees have been partially vaccinated and 70% have been fully vaccinated, companies are exceeding expectations by in compliance with health and safety guidelines, seeking to provide the maximum possible protection. to employees.

It comes as the industry body representing garment exporters in Sri Lanka was forced earlier this month to defend the government and factory owners after being accused of failing to protect workers from contracting Covid-19.

“We had to physically modify production floors, establish social distancing protocols, implement health checks and remote working arrangements where possible. Discipline to adhere to these protocols has also been established and monitoring systems have been put in place,” said Shirendra Lawrence of MAS.

Hasib Omar of Moose Clothing added: “Even though 70% of the workforce is fully vaccinated, the industry continues to maintain strict protocols such as social distancing, screening, random PCR testing and others. health and safety Covid-19 prevention guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.”

But they raised concerns about the economic viability of the sector and the risk of “dismantling the relationships that have been built over decades”.

These are essential for the future of the sector, which accounts for nearly half of the country’s export earnings. It directly employs 350,000 people, has created 700,000 indirect jobs and contributes 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), they noted.

“Industry leaders needed to focus on balancing the economic sustainability of our organizations while placing top priority on the safety and protection of our employees, whose job roles require them to work from the factories,” Lawrence said. “We need to compete with global and regional competitors if we are to maintain the relationships we have worked very hard to build over the past 20 to 30 years. Some of these competitors may not be facing the same challenges as we are now, so it’s not a level playing field.

Despite significant order cancellations due to the pandemic, industry leaders said the impact would have been more severe had it not been for the strategic relationships the industry has established with buyers and the reputation it had earned as an ethical, sustainable, innovative and high-value supplier.

“Sri Lanka’s apparel industry has been built primarily on relationships and strategic partnerships with customers, rather than transactional orders,” said Aroon Hirdaramani. “These partnerships have been strained by the pandemic and the resulting massive order cancellations. However, given the industry’s strategic partnerships, most buyers acted in this spirit of partnership; discussions of solutions to problems were consultative and there were compromises on both sides.

In addition, industry leaders also pointed out that proactive actions and industry adoption of technologies ensure business continuity.

Jeevith Senaratne of Star Garments Group said: “The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technologies that existed but were underutilized. The best example of this is the 3D product development technology through which we were able to produce samples virtually, get real-time feedback, and execute, without having to produce physical samples, which was difficult given the circumstances. In our business, we have increased the usage share of 3D product development from 15% before the pandemic to 50%.”

Michael O. Stutler