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Union Exposes Mass Firings at Sri Lanka Footwear Company

Palla and Company Ltd., a Sri Lankan leather footwear manufacturer and global exporter, has been accused of mass firings and union busting by IndustriALL affiliated FTZGSEU union. IndustriALL has traced a history of firings at Palla, starting in August 2012 when workers organized to protest the company’s decision to end biannual salary increases. Management sacked 15 union officials in November 2013 and 179 union members one month later.

In July 2013, an FTZGSEU strike was intervened by Sri Lanka’s labor commissioner, who chaired negotiations resulting in a Memorandum of Settlement ruling in favor of the union’s claims. Palla management signed the agreement, but continued to initiate a number of firings. According to IndustriALL, the workers were blacklisted from other employers making it difficult for them to earn a living wage. Workers were allowed to return to their jobs, but first had to sign an illegal document from Palla management promising not to join any further union activity.

The union, along with the Clean Clothes Campaign, is taking aim at one of Palla’s biggest buyers during the time of violations, footwear brand Bata, demanding that they ensure a fair settlement, including back pay and reinstatement. IndustriALL reported that Bata completely pulled out from Palla in late 2013.

Anton Marcus, president of FTZGSEU and a member of the IndustriALL executive committee, said, “Bata was the main buyer at the time that the violations occurred; Bata has responsibility for their supply chain.” He added, “We demand full reinstatement plus payment of salary arrears including the owed increments, which in total equal $40,000.”