Management at Mainetti’s subsidiary, Mainettech Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, is refusing to recognize IndustriALL’s affiliate, the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZ & GSEU), as a collective bargaining party and has sacked the branch union organizer.
The union also reports that some members were pressured into renouncing their membership and workers were in such fear of losing their jobs that they disbanded the union at the factory.
The dispute, which has dragged on for several months, began after FTZ & GSEU succeeded in organizing 88 workers at Mainetti’s Sri Lankan subsidiary Mainettech Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, exceeding the mandatory 40 per cent of workers necessary to be recognized as a collective bargaining agent.
The company argued the union did not have enough members to exceed 40 per cent representation. However, FTZ & GSEU upholds that its members account for 60 per cent of manual workers on permanent contracts at Mainettech Lanka, which excludes workers employed through agencies or those working less than 90 days.
In February 2018, Mainettech suspended the union’s branch organizer, vice-president and branch secretary, alleging they had organized union meetings during working hours and disrupted production. However, the union says no such meetings took place. After an internal inquiry the branch organizer, Mr G.G. Mahinda, was sacked in May 2018.
Parent company, Mainetti, employs over 5,000 people in 49 countries supplying some of the world’s biggest brands including Abercrombie and Fitch, Nike, Hugo Boss, Walmart and so on.
After IndustriALL reached out to customers in April 2018 to inform them of the dispute in their supply chain, management at the Sri Lankan subsidiary said it was no longer able to discuss the union’s demands.
According to FTZ & GSEU, management continued its intimidation of workers, threatening to close down the factory if the union continued. Consequently, some union members signed letters to renounce their union membership.
In June 2018, Mainettech threatened the union president with disciplinary action on spurious charges that he strongly contested. Under mounting pressure, he disbanded the union, and the charges were dropped.
Mainettech has also set up an employees’ council without allowing workers to vote or following prescribed protocol.
“Mainettech management should stop union busting, reinstate the branch union organizer and stop using the employees’ council to undermine the union. Workers should be free to exercise their right to join a union as enshrined in our country constitution,” said Anton Marcus, Joint Secretary of FTZ & GSEU.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
“Workers at Mainetti’s subsidiary in Sri Lanka have truly been hung out to dry and left without a union despite their legitimate desire for representation by our affiliate. We urge Mainetti to step in to resolve the dispute at Mainettech Lanka so that FTZ & GSEU is rightly recognized as the lawful collective bargaining agent. We also want the former branch organizer is reinstated with immediate effect. We’ll continue to engage with brands that source from Mainettech so they fulfill their global agreements on respecting workers’ rights along their supply chain.”