Sri Lanka - Harassment of trade union activists by Bratex (2012)

The Bratex (pvt) Ltd. women’s underwear factory, in the Katunayake export processing zone has sought in several ways to intimidate trade union activists from the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees’ Union (FTZ&GSEU).

On 11 February a strike began at the factory over pay demands. On 14 February two workers, Amal Santha and U.W. Gayan Pradeep Kumara, were accused of attacking Bratex staff. They were arrested and detained by the Katunayake police. That evening, as the workers were gathering outside the police station to demand the release of their two colleagues, police officers attacked them and arrested three more people: Asela Dharmapriya, the FTZ&GSEU representative in the Katunayake zone, Asoka Basnayake, a union member, and M. Prasad, a photographer. The latter was released after his photographs were deleted from his camera. The others were released on bail on 18 February.

From 14 February onwards, striking workers were subjected to various forms of intimidation to force them back to work, including sending police officers to their homes in cars supplied by Bratex. During the visits, the police had with them a list of 10 men workers and 10 women workers suspended by Bratex. These 20 people were members or representatives of the FTZ&GSEU. They were questioned by the police, then released on bail.

On 17 February, 33 workers affiliated to the FTZ&GSEU (including the 20 people sought by police a few days earlier) received a letter saying they were suspended on disciplinary grounds. Bratex put up their photographs at the entrance to the Katunyake zone, effectively blacklisting them. Their photographs were also sent to the zone’s police.

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