Dismissals instead of pay rise

After the refusal of management to pay agreed-upon half-yearly salary increments, workers at the Palla & Co footwear factory in the Western province of Sri Lanka organised in a factory-level union. However, the management refused to engage in negotiations. Following subsequent workers’ protests, the factory management suspended fifteen union officials in November 2013 and dismissed 179 union members in December 2013.

Palla & Co failed to pay workers the agreed-upon salary increments in August 2012 and August 2013. After protests by the workers, the factory instead proposed a one-off salary increase in December 2013. This was unacceptable to the union, after which the management responded with various acts of intimidation and union harassment. Subsequently fifteen union officials were suspended in November. Eight days later, 179 union members were dismissed.


The management allegedly blacklisted the workers, which effectively prevented them from finding jobs at other factories. According to the workers, the management also pressured 30 workers into returning to the factory on the condition that they stayed away from the union. The remaining majority of the fired workers were unwilling to go back until a settlement had been reached.

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) was contacted for support in December 2013 by the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZ&GSEU), and has been in contact with the main buyer, Bata. Bata had production at Palla & Co from August 2012 to December 2013, which is when the violations occurred. CCC contacted Bata about the unresolved situation at its supplier. However, to date Bata has not contributed to resolving the conflict. CCC is currently trying to initiate constructive talks between the parties and is urging the management to reinstate the unionists.