EU GSP+ not benefit workers in Sri Lanka

By Dilshani Samaraweera

Worker’s rights groups in Sri Lanka are asking for mechanisms to be introduced into the EU’s GSP+ trade scheme, to allow trade benefits to reach workers. ALaRM, a grouping of trade unions and non-governmental organisations, today (November 12, 2009), at a press conference, pointed out that the EU’s GSP+ preferential trade scheme has no inbuilt provision to ensure distribution of trade benefits to workers.

ALaRM said the EU’s GSP+ trade scheme has overwhelmingly benefited corporates and employers. While corporate incomes and profits have grown because of the GSP+, workers wages and work related benefits have not kept pace.

“The benefits from the GSP+ are going only to employers and companies at this point. Workers do not get any benefits from the GSP+, the way it is now,” said the representative from the Stand Up Movement, Ashila Mapalagama. Stand Up is a member of ALaRM and is involved in the apparel sector.

“So if the GSP+ is going to be available in future, we say it should have some mechanism to allow benefits to reach down to workers, as well as employers,” said Ms Mapalagama.

In Sri Lanka, workers in garment factories, (the biggest users of the GSP+), have seen job losses and cuts in welfare measures, attributed to recession impacts.

However, trade unions note that despite the recession, apparel exports to the EU have increased and not decreased, but worker benefits have decreased, indicating that benefits from trade growth are not accruing to workers.

According to the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), the apparel industry representative body, earnings from apparel exports to the EU, in September, increased by 8.5%, compared to September 2008.

Total apparel export incomes from the EU, for the 9 months of January to September, also increased by 4.3% this year, despite the recession.

Meanwhile, ALaRM is also calling on local authorities to ensure that GSP+ withdrawal will not adversely impact the working masses. The garment industry alone, is estimated to employ around 230,000 people.


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