The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) has written to its counterpart association in Sri Lanka, the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), on behalf of buyers, to reiterate the US apparel and footwear industry’s strong support for the Sri Lankan garment industry in this time of crisis and transition.
In the letter, AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar praises JAAF and its members for their “unwavering efforts” to keep workers employed, safe, and healthy in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis.
“Your ongoing efforts have kept the industry moving forward, saved jobs in Sri Lanka’s garment industry, and aided the Sri Lankan economy during these extremely difficult times.”
The AAFA recognises that any significant changes in sourcing during this time could have a significant impact on Sri Lanka’s garment industry, the hundreds of thousands of workers employed by the industry, their families, and the Sri Lankan economy, according to Lamar.
As a result, he says the organisation is committed to being aware of and mindful of the current situation, as well as the industry’s ongoing commitment to consider the impact on workers in any sourcing decisions.
“As part of those efforts, we also commit to maintaining regular communications with our partners in Sri Lanka,” he says, adding that the AAFA will work with its suppliers to ensure that all payments are made on time and that all workers are treated legally.
Meanwhile, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), the Fair Wear Foundation, the Fair Labor Association, and the British Retail Consortium have signed a joint call to action, encouraging companies sourcing from Sri Lanka to take specific steps to support workers, suppliers, and the sector as a whole during this difficult time.
According to the ETI, it has been working with economists, industry associations, worker representatives, and member companies in Sri Lanka to better understand the implications for workers and the industry as a whole. According to the report, these meetings have helped to present a clearer picture of the current crisis and the steps stakeholders are taking to reduce risks to workers and suppliers.
ETI convened a meeting for all companies sourcing from Sri Lanka to engage with the JAAF in order to facilitate a collective response. ETI, Fair Wear Foundation, Fair Labor Association, and British Retail Consortium contacted their own members and supply chain partners in the country.
The group is urging businesses and the international community to do more to help Sri Lanka during the current economic crisis.
It wants to encourage companies that source from Sri Lanka to take the following steps:
• Ensure that everyone understands the current situation’s risk to workers.
• Keep in touch with your suppliers on a regular basis to understand their current situation and ensure timely payment of orders.
• Avoid order cancellations and reassure suppliers that business will continue for the time being.
• Ensure that all outstanding wages and severance pay are distributed to all employees and workers.
• Review negotiated prices and ensure that future price negotiations account for increases in the costs of energy, other raw materials, and labour that are subject to inflation.
• Collaborate with unions and suppliers to find creative solutions to help workers.
• Collaborate to consider other actions to improve human rights respect in the context of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis.
“In terms of supplying global apparel brands and retailers, Sri Lanka plays an important role.” “It is critical that businesses support the country’s apparel industry during this difficult time, to keep workers and their families afloat and the Sri Lankan economy moving,” says Peter McAllister, executive director of the Ethical Trading Initiative.