Nearly 1000 workers at the Ansell Lanka factory in Sri Lanka’s Biyagama Export Processing Zone have been on strike since October 11 in protest against the sacking of their union branch president. Later, 10 other union members were also sacked.
The striking workers set up a camp at the bus stop outside the factory. The company obtained a court injunction banning the camp.
The striking workers are members of the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union. In an October 16 message appealing for support, the union’s joint secretary Anton Marcus says that Ansell Lanka has an “anti-union history”.
The company has refused to accept the union as representing workers in the factory. It took arbitrary decisions to raise production targets and cut incentive payments. It refused to discuss these decisions with the union.
Marcus says the company has used “strong arm tactics” to intimidate union leaders. For example, the union branch president was physically threatened on April 10. He told police he suspected that the threats were instigated by the company’s human resources manager.
Ansell Lanka is a subsidiary of Ansell Ltd, which is incorporated in Australia. Another related company is Ansell Healthcare LLC, based in the United States.
The Ansell Lanka factory makes rubber latex products, including gloves and condoms. The gloves are used in hospitals, shops and many other workplaces around the world.
The international union federation IndustriALL has launched a solidarity campaign, including informing hospitals and other customers of Ansell of the dirt on the surgical gloves they buy.