Bata dodging responsibility
On the first anniversary of the major lay-off in December 2013, Sri Lankan workers staged protests to demand a resolution to their case. The fired workers are facing severe problems in finding other jobs because the Palla & Co management allegedly asked other factories not to recruit their former workers. Several European branches of the Clean Clothes Campaign organised solidarity actions and online actions to support the Palla workers and press Bata to step up and take credible action, on their own rating page on Facebook.
The Clean Clothes Campaign is continuing to urge Bata to live up to its responsibility and contact the local union representing the dismissed workers to engage in the resolution of the conflict.
Code of Conduct
Although Bata recognised that the actions of the factory management are a violation of Bata's code of conduct, the brand refuses to take responsibility for the labour rights conflict that occurred during their business relationship with the factory. Instead, Bata cut its commercial relationship with Palla. Bata has not taken any credible actions to mitigate the adverse human rights impacts. The Clean Clothes Campaign finds Bata's inaction unacceptable.
The Palla & Co footwear factory in the Western province of Sri Lanka had allegedly failed to pay workers their agreed salary increments in August 2012 and August 2013. The workers then organised in a factory-level union in 2013. However, the management reportedly refused to engage in negotiations.
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 was reported to have blacklisted the workers, which effectively prevented them from finding jobs at other factories. Workers reported that 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 in a meaningful way 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.