Apparel industry says shutting down factories not an option
BY Pamodi WaravitaThe Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) yesterday (22) said that closing down the apparel industry is not an option, as a delay in meeting delivery deadlines would enable competitors from other countries to snag orders at a cheaper price, thereby affecting the Sri Lankan export market in the long term. Speaking to the media, JAAF General Secretary Tuli Cooray said that to ensure normal operations within the apparel factories, safety and protective working conditions are prioritised, including routine screening of all workers, and the provision of steam inhalations, sanitisation stations, and herbal and other healthy hot drinks.“Anyone with any visible symptom is moved to a medical facility immediately for more in-depth testing. Temperature checks are also conducted randomly and frequently during the day on shop floors, and appropriate action is taken if necessary. The industry has supported the establishment of 11 Intermediate Care Centres with close to 4,500 beds available for employees. Another two centres are under construction, which will bring the number of beds to 5,000. Individual factories are adding to this infrastructure,” the JAAF added. Cooray told The Morning that approximately 20% of workers have reported absences since the beginning during the past few weeks, since the rapid spread of the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant of the Covid-19 virus began in the country. “These absences comprise both positive cases and their contacts. The impact of the fourth wave is less on the factories due to the rigorous vaccination programme and the better adjustment to health protocols,” said Cooray. According to the JAAF, the apparel industry will be fully vaccinated this week and more than 80% of the workforce – the vaccinated group – has returned to work. “90% of workers have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and over 50% have received their second dose. Specifically in the BOI-operated facilities – which account for approximately 90% of the total workforce – more than 70% of employees have received their second dose,” the JAAF stated.Cooray further told the media that the total exports of the sector was $ 5.3 billion in 2019, which reduced to $ 4.1 billion in 2020 due to the pandemic. The sector has an export target of $ 5.2 billion this year. Although the country has gone into a lockdown from 20 Friday in an effort to curb the rapid spread of the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant of the Covid-19 virus, the garment industry has been allowed to operate under strict health guidelines.