Once again thank you for your support, solidarity and actions on the Sky Sport Lanka appeal. Unfortunately this matter is still a long way from resolution, but workers are continuing to fight on. This press release which we are about to issue should update you on the most recent developments. We are planning further demonstrations in Colombo, Sri Lanka and will try to organise a consumer boycott, with the assistance of anyone who can help. We are presently putting together a list of buyers and will distribute these as soon as we have them. Any pressure you can exert on the company, their labels and the Sri Lankan Government would still be very useful. We will keep in touch.
MANAGING DIRECTOR OF SKY SPORT LANKA ASSAULTS WORKERS AND CALLS SRI LANKANS LIARS
The problems began on 17th October 1997 when Mr Ulriche Kurrle, the Managing Director, of Sky Sports Lanka a German owned Company operating in the Free Trade Zone, Katunayake, assaulted a female, a sewing machine operator for an alleged mistake in production, many workers witnessed this assault. She was then dismissed for failing to report to work on the following Saturday, whilst seeking medical treatment for injuries sustained in the assault. Previous to this assaulted workers and other workers were being victimised for refusing to work on a Poya Day. Since this incident many other violations of Sri Lankan Labour Law and workers Human Rights have occurred at Sky Sports Lanka, including a lock out of workers, the dismissal of seven other on trumped up charges of playing cards, a further assault of a male worker and a thirty minute per week time limit for going to the toilet.
The Joint Association of Workers and Workers Councils of the Free Trade Zone is a legitimate independent organisation with a mandate to represent workers. On Thursday 12th February a Conciliation Conference occurred between the parties, The Joint Association of Workers and Workers Councils of the Free Trade Zone and the Management of Sky Sport Lanka with the Commissioner of Labour. At this conference, the Commissioner after listening to the evidence of both sides recommended that Sky Sport Lanka Management take back the 43 workers still locked out. The Managing Director argued that he could not do this as he had restarted production with new staff on 15th January 1998. This is two days before a letter was sent requesting workers to report to work on 22nd January, when they reported he asked them to leave again. It is now clear the he never expected these workers to report to work and that when they did he had to ask them to leave again as he had already employed new staff. Unfortunately the Commissioner does not have the power in a conference to order Management to take back the workers. This will be pursued through the courts, but will take some time. Clearly the Commissioner believed that the workers had been unfairly treated.
Further, Mr Kurrle has stated about the workers that “This kind of human beings here even lie, if one catches them redhanded” It shows Mr Kurrle has no respect whatsoever for his Sri Lankan workers if he believes that all they do is lie. It is an offensive and racist statement. This type of insult and ignorant assumption is not the basis for harmonious work relations. Racism and intolerance for other people has no place in a fair and just society. This statement was made both in the Conciliation Conference and in a letter, written by Mr Kurrle, to an organisation supporting the workers.
Last Thursday (12th February), 250 workers staged a peaceful protest outside one of the gates of the Free Trade Zone at Katunayake under the following slogan;
WE CONDEM THE THUGGERY OF FOREIGN INVESTORS PUNISH THE OWNER OF SKY SPORTS WHO ASSAULTED WORKERS SETTLE IMMEDIATELY THE SKY SPORTS DISPUTE
On the same day most of the members of the Workers Councils and the Joint Association of Workers and Workers Councils of the Free Trade Zones, wore white to work, to register their protest against the behaviour and attitude of the Managing Director of Sky Sport Lanka. This is the first time such solidarity action has occurred in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone.
Thirty three Sri Lankan Organisations, including major Trade Unions are supporting the workers and have submitted a joint memorandum to the President on 9th of February requesting her intervention to solve this matter. Approximately fifty organisations within the Asia region and Internationally are also supporting the workers. One of these is the giant International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation, an International Trade Secretariat bringing together 219 trade union organisations in 120 countries, with a combined membership of 8.5 million workers. Workers and supporting organisations in Hong Kong took Solidarity action on the 12th February protesting outside the German and Sri Lankan Embassies in Hong Kong and presenting the workers demands.
Further protests are planned as well as a consumer boycott of products produced by Sky Sport Lanka. Sky Sport Lanka manufactures for export paragliders, parachutes, canopies and harnesses under the Perche, Air Chair, Airea and Alto Solo labels.
We call on the support of all workers and the general public to condem the racist statement, the assault of workers and the violation of Sri Lankas Labour laws by this foreign investor.
In Solidarity, Anton marcus Padmini Weerasuriya Kelly Dent Transnationals Information Exchange – Asia 141, Ananda Rajakarana Mawatha Borella, Colombo 10 SRI LANKA Tel/Fax: +94-74-617 711 Email: email@example.com