Thugs were called to break the NEXT strike at Katunayake!

It is reported that the authorities have called thugs to attack the employees of the NEXT garment factory in Katunayake, who are on strike demanding bonuses and salaries. Under the guise of Covid 19, the Company has cut worker’s bonuses, salaries, attendance allowances and a sum ranging above Rs. 1000 as transport cost. Initially the Company has promised to pay bonus, but later they refused the payment. Outraged by this decision of the Management, workers went on strike since 17th December. The Management has summoned the police to disrupt the strike. Workers have explained the police about the cause for the strike. Meanwhile, the thugs who came to scene at the request of the Company summoned Prasanna and Sameera, two ex-members of the workers’ council to the gate of the workshop and threatened to stop the strike. Although officials from the Negombo Labor Office came and held a discussion, the Management had said that the company was at a loss. But the employees’ claims that the parent Company of NEXT at England had sent about Rs. 40 million to pay worker’s salaries and bonuses etc, but that money has been used by the Management for some other purposes.

Following the emergence of the second wave of Covid-19 through the Brandix Company, Minuwangoda, several employees of the NEXT garment factory in Katunayake also found positive for the virus. Therefore, the Next factory also closed for several days from October 9. A large number of workers were sent on quarantine. A female worker stated that some workers had PCR tests done with their own money. Dry ration parcels provided by the Company to the quarantined workers for 28 days contained only 3 kilos of rice, 250 grams of lentils, 500 grams of sugar, 3 packets of Maggi noodles, 100 g of tea leaves and 400 grams of milk powder only. Some workers did not received this parcel. After 14 days of quarantine, PHI told the workers to go to work but the Company did not allow them to work. More than two days above the leave taken by the workers in addition to 14 days for quarantine have been treated as No-pay.

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In a discussion held on 18th, the Management has said that they are unable to pay bonuses but that decision has changed due to the strike and on 19th they agreed to pay a bonus of 1/2 month. But workers say the strike will continue until they receive full bonus and other demands are met.