Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) announced major progress in its efforts to safeguard workers and revitalize the industry, with approximately 30% of the total workforce having received their first dose of COVID vaccines, as at the end June 2021.
According to JAAF Secretary General Tuli Cooray, by working in close partnership with the Ministry of Health and with direct support from Hon Minister Namal Rajapaksa, the apparel industry has been able to secure drastic increases in its rate of vaccinations for its industry workers.
“Prior to this most recent mobilization, only 5% of our workforce had been able to receive their first dose, owing to difficulties in securing vaccine supplies. However, in the last few weeks, the authorities have been able to partially vaccinate approximately one third of the entire apparel workforce. This is a tremendous step forward in protecting the health of our workers, and we are deeply grateful to the authorities for having provided solutions to the issues we had previously raised pertaining to worker safety,” he stated. The number of vaccinations in the Free Trade Zones is higher, and the roll out is now cascading across the island.
“The government has issued protocols that manufacturing companies and other industries must follow to ensure an infection-free and pandemic-compliant environment. We are committed to the safety and welfare of our workers on the shop floor and everywhere else,” added Cooray. “It’s also in our national interest, and that of the families of our employees to get back to business as safely and quickly as we can.”
At the end of June 2021, approximately 30 per cent of Sri Lanka’s apparel industry workers, out of a total of 300,000 in the sector – were vaccinated against Covid-19.
Domestically, the apparel sector provides direct employment and vital income to approximately 300,000 Sri Lankans across the island.
“Continuing at the same pace, we expect more than half of the workforce to have received their first jab within the next two weeks, and approximately 80% by August. If all goes to plan, by December, we should have nearly our entire workforce vaccinated, and safely back to work. This is very positive news for workers, their families and the communities they have helped to build up, as well as the industry and national economy as a whole,” Cooray stated.
JAAF member companies intend to accelerate the vaccination drive to enable vaccinating the entire workforce rapidly; the next stage would be to extend it beyond the immediate workforce to their families and the communities they live and work in. Again, this would be implemented with the support of local authorities and communities.