Women garment factory workers protest in Sri Lanka

Colombo – Thousands of women garment factory workers took to the streets on the outskirts of Colombo on Tuesday to protest against a proposed mandatory private sector pension scheme, officials said.

The protests were held on the main road running to the international airport at Katunayake, 30 kilometres north of the capital, and disrupted traffic to and from the airport.

‘We are against the pension scheme as the workers will have to contribute for at least 10 years before they get the benefits, but most garment factory employees work for about five years and get married. Therefore they will be losing out from the scheme,’ one worker, Sumedha Nimali, said.

An estimated 20,000 employees took part in the protest

Sri Lanka’s main opposition parties – the United Naitonal Party and the Marxist JVP – have also protested against the proposed pension scheme, charging that the benefits from it were minimal.

But President Mahinda Rajapaksa has vowed to go ahead with the plan, saying it would benefit private sector employees retiring in 10 years’ time, since the population was getting increasingly older.

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