When the Free Trade Zones (FTZ) was started in 1978 the Government authorities wanted to make sure the FTZ would be a union free zone. To ensure that The Government and the Employers used several measures to prevent unionization of the FTZ workers.
Authorities wanted to bring legislation to do away with Labour laws. But the constitutional courts upheld their request. Since they could not get pass the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC) ACT, the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC) instructed all the enterprises comes under their purview to set up a Joint Consultative Committees (J.C.C).
As a strategy to organize to the FTZ workers a group of activists lead by Mr. Anton Marcus 1st organized a union called Industrial, Transport and General workers Union (ITGWU) in 1982 as a strategy to organize free trade zones workers and ITGWU continuously campaigned against the JCC and demanded the Free Trade Zone workers should have the right to organize trade unions.
When the government changed in 1994 the new government who came to power abolished the JCC and replaced it by introducing an Employees Council (E.C). Although the ITGWU did not accept the EC but decided to work with this as a strategy to organize unions.
Under this circumstance the ITGWU was able to form the joint committee of the Employees Councils by bringing together 08 ECs.
In 1998 this committee was expanded to a membership organization called the Joint Association of FTZ Workers and Employees Council. But when the new government enacted the Industrial Dispute Amendment act no 56 of 1999 the ITGWU decided to convert this joint association committee to a Trade union called FTZ Workers Union.
After 22 years of a hard and strong battle, in January 2000 Mr. Anton and the group were able to form the Free Trade Zone Workers Union (FTZWU) after a long journey, they felt the need of the general workers and in the year 2003 with the blessing of the workers the ITGWU & FTZWU Has been amalgamated and formed a union called Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union ( FTZ GSEU ) now the FTZGSEU has over 20000 members in 22 branches throughout Sri Lanka and 60% of the union’s membership are women workers .
The FTZ GSEU has its members in Katunayake , Biyagama , Koggala Mannar Free Trade Zones as well as the factories in Hill country plantation area and Eastern province.
As a continuous struggle for the right to organize the union was able to enter into a Collective bargaining agreement with a multinational company operating in the Biyagama zone and we are proud to say the only one collective bargaining agreement exists in the garment industry and that belongs to our union.
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