After almost ten years fighting for justice, Ansell workers in Sri Lanka who were sacked for attempting to organise their workplace, have won the compensation they were seeking as justice. Here is yet another example of the power of international solidarity.
In October 2013, 11 members of the IndustriALL affiliated Free Trade Zone and General Services Employee Union (FTZGSEU) were sacked unjustly for organising their workplace at the Ansell factory in Sri Lanka. Ansell is an Australia -based multinational specialisng in rubber products.
FTZGSEU union officials pursued Ansell through the courts in Sri Lanka without success. On 8 October 2015, Australian union officials from TCFUA, AMWU and CFMEU spoke at the Ansell shareholders meeting but to no avail. About 50 trade union activists in Melbourne demonstrated in suppport at the Ansell global HQ in Richmond, Victoria.
Although the courts in Sri Lanka found in the favour of the 11 sacked workers, the Ansell company appealed the decision and the issue continued to drag on. The 11 sacked workers resolved to continue fighting and having been abandoned by the union on whose behalf they were trying to organise, they sought help wherever they could find it. They reached out to numerous trade unions and workers organisations around the world.
In February 2021, the General Secretary of the Asia Pacific Sub-Secretariat of the International Workers Association (IWA) received communication from the 11 sacked workers expalining their situation. The General Secretary forwarded the information to ASF affiliate Melbourne North. Direct communication was opened between the 11 sacked workers and ASF Melbourne North who resolved to support the 11 sacked workers in their endeavours to achieve justice.
ASF Melbourne North organised a campaign of pickets at the global HQ of Ansell in Melbourne. IWA affiliates around the world sent protest emails to Ansell many times. ASF Melbourne North co-operated with Australia Asia Worker Links in protest actions against Ansell. The ASF Melbourne North received support from Workers Solidarity Alliance, US affiliate of the IWA and CNT-AIT France with research and reconnaissance in prepartaion for an international expansion of the solidarity campaign.
In December 2022, as a direct consequence of this campaign, Ansell management contacted officials of FTZGSEU seeking a resolution who put them in touch with the 11 sacked workers. The workers reiterated their demands as outlined in the industrial court. Ansell was able to delay court proceedings by appealing decisions and Ansell indicated that they were willing to expedite the issue.
In May 2023, an agreement was reached between Ansell and the 11 sacked workers. The sacked workers abandoned their demand for re-instatement and Ansell agreed to pay the 11 sacked workers LKR 32,948,972 (approx. AUD 161,200) in compensation for lost wages. The 11 sacked workers expressed their satisfaction at the outcome.
In an increasingly globalised world, workers are set against workers by the artifice of nation-State jurisdictions. If workers in one country refuse to accept cuts in wage and reduction of conditions, the global bosses threaten to take their jobs offshore to where labour is cheaper and unions are weak. The billionaire owned media fuel resentment against 'foreign' workers. Under these circumstances, the international solidarity of workers everywhere that knows no borders is our greatest strength.
The IWA is distinguished by its conviction that capitalism cannot be reformed and the only solution to poverty, war, disease and destruction is to end capitalism forever and replace the government of people with the administration of things. The great potential of technology will be realised to abolish work and live in accordance of the principle; from each according to their ability to each according to their need.
The IWA is seeks to go beyond mere craft, trade or even industrial unionism as it is no longer fit for purpose to build global whole-of-class union to defend our interests as working-people, to advance our conditions of work in the present and build the society of the future now.
The Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation (ASF) is the Australian affiliate of the IWA. Join us. Send an email today.