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Ministry accused of attempt to force workers out of hostel

The Inter Trade Zone Employees Association has accused the Child Development and Women’s Empowerment Ministry of trying to force 76 garment workers out of a ministry-run hostel set up for the benefit of workers of the Biyagama Export Processing Zone.

The union, affiliated to the JVP said that its General Secretary Janaka Adikari wrote to Child Development and Women’s Empowerment Minister Sumedha Jayasena urging her immediate intervention to settle the issue.

The union said that the workers would be vulnerable to unscrupulous elements had been forced into the streets.

Inter Trade Zone Employees Association spokesman P. I. Abdeen accused some employees of the ministry of chasing away the workers who had visited the ministry seeking help. According him, the ministry had ordered 76 garment workers to vacate the hostel by next Tuesday (June 30). Responding to our queries, he asserted that this could be an attempt to close down the hostel.

Ms. Namali Gunasekera, Additional Secretary to the Child Development and Women’s Empowerment Ministry told The Island that they would remove those who had stayed there for five years to accommodate newcomers to the Biyagama zone. She emphasised that no one should expect to use the facility during their entire stay at Biyagama. She said that they would go ahead with the plan regardless of opposition.

Abdeen said that though the hostel was equipped to accommodate 300 workers, only 176 were using the facility now. He said that the ministry was trying to get rid of 76 workers out of 176 thereby causing 200 vacancies. Had there been hundreds of new applicants, the ministry could have removed those who had stayed there for over five years to accommodate newcomers, he said. "They are being deprived of accommodation despite the availability of 124 vacancies," he said.

Workers are charged Rs 1,000 each per month for accommodation. Although they aren’t supposed to cook, some of them have been accused of cooking their meals in their rooms.

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