USAID provides buses to garment factory workers in Eastern Sri Lanka

Aug 11, Batticaloa: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Sri Lanka’s premium garment manufacturer on Brandix Lanka Limited have provided two 58-seater buses for daily commuting Brandix workers to work.

The buses, operated by Brandix’s worker welfare committee will provide transportation to 450 workers, some of whom have to travel up to 40 kilometers one way, in the apparel factory in Punani, Batticaloa.

James Bednar and Brandix representatives presented the buses were by during a ceremony in Punani on Monday.

The buses are part of a $ 1.12 million four-year public private partnership between USAID and Brandix called the Apparel Sector Training Partnership, a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said.

The participants of the program can earn up to $85 per month, much higher than what they were earning prior to employment in the factory.

The partnership also provides more economic opportunity in the war-torn Eastern Province and the chance for Brandix to hire skilled workers and be at the competitive edge in the world.

According to USAID, the workers receive eight weeks of pre-training, and complete six months of on-the-job training before becoming certified sewing machine operators. Upon graduation, they receive job placements from Brandix.

The company has so far trained 450 workers in Punani and plans to train 150 more. It pays all training costs and the workers’ monthly stipend during the six months of on-the-job training.

The company recruits workers from all ethnic backgrounds, in order to reflect the diversity of the region.

“This was a bold step to train workers and generate employment in a region desperately needing an economic boost, and USAID was excited to partner with Brandix on the initiative,” USAID Mission Director said.

The Director said since 2008, the Apparel Sector Training Partnership has been helping people rebuild their lives by offering employment opportunities and the chance to develop new skills.

“USAID is committed to this partnership; that’s why when we learned of the transportation difficulties the workers were having, we thought it was important to resolve them immediately in order to make the factory as productive and profitable as possible,” he explained.

The USAID in collaboration with Aqua N’ Green, a Sri Lankan aquaculture company Tuesday initiated a project to assist fish farmers in Trincomalee of the Eastern Province in aquaculture of sea bass.

USAID also has initiated another public private alliance in the region with the American dairy cooperative Land O’Lakes.

The funding agency says since 2008, it has been working closely with the private sector in the conflict affected areas to create new jobs, revive the regional economy and bring stability to the region.

“To date, USAID has invested close to $15 million in alliances with local companies in dairy, horticulture, aquaculture, logistics, construction and garment manufacturing, leveraging $41 million from private sector partners and aiming to create approximately 20,000 jobs,” the USAID said in the statement.

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