Apparel industry needs smooth supply chain movement | Daily News

Apparel industry needs smooth supply chain movement

Stigma on workers hampering morale:
MAS CEO  Suren  Fernando
MAS CEO Suren Fernando

The apparel sector requires that supply chains remain open for manufacture and thereby protect livelihoods. MAS CEO Suren Fernando said the sector is finding it hard to maintain morale due to the stigma society places on the workers during COVID-19.

He said, “I speak on behalf of the whole industry that we need open communication. We have to continue our business but that doesn’t come at the cost of health and safety. We genuinely care for our people. We want to protect their lives and their livelihoods.”

Fernando was speaking to LMD TV on 6 January. The opening up of factories in the country was done gradually, with multiple safety precautions, and under the guidance of the health authorities.

MAS began by operating factories at a lower capacity than optimal to limit risks. Fernando said, “We ensured it was always a gradual ramp-up.” Staff were subject to temperature checks as many as 2-3 times a day. Staff wore masks and there was ample space for sanitisation. Certain regions of the factory were zoned off. MAS also created mini-factories (self-contained groups) within factories to minimise the risk of contagion.

Fernando praised the Joint Apparel Association Forum. He said, “JAAF has made it so that there is one voice that speaks for the industry. We have been able to overcome a lot of challenges we faced in the first wave.”

He said, “When the second wave hit Sri Lanka as a manufacturer the challenges we face are more so on the supply side.”

He said, “The apparel industry had to face stigmatisation and discrimination against the people in the factories especially those at the shop level. This is despite the impact they make to the sector and also to the economy of the country. This helped paint a poor picture of the country. Hopefully, this will pass soon.

The sector is formulating a survival strategy given lower consumer spending on apparel and a limited workforce. MAS is focusing on retention strategies with improved pay scales, career progression, and skills development.

Fernando said that retention was hurt due to societal stigma on workers in the sector.