We had to leave very early this morning to visit the first of MANY factories in our journey to Kandy. We started the trip with the lovely Dr Nirmali from the University of Morotuwa.
All of the knitty gritty (haha) is covered in our group blog, but my interpretation of the factories was that they were incredibaly well run and maintained. All the workers seemed looked after and their working conditions were safe and brightly lit. A point that I found very interesting was that all of the women on the sewing machines and in quality control all had bare feet, no-one was able to give me a satisfactory answer as to why this was. Apparently it is so the clothing is kept clean if it is dropped on the floor?
The first factory we visited was Ocean Lanka, a circular knit factory using mainly cotton and spandex knit. Their factory is capable of processing both Fair Trade and organic cotton yarn. They follow the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) base code and the Business Social Compliance Initiatives (BSCI). This plant processes over 100,000 lbs per day and is only closed 12 days a year and operates 24 hours a day! That is a lot of stretchy fabric.
Next we went to an MAS holding plant called Linea Intimo, we were given an introduction into what seems like the 'MAS way of life' by the Leicesterian CEO Ivan Brown. Linea makes amazing sports wear and underwear fabrics all spaceagey with their technology. Sadly we were unable to take any photographs as they work well known brands such as M&S, Adidas, Ralph Lauren and Gap. All MAS plants have immaculate CSR policies, but they do not go much further than transport and free meals at the factory. One thing they do, is a programme called 'women go beyond' where they support and promote education and career progression of women. They have begun this programme as within the Sri Lankan garment industry, 95% of the workforce is women. They gave us a book of tear jerking stories from some of the women at MAS.
After lunch we visited Ran Malu fashions which is a somewhat smaller, and less technologically advanced factory that makes cotton and acrylic knitted jumpers for UK and US. It reminded me a lot of the factory that I visited in Bangladesh. There was nothing outwardly wrong with it, but it was obviously not rich. It had a very different atmosphere to the other factories we had visited, and this was not all due to the lack of AC. Again the women here had bare feet and no-one could explain why this was.
Lastly we visited a button manufacturer, by this time we were starting to remind me of a school trip with us dragging our feet and not concentrating, but it was still an interesting visit. The air was very heavy with the smell of chemicals, very similar to a Sharpie, but this began to give us a headache. As we were walking around it became clear as to why the smell was so strong. The colours they were making the buttons were unreal, pearly pinks and intense violets in liquid polymer form, I really wanted to plunge my hand in.
We finally set off for the Fabric park where we would be staying for the night and visiting the next day, but not until we had been fed yet again with toffee cake. Along the way we stopped for fresh pineapple and arrived at about 8pm in our amazing chalets. These were truly beautiful with polished concrete floors, white linen and open roofed showers - a relaxing treat after an intense day.