In January 2009, in a major military campaign to end “terrorism”, the Sri Lankan government captured Kilinochchi, one of the key LTTE (Liberation Tamil Tiger of Eelam) towns in the Northern province. In this town, the “terrorists” had established their own judiciary, police, customs and other administrative offices. A few months later, in May 2009, the LTTE was militarily defeated in a bloodbath with around 300,000 Tamil people made refugees. During January and April 2009, nearly 7000 were people killed and more than 15,000 injured (US State Department 2009). The ethnic war has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 1983 and turned over a million people into refugees, mostly displaced within Sri Lanka and in Southern India (Parker 2009). Despite the official cessation of war, the following month (June 2009) the Sri Lankan state, with the approval of the Parliament, renewed Emergency Regulations, which suspends rudimentary civil and political rights while reinforcing an authoritarian militarised state. The rise of a militarised “security” state and the permeation of violence and insecurity in Sri Lanka characterises the context in which most workers are struggling to make a living and survive in the global South, the majority world. For the small nucleus of the labour force that is organised into unions, there are internal battles as well as external threats. This study focuses on the choices unions face to revitalise their potential as civil society actors, or as part of a broad counter-movement capable of mobilising a range of workers.