The government presented a bill to the parliament on 2011.05.08 allegedly to grand pension benefits to employees in the private sector.
It is clear that by this retirement benefit bill, the government is aiming to gradually prune the EPF, ETF and Gratuity Benefits and to get control of these funds to gain economic benefits out of them.
Because of this fact and for the reasons given below we of the trade union movement rejected the said bill.
1. Failure to discuss this matter with trade unions in the private sector, which are relevant parties, prior to its formulation.
2. Disparities in the contents of the draft bill presented to the parliament and the draft bill given to trade unions by the Labour Minister. The fund that is to be created for the payment of pensions will be solely founded on the savings of the workers. It would not be sufficient to make pension payments and will not be a sustainable fund.
This fund is to be comprised of following contributions.
· From workers – 2%
· From EPF – 2%
· From ETF – 2%
· From Gratuity payment – 10%
· From Employer – 2%
· From Government – A bond for Rs. 1000 millions
3. The amount of the pension will be 15% of the last drawn salary and it would not at all be adequate.
4. The spouse or children will not be eligible for the pension benefit after the demise of the recipient.
5. The pension benefit could be received only after completion of 10 years in service. If the employee ceased to be in employment before that period, such employee will not get even the money recovered from his salary as contributions to the fund.
The government disregarding the opposition to this bill, attempted to get it passed in parliament on 27th April. The Trade Union Confederation, jointly with 26 trade unions, petitioned the Supreme Court against the bill on 12th April. Since the Supreme Court held that the bill conforms to the provisions of constitution, trade union actions had to be continued unabated to defeat the bill.
Towards this end.
1. 500,000 leaflets were distributed on 11th April to educate the masses.
2. A seminar was held at Jayawardana Centre, Colombo, on 26th April and a protest picket was conducted in the evening on the same day at Lipton Circus.
3. 04th May, signing of protest petitions by one million workers commenced.
4. Signing of protest petitions began opposite work places such as Port, Katunayake, Biyagama, Bank Head Offices and at Ratmalana Insurance Corporation Office.
5. May 24th was declared as a day of protest, and agitation campaigns were held opposite work places. A massive agitation campaign was held at Colombo on this day. Another similar Campaign was held at FTZ, Katunayeka with the participation of about 30,000 workers, and it was attacked by the police with tear-gas.
Due to these developments, the government put off the presentation of the bill to parliament for approval and we organized steps to get it completely defeated.
It was decided to launch one-day token strike, island-wide, on 21st June and to intensify protest actions and signing of petitions in protest.
Discussions were held with parties in the opposition of the Parliament and got them agreed to work against this bill. A campaign was launched to make the leading members of religious clergy Knowledgeable of the issue.
May 30 Oppression
On May 30th, about 30,000 workers attended a protest action organized at Katunayeka FTZ, and the Police launched a brutal attack.
Due to the brutal attack let loose by the Police, using tear-gas accompanied with shooting, over 350 workers who had suffered injuries were admitted to hospitals at Negambo, Seeduwa and Ragama.
A massive protest action was carried out at Pettah against attacks and oppression, at 12 noon on 01st June. Com. Roshain Chanaka of Torried Factory who was serious after receiving gun-shot attack succumb to his injuries at Ragama hospital at about 5pm on 4th June
Government’s course of action.
Subsequent to our agitation campaign at different places, the government brought its henchmen to such places and carried out counter campaigns.
Distributions in the FTZ of different leaflets publishes in the name of our trade union combination, and publishing false news though state owned Independent Television Network using the name of our trade union combination, so as to build an opinion favourable to the pension bill.
Continued actions taken to sabotage our trade union actions through state media agencies by trying to make out that our protest actions were conducted by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and United National Party (U.N.P) against the government.
The IGP having accepted responsibility for the Police attack had resigned and the cabinet had decided to withdraw the bill.
Although it is a victory for the trade union movement and the working class the fact that it had been achieved with the sacrifice of the life of a worker makes it really regrettable.
On 02nd June, we conducted a massive agitation campaign at Airport Junction at Katunayaka protesting against this murder. Large crowds of people took part in the action expressing their protest to the police, armed forces and the government. In consequence the police was completely withdrawn from the area of protest action.
On 03rd June, protest agitations against the murder were conducted at Biyagama, Ja-ela, Malabe and at several places in the State sector
For the sake of the murdered Roshain Chanka
1. The government should accept responsibility of his murder
2. The government should pay Rs. 5 million as compensation to his family
3. A fair inquiry should be carried out to ascertain the parties responsible for shooting and assaulting and to ascertain the parties that had given orders for such action. All such parties should be brought before the law and mete out punishment.
4. The government should pay compensation to all those who had suffered due to shooting and assaulting.
5. The cost of damages of destroyed factories should be estimated and compensation should be paid.
The government, with the connivance of some member of the family of Roshain, imposed some restrictions, by way of a court order in relation to the conduct of funeral rituals. According to the court order, orations by laymen were prohibited and the burial should take place at 4pm at Church premises
The army personnel were stationed inside the funeral house by the government creating a very unpleasant environment.
All the activities disclose that international labour regulations are not effective in the country and complete oppression is in force.
Trade Union Confederation
Some photographs relevant to the picket and oppression: