“We as Unions note here with stress, that none of you as candidates have paid any attention to over 02 million employees in the formal private sector and to those in the informal private sector such as the private commuter transport service, the trishaws, small cafes and canteens, shopping complexes, security guards in private security services, contract employees in Manpower agencies that total around 08 million in all.” says a joint letter addressed to main presidential candidates by five trade unions in Sri Lanka.
Further they have submitted 10 demands to those candidates, including abolishing the PTA and adherence of ILO conventions.
The letter follows:
11th October 2019
Mr. Anura Kumara Dissanayaka, Presidential Candidate, Jathika Jana Balawegaya, Pelawatta, Battaramulla.
Mr.Gotabhaya Nandasena Rajapaksha, Presidential Candidate, Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (People’s Alliance), Nelum Mawatha, Battaramulla
Mr.Sajith Premadasa, Presidential Candidate, United National Front, Vauxhall Street, Colombo 02
Dear Mr. Candidate,
A series of proposals drafted collectively by our Unions are herewith submitted to you as a candidate representing a mainstream political party alliance in the forthcoming Presidential Election scheduled to be held on 16th of November 2019.
By now you and other candidates have already made public the vision you intend to carry out for the benefit of the People. Your future vision if summarised according to the emphasis and priority given, are as follows;
Ensure National Security and sovereignty of the country and restore religious and ethnic peace.
Enforce law and order and eradicate all forms of extremism.
Stop to all corruption and economic development with improved living standards of people
improvement of rural infrastructure facilities and an efficient public service
Establishing a people centred governance for a new political journey
While there are differences between candidates in how they explain themselves to People, they all remain with common answers within the same existing system.
We as Unions note here with stress, that none of you as candidates have paid any attention to over 02 million employees in the formal private sector and to those in the informal private sector such as the private commuter transport service, the trishaws, small cafes and canteens, shopping complexes, security guards in private security services, contract employees in Manpower agencies that total around 08 million in all.
Every Government since 1977 considered the private sector as the engine of growth and developed infrastructure facilities, provided tax reliefs and benefits, revised existing laws and brought new laws in order to attract foreign Investors for economic growth in the country. But every government treated employees of the private sector who are equally important to the economy of the country, differently. For example, salaries of employees in the Private sector who earn foreign exchange for the country through their contribution in production and services have been kept at a minimum monthly wage level of Rupees Ten Thousand (Rs.10,000/-). Along with the Budget relief allowance of Rs 3,500/- they earn only Rs.13,500/- per month. Working conditions in the private sector are not very conducive too. All these contribute to a decline in attraction for private sector employment. According to recent statistics there are about 74,000 vacancies for Machine Operators in Garment Factories. Approximately there are about 08 million workers in the private sector working under similar conditions and we would like to emphasize again that they are also voters at the forthcoming Presidential Election. In such context we as Trade Unionists wish to know what your policies and what you stand for as a Presidential candidate with regard to the demands made in respect of such employees.
Every Government which came into power during the last four decades have allowed the employers to abolish worker’s right to be a member in a union of his or her choice that is guaranteed by the Constitution and ILO Conventions No: 87 & 98. All opposition to that right and not standing to safeguard that right, confirms Workers’ Rights have been totally ignored. Would you therefore make it mandatory for Employers to adhere to and implement ILO Conventions No: 87 & 98
A productive work force in a country can only be achieved with a satisfied and contended employment in the Public and Private sectors for which there needs to be a National Labour Policy. Would you agree to submit a draft National Labour Policy to the public and private sector trade unions?
A 40 hour working week with the 08 hour working day and the national minimum wage of Rs.13,500/- per month is not at all sufficient with the present cost of living . Would you therefore take steps to increase the minimum monthly salary to Rs 25,000/- and also adjust the cost of living allowance once in every two years in line with the C.o. L?
Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has been abused for business gains under every government, leading to massive corruption. Around 2.5 million workers who are active members of the EPF with others who have been made inactive members of the fund for numerous reasons totalling 08 million workers who are the owners of this fund, have no access to information and to its management. Present management EPF are not held responsible to the members of the fund. This leads to massive corruption. You as a Candidate who promise a clean public service responsible for a corruption free governance answerable to the public, would you take necessary measures to include a permanent representation of workers in the management of the EPF?
Would you take steps to ratify ILO Convention 190 adopted at the ILO Sessions in 2019 on all type of violence at work place and have laws enacted accordingly and also appoint a lady Officer with legal powers at FTZs and at district level to accept complaints with strict confidentiality and investigate sexual harassment?
We as trade unions completely reject the proposed draft Single Labour Law that seeks to deprive workers of their rights for the benefit of employers that we understand has been done with complete secrecy and in collaboration with a foreign agency. Would you as a presidential candidate assure us, you will not bring such law in any form if elected President of the Country?
Present and past regime that spent billions of rupees on infrastructure facilities, allowed tax relief, tax holidays and other privileges for investors say such is necessary to provide employment for youth. Yet without creating conducive situation to attract local labour, both local and foreign investors project a situation for labour scarcity in the country to legally import foreign Labour. Would you as president if elected refrain from drafting laws to import labour for jobs our youth should be employed, unless they are specialised employment where we don’t have qualified personnel?
“Anti Terrorism Act” proposed to replace the existing Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) would deprive workers and other oppressed people the right to protest as Citizens of a Democratic Country, while some offences interpreted as “criminal offences” in the Penal Code have been included as “acts of Terrorism” in the proposed new “Anti Terrorism Act”. Would you therefore take immediate steps to withdraw that Act.
Department of Labour that in the past contributed immensely for the welfare of workers, has now turned very inefficient and needs serious reforms to make it efficient once again. Would you re-organize it for such efficiency and to bring about industrial peace with a new Industrial Policy?
Would you if elected president take immediate steps to present to the parliament all Acts that by now have cabinet approval prohibiting employees on sub contract for permanent positions, ensuring health safety island wide and decide the retirement age of private sector employees as sixty years ?
In addition to the above 10 proposals there are many other issues relating to workers and we shall be much grateful to you if you can grant us an early date for a representation of our Unions to meet with you and discuss these issues in detail to know your stance and decision on them.
Lesley Devendra , General Secretary – Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya
Sylvester Jayakody, General Secretary – General Services Industrial & Employees Union General Workers Union, (CMU)
Anton Marcus, Joint Secretary – Free Trade Zones & Ceylon Mercantile
Linus Jayathilaka, President – United Federation of Labour
Palitha Athukorala, President – National Union of Sea fairs Sri Lanka
Above image courtesy of AsiaNews.