10 C
London
Saturday, June 15, 2024

Sri Lanka: Blatant Exclusion of Women from Decision Making on Labour Policy

Image: The statement calls for the immediate reinstatement of the UFL and its representative Swasthika Arulingam onto the NLAC.

Blatant Exclusion of Women from Decision Making on Labour Policy
– Only Woman Member Excluded from the NLAC by Ministry of Labour

The Sri Lankan Government’s response to the debt crisis has blatantly ignored the voices and needs of working class women. The brunt of the economic crisis has been borne by women just as the brunt of the recovery proposals are being borne by women. Women will pay disproportionately for the odious debt and economic crisis generated by the corruption and recklessness of Sri Lanka’s economic and political elite.

Under the guise of increasing female labour participation, employers are heavily lobbying the Ministry of Labour to remove protections for women who engage in night work. Employers are also flagrantly advocating for legal changes to weaken social security nets, encourage a culture of hire-and-fire, and remove maternity protections for women.

It is in this context that the Minister of Labour has taken the extraordinary step to remove the only woman on the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC). The NLAC is a tripartite body consisting of Employers’ Organisations, Unions and the Government. It is the only national-level body convened between these three stakeholders to consult and cooperate on policies affecting workers in the country. Even though the NLAC was established in 1994, there has not been a female member until 2021, which was when Swasthika Arulingam was appointed by the United Federation of Labour (UFL) as its permanent representative.

The UFL is a federation of many Unions including the Commercial and Industrial Workers; Union (CIWU) of which Swasthika Arulingam is the current President. Her appointment as a permanent member of the NLAC was hailed as historic as it was the first time a federation of Unions chose a woman to represent them at the NLAC. In this role, too, she strongly advocated against policies to remove labour protections for women. She has also pushed for the inclusion of more Unions and particularly women-led Unions into the NLAC. As an Attorney-at-Law, her legal expertise was an enormous asset in negotiations on labour regulations and policies. The presence of such a person is monumentally important at a time when Sri Lanka’s working poor and particularly women are languishing in poverty.

In mid-May 2023, the Minister of Labour in a move to reconstitute the NLAC, imposed arbitrary criteria relating to unions’ membership in order to qualify for nominations and appointment.

This move effectively disqualified UFL from receiving a nomination and thus removed the only woman representing workers in Sri Lanka. Given that the only legal criteria for the selection of Organisations and Unions is that they be the “most representative”, we are shocked and utterly dismayed that the only woman and an eminently capable representative of workers has been prevented from serving on the NLAC. We believe her to be the best representative to serve the interests and concerns of all female workers in Sri Lanka, particularly at this time of enormous economic crisis and this exclusion is a serious undermining of women’s labour rights.

The NLAC should not be an exclusive body which has members selected at the will and
fancy of the Minister of Labour. Neither should membership strength be the sole criteria for
inclusion into the NLAC – this leaves out many sectors which have a weakened Union
membership due to the extensive union busting and unfair labour practices of employers,
particularly in the export sector which employs many women. It is essential to include more
unions irrespective of their membership strength and to give due recognition to women-led
unions to strengthen and protect the labour rights of working women in Sri Lanka.

Accordingly, we the undersigned call for:

  • the immediate reinstatement of the UFL and its representative Swasthika
    Arulingam onto the NLAC
  • the immediate increase in the representation of women Union members on the NLAC
  • consulting the women’s labour force and women-led labour collectives on all labour law and policy reforms by increasing the number of Unions, especially women-led Unions, represented on the NLAC

 SIGNATORIES

Individuals

 

  1. A.A. Avindi
  2. Ajitha
  3. M.R.S.B. Roshan
  4. M.S.D. Perera
  5. Aakiya Amen
  6. Agastra Lima
  7. Amalini de Sayrah
  8. Amali Wedagedara
  9. Amila Sandaruwan – Teacher
  10. Anberiya Hanifa
  11. Angelica Chandrasekeran
  12. Anithra Varia
  13. Anuratha Rajaretnam
  14. Anushaya Collure
  15. Arjuna Parakrama – University of Peradeniya
  16. Asanka Abeyrathna
  17. Ashila Dandeniya
  18. Asoka Mala Vithana
  19. Gowthaman
  20. K.S.C. Rodrigo
  21. Sukitha
  22. Bisliya Bhutto
  23. Buhari Mohamed
  24. Ranitha Gnanarajah – AAL
  25. Chamila Thushari
  26. Chandra Devanarayana
  27. Chandrika Gadiewasam – Freelance Writer
  28. Chathura Kumara Jayawardana
  29. Chintaka Rajapakse
  30. A. Rumeshi Hansika
  31. Deekshya Illangasinghe
  32. Dhanusha Pathirana
  33. Dilrukshi Handunnetti – AAL, Activist & Journalist
  34. Geethika Dharmasinghe
  35. Kumudu Kusum Kumara
  36. P.P. Sivapragasam
  37. Sakuntala Kadirgamar
  38. G. Manjula Pradeep Kumara
  39. M.H.M.K. Ekanayake
  40. Faaiz Ameer
  41. Fathima Nabeela Iqbal
  42. Fawzul Rifaya
  43. Subitha
  44. Ushanthini
  45. George Selvarasa Jeyanthan
  46. Abeyrathna
  47. Rusith Kaushan
  48. Heleshika Ekanayaka
  49. Herman Kumara
  50. Iresha Maduwanthi
  51. D.H. Francisco
  52. Thayalini
  53. Varayalini
  54. Jehanki Anandha
  55. Joanne Senn
  56. Joseph Stalin
  57. Jothiraj Jegatheeswaran
  58. Juwairiya Mohideen
  59. Chandima Kumari
  60. Hemalatha
  61. J. Brito Fernando
  62. Pathmapriya
  63. S. Ratnavale – AAL
  64. Saththiyaseelan
  65. Kanchana Sandamali
  66. Lakmali Hemachandra
  67. Lakmali Liyanage
  68. Lal Wijenayake
  69. Ayanthika
  70. Nirmalathevi
  71. P.S.T. Manamendra
  72. Rishini Dilshani
  73. Sitralega – Independent Feminist Researcher, Batticaloa
  74. Madhubhashini R. Rathnayaka
  75. Mahaluxmy Kurushanthan
  76. Mahendran Thiruvarangan – University of Jaffna
  77. Manel Priyanthi Danarathna
  78. Marisa de Silva
  79. Arththigan
  80. Nagulan Nesiah
  81. Nalini Rathnarajah – Activist
  82. Natasha Van-Hoff
  83. Neil Priyantha Fernando – Social Activist
  84. Nihal Ahamed
  85. Nilshan Fonseka
  86. S. Gamage
  87. Pasan Jayasinghe
  88. Peter Rezel – Chartered Accountant
  89. Pradeepa Krishanthi
  90. Prasad Gamage
  91. Priyangika Kumarawardena
  92. Priyanthi Fernando
  93. Puni Selvaratnam – Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka
  94. Kounthini
  95. Ranjan – AAL
  96. Robinson
  97. Saththiya
  98. Rajany Rajeshwary
  99. Rajkumar Rajeevkanth
  100. Rebecca David
  101. Dr. Jayan Peiris
  102. Fr. Nandana Manatunga
  103. Rifsana Fiqry
  104. Roshani Ratnayake
  105. Ruwan Laknath Jayakody
  106. C.C. Elankovan
  107. Easwary
  108. Ethayarani
  109. Kopika
  110. Mariyarosalin
  111. Nilany
  112. Niththika
  113. Suganthi
  114. Tharsan
  115. Thileepan
  116. W.K.S. Malkanthi
  117. Sandun Thudugala
  118. Sarala Emmanuel – Batticaloa
  119. Shamala Kumar – University of Peradeniya
  120. Shivantha Rathnayake
  121. Shreen Saroor
  122. Shyamali Amarasinghe
  123. Siritunga Jayasuriya – General Secretary, United Socialist Party
  124. Sithara Kularathna
  125. Sithumi Navoda
  126. Sridevi
  127. Sripalan Jency
  128. Sugath Rajapaksha
  129. Sumathy Sivamohan – University of Peradeniya
  130. Sunanda Deshapriya – Journalist, Writer and Human Rights Activist
  131. Suren D. Perera – AAL
  132. Surenthiny Thamiliny
  133. G.S. Dharmasiri
  134. Nithya Gayani
  135. Teja Wanshika
  136. Tharindu Uduwaragedara
  137. Thavarajah Jananthan
  138. Thilina Madiwala
  139. Tisaranee Gunasekara
  140. Shamini
  141. Vaas Gunawardane – Principal
  142. Vanie Simon
  143. Fr. Samuel J. Ponniah
  144. A.I. Swarnahansi
  145. G. Hasitha Lakshan
  146. M. Harshani
  147. M. Kumari
  148. M.P. Warnakulasuriya
  149. M. Iresha Madhuwanthi
  150. Yogalingam Vijitha

 

 

 

Organisations/Trade Unions

 

  1. Ampara District Alliance for Land Rights
  2. Centre for Working Women
  3. Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU)
  4. Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI)
  5. Dabindu Collective Union
  6. Eastern Social Development Foundation (ESDF)
  7. Families of the Disappeared (FoD)
  8. Fisheries Women’s Federation
  9. Forum for a Plural Democracy
  10. Free Women
  11. Health Workers Centre
  12. Human Elevation Organisation (HEO)
  13. Human Rights Office (HRO)
  14. Illupaikadavai Women’s Rural Development Society
  15. Institute of Social Development (ISD)
  16. Islamic Women’s Association for Research and Empowerment (IWARE)
  17. Ithikandal Women’s Rural Development Society
  18. Joint Committee of Democratic Trade Unions
  19. Joint Development Officers Centre
  20. Joint Engineering Corporation Employees Union
  21. Joint Health Workers’ Union
  22. Joint Nursing Service Union
  23. Joint Piriven Teachers Service Union
  24. Joint Port Workers Union
  25. Joint Railway Employees Union
  26. Joint Teacher’s Service Union
  27. Joint Unemployed Graduates Association
  28. Joint Water Supply Workers Union
  29. Kalliyady Women’s Rural Development Society
  30. Kaththalampiddy Women’s Rural Development Society
  31. Law and Society Trust (LST)
  32. Liberation Movement
  33. Malarum Mottukal
  34. Mannar Women’s Development Federation (MWDF)
  35. Mass Movement for Social Justice (MMSJ), Colombo
  36. Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)
  37. Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum
  38. Muslim Women Development Trust (MWDT)
  39. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO)
  40. National Peace Council (NPC)
  41. Neduvarampu Women’s Rural Development Society
  42. Paliyaru Women’s Rural Development Society
  43. Plantation Workers Centre
  44. Private Employees Centre
  45. Puttalam District Women’s Self Employment and Reconciliation Forum
  46. Revolutionary Existence for Human Development (RED)
  47. Rural Development Foundation
  48. Savirikulam Women’s Rural Development Society
  49. Shramabhimani Kendraya
  50. Sisterhood Initiative
  51. Sri Lanka All Telecommunication Employees’ Union
  52. Stand Up Movement Lanka
  53. Stand Up Workers Union
  54. Star Women’s Society, Puttalam
  55. Thedal Women’s Society
  56. United Left Force (ULF)
  57. Vallamai Movement for Social Change
  58. Veddaiyanmurippu Women’s Rural Development Society
  59. Voice of Women in the Northern Province
  60. Women Farmers Forum Batticaloa
  61. Women’s Solidarity Front (WSF)
  62. Women Development Innovators
  63. Women’s Action Network (WAN)
  64. Workers Solidarity Union
  65. Workers Struggle Centre
  66. Working Women Front

 

 

Archive

Latest news

Related news