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Unions alarmed over pension scheme

President to meet trade union representatives

By Yohan Perera

As several trade unions are gearing up to launch a protest against the proposed private sector pension scheme, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to hold discussions on the matter with all trade union representatives on April 25.

Several trade unions including the Ceylon Mercantile Union (CMU), Ceylon Bank Employees Union, Free Trade Zone Workers Union, National Workers Congress and Health Sector Alliance are to meet on April 18 to decide on the action they would take to protest against the private sector pension scheme. A joint statement by 12 trade unions alleged that the proposed scheme was to be established using funds collected from the workers alone.

The statement said both the employee and the employer would have to contribute 2 percent each from the EPF for the fund, 10 percent from the gratuity would also be transferred to it.  Besides they said an employee will not be able to enjoy the benefits even if he or she retires as they will not be entitled to it until he or she reached the age of 60.  They explained that employees in some firms have to retire when they reach 55.  Garment factory employees, they said would have to retire when they reach the age of 50 and would be forced to wait for 10 years after their retirement to claim their pension.

Besides CMU General Secretary Bala Tampoe charged that the scheme would be operated using the funds collected from the workers which would be another disadvantage for the workers.

Mr. Tampoe said the Bill for the establishment of the scheme was presented to Parliament without the proposal being explained to the National Labour Advisory Council in a proper manner. Mr. Tampoe him self is a member of this council

He also alleged that entering into the scheme had been made compulsory for all private sector workers although it was mentioned as a voluntary scheme in the draft proposal.

Meanwhile Labour Relations Minister Gamini Lokuge told the Daily Mirror that President Rajapaksa had called all trade union representatives for a meeting on April 25. Responding to the charge made by the unions, the Minister said no welfare scheme for the working class can be successfully implemented without being made compulsory. He said the EPF and ETF had become successful today as both schemes were made compulsory.

He said that unions should not worry about the scheme as the ultimate objective of the scheme is to give additional benefits to the workers. The minister charged that the unions were trying to fulfil their political aspirations without thinking of the welfare of the workers.



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