New Labour Law Reform Bills To Be Tabled In P’ment – Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva
Two special provision bills seeking to transfer the judicial power to hear cases filed against employers who default the payment of Employees’ Provident Fund to the Labour Tribunals with a view to expediting the disposing of decisions and determinations and transfer concurrent judicial powers to the Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation and the Labour Tribunals are to be presented in Parliament, Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said today (30) in his May Day press statement.
Here is the full text of the statement:-
A Peoples Friendly Workplace – A Secure Country
As the Minister of Labour, I consider it a privilege and honour to issue a message for May Day dedicated for the appreciation and celebration of the working class who sacrifice their labour for the wellbeing, safety and future aspirations of the humankind. The inability hold May Day processions, rallies, ceremonies and commemorations as before due to the Covid-19 pandemic is a matter of great regret for the working class as well as the government.
The responsibility of safeguarding and upholding the rights and privileges won through prolonged and hard-fought struggles and agitations and at times even at the cost of the lives of workers who have made a monumental contribution for the modern social advancement has been entrusted to the government. Having clearly understood this responsibility, the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has in his policy statement “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”, identified ensuring social protection of private sector workers and creating a skilled migrant workforce as top priorities and has delegated the responsibility of securing the rights of working people while enhancing productivity and welfare and safeguarding the occupational rights of the labour force to the Ministry of Labour and its affiliated institutions.
On the basis of “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” policy framework, measures have already been taken to amend labour archaic labour legislations to be more in line with present day requirements consolidating the rights of the working class and enabling them to successfully encounter present and future challenges. Further, steps have also been taken to simplify existing labour legislations by removing complexities thereof while maintaining consistency so as to create a conducive environment to attract investments to the country ensuring gains to all parties and I am pleased to state that workers benefits have not been undermined in any manner but have been further strengthened through these measures.
Further, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the business community and industrialists of the private sector were faced with the challenge of continuing their businesses and industries without interruption and in particular industrial peace had to be maintained by putting forward a slew of specific agreements and processes and implementing an array of relief measures for ensuring job security of workers and I wish to take this opportunity to convey my gratitude to trade union leaders and employers for demonstrating admirable flexibility for understanding the gravity of the situation and offering very reasonable solutions.
An outstanding victory during the year was the granting of minimum daily wage of Rs. 1000 as pledged in the last budget through decisions of the Wages Boards overcoming seeming insurmountable obstacles and challenges. Steps were also taken to increase the national minimum daily wage up to Rs. 12,500/- and arrangements are underway to convey all Wages Boards and increase the minimum wage of every Wage Board within the next 03 months.
Since assuming office, the government initiated action to raise the maximum limit of the compensation formula for computing the compensation paid to workers in the event of terminating employment from Rs 1.25 million to Rs. 2.5 million and the compensation paid to workers in the event of injuries, permanent disability or death due to occupational accidents was increased from Rs. 550,000 to Rs. 2 million.
Two special provision bills seeking to transfer the judicial power to hear cases filed against employers who default the payment of Employees’ Provident Fund to the Labour Tribunals with a view to expediting the disposing of decisions and determinations and transfer concurrent judicial powers to the Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation and the Labour Tribunals are to be presented in Parliament. Necessary action has been taken to amend the Industrial Disputes Act, enabling non-attorney labour representatives to appear for workers in cases filed in Labour Tribunals and expedite the issuance of disciplinary orders having completed disciplinary inquiries within 06 months. Further, approval has already been secured to legalize the minimum retirement age of private sector employees as 60 years.
Measures are expected to be taken soon to implement an SMS service to instantly notify the members of the accounting of monthly contributions of the Employees’ Provident Fund and to amend the EPF Act making it compulsory for employers to register an employee with the Department of Labour within 30 days of recruitment. Similarly, legal provisions have already been submitted to safeguard labour rights and ensure workers’ safety in worksites in consultation with the International Labour Organization and in compliance with internationally recognized policies and standards. Laws have already been adopted proscribing the employment of children below 16 years of age and regulations are soon to be introduced for the prevention of employment of children below 18 years of age in hazardous jobs.
Necessary measures have also been taken for the amendment of the EPF Act facilitating the signing of social security agreements with other countries and to adopt a new Bill in consultation with the relevant stakeholders on healthcare and welfare of employees.
Having ratified Convention -190 of the ILO- ‘Eliminating Violence and Harassment in World of Work’, necessary laws are being drafted to lay the groundwork enabling workers, in particular, women to engage in their employment in a safe and dignified environment. May Day is also the most opportune time to pay our tribute to nearly one million migrant workers who render an invaluable contribution for strengthening national economy and bolstering foreign exchange reserves and further constructive measures are required to be taken to guarantee them a safe and secure future. Our Ministry has already initiated preliminary measures to enforce laws to prevent migrant workers becoming victims of malpractices of unscrupulous brokers and employment agents and introduce a viable insurance and pension scheme for them.
One hundred and twenty two workers have lost their jobs as a result of the closure of Lanka Tractors Company Limited and consequent to being deprived of compensation entitled to them upon the termination of employment for a period spanning more than 18 years, they have been driven to despair and untold economic and social hardships and with the involvement of our Ministry, the necessary institutions were coordinated and the workers were paid compensation amounting to Rs. 22 million.
For strengthening national economy high degree of productivity is called for and it should not be forgotten that productivity can only be achieved through a satisfied workforce.
With heartfelt gratitude and utmost respect, I recall the immeasurable contribution made by trade union leaders who sacrificed their lives and suffered untold hardships during the colonial period as well as the post colonial period for upholding the rights of the working class. We must also recall with gratefulness the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike for being instrumental in bringing in the EPF Act and declaring May Day as a public holiday and the Sirimavo Bandaranaike as well as former Minister of Labour, the T.B. Illangarathna and former Minister of Labour and incumbent Prime Minister the Mahinda Rajapaksa and all other political leaders who contributed in numerous ways for uplifting the working class of the country.
While protecting the rights of workers, the Sri Lankan workforce must be equipped with technical knowhow to make them a more skilled labour force. In addition, since an adequate social security programme has hitherto not been designed for the labour force of the private sector, we should have a firm resolve on this International Labour Day to take a sustainable step towards introducing a formidable social security scheme for the private sector. May this May Day be a triumphant day for the entire working class!
Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva, Attorney at Law
Minister of Labour