Sunday, 14 July 2019 09:13

Government brings a new unified employment law

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As trade union protests mount against labour market reforms, the Government will be introducing a new unified employment law gradually replacing 54 archaic labour legislations currently in force.

Irrespective of their ideological point of view, trade unions strongly contest the proposed labour legislation that the employers claim it as progressive.

Welcoming the government’s initiative, Employers federation of Ceylon ( EFC) Director General /CEO Kanishka Weerasinghe told the Business Times that “we need to keep pace with the developments that are taking place in relation to the ‘world of work’, including the many avenues that are being created through the development of technology”.

The EFC will fully support a process that will bring the country’s labour laws up to date, he said, adding that “we desperately need to implement reforms that will include what employers have sought for a long period of time”.

Trade unions oppose all attempts to dismantle the present labour law regime that provides some sort of protection to employees who have to work for living on a periodic wage.

The unified employment law which is yet to be made public as a draft was presented to the National Labour Advisory Council last Tuesday (July 09) without any discussions.

But it is being lobbied and canvassed for support by employers and the hierarchy in the labour Department.

The draft was prepared under USAID supervision by private legal consultants, outside the purview of the labour department and the ministry.

All member trade unions in the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), have opposed this effort in devising a new “single labour law” with direct USAID assistance, Anton Marcus,Joint Secretary of Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union said.

In the well thought-out view of trade unions, the reform in labour laws has served as a convenient way to smuggle in the employers’ Trojan horse –titled the unified employment law embedded with legal sanctions for employer prerogatives, he added.

54 labour legislations including the Wages Board Ordinance No.27 of 1941, the Factories Ordinance No.45 of 1942, Shop and Office Employees Act No.19 of 1954, Maternity Benefit Ordinance, and Factories Ordinance will be revised and these laws are to be integrated into a single employment law.

The total content of this proposed law is about providing the Employer the legal right to decide all terms and conditions of employment in the private sector.

Wages Boards are to be scrapped giving the Employer the right to decide on minimum wage irrespective of the trade or industry.

A working day to be not more than 12 hours in a 45 hour working week that allows Employer to limit work for 04 working days with no wages for the other 03 days including Sunday.

Gratuity for workers have also been severely restricted and the Termination Act No. 45 of 1971 is to be repealed allowing the Employer to dismiss workers as the employer wish, perhaps even without any disciplinary inquiry


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