Fifteen trade unions with a combined membership of over one million in the organised and unorganised sector came together for the first time in Sri Lanka this week under one banner through the formation of the Centre for Trade Union Unity (CENTU) to raise one voice in finding solution for common issues of workers, irrespective of their political or other affiliations.
The aim of this historic move is to build a more effective trade union body to meet the challenges of the offensive against the working class, under capitalist globalisation; and forming an organisation that gives space for the co-existence of multiple progressive political tendencies, Secretary General of the Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya Leslie Devendra, who is also chairman of CENTU, told reporters on Wednesday.
He noted that the CENTU was set up to make representations on behalf of trade unions and workers to the state, other governing and statuary bodies and international organizations on issues relating to decent work, good governance, labour standards, fundamental rights, poverty and social issues. It will take measures to empower and strengthen unions through positive actions and programmes on workers issues, while working towards the broadest possible trade union unity and cohesion through close interaction with unions, on the basis of dialogue and united action.
General Secretary of the Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions D.W. Subasinghe said the CENTU has a wide role to play as the threat to secured employment is rising with employers increasingly resorting to diverse forms of contract labour under cover of outsourcing resulting in denial worker rights and benefits. The superannuation fund for worker, until now invested in government securities, is being targeted by capitalists supported by IMF and certain government circles, to be channeled to the risky stock market, posing a serious threat to workers’ social security, he said.
Executive Secretary of CENTU T.M.R. Rasseedin said that the newly established centre will unite the 7-million workforce in the country to make it a powerful unified force to win their rights. He expressed the belief that it will strengthen their bargaining power with any powerful government or organization. CENTU will hold its inaugural meeting next week.