New global employment trends such as flexi-hours, temporary employees or "temps", etc. have not taken root domestically because of local labour laws, according to Employers' Federation of Ceylon (EFC) Director General Ravi Peiris.
Speaking at a recent public panel discussion, entitled "Productivity or Protection? Whither Sri Lanka's Labour Laws", hosted by the Postgraduate Institute of Management Alumni association, Mr. Peiris also noted that, as a result of an imbalance in existing labour laws, the informal economy was "huge." He added that, on one side, there was tight regulations, while, on the other, some were operating outside the rules and competing with those on the inside. As a result, for those operating informally, margins were much higher.
Mr. Peiris also indicated that existing labour laws were put in place between the 1920s and the 1960s, when trade unions were very strong, however, today, with the strength of factors associated with globalisation, etc., employees were no longer protected under these laws as they did not cater to the current environment and employment can no longer be secured as a result of these laws. Further, he suggested that the "basic problem was that we need to appreciate industrial relations. More than an emphasis on law, most successes have resulted due to focusing on relations".
Also present at the panel discussion, Supreme Court Justice Suresh Chandra suggested a way forward for employee / employer interactions by advising the following measures: Constant dialogue between employees, employers and the state; the state should act as a regulator; employers should give more incentives to employees and aid them in gaining more skills; and trade unions should be more flexible in addressing their grievances.