This book is the 2nd Edition and is written by my former ‘Boss’ and ‘Guru’, Franklyn Amerasinghe who was Director General himself for a period of 10 years. The book which presents employee relations in Sri Lanka has been brought up to date as of July 2013, with the addition of the latest statistics. It [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Book review – Employee Relations in Sri Lanka – 2nd Edition


This book is the 2nd Edition and is written by my former ‘Boss’ and ‘Guru’, Franklyn Amerasinghe who was Director General himself for a period of 10 years. The book which presents employee relations in Sri Lanka has been brought up to date as of July 2013, with the addition of the latest statistics. It reflects Franklyn’s experience and one will find that he is still very much involved with the subject through the Boards on which he serves.

The book provides a picture of the realities of the industrial relations system prevailing in Sri Lanka. The book is very readable and has kept in mind that there are many who would like to get an overall picture of the subject and the developments of th local industrial relations culture. It is not meant to be a comprehensive treatise on labour law but focuses more on the practical aspects of people management in the background of a highly regulated labour law regime. He emphasises the responses of business to controls which could normally have strangled the growth of companies and deals with the different types of employers doing business in Sri Lanka.
The book covers the more important issues that a practitioner, investor or an academic is concerned. In recent times many students have begun to specialise in Human Relations and the numbers registering for HR(Human Resources) Programmes has grown tremendously. The book is a must for students and is recommended reading for undergrads doing sociology, law and human relations. For those who wish to enter into careers as HR Managers this book is a must read. The new material makes it necessary for those who read the first book to follow up by reading the new edition which not only has new statistics but has also new research material especially in relation to the plantation sector.

Franklyn gives his opinion on what may be the best approach to handling people in such manner as to evoke a response of co-operation and harmony based on the unique culture of a workplace.

The term ‘employee relations’ has been used in this book to cover relations at the workplace, in a wider sense as covering the whole spectrum of employer-employee relations at the industry and national levels. He recognises that our labour laws protect not only non-executive staff as in some countries, but reach out to executives as well and refers to instances when high level Managers sought relief under the Labour Law.

In a separate Chapter he deals with the ILO and Sri Lanka’s membership in the organization. The ratifications by Sri Lanka are referred to and special mention is made of the Core Conventions and the manner in which they have been implemented.

The Chapter on Collective Bargaining in Sri Lanka, which could be traced back to British times, is very informative regarding the subject matter. It is interesting to see the attitude of employers in the early years after independence as reflected by the fact that in 1956 the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) considered a proposal that members should form themselves into a consumer ring, the objective of which would be that the members would only trade with those who were members, as far as possible. He mentions some collective agreements which have changed relations at workplaces by setting standards and best-practice. The chapter brings the discussion up to date by referring to the latest attitudes in bargaining.

The author covers the political changes and how they impacted on employment and relations at the workplace. The attitudes of employers in Sri Lanka towards collective agreements has changed in the 1980′s, driven largely by the EFC itself which was constantly reviewing best practice internationally in relation to wage fixation. He shows that the change on the side of unions has been slow due to pressures exerted on an industrial relations regime where multiple unions are vying for membership. He deals with relations within the EPZ’s with their proliferation.

A Chapter is devoted to three examples of intervention by the courts in industrial relations’ issues to show that the labour laws are not the only way in which intervention is seen in the employment relationship, but that the courts also remain a force to be reckoned with.
A Chapter is devoted to trade unions and their recognition. The realisation has now dawned on those who pressed for reform that legislation which was introduced in 1999 making recognition of unions was not the answer. Franklyn argues that, recognition is more a question of developing relationships, and laws cannot achieve recognition but leads to more hostile behavior.

In a special Chapter he covers mechanisms which have brought employers and their employees closer and resulted in mutual benefits. Reference is made to dialogue at the workplace and measures which have been taken to resolve disputes through a process of negotiation and dialogue. He argues that dialogue and tripartism are tools of a democratic process and it is imperative that if there is to be balanced development emphasis should be placed on the need for the exchange of views and the sharing of the responsibility for making employee relations work for the benefit of all.

There is reference to the initiative taken by employers and unions together to create a bipartite body for Dialogue and Conflict Resolution (ADCOR).

Franklyn uses his experience in negotiations and outlines the realities of the negotiating process and what one needs to expect in Sri Lanka to encounter when you negotiate.

Productivity and gain-sharing are dealt with as two subjects which are currently very topical. This development has taken root firmly and many employers are opposed to increases based on cost of living and other factors beyond their control.

The author discusses HRM in a Chapter that highlights the fact that good HR practices result in good employee relations. He shows how good HR practices revolve round respect for the individual and therefore provides a basis for developing good relationships which could lead to collective benefits.

The case book is based on real life disputes spanning over 50 years from which there is much to learn. Some recent disputes are also mentioned. The information in this case book is of the greatest value to HR practitioners who may know the theory but are often thrown into the deep-end without understanding the culture of our workplaces.

The final chapter looks at the future directions. It also deals with the manner in which organisation have developed their labour relations functions against the backdrop of a new management culture spurred on and driven by more scientific management and innovations created in establishing Human Resource Management processes.

The book is thought provoking and very instructive. It covers certain areas which have not been dealt with before especially in relation to the public sector, and therefore is of great academic value.

The book is published by the EFC and available at 385, J3 Old Kotte Road, Rajagiriya.

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