Bonanza for workers when GSP Plus facility is restoredView(s):
A visiting European Union (EU) team has been assured that worker benefits would be enhanced in return for the restoration of GSP Plus tariff preferences to
Sri Lanka. One such move would be to double workmanâ€™s compensation from the present Rs. 500,000 to one million rupees in the event of disability caused during work, Labour Ministry Secretary Gotabaya Jayaratna said. â€śNew laws will be introduced for this purpose,â€ť he said.
An EU fact finding mission was in Sri Lanka this week to further assess the eligibility of Sri Lanka to receive the GSP Plus facility. Another significant feature is an assurance by Labour Minister W.D.J. Seneviratne that 50 percent of the money received through the GSP Plus would be spent on the 2.4 million strong labour force. The visiting EU delegation also met representatives of 14 trade unions.
The delegation informed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that if Sri Lanka was to be given the GSP Plus facility again, the European Commission would strictly monitor the implementation of these assurances by Sri Lanka. A report on this would be submitted to the EU by December this year.
The EU has said it would encourage Sri Lanka down the path of reform, but at the same time it would watch closely developments and expect Sri Lanka to deliver on these assurances.Mr Jayaratna explained that other benefits to the work force would include increased salary in selected sectors, reasonable market prices for products and stable trade capacity. â€śSixty four amendments have been made to existing labour laws to make sure that the labour force is provided with financial and legal security. The EU delegation was satisfied with the initiatives we have taken and the progress so far,â€ť he said.
The Labour Secretary said that the National Minimum Wages Act already guaranteed minimum salary of any person in any industry or service will be Rs. 10,000. With the Budgetary Relief Allowance of Rs 3,500, the gross salary of Rs 13,500 was ensured as a basic salary for the first time. Â The ministry was authorised to take legal action against companies if they failed to comply with the regulations, he said.
A scholarship scheme for workers children also has been introduced and Rs. 50,000 would be given as financial assistance for the family, he said.
The government is also committed to initiate social dialogue, a theme defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), to include all types of negotiations or consultations between representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policies. Â In a joint letter to the Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, the delegation expressed concerns over the pace of reforms currently underway in the country. “These commitments must be translated into continuous action towards the effective implementation of the GSP Plus conventions so as to reassure that Sri Lanka is seriously addressing shortcomings.”
“It is with this aim in mind that we wish to express our concerns over the pace of reforms in Sri Lanka. As noted in the recent report by the UN Human Rights High Commissioner, while there is recognition of progress and of the Government’s will to pursue reforms, efforts to address a number of important shortcomings have slowed down or have been stalling. “We are concerned that, initiatives on introducing new counter-terrorism legislation and amending the Code of Criminal Procedure Act (CCPA) bringing them in line with international standards, launching a fully operational Office of Missing Persons, addressing torture and impunity, as well as decriminalising sexual orientation have unfortunately not yet come to fruition. Further action on sexual and gender-based violence should also be pursued,” the joint letter says.
In view of the EU’s legal requirements, the European Commission’s decision is currently before the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union for review. The review is expected to begin on April 19 and objections could be raised. The European Council will take a final decision on May 11.
Free Trade Zone Employees Union Secretary Anton Marcus who took part in a meeting with the visiting EU delegation said the unions had urged the EU to closely monitor the reform process in keeping with a road map to ensure labour rights were protected.