Financial Times

Minimum wage for workers under consideration – outgoing EFC Chairman

By Bandula Sirimanna

A national minimum wage for public and private sector workers is under consideration among all stakeholders with the International Labour Organisation’s Colombo office currently conducting a study of Sri Lanka’s wage mechanisms, according to a senior business leader.

Outgoing Chairman of the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) Hemaka Amarasuriya, speaking at the 79th Annual General Meeting of the EFC auditorium in Colombo this week, also said the trade unions have demanded a mandatory legislated wage increase for all private sector employees in the face of high cost of living. The EFC has made representations to the government stating that it will be totally counter productive and inconsistent with the wage mechanism of the private sector.

The Federation submitted that an employer’s capacity to pay and the market forces within should be the predominant factors which determine private sector wages. He said that the EFC has brought to the notice of the authorities that the Wages Board mechanism should be used to introduce a revision of wages. Consequently, minimum wages of 31 Wages Boards were revised with effect from May 1 last year. Mr. Amarasuriya noted that the government has recognized the adverse implications of mandatory legislated wage increase on the private sector.

Mr. Amarasuriya said that most employers in Sri Lanka especially in the manufacturing industry are willing to grant payments over and above the guaranteed “basic wage” to ensure acceptable levels of productivity.

Therefore he said that the concept of a “national minimum wage” should only be viewed in the context of determining as to what an employee can earn within a month and not necessarily on the basis of what is granted to him in terms of his basic wage.

He revealed that 61 Collective Agreements were signed by members of EFC and trade unions under the auspices of the Federation giving leadership for collective bargaining in the island.

Mr Amarasuriya was elected Chairman of the EFC in 2006 creating history in the 79 year-old grouping by becoming the second member of his family to hold the prestigious post. His brother Mahendra Amarasuriya held the Post of Chairman EFC from 1986 to 1989. The new chairman is Kumar Jayasuriya.

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