The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL), Sri Lanka’s biggest chamber body, is being accused of forcible retrenchment amidst its operations heading towards a crisis, informed sources said.
Nearly 50 % (five out of 11) of its top staff (directors) including Secretary General/Chief Executive Officer (SG/CEO) Samantha Abeywickrema and the accountant have been removed by Chamber President Kosala Wickramanayake.
When contacted by the Sunday Times FT, Mr Wickramanayake denied the allegations saying he had no hand in the retrenchment as all administrative functions come under the SG/CEO. He noted that the SG/CEO has submitted a letter of resignation and it was not accepted, but the SG/CEO was not reporting for work. The Chamber was restructured recently with the trimming of 13 divisions to five divisions in order to ensure greater service to its members and the entrepreneurial community, he said.
But disgruntled employees say that Mr Wickramanayake has persistently asked the SG/CEO to authorize irregular payments which the latter has refused.
The same demands were made to the accountant who refused indicating that without the approval of the Secretary General no payment could be released. The SG/CEO is responsible for all financial and administrative transactions of the FCCISL, employees said.
The reason given for sacking the accountant is that she was overage, but it is alleged that out of a workforce of around 100 employees serving FCCISL, 23 are over 55 years including the current highest ranking officer.
When foreign donors of the chamber recently met and Mr Wickramanayake and the FCCISL submitted a $10 million proposal to revive micro and small industries in the country, the former were surprised by the absence of the SG/CEO and the projected funds were not pledged. There is a likelihood of these funds going to another Chamber, employees say.
Several employees say they plan to complain to the International Chamber of Commerce and bodies that provide international certification to the Chamber to investigate the activities of the FCCISL. The Commissioner of Labour is also being petitioned over the sacking of employees.