The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka » Business Times Official website of the Sunday Times Newspaper in Sri Lanka Sat, 30 Jun 2012 19:33:49 +0000 en hourly 1 Replacing old pipes with new ones Sat, 30 Jun 2012 08:30:57 +0000 ramesh The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has initiated a Rs. 250 million project to replace existing dilapidated bunker fuel pipelines which are more than 60 years old, running from the Bloemendhal Oil Terminal to the Colombo Port. Seen are Deputy Ports Minister Rohitha Abegunawardene and SLPA Chairman Dr Priyath Bandu Wickrema examining the new pipes. Pic by Athula Devapriya

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Bajaj trishaw sales crash by 50 % Sat, 30 Jun 2012 08:28:15 +0000 ramesh Sri Lanka’s pioneer and exclusive Bajaj 3-wheeler dealer, the David Pieris Motor Company is stumbling from the current duty shock, forcing job cuts. The sales of Bajaj autos have dropped by 50 per cent following the increase of import duties by 49 per cent in March 2012 making it impossible to survive in the business, company sources said.

Bajaj’s sales in Sri Lanka rose 76% in 2010-11, according to its latest financial results.“We are seeing a (sharp) drop in sales after the government’s duty hike and it has compelled us to retrench our staff drastically,” a top official of the company, who declined to be named, said.At least 200 employees lost their jobs at the Bajaj auto assembly plant at the state-of-the-art factory at Ranna in the Hambantota district, he revealed.

Bajaj 3-wheelers are now being assembled in this ultra-modern factory on 23 acres of land with the total project involving an investment of Rs.2 billion. “By producing three-wheelers locally the company aims to provide more employment opportunities for youth in the area and boost Sri Lankan industry, but this plan is now crashing,” he added.

The company is now experiencing difficulties and hard times but it expects an improvement in the situation within two to three months as the market normally absorbs the hike in duties, he said.  The company has passed on the duty hike, which has gone up to 100 per cent from the earlier 61 per cent to consumers and prices have gone up by 32 per cent, he added. Sri Lanka imports about 10,000 3-wheelers monthly from India’s Pune-based Bajaj Auto and the island nation is the second largest export market for Bajaj Auto, after the Africa continent, he said.

But, he noted that Bajaj Auto of India will also lose as many as 55,000 units in exports to Sri Lanka in the current fiscal year.
Bajaj Auto’s plan to introduce its 4-wheeler RE60 to Sri Lanka has been shelved due to the present uncertain marketing trends, he said.
The 3-wheeler taxi service has become a very popular transport mode countrywide and has created self-employment opportunities for many, as an urban-poverty reducing instrument.

According to the Motor Traffic Department, the registration of 3-wheelers dropped by 6.37 during the first five months this year to 46,471 from 49,633 in the same period last year.The All Island Three Wheel Drivers’ Union, President Lalith Dharmasekera told the Business Times that the price of a Bajaj 3-wheeler has come down to Rs. 445,000 from Rs.515,000 as the company has decided to absorb the duty shock to a certain extent.

However he said the tax increase will badly affect the existing 3-wheeler owners were planning to replace their old vehicle with a new one, and those who want to enter to this business. He noted that his union has suggested to the Finance Ministry to devise a methodology to categorise 3-wheeler taxi drivers and owners currently engaged in passenger transport service and to provide them some concessions to overcome this difficult situation.

He said that as a remedial measure the union plans to form a cooperative society to provide loan and leasing facilities at reasonable interest for 3-wheeler drivers to purchase new ones.“More than 400,000 3-wheel taxis are operating countrywide, with over two million people depending on the earnings from this service,” Mr. Dharmasekera said

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Budget 2013: Daunting task of cutting deficit Sat, 30 Jun 2012 08:26:40 +0000 ramesh With 2012 budget targets already gone awry, Treasury officials have begun the preparatory work for the November 2013 budget giving priority to cutting the budget deficit to 5.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 6.2 percent projected for 2012, Finance Ministry sources said.

The Treasury has called and received revenue estimates for 2013 from all accounting officers and officials and will evaluate these estimates commencing next week. Projected revenue for 2013 is Rs.1, 352 billion while the expenditure would be Rs 1, 765.86 billion, the sources said.
Treasury officials are struggling to bring down the budget deficit because expenditure for the first three months has soared and on these trends, the deficit could shoot to 11.2 per cent of GDP in 2013; thus bringing it down to a single digit is a huge challenge, they said.
The planned budget deficit for this year is Rs. 468 billion, which in terms of the GDP is Rs. 6.2 %. However, in the first quarter of this year, the budget deficit shot up by 2.8 %.

The revenue shortfall has increased by 24.2 % or Rs. 334.8 billion while the revenue from tax earnings had increased by only 10.3 % or Rs. 203 billion. Debt is to be reduced to 70 per cent from the current 75 per cent of GDP. Pre-budget meetings with officials will begin in September, they said. The public, professionals, academia, artists and the media will also be invited to submit their proposals and suggestions before September 30 and also indicate any failures in projects and ways of correcting these, aimed at ensuring the 2013 budget will facilitate speedy development in the country.

The President has begun the consultative process and the Finance Ministry would work on these lines during July.

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GK depositor pleads to Chief Justice Sat, 30 Jun 2012 08:25:55 +0000 ramesh The plight of some 10,000 depositors of the failed Golden Key Co. is well known and many are yet to get their dues. Here is another letter pleading for justice:

Plea from Golden Key depositors
Please help us to plead to the Hon Chief Justice Shiranee Bandaranayake, Justice Shiranee Tillakawardene and Attorney General Eva Wanasundera to consider the plight of the 10,000 depositors who are awaiting their payments and request the Golden Key Co. to make the payments as soon as possible since some of them need this money for their medical expenses.
Desperate depositor – Colombo

Business Editor: Newspapers like the Sunday Times/Business Times have diligently and consciously reported on the events and pleas of depositors since the company crashed in December 2008 leaving thousands, including many elderly persons, in the lurch. This letter, probably from an elderly individual struggling to pay medical bills was diligently hand-written on an old white sheet that had aged and turned to brown colour and posted to the Editor. We are taking this unusual step of publishing this letter on the front page in the hope that it would draw the attention of those concerned to speed up the settlement of this long-standing payments issue in a just and timely manner.

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Ceylon Chamber congratulates SEC Sat, 30 Jun 2012 08:24:39 +0000 ramesh A team from the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) visited the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday to congratulate the Chairman and his team on the ‘excellent’ work done by them so far in regulating the capital markets.  CCC Chairman Susantha Ratnayake and CCC Vice Chairman Suresh Shah and chamber officials met SEC Chairman Thilak Karunaratne and his team at the SEC office at the  World Trade Centre.

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Sri Lanka’s top military university offers medical degrees Sat, 30 Jun 2012 08:23:35 +0000 ramesh The Kotelawala Defence University (KDU), Sri Lanka’s top military academy, is looking at a niche market in the post-war era– a fee-levying state university with a medical degree course.With a lesser need for active military courses, the KDU from this year has opened the university to civilian courses in addition to presenting military courses.

Offering a range of degree courses including medicine, the only difference is that these courses are sans residential facilities. The medical courses are, for the moment for Sri Lankans living abroad and foreign students, and not for those in Sri Lanka, Prof Ravindra Koggalage, KDU’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) said adding that this is essentially geared for the private sector.

It was unclear however whether the university has access to a teaching/training hospital, a pre-requisite according to stringent Sri Lankan rules for any facility offering medical degrees. This is the main bone of contention at the controversial Malabe private university.
“This year onwards we have opened the university for normal students and have courses like any other university where the students come in the morning and go in the afternoon, because all other courses for the military are residential courses,” said Prof Koggalage said during a discussion that followed the presentation of a joint survey carried out by the Human Resources and Education Sub-Committee of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with LIRNEasia on choices for higher education in Sri Lanka.

He said this year the university is undergoing a major transformation of the military university accepting civilian students.
The KDU has more than five faculties for fee levying students – Engineering, IT, Management, Law, Engineering and Medicine.
He said the medical faculty is geared to attract foreign students and Sri Lankans living abroad at the moment. It was unclear why local students are not being accommodated unless it’s owing to the fee structure.

He said that the course fees are comparatively cheap compared to other private universities and priced at Rs 350,000 for an entire 4-year degree course. “We mainly follow the standards set for state universities like University of Moratuwa, Peradeniya and Colombo. But sometimes our standards are much higher than theirs.”
Meanwhile according to the CCC-LIRNEasia survey Dr (Ms) Sujatha N Gamage, Team Leader, Human Capital Research Programme, LIRNEasia said they found that there are at least 46 private institutions and 10 public institutions that recruit students outside the University Grants Commission (UGC)-assisted admission system, in addition to the 17 public institutions for which admissions are assigned by the UGC.

She said that the purpose of this directory is to allow the parents and students to be better informed about the alternative to the UGC assisted higher education system. There are two types of alternatives to the public university; private institutions and public non-UGC institutions. She said that all these 46 private institutions have provided sufficient information and among them 29 had track records, 15 had students currently enrolled and two are to start programmes in 2012.

Of the 10 public-non-UGC institutions that included the National Institute of Business Management, Open University and Ocean University, nine are awarding degrees ones. The costs of the listed programmes (in the directory) can range from under Rs 200,000 to over a million for tuition and fees for the full programme.

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Gardiner Group builds 120-room hotel in Kandy Sat, 30 Jun 2012 08:22:12 +0000 ramesh The Gardiner Group, owners of Ceylon Hotels Corporation (CHC) and the Galle Face Group having refurbished most of its hotels is building a new 120-room hotel in Kandy costing US$ 10 million, officials said. “This is a joint venture with Sino Lanka Hotel Holdings and we plan to open it in 2013 September,” an official told the Business Times.  He said that the refurbishment of all their CHC properties, predominantly patronized by the domestic travellers, is now geared to attract foreign tourists as well.

Some 58 rooms of the 88-room The Surf-Bentota (formerly Lihiniya Surf) and the 52-room The Safari (formerly Tissa Rest House) were refurbished fully with a comprehensive development programme under the auspices of the company Group Chairman at a cost of nearly Rs. 600 million, he said, adding that the balance 30 rooms of Surf are being refurbished with added facilities.

Chethiya Perera, Vice President Strategy and Development CHC told the Business Times that all these properties have been upgraded into four star category and most travel agents who visited the two properties on a familiarization tour have agreed to promote them to their overseas counterparts. Having refurbished Heritage Ambepussa (Ambepussa Rest House) Ambepussa Avanhala, Heritage Pussellawa (Pussellawa Rest House), Polonnaruwa Rest House, The Surf and The Safari CHC; the company has now embarked on refurbishing Dambulla and Habarana Rest Houses (which will be re-opened on 15th October), he added.

Mr. Perera said that during last year occupancies of these properties have increased significantly. Grand Ella Motel and Kithulgalla Rest House, Belihuloya Rest House, Sigiriya Rest House and Hotel Seruwa are also being refurbished. The cost of these projects is estimated to be over Rs. 500 million.

“Hotel Mihintale, Madawachchiya Rest House, Weligama Bay Inn and Hanwella Rest House also will be refurbished thereafter,” Mr. Perera said.

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Education: Playing with the lives of children Sat, 30 Jun 2012 08:20:47 +0000 ramesh COMMENT - The recent judgment of the Supreme Court on the Z-score controversy reflects – in many ways – the crisis facing education in Sri Lanka. Previous editorials too have dealt with the issues confronting education and the need for a complete overhaul but drawn little response from government authorities except for triggering the blame game – opposition blaming ministers and calling for their resignation and ministers defending themselves.

Resigning in Sri Lanka? That’s would be like fantasy land unlike in neighbouring India where corrupt and inefficient ministers resign due to enormous pressure from the public and the media.It is still unclear how the authorities will proceed with the Supreme Court judgment particularly since the batch of 20,000 students eligible to enter universities have already been selected. Will these students still be on the chosen list or removed under the new grading system of calculating the Z-score separately with the old and new syllabus?

Or will they retain their positions while those eligible under the new grading system are also accommodated? The latter solution seems to be more consistent and just, otherwise there would be frustration, anger and what not if earlier-eligible students are removed from the new list.

In the education discourse, politicians and the authorities are in a tug-of-war, rather than sitting together and discussing it as a national problem without a political bias. We need statesmanship, not one-upmanship.What has happened to the once-widely, publicized White Paper on Education which appeared to have gone through a rigorous public discussion and comment? Is it stuck in some government agency someplace?

Without a doubt, education – apart from being the most important – is the worse-governed sector today. Here is a just a sample of the crisis: Schools don’t have sufficiently, qualified teachers; Syllabuses are not completed by schools forcing students to seek private tuition for this reason and also because the level of teaching is not good enough; The curriculum is too wide and tackles too many things rather than focus on the basics.

In today’s world, most school-going children when they enter the world of adulthood and employment have access to a computer and the worldwide web. At the press of a button, you can find for example when King Dathusena was killed and how, the history of the Roman empire or when the Dutch invaded Ceylon. There is absolutely no necessity to overload children with information that is in the public domain with access to anyone with an Internet-connected computer, when they grow up.

What children need is guidance on how to access information coupled with a basic knowledge of the tools and skills that are needed for a role in society – in  the public and private sectors.In a previous editorial dated February 27, 2011 and headlined ‘Achcharu’ system of education’, it was stated that today’s complicated education system creates misfits in society.

“Children are taught from text books but are also advised that the better guide is the teachers’ manual since question papers are generally set from this manual.”“Achcharu” is the best description of Sri Lanka’s secondary education where children in urban areas wake up at 4 am, go to school at 5 or 6 am by public transport, school van or car; at the end of school at 1.30 pm have a quick lunch or snack, go to a tuition class and end up home by 8-9 pm. Little wonder then that nowadays secondary students are suffering from nutritional problems, headaches and stress-related illnesses.”

According to a neurologist, quoted in that editorial: “Over-loading information on children will effect a brain’s fundamental ability or cognitive functions, like attention, or memory, or emotional self-regulation and as a result such children will not be able to interact with the society and events to tackle day-to-day problems. The flow of data, information and knowledge is growing exponentially, stretching the capacity of our children’s not-so-evolved brains.”

He was quoted as saying there is an urgent need to rewrite all text books used by children with the aim of relieving them from this unnecessary load of information.  Despite these concerns raised in editorials and other articles over the years, there has been no effort even by parliament to debate the crisis facing education taking a wider perspective, rather than event-based issues. Every year the authorities ‘paper the cracks’ in the education system rather than look at the bigger picture.

Politicians from all sides of the fence must share the blame for not getting together on a national calamity. The most amount of time and money spent by any family in Sri Lanka, big or small/rich or poor, is on education. Education needs is the largest component in the household budget in terms of money and time. Some parents even forgo meals to ensure their children have a decent meal or are able to pay for tuition fees, books or photocopies of past papers, etc.

Why then can’t parliament and ‘voice of the people (parliamentarians)” reflect the same attention, care and concern to education?
Rather than screaming and shouting at the two ministers in charge – Bandula Gunawardene and S.B. Dissanayake- to resign (a fool’s suggestion because it won’t happen unless they are sacked), politicians should end the blame game and together with civil society discuss a new, less-demanding but attuned today’s-world,education model. After all it’s the lives of the children and the new generations that are at stake and being tampered with, with this rampant on-off-decision-making.

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Strengthening the hand of minority shareholders Sat, 23 Jun 2012 09:09:47 +0000 ramesh A shareholder raises an issue at a preliminary meeting held in Colombo on Wednesday to discuss the formation of an association to protect minority shareholders in the stock market. The well-attended meeting, which included representatives of the Securities and Exchange Commission, was facilitated by the Business Times. (See editorial and inside for more details). Pic by Amila Praboda

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Employers’ group challenges sanctity of interpretations by the ILO committee of experts Sat, 30 Jun 2012 08:18:39 +0000 ramesh In a statement issued a few days ago to the International Labour Conference Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS), the International Organisation of Employers’ (IOE), has categorically reiterated its position that the Committee of Experts did not have a mandate to interpret international labour standards. This statement was precipitated by the Committee of Experts’ General Survey, under discussion in the CAS, on the eight Core Conventions of the ILO.

File photo shows trade union groups holding a pre-budget protest at Lipton’s Circus last year. Pix by Nilan Maligaspe

A matter of special concern was the interpretation on the right to strike given by the Committee of Experts. This is obviously a matter for Sri Lanka to be concerned as well.It should be noted that in the ILO Constitution in Article 3 a guideline is provided for the framing of Conventions and Recommendations that national conditions should be kept in mind.

The conditions mentioned are: climatic, imperfect development of industrial organization, or ‘other special circumstances which make industrial conditions substantially different’. This is why many Conventions refer to the application of Conventions ‘subject to national law and conditions’ Interestingly, the Convention on the Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively (No.98) in Article 3 states that: “machinery appropriate to national conditions shall be established, where necessary, for the purpose of ensuring respect for the right to organize as defined in the preceding articles”.

Employers have argued for long that the right to strike must be considered in a national context. The national situation must be taken account of in deciding how the right could be exercised. Convention 87, which gives the Right to Associate Freely, and which is considered a fundamental right, does not speak of the right to strike. The Convention is silent on the right to strike.

The IOE maintains that the mandate of the Committee of Experts does not give it authority to express a view which is binding as an interpretation of the Convention. Employers called for official clarification of the status of the Committee of Experts’ report, and for reaffirmation of the mandate of the Committee at its creation in 1926 as having: “no judicial capacity, nor would it be competent to give interpretations of the provisions of a Convention nor to decide in favour of one interpretation rather than of another.” The employers called for an official clarification in relation to the authority of the Committee of Experts, which request, was regrettably rejected.

This we find led to the employers not being able to agree, to a list of cases to be examined. The IOE has stated that it remains committed to its participation in the ILO’s supervisory system and has expressed willingness to resuming constructive tripartite work once this impasse is cleared.

To us in Sri Lanka the situation in Geneva is of serious concern as the word ‘strike’ has been interpreted very liberally in the past by the Committee of Experts.  The Committee of Experts has extended the use of the word ‘strike’ to  include other forms of trade union action such as work to rule, sick note campaigns and go slows. However the ILO interpretations confirm that during a strike wages are not payable which then begs the question of how one determines the rate of pay to a person who is on a ‘go slow’? Does it then mean that a person on a ‘go slow’ forfeits his/her whole pay? A sick note and a work to rule are also not strictly regarded as strikes as pointed out in my book on Employee Relations in Sri Lanka.

S.R. de Silva [Transformation of Labour Law & Relations, Stamford Lake  2004 – See pg 566]  examines the sanctity of the opinions given by the Committee of Experts and the Committee of the Freedom of Association and points out that the case law of the ILO has only moral authority and is not legally binding on member states. He points out that a finding of the International Court of Justice would have a different impact.

He cites the case of the Federation of Offshore Workers Trade Unions and the Norwegian State, where the Supreme Court held that the nation was not bound by the interpretations of the Conventions given by these Committees but would be, only if in terms of Art 37 of the ILO Constitution, if the decision was made by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). He cites the case of the Federation of Offshore Workers Trade Unions and the Norwegian State, where the Supreme Court held that the nation was not bound by the interpretations of the Conventions alone. It is also useful to note that in some countries it has been clearly held that the fundamental right to the freedom of association gave the right to freedom of assembly but not the right to strike which could be curtailed. In Collymore vs Attorney General, the Privy Council held that under the Constitution of Trinidad the legislation which prevented strikes and lockouts and imposed compulsory arbitration was not in violation of the freedom of assembly guaranteed under the said constitution. The Indian Courts have taken a similar view in holding that the constitutional right to form associations or unions did not include the right to collective bargaining or to strike.

The Supervisory bodies of the ILO recognize the distinction between the Freedom to Associate for Public Servants and the Right to Strike [See ILO Principles concerning the Right to Strike, Gernogon -2000]. The Committee on Freedom of Association and the Committee of Experts agree that when public servants are not granted the right to strike, they should enjoy sufficient guarantees to protect their interest, including appropriate, impartial and prompt conciliation, and arbitration procedures; to ensure that all parties participate at all stages, and in which arbitration decisions are binding on both parties and are fully and promptly applied.

Where they are excluded from the right to strike it should be on the basis of objective standards adopted of the nature of the functions performed. Categories which are usually associated with valid restrictions are officers belonging to ministries, comparable government bodies, those belonging to the system of the administration of justice and staff of the judiciary.The Committee of Experts has defined an Essential Service as “the interruption of which, would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population”
The Committee recognizes that what is essential in particular circumstances prevailing in a country need to be borne in mind.

It also recognizes that what is not “Essential” may become so beyond a certain time or where it extends beyond a certain scope, thus endangering the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. It is surprising that the lapse of time is necessary for the rule to be brought into play as a situation of future impact of such a nature should also be given recognition. It also does not provide for situations of danger to individuals.

A general prohibition is permissible in the event of a national emergency, according to the Committee. The limitation must be for a limited time and to the extent needed to meet the requirements of the situation. Serious conflict, insurrection or natural disaster, are some such situations.

The ILO appears to accept the requirements of minimum services in sectors where the safety of persons, the prevention of accidents and the safety of machinery and equipment is involved. If there is a disagreement with regard to numbers required or the nature of the duties, the legislation of the country should provide for the dispute to be settled by an independent body other than the Ministry of Labour or Public Service.

The Indian Supreme Court in a petition brought by Public Sector Employees in the State of Tamil Nadu held that in India there was no fundamental right to strike. This decision was in accordance with a long line of authorities in India commencing from 1960. It is interesting that the principle followed was that each person’s fundamental right (freedom to associate in this instance) cannot be exercised to the detriment of the fundamental rights of others. In Sri Lanka as pointed out by in my book, the employer has a guaranteed constitutional right to pursue his business without interference.

Strikes in Sri Lanka  
A legal strike could take place even in the absence of a dispute and there is no requirement to give prior notice. It only requires an ‘acting in concert’, or in combination, or by common understanding. A spontaneous action by a group of workers to down tools would be a strike, whether they belong to a union or not. A strike would be illegal if it is in violation of an Essential Service Order under the Public Security Ordinance or the Industrial Disputes Act, or is in violation of a Collective Agreement, Award, Order or Settlement in terms of the Industrial Disputes Act. A strike is also illegal if it is during the pendency of an arbitration or industrial court reference.

Decision of the Supreme Court
The case of the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), et al vs. SLPA, JSS et al.  SC (FR) Application no.248/06 is worth examining as we should regard the judgment as a clear pronouncement of the law regarding ‘go slows’ in Sri Lanka.  JAAF, consisting of 90% of the apparel exporters in the country, pleaded that they were the mainstay of the economy in that their export amounted to a billion rupees per day and that from the 13th July 2006 there had been a go slow in the Port of Colombo called by the unions named as respondents, because they had a dispute regarding their wages with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), the employer. The efficiency of the port had dropped to below 60%, it was alleged.

The petition alleged that the loss was to the national economy, in addition to the loss to the members of the JAAF and would have an impact on the earnings of workers employed in the factories. Although no reference seems to have been made to this fact, another important consideration was that perhaps the late deliveries of goods under order could also have had the consequence of cancellations in the future, since delivery on time is a sacred obligation. This could have had serious implications for the economy of the country.

The Court permitted the petitioners to proceed with the application for relief on the ground that the action of the unions was an infringement of the fundamental rights of the members of the JAAF as guaranteed by Articles 12(1) and 14(1)(g) of the Costitution.
The Court accepted the contention of the petitioners that irreparable loss was being caused by the day and there was justification for granting an interim injunction restraining the ‘go slow’ until the determination of the case.

The Court accepted that ‘go slow’ was not legitimate trade union action and was as described by an Indian Court a ‘pernicious practice’ of deliberately slowing down production. The Court stated that this amounted to misconduct and an unfair labour practice.The order of the Supreme Court was reported to the ILO by the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) in a communication dated the 27th September 2006.

The ILO took up the complaint through its Committee on Freedom of Association in Case no.2519 and the report is now contained in the 348th Report of the Committee.  The Committee in its report notes that the unions did not seem to contest that ‘go slow’ would amount to misconduct warranting disciplinary action, but at paragraph 1143 gives its conclusion that:  “ As concerns the alleged illegality of the go slow action, the Committee recalls that, regardless of whether the action in question is a ‘work to rule’  or actually a ‘go slow’, it has always recognized the right to strike by workers as a legitimate means of defending their economic and social interests, and that various types of strike action (wildcat strikes, tools down, go slow, work too rule and sit down strikes) fall within the scope of this principle: restrictions regarding these various types of action may be justified only if the strike ceases to  be peaceful.”

When one reads the statement carefully, it seems as if the Committee is saying that the ‘illegality’ is not an issue and the only issue is whether it is a ‘go slow’ which then legitimizes the conduct which becomes prohibited only if it ceases to be peaceful! What if the ‘sit in’ which is referred to by them as acceptable means that all other employees are prevented from leaving the premises? Unless it leads to violence on the part of those confined, the Committee would approve of the sit in although it is a criminal offence, being wrongful restraint? A ‘go slow’ which results in materials perishing cannot also be prevented? In some industries unless a process is continued in a systematic, uninterrupted run, the machinery may be ruined as in the case of rubber and plastics.

Our Courts have shown that they would intervene in the best interests of the economy or where social tensions may develop. The possibility of the Supreme Court examining an issue when there is a breach of the fundamental rights of an employer is also underscored by this ruling. The Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) through its Director General Ravi Pieris has apprised the ILO of the position in Sri Lanka and supported the position of the IOE.

(The writer is a former  EFC Director General)

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