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Govt plans for unified social security system for entire labour force

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Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said that a new social security programme covering the entire labourforce of the country will be presented to the Cabinet within the next three months and a common social security system will be prepared by combining all the social security systems that have been implemented so far.

The Minister said that the first meeting of the committee that was established related to the implementation of this social security programme was held recently and accordingly, steps will be taken to submit its report to the Cabinet within the next three months.

Minister Nanayakkara said this during the meeting held yesterday (10) with plumbers and painters under the ‘Garu Saru’ programme initiated by the Labour and Foreign Employment Ministry to give respect and protection to the labour of all those employed in the informal sector in Sri Lanka.

The Minister also said: “When decisions are taken inside rooms and then taken to the people, it is difficult to plant them on the ground as they are not practical. That’s why we are working to launch programmes like this to get the people’s opinions and provide answers to their problems.

“Accordingly, the ‘Garu Saru’ programme was implemented. Under this programme, we expect to create professional dignity and safety in the entire workforce of the country. We launched this programme to give respect and protection to all the workers in the informal sector who have not received proper respect and protection for a long time.

“We still don’t have a method or standard to use for the work done by plumbers. Until such a standard is implemented, these professions will not get the due respect they deserve.

“Also, if we want to paint, we bring a few people to paint, but there is no method to find out what is the suitability of that person to do it.

“I recently received an invitation from a foreign country to provide painters for employment. They also said that they have the ability to earn about Rs. 12 lakhs in Sri Lankan money as monthly wages.

“I called for an interview accordingly. Painters from across our country came for it. But none of those people were selected because we have not adapted to the level of training or standards that they expect to do that job.

“In fact, we are a little behind in terms of the methods we follow. So if we can create standards in this regard then your profession will be able to get proper respect.

“We need to build your career to that level. But that is not something that is in the scope of our Ministry. They should be prepared through other institutions. Everyone has a collective responsibility here. Also, as the Labour Minister, I have a responsibility to treat all the workers of this country equally.

“We are first talking about 20 areas as a pilot programme under the ‘Garu Saru’ programme.

“However, with your participation, we hope to establish an organization similar to the Lawyers’ Association, the Medical Association and the Architects’ Association. This is a professional association recognized by the government. But the most important thing we need to understand is that this is not just another trade union.

“The laws related to this have been prepared under the new Employment Insurance Act. Also, a separate chapter for professional dignity has been introduced under the new Act.

“The Board that you form today will determine your standards. We are working to provide them to other government institutions.

“We have been able to create a situation where an architect’s signature is required during construction and who is doing the wiring to be stipulated at the same time as the plan is approved. With that, we have worked to give respect to the skilled workers who are involved in the wiring profession.

“You are the one who makes the rules and standards related to your profession. After giving them to me, they will be gazetted and work will be done to give them legal status.

“You can also arrange to introduce a licensing system. You have to decide the necessary qualifications for that too. That way anyone can’t engage in your profession. Only someone who has a licence will be able to practise your profession. These established committees or organizations do not have officials from government institutions. Only you are in them.

“Also, the programme has now started to bring together all working people who do not contribute to a social security system into a social security network. The first meeting of the related committee was held recently.

“After three to four months, we have to present to the Cabinet a system for including the entire Sri Lankan workforce in a social security system. We are currently doing related activities on this matter.

“We are working to establish an insurance system to cover those in case of job loss, a system to take care of those when they are unemployed due to old age or physical disabilities.

“For this purpose, we have to do a study of the working methods of foreign countries like Indonesia, USA, Australia, and we are prepared to take appropriate decisions by getting the support of the International Labour Organization.”

Minister Nanayakkara added that in future they hope to implement a common programme for all working people in the country instead of so many separate funds called EPF, a separate fund called ETF, as well as so many insurance schemes, agricultural insurances and other different insurance systems. He said that all necessary arrangements are being made for that and that the Ministry officials are now working towards this programme.

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