New Labour Code draft to be finalized in May
The first draft of a new Labour Code which will be more comprehensive but flexible than the existing complex labour laws in the country, will be completed by May. Trade unions, entrepreneurs, and anyone who have proposals to the new labour laws can submit their views and opinions, Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said.
Speaking at a news conference held at the Labour and Foreign Employment Ministry,the Minister stated that interested parties can forward their ideas and views to the Labour Ministry regarding the preparation of the new labour code. He said an opportunity will be given even to meet high ranking officials in the Ministry.
The minister also stated that even after preparing the draft in May, it will be open for amendments.
The minister further said: There has been much talk about labour laws. On the one hand, investors complain about the labour laws, on the other hand, the workers also complain about them.
Today at a time when the whole country is changing, we have to change the current set of outdated labour laws as well. There are about 40 Acts related to labour laws which are very old. Out of this only 16 Acts are currently being used. There are separate Acts for Trade Union activities, Compensation, Maternity Benefits, Industrial Disputes, Labour in Shops and Offices and Termination of Employment.
“We have to pay attention to a large number of Acts to understand what the labour laws are in our country. An entrepreneur who starts a business in our country cannot understand the labour law in our country. When a worker wants to know his labour rights, it is difficult to explain them. Especially when workers try to solve their grievances, they have to waste years of their time. Organizations also have a situation where if an employee does not have the required skills, that employee cannot be removed. There is a lot of confusion related to the current complex labour laws in the country.
“A woman cannot work at night. According to the law in this country, no one can do part-time jobs. If the productivity of an employee hired by an organization is low, organizations cannot deal with it. You can stay in the company even if you don’t work. There is no removal method.
“Will foreign investors come to Sri Lanka in this kind of situation? Sri Lanka has become a country with less attractive for doing business in the world because of the weaknesses of this labour law code. If we want to attract more foreign investors, if we want to see local entrepreneurs starting new businesses, these labour laws have to be changed,” he said.
There are many barriers in these laws to improve efficiency, productivity and giving workers the opportunity to earn more income. This is why we have created a program that will strengthen the workforce and attract investors.
“We will present the draft the new labour law code by May. We expect to present it to the cabinet of ministers.
There is a lot of criticism regarding the labour law in our country. Because of this, trade unions, investors, entrepreneurs, and anyone with an independent opinion can send their proposals to the Ministry of Labour. We are ready to give opportunity for anyone who wants to meet and share their ideas. We will arrange a time to meet. Even after the initial draft is prepared, it will be open for amendments.
Today, there are less than 100,000 EPF and ETF paying institutions in our country. The number of taxpaying establishments is less than 300,000. How small is the number of business establishments in Sri Lanka? We provide the best possible support to the labour sector to increase the number of business institutions and entrepreneurs in the country.
According to the Assets Liabilities Act, all union leaders are required to provide assets and liabilities statements. But till now, no trade union leader has given such statements. Therefore, the Labour Ministry Secretary is working to get their asset and liability statements.
“We stand for workers’ rights. But when they abuse such rights at times for the sake of their political interests, we have to take appropriate actions. We will not allow unions to take children as hostages and economic activities hindered for political interests. Today our youth want to do part time jobs. Women are requested to be given the opportunity to work at night and overtime in fields like IT. When they go to fulfill those demands, union leaders come and protest against them. Some are working to protect their outdated trade unions. We will do the right thing no matter how unpopular they are and no matter how much criticism is leveled against us. We protect the trade unions that truly stand for the rights and welfare of the workers,”the Minister said.