3 – Regular violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Sri Lanka

The ITUC affiliates in Sri Lanka are the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), the National Workers’ Congress (NWC) and the Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya (SLNSS).

In practice

Browse by:

Court injunction to prevent strike by bank workers’ union 14-12-2015
Sacked strikers still awaiting justice31-08-2015

In August 2015 a case was filed at the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, seeking reinstatement and compensation for workers sacked by Australian latex manufacturer Ansell. The company dismissed the 289 workers, mostly women, in December 2013, in a dispute over pay. Initially 11 workers were dismissed for trying to organise industrial action industrial action Any form of action taken by a group of workers, a union or an employer during an industrial dispute to gain concessions from the other party, e.g. a strike, go-slow or an overtime ban, or a lockout on the part of the employer. over low pay - which the profitable company wanted to reduce even further - long hours and appalling working conditions, after attempts at negotiation had failed. This prompted the remaining workers to go on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. Those who did not respond to a return-to-work order were promptly dismissed, and many had not found work since.

Union busting at Lanka Hospitals14-06-2015

The president of Inter Company Employees’ Union, Wasantha Samarasinghe, reported at a press conference on 14 June that Lanka Hospitals, a semi-government organisation, had dismissed employees and did not recognise the trade union of more than 1300 employees. He believed the dismissals were aimed at destroying the union, which was demanding a pay rise for private sector workers.

Hospital workers’ leader arrested31-07-2015

Samantha Koralearachchi, president of All Ceylon Health Services Union, was arrested at Chilaw hospital on 30 July. He was charged with illegal entrance and conducting a political meeting. The union filed a complaint with the human rights commission claiming wrongful arrest, and stating that Mr Koralearachchi had entered the hospital with the permission of the hospital director and political leaflets were not distributed. Two months earlier Mr Koralearachchi and the health services union had led a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, including a protest march by 40,000 workers, to demand the payment of salary arrears.

Ansell Lanka engaged in union busting 22-03-2013

Ansell Lanka Pvt. located in the Biyagama Export Promotion Zone (BEPZ export processing zone A special industrial area in a country where imported materials are processed before being re-exported. Designed to attract mostly foreign investors by offering incentives such as exemptions from certain trade barriers, taxes, business regulations, and/or labour laws. ) refuses to recognise the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union as a bargaining agent bargaining agent A workers’ representative authorised to bargain collectively on behalf of workers in a bargaining unit.

See collective bargaining
. Branch leaders have been attacked and dismissed and members have been prejudiced for seeking to defend their rights. In October 2013, Ansell sacked almost 300 workers for protesting against the company’s decision to discriminate against union leaders and members. The workers remained out of work four months after having been sacked.

Trade unionists have faced anti-union discrimination anti-union discrimination Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

by management since early 2013. For example, on 22 March 2013, management deducted half a day’s wage of workers who had complained about the fact that they were not provided with meals.

On 10 April 2013, two unknown motorcycle riders attacked the union branch president, Athula Kamal, in Kiribathgoda.

On 2 May 2013, Ansell Lanka dismissed two committee members of the branch union and another active union member without giving them the opportunity to respond to the disciplinary charges that had been laid against them. A female committee member was also suspended from work on 9 April 2013. On 29 May 2013, workers were coerced to sign a letter of consent accepting an increased production target without being able to consult with the union. After protests and a written complaint to the Minister of Labour, management finally permitted inspectors to the company on 16 July 2013.

On 10 October 2013, management suspended Athula Kamal for having complained to police about the assault on him in April. When workers protested against management’s decision by going on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
14 October 2013, the Assistant Commissioner of Labour of Colombo Central tried to arrange a mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
meeting between the two parties and asked management to reinstate Athula Kamal.

Instead, management decided to dismiss Athula Kamal and ten union leaders and two union members who had gone on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
.

The Labour Ministry called for compulsory arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
on 29 November 2013.

While the arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
order the workers to return to work, Ansell Lanka refused to allow them to do so. Instead, Ansell required the workers to apply for employment.

Striking railway workers attacked and arrested 21-04-2014

On 22 April 2014, Sri Lankan police violently assaulted dozens of protesting substitute railway workers at Colombo’s Fort Railway Station. Five workers were arrested.

The railway workers had begun a “fast until death” protest on 21 April 2014 outside the railway station to demand job permanency.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Railway Employees’ Union (SLFRE), which is affiliated to President Mahinda Rajapakse’s ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party, called the protest to try and deflect rising anger among the more than 3,000 railway workers who have been employed as temporary hands for about six years and fear that they could lose their jobs at any time. The Railway Department recently terminated the employment of 15 technical assistants.

Sri Lankan Transport Minister Kumara Welgama visited the protest, just before the police attack, promising to grant permanency to all workers and calling on them to end their action. While SLFRE officials promptly obeyed and called-off the “fasting” protest, the substitute railway workers did not trust the Minister’s undertaking. At about 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, hundreds of angry workers, chanting their demands, gathered inside the station and blocked the coastal railway line.

Within minutes, hundreds of riot police equipped with automatic rifles, batons, tear gas and water cannons stormed the station and attacked the protestors. Some workers were beaten and dragged along the railway platforms.

Shoe factory sacks workers for forming union01-12-2013

Palla & Co, a supplier of Swiss shoe company Bata, sacked almost 200 workers for organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. a trade union and seeking to bargain collectively in December 2013.

The workers involved were also added to a blacklist of union agitators, making it impossible for them to find another job.

As a consequence, 100 of the sacked workers were still seeking reinstatement at Palla as at 11 December 2014.

Contrary to its corporate code of conduct, Bata pulled out completely from Palla in late 2013. The appropriate action would have been to ensure that the factory reinstated the sacked workers, recognised the union, and paid the wage increases that were due.

Union calls for report on killing of a FTZ worker in 201131-05-2011

A trade union in Sri Lanka has called on the new government to release the report compiled by former High Court Judge Mahanama Tillekeratne after probing the killing of free trade zone (FTZ) worker Roshen Chanaka.

Roshen Chanaka was killed on May 31, 2011 during a protest by FTZ workers against the proposed private sector pension plan, which they alleged would result in the former government plundering into funds of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).

Head of the FTZ workers’ union, Anton Marcus, has told the media that a letter has already been written to the office of President Maithripala Sirisena about the matter, since the earlier administration had apparently kept the report in limbo for the past several years.

He has added that while Chanaka was killed, some 260 other factory workers were injured following the assault on protestors by police personnel in 2011.

Group of men attack workers and child01-06-2014

On 1 June 2014, a group of men attacked a group of striking union members, assaulting them with swords and throwing a sleeping child from his bed. Five people, including the child, were hospitalised.

The general secretary of the Inter Company Employees’ Union, comrade Janaka Adikari, reported that the police had refused to accept a complaint regarding a group of armed men loitering in the village, lodged by several employees and villagers earlier on 1 June.

That night, the men attacked the employees. Comrade Janaka Adikari stated that even though the police were informed of the possibility of an attack, and were advised immediately of the actual attack, the police failed to arrest the group responsible.

Moreover, while the attackers have not been arrested, a Puttalam district judge has ordered the arrest of the employees who were admitted to hospital.

Workers remain under attack in 201421-01-2015

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the UK has listed Sri Lanka as a country of concern in the field of workers’ rights.

In its report Sri Lanka - country of concern: update 31 December 2014, as published 21 January 2015, the FCO reported that groups exercising their right of assembly continue to face challenges. Protesting fishermen were pelted with stones, resulting in three being hospitalised. Two union leaders were allegedly subjected to assault by unidentified groups on 25 October. The Free Trade Zone and General Employees Services Union, in a letter to the Inspector General of Police, noted “it is clear that our trade union leaders are being suppressed systematically”.

Posters vilifying leading civil society figures organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. an event to commemorate the disappeared were discovered on 25 October, and stones were thrown at the residence of Brito Fernando, the chief organiser of this event.

On 22 December 2014, students protesting over education rights were reportedly attacked by police. The students attempted to storm the University Grants Commission gates, and were initially dispersed with water cannons and tear gas, but were allegedly seriously assaulted, with 28 students being hospitalised. Student unions claim that it was “a disproportionate response”.

Ansell Lanka is engaging in union busting29-11-2013

Ansell Lanka Pvt. Located in the Biyagama Export Promotion Zone (BEPZ export processing zone A special industrial area in a country where imported materials are processed before being re-exported. Designed to attract mostly foreign investors by offering incentives such as exemptions from certain trade barriers, taxes, business regulations, and/or labour laws. ) refuses to recognise the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union as a bargaining agent bargaining agent A workers’ representative authorised to bargain collectively on behalf of workers in a bargaining unit.

See collective bargaining
. Trade unionists face anti-union discrimination anti-union discrimination Any practice that disadvantages a worker or a group of workers on grounds of their past, current or prospective trade union membership, their legitimate trade union activities, or their use of trade union services. Can constitute dismissal, transfer, demotion, harassment and the like.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

by management since early 2013. On 22 March 2013, management deducted half a day’s wage of workers who had complained about the fact that they were not provided with meals. On 10 April 2013, the union branch president Athula Kamal was attacked by two unknown motorcycle riders in Kiribathgoda. Six months later, on 10 October 2013, management suspended Athula Kamal for having complained to police about the assault. Workers protested against this decision by going on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
14 October 2013, the Assistant Commissioner of Labour of Colombo Central mediated a meeting between the two parties and asked management to reinstate Athula Kamal. However, management decided to dismiss him and ten union leaders and two union members who had gone on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. When management refused to attend mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
meetings, the Labour Ministry called for compulsory arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
on 29 November 2013. Workers were obliged to return to work, however Ansell Lanka refused to allow them to report back to work. Instead workers were asked to apply for employment.

On 2 May 2013, Ansell Lanka dismissed 2 committee members of the branch union and another active union member without giving them the opportunity to respond to the disciplinary charges which had been laid against them. A female committee member was also suspended from work on 9 April 2013. On 29 May 2013, workers were coerced to sign a letter of consent accepting an increased production target without being able to consult with the union. After protests and a written complaint to the Minister of Labour, management finally permitted inspectors to the company on 16 July 2013.

Anti-union discrimination31-08-2012
Threats against trade unionists31-01-2012

In January 2012, Ranjan Jayalal, a trade union leader affiliated to Sri Lanka’s power sector, reportedly received death threats. He received calls on his mobile phone from an anonymous caller threatening to kill him and his family if the trade union action in the Ceylon Electricity Board was not stopped.

Refusal to bargain in the education sector31-08-2012

In November 2012, the Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) stated that the Ministry of Education was refusing to negotiate with workers over wages and budget allocations for the education sector.

Government attempts to prevent strike action20-05-2013

It has been reported that the Government is using various tactics to prevent workers from staging a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
demanding the withdrawal of the increased electricity tariff. For example, several state departments and statutory bodies have received letters from ministry secretaries asking them to cancel employee leave and to ensure that they are present at work on the day the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
is planned. The government has also sent circulars to various schools directing the school principals to ask teachers to sign the attendance register three times over the course of the day to ensure they do not participate in the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
.

Employees’ Councils31-12-2011

Employees’ Councils are promoted by the Board of Investment (BIO) as a substitute for trade unions in the export processing zones (EPZ export processing zone A special industrial area in a country where imported materials are processed before being re-exported. Designed to attract mostly foreign investors by offering incentives such as exemptions from certain trade barriers, taxes, business regulations, and/or labour laws. s). Employees’ councils are, however, structures funded by and functioning under the aegis of the employer and can influence workers’ choices much more easily than a union (where the workers elect their leaders and can act independently as the organisation is financed by the dues paid by its members). In some cases, management refuses to recognise an emerging trade union and will “negotiate” directly with the Employees’ Council as if it were the workers’ legitimate representative body. In other cases, it will offer employee council members certain advantages if they do not join a union and threaten them if they do.

A study by the ITGLWF (International Textile, Garment And Leather Workers Federation) in the export processing zones found that at least six factories in the zones banned all union representation and did not even respect the BOI guidelines on creating employees councils.

Nurses intimidated following stoppage26-10-2010

The Government Nursing Officers Association (GNOA) called a three-hour stoppage on 25 October following the Labour Ministry’s failure to respond to their demands. The GNOA took every step necessary to ensure that the emergency services would continue to operate during the stoppage. Nonetheless, on 26 October, the director general of health services ordered all the hospital directors to draw up a list of the nurses that had taken part in the union action and force them to set out the reasons behind their acts, deeming they had committed an offence and that disciplinary action could be taken against them. On 22 November, the GNOA filed a complaint with the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
denouncing the intimidation of workers exercising the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
.

Discrimination in the nomination of delegates to the International Labour Conference01-06-2010

The Trade Union Confederation, which brings together nine trade unions representing workers in the public and private sectors, denounced that it was discriminated against in the nomination of delegates to the International Labour Conference in June 2010. It underlined that the Labour Ministry lacks impartiality in its selection of delegates and gives more weight to political considerations than to the “most representative union most representative union The union which represents the largest number of workers in a bargaining unit. Can be awarded exclusive representation, by which it becomes the sole union authorised to represent the workers for the purpose of collective bargaining. ” criterion.

Derisory fines31-12-2010
EPZs - A long tradition of anti-unionism30-12-2010
Poor enforcement of legislation on union recognition31-12-2010

The recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. of unions for collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
purposes is hindered by excessive delays. Employers try to delay the holding of union elections for as long as possible and use this time to identify, victimise and, very often, fire the union activists concerned. As a result, workers generally refrain from voting, for fear of being identified, and the union fails to secure the number of votes required for it to be recognised. Employers go as far as to change their staffing figures to ensure the 40% representation target (deemed excessive by the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
) is even harder to reach.

Where an employer refuses to recognise a union for collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
purposes, the union can complain to the Commissioner General of Labour, who organises a referendum at the workplace. There is generally a very long wait, however, before such a referendum is actually held.

Economic crisis used as pretext to delay social dialogue or close factories 30-11-2008

According to the Sri Lankan trade unions, many employers have used the economic crisis to take a harder line in collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. Moreover, workers faced with an employer’s refusal to enter into social dialogue social dialogue Discussion and co-operation between the social partners on matters of common interest, such as economic and social policy. Involves participation by the state where tripartism is practice. get little support from the authorities. On the contrary, in sectors such as clothing and construction, the authorities favour flexible employment relationships.

According to the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union (FTZ&GSEU) some employers are using the economic crisis as a pretext to close unionised factories. The FTZ&GSEU cites the case of Sinotex Lanka, a clothing factory run by the Hong Kong group Cristal Martin, which closed its two factories in January after 27 years in Sri Lanka without respecting the legislation concerning the compensation to be paid to its 2,500 workers (mainly women).

Four additions to the list of essential services 31-10-2009

In mid-November the government declared that four new services would be considered as essential: water and electricity distribution, port activities and the oil sector. The decision came after wild cat strikes linked to pay demands.

Public sector trade union federations tolerated30-11-2009

Although the law prohibits federations of public sector trade unions, there are a few such federations operating openly such as the Public Service National Trade Union Federation (PSNTUF) and the Ceylon Trade Union Federation (CTUF). These federations do not engage in collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
, however, as they are not legally recognised as trade unions.

Weak enforcement of union recognition law30-11-2008

The recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. of unions for collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
purposes is dogged by excessive delays. Employers tend to delay the holding of polls for the creation of trade unions for a long time and use this time to identify, victimise and, frequently, fire the union activists concerned. In the worst cases, activists have been physically assaulted and threatened with death. As a result, workers are afraid of being identified with the union, and the union loses the poll. To prevent such situations, the unions would like to hold their elections within four weeks of sending the application for recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. of the union.

Employers change their staffing figures to ensure the 40% representation target (excessive by ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
standards) is even harder to meet. Where an employer refuses to recognise a union for collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
purposes, the union can complain to the Commissioner General of Labour, who holds a referendum at the workplace (but it can be a long time before the referendum takes place). If it is then found that the 40% requirement has been met, the Commissioner directs the employer to recognise the union.

© ITUC-CSI-IGB 2013 | www.ituc-csi.org | Contact Design by Pixeleyes.be - maps: jVectorMap