Sri Lanka - Employees’ Councils (2012)

Employees’ Councils are promoted by the Board of Investment (BIO) as a substitute for trade unions in the export processing zones (EPZs). 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.

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