Labour leaders flex muscle, stage walkout

Over neglected workers’ problems

By Lal Gunesekera

All Trade Union representatives in the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) staged a walkout of the meeting held at 3 p.m. yesterday (4) for the first time in the history of the council.

General Secretary of the Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers Union (CMU) Bala Tampoe told The Island that the walkout had been staged in protest against the failure on the part of Labour Minister Gamini Lokuge and his ministry to give due consideration to crucial issues affecting the workers such as the non-implementation of the National Workers’ Charter, delay in formulating a reliable Cost of living index in consultation with the workers’ representatives and the investment of EPF and ETF funds in shaky ventures, among other things.

Trade union leaders said the meetings due to be held in May and June this year had been cancelled at very short notice with no reasons given and that the agendas were determined arbitrarily by the Ministry of Labour.

The Labour Minister was reminded that he had agreed last year to arrange a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, particularly with regard to the implementation of the National Workers' Charter, but he had not made good his promise. He was requested to convey the issues the workers’ unions had taken up to the President before the next meeting of the NLAC, fixed for August 14.

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