'Private and semi-state workers ignored in Maithri manifesto'


Private and semi-state workers have not been mentioned in common Opposition Presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena's polls manifesto titled, 'A Compassionate Maithri Governance – A stable Country', the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union Joint Secretary Anton Marcus said in a press release.

The release:

‘The common Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena launched his manifesto December 19 titled "A Compassionate Maiithri Governance - A Stable Country"’ to a society that aspires a "Change" at the forthcoming 2015 January presidential elections.

‘For the private sector workers, past few years were a period of growing difficulties and deepening crises. As a trade union representing the private sector in the National Labour Advisory Committee, we therefore paid special attention to the manifesto of candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

‘It is now reported there are 2.25 million active worker members in the Employees’ Provident Fund. Employed in the private and the semi State sectors, they are all citizens of this country. Counting dependents of these workers as well, they total a minimum of 4.5 million voters out of -the total 15 million registered for the coming elections. That is 32% of the total votes in the country. Out of this number, a large majority workers in BOI approved export industries and in the plantation sector are those who earn much needed foreign inoorne to the country. "Sri Lanka’s Economic and Social Statistics Report – 2013" compiled by the Central Bank of SL records this export income as Rs. 52,561 million.

‘Yet, candidate Maithripala Sirisena’s manifesto, "‘A Compassionate Maiithri Governance-A Stable Country" has absolutely no mention about them. Instead his manifesto promises to write-off all debts including the initial payment of Rs. 50,000 on motorcycles that were recently given duty free as election bribes by the Rajapaksa regime. He also promises to increase salaries of the state sector by another Rs. 10,000, over and above the minimum wage increase to Rs. 25,000 offered in the 2015 Budget proposals, saying they are people burdened by debt.

‘Common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena forgets that the minimum wage’ of workers who earn 30.4% of the export income is only Rs. 10,500. Majority of them are not even covered by the Wages Boards. in fact Wages Boards in this country don’t even decide on a minimum living wage, Over time, they have turned into a tool manipulated by employers with state patronage and outdated representations in them.

‘In such exploitative and unjust contest, where foreign investors are safeguarded unconditionally over citizens of this country, every government left all private sector workers without justice. Thus employers have gained the right to decide wages, allowances and working conditions of the private sector workers. They are given a privileged preference as investors to override workers’ rights ignoring labour laws of the country. This has led even courts to decide against constitutionally upheld rights and ILO conventions that guarantee the workers,’ right to association and the right to collective ‘bargaining, that Sri Lanka has ratified and is a signatory to.

‘With investors and employers promised very attractive concessions on duty, power and energy and with promises for infrastructure improvement, while wholly neglecting the workers who labour in these factories, it is very evident, candidate Maithripala Sirisena’s Compassionate Maithrl Governance will not be compassionate at all in doing justice to the heavily exploited private sector workers. But, let us stress here, these workers whose rights are allowed to be violated at will, while they earn much needed foreign income to the country, controls 32% of the votes at this coming elections. We also wish to note here, if there is any genuine intention in rectifying this serious omission, there is yet time for that.

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