JVP demands voting rights for migrant workers


By Dilanthi Jayamanne

Secretary of Ethera Api organisation and former JVP Parliamentarian, Lakshman Nipunarachchi, yesterday said that about 3,200 migrant employees had urged the Ministry of foreign employment to grant their demands.

Addressing the media at the Central Bank Building, Nipunarachchi said 1,200 migrant Lanka workers employed in Kuwait and 2,000 from Dubai had submitted to the ‘Ethera Api’ a petition which was over to Minister of Foreign Employment, Thalatha Athukorala. The petitioners have demanded that the Sri Lankan government make arrangements for those employed abroad to vote at national elections.

They have also demanded a minimum wage for those who work as housemaids, a pension scheme for migrant employees, expediting procedures for retrieving the bodies of Sri Lankan migrant employees who die while in service, procuring compensation following court cases in countries that employ them, securing the social security scheme for Sri Lankans who have served in Cyprus for a long period, a tax concessions for foreign employees who ship the vehicles or electrical items they used while serving abroad and admission of thier children to government schools.

Nipunarachchi said that in many instances migrant workers had to admit their children to International schools as the state-run schools did not accommodate them.

The Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Employment, G. S. Withanage, outlining the solutions that the Ministry had already found for some of the workers’ problems, said that bilateral agreements had already been entered into regarding the minimum wage for unskilled workers.

Withanage said that the Colombo Process, a Regional Consultative Process on the management of overseas employment and contractual labour, too, had focused on outlining a minimum wage limit this year.

Minister of Foreign Employment, Thalatha Athukorala, said that working out a system to enable migrant workers to exercise their franchise from the countries where they were employed would take some time. There were mechanisms that needed to be worked out, she said.

She said that amendments would have to be made in the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Act, No. 21 of 1985 to stipulate minimum wages for housemaids and other unskilled workers.

The minister observed that several other demands such as a pension scheme and tax concessions for vehicles would have to be worked out with the Finance Ministry.

She said that according to a court verdict the number of children in a classroom had been restricted to 35. That was the first time that foreign employees had asked for admitting their children to government schools. She said that the issue would have to be discussed with the Ministry of Education.

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