Labour reps complain of being barred from tribunals

Poor workers refrain from seeking legal remedies due to high costs

By Cyril Wimalasurendre

KANDY – Barring of labour representatives from appearing for poor litigants at labour Tribunals under the present government is a gross violation of human rights of workers, says the All Island Labour Tribunal Representatives Association.

As the workers’ representatives are not allowed to be at labour tribunals, petitioners who were mostly labourers were compelled to refrain from seeking redress mainly because they could not afford to retain lawyers, said Secretary of the All Island Labour Tribunal Representatives Association S. Bandara told a recent press briefing in Kandy.

 Bandara said, addressing the media last Saturday, that often lawyers charged more than Rs. 4,500 from a petitioner to file a case and per appearance. A aggrieved worker without employment could not afford such huge sums, he said.   

Representatives were sometimes they appeared in Labour Tribunals free of charges on behalf of poor petitioners, Bandra said, adding that the representatives generally charged affordable fees.

 The labour representatives had been appearing for their clients since the Labour Tribunals were founded by Minister T. B. Illangaratne more than 60 years ago and the workers had benefited tremendously therefrom, Bandara said.

But now, some labour tribunals did not permit representatives to appear for workers, he added. Representatives were barred from appearance in Labour Tribunals of Chilaw, Negambo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Avissawella, Maharagama to name a few, Bandara said.

 The injustice had been reported to the President, The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Labour, but to no avail, he said.

In case the authorities failed to rectify the injustice the organisation would be compelled to take some drastic action and the representatives might be compelled to resort to a hunger strike, Bandara warned.

 A Labour Representative C. V. N. Cabral said the authorities were now acting in violation of the policy introduced by late T. B. Ilangaratne.

Veteran Labour Representative A. P. C. Perera said the present government was doing what not even J. R. Jayewardene had thought of doing. Perera urged President Maithripala Sirisena to solve the problem. Labour Representatives, V. S. Kanapathy Pillai, Swarna Weerakoon, K. A. Wimalaratne and few others also spoke at the media conference.

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