Sri Lanka: Global unions oppose law that seeks to curtail labour rights

Different Global Union Federations (GUF), including the Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI), and trade union solidarity support organisations join the Sri Lankan trade union movement in condemning the proposed "Single Employment Bill," which contains provisions that clearly violate international law, including proposals to cut wages and undermine the country's workers' trade union rights. The proposed plan, dubbed a "slave labour bill" by Sri Lankan trade unions, seeks to repeal 13 existing labour rules that have resulted from years of social dialogue.

Subash Karunarathna, General Secretary of the BWI-affiliated National Building and Woodworkers Union (NBWU), said that the bill aims to undo the efforts and long struggles of Sri Lankan trade unionists that led to the creation of the country’s existing labour laws. “The workers are forced not only to bear the brunt of the country’s economic crisis and huge debt, but also to accept diminished labour rights if the said measure is passed. This will surely undo the trade unions’ efforts and struggles that shaped the very labour laws that workers enjoy today. The trade unions of Sri Lanka are opposing these changes. We express our gratitude to the international trade union movement for their solidarity and support to our struggle,” he said.

According to the NBWU, the proposed bill has a variety of anti-labour and anti-union features, including longer working hours without overtime compensation, tougher limits on the right to organise a union and strike, and easier schemes for employers to terminate workers. The National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC), a tripartite organisaation that recently unilaterally dismissed four (4) trade unions in an attempt to muzzle dissenting voices, must approve the proposed measure.

Read the full statement here.