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Trade unions have raised grave concerns about attempts by the Ministry of International Trade and Development Strategies and the United States Agency for International Development to amend existent labour laws.

The Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers Union (CMU) added that the Government led by the Department of Labour was attempting to curtail certain standards in terms of workers’ rights prescribed in the law in a manner prejudicial to the workers welfare.

General Secretary of the CMU, Sylvester Jayakody said that the proposed overarching changes involved 42 days leave and cost of living, amongst others.
“Also, in the event one is fired from the workplace, one can go before a Labour Tribunal seeking reinstatement and compensation for unjust termination. Another change proposed in this regard is to only allow compensation in the future and disallow reinstatement,” he alleged.

It must be noted that as per the tripartite agreement, it is the Ministry of Labour and Trade Union Relations, the employers, the Employers Federation of Ceylon and the employees and stakeholders such trade unions which represent the interests of the employees that should be involved in making any decision on changes to the labour laws and current regulations.

The Ministry of International Trade and Development Strategies has, however, argued that certain existent labour and industrial laws, some of which hail from the colonial period, are archaic and therefore require reform with the view of attracting foreign investments via foreign investors who would setup operations locally, who are presently reluctant to do so due to the present legal regime and industrial and investment climate.