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Employers’ Federation of Ceylon marks 90 years


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The Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) is in its 90th year having been inaugurated in January 1929. It is perhaps interesting that the ILO will likewise celebrate 100 years as it was set up in 1919. The employers in 1929 were predominantly British and the intention in forming an employers’ organisation was to have a body which was cohesive and could deal with the only workers organisation which was in existence at that time the All Ceylon Trade Union Congress headed by A.E. Goonesinghe, with whom the first Collective Agreement in the country was signed. 

It was in August 1927 that S.P. Hayley, of Hayleys Ltd. proposed to the Committee of the Chamber of Commerce that an Employers’ Federation should be constituted under the auspices of the Chamber. The following year, on 18 October a meeting was convened by some members of the Chamber of Commerce who were interested in setting up a ‘Labour Employers’ Federation. 

The first meeting of the Provisional Council of the EFC was held at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on 15 January 1929 and the first Chairman was, S.P. Hayley. 

The objectives of the EFC have not changed much and originally they were:

a) To encourage and promote better feeling between Employers and Employees.

b) To secure mutual support and cooperation in dealing with demands made and action taken by workmen or combinations thereof on all matters or questions affecting the general and common interests of members.

c) To encourage the payment of fair rates of wages.

d) To obtain the removal of workmen’s grievances.

e) To fix points of custom and adopt forms of contract between Employers and Employees.

f) To undertake by arbitration the settlement of disputes.

Over the years the EFC has become more aligned with the needs of the country and in the 1990s announced a vision which linked productivity and national developments to its goal of supporting employers and their interests.

The EFC initially was a private sector organisation but has in recent times become a national employers’ organisation and has representation for Government-owned enterprises so long as they have management independently of the State, i.e., they are run by management boards. Public sector banks are also in the membership of the EFC and the plantation sector has been in its membership from 1992, giving the EFC a strong base as a national organisation.

The organisation is an autonomous body functioning with a professional Secretariat reputed to have the best industrial relations services. An examination of its membership shows steady growth and the value of its services is widely acclaimed by the nearly 700 members it boasts of. The Director General is Kanishka Weerasinghe and the Chairman, which position is changed once in two years along with the council, is currently Pravir Samarasinghe. Vish Govindasamy is the Vice Chairman.

The EFC is in the process of publishing a new edition of its history and the publication which will be launched in May this year aligned with its 90th anniversary celebrations. As the employer constituent of the ILO for Sri Lanka, the EFC’s 90th anniversary celebrations will also mark the world body’s 100th anniversary. 

 


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