Harsha urges Govt. to enact new Foreign Employment Bill

Friday, 14 November 2014 01:29 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Ashwin Hemmathagama Our Lobby Correspondent Opposition lawmaker Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday told the Government to enact a new Bill which strengthens the welfare and human rights of migrant workers, especially those belonging to the semi-skilled and blue-collar categories. Pointing out the loopholes in the current legislation, which was enacted in 1985, Dr. De Silva recommended that Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera refer the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. “The Philippines is also making money from their migrant workers. They have their own legislation - the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. We should bring in a similar Act. The proposed new act should cover their rights, which is not included in the current Act. The recent report launched by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka shows an increased contribution of $ 8 billion from migrant workers. It is the duty of the Government to look after them,” said Dr. de Silva, during the Committee Stage debate of the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare. Moving on to the requirement of establishing a minimum salary, Dr.de Silva stated: “A salary is the key issue which forces Sri Lankans to go abroad. Sometimes they end up with nails inside their body. In Saudi Arabia they get 900 riyals, 825 UAE dirhams and 250 Jordanian dinars. These are not very big salaries when they are converted into Sri Lankan rupees. For such small salaries they leave behind their loved ones and also mess up their lives in many ways. We need to encourage them to get a suitable salary. “Even though the President has stated in the Budget speech that the majority of migrant workers are engaged in skilled-based employment, 293,105 Sri Lankans went aboard in 2013. There were 65,358 skilled workers and 4,636 professionals. If taken as a percentage from the total number of migrant workers for the year we arrive at 26.8%. Even if you add semiskilled migrants, the total comes to 27.8%.” Opposition lawmaker Sujeewa Senasinghe, who moved the debate, said: “$ 7 billion is the income Sri Lanka receives from foreign employment but the Government gives less attention to their welfare and rights. Poverty at home sends them out for blue-collar jobs. So we are not looking after them accordingly. It is reported that the migrant female worker percentage stands at 33%. We should encourage skilled labour migration.” In response, Minister Dilan Perera stated that the minimum salary has been increased to Rs. 33,000 “When I took over the Ministry in 2010, the minimum salary was Rs. 10,000. But we managed to increase the average minimum salary to Rs. 33,000 during the past few years. We need to increase it further and we have entered into bilateral agreements with Arab countries. We have drafted a new Bill, which is now with the legal draftsman,” the Minister said.