Govt. should not clash with trade unions: PM

Tuesday, 23 January 2024 00:27 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Prime Minister and Ceylon Socialist Labour Union Federation President Dinesh Gunawardena on Friday opined that the Government should not clash with trade unions but identify the problems of workers and deal with them.

He made this remark at the The 50th commemoration of the Ceylon Socialist Labour Union was held at the Town Hall, Kotte.

At the conference, ten proposals were presented and adapted. They include: A call to reduce the increased water and electricity tariffs, exempt retirement benefits of workers from taxes, provide a suitable salary to estate workers in accordance with the economy, and confirm women’s rights under the labour law.

Speaking at the occasion, the Prime Minister, as the leader of the Federation stated as follows: “Contradictions are emerging between the employers and the working people. The Government should not clash with the trade unions. They should identify the problems and deal with them effectively. It was proposed at the Conference that a tripartite conference is needed to resolve these issues through a consensus.

“Sectors that contribute less to the national economy are receiving more privileges. We need to direct our working people towards sectors that generate higher incomes. The main issue faced by the working class is the increasing cost of living. Their daily income begins to drop due to this issue. There is no need for politicians and trade unions to clash over this. There should be mutual trust between the politicians and the trade unions to resolve these problems and an ability to create innovative ways to achieve this. Many problems can be solved by working together democratically.

“During the periods when the private sector was very powerful, the working people had no protection. If they asked for a higher salary or to eliminate working hours at night time, employers sacked them. It was possible to change that situation because the working people got together and formed trade unions as a platform to win their basic rights.

In order to secure the labour law in Sri Lanka, our trade union started a series of discussions with other trade unions, to make amendments suitable to the current situation. The Ceylon Socialist Labour Federation helped to change certain chapters completely. Hence, we were able to become a strong trade union movement.

“We cannot expect the development of the country as well as institutional development through the Board of Directors alone. I strongly emphasise that we can’t have complete faith on the Director Board. Accordingly, new measures should be adopted to achieve the protection of the rights of these institutions and employees under tripartite agreements.

“Trade unions are the backbone of the country. Rather than being individual, the people who work together and organise themselves into trade unions can make a huge contribution to gain their rights as well as for the development of their company and the country.”

 The M.E.P Vice President State Minister Sisira Jayakodi said:

“We are mourning for 75 years. But we do not talk about the condition of this country before independence. Labourers had no workers’ rights at that time. In such an era Philip Gunawardena, the main leftist leader and others started the anti-imperialist movement that contributed to the freedom struggle.

“We extend our best wishes to the President of our Federation on his appointment as Prime Minister. His leadership and the strive he made to win the rights  of  farmers, labourers, the educated and the suffering people of the country within Parliament and outside is a great strength  for the Ceylon Socialist Labour Union Federation.”

M.E.P Deputy Secretary MP Yadamini Gunawardena said: “This trade union movement is not a gift that was offered on a golden platter. Fifty years ago, these senior brothers and sisters started this movement with the leader during a very difficult period. Dinesh Gunawardena took the leadership of a political party without even a parliamentary representation, with the objective of building the future of the country for the betterment of the working class together with young leaders like you. He took the leadership of the Ceylon Socialist Labour Union on behalf of the entire nation, protecting the unitary state for the working people. It is not necessary to remind us that the only trade union movement that has won victories for the working people of the country for 50 consecutive years is the Ceylon Socialist Labour Union. We have to face an even more challenging time in the future. I wish to remind that in the future we need to take the achievements further.”

Tributes were also paid to the founding members of the Ceylon Socialist Labour Union, with greetings from fellow trade unions. The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna MP Gamini Lokage, Public Service United Trade Union Federation President W.A. Piyadasa, Ceylon Socialist Labour Union Federation Secretary Ishara Dias, attended the Conference.

Public Service United Nurses’ Association President Ven. Murutthettuwe Ananda Thera,  MP Madhura Withanage,  Deshavimukti Janata Party Leader D. Kalansooriya, Sri Lanka Freelancers’ Union President Leslie Devendra, Podujana Pragathisheelee Sewaka Sangamaya Secretary Bandula Saman Kumara, Bank of Ceylon Employees’ Union former President Rusirupala Thennakoon, Podujana Pravahana Sewaka  Sangamaya President  Nurajit Singh, Podujana Rajya Sewaka Sangamaya President  Nadira Manoj,  Podujana Palath Palana Sewaka Sangamaya President Ananda Suriyaarachchi, Podujana Vatu Sewaka Sangamaya President Shanta Sirimanna and many other trade union leaders participated in the event.