Ports employees get golden handshake

Thursday, 9 June 2011 00:42 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Cheranka Mendis

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority yesterday said that it had budgeted Rs. 4.1 billion for a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), to reduce the currently overstaffed institution with an employment base of 12,550.

From the budgeted Rs. 4.1 billion, around Rs. 891 million has already been paid to a selected applicant base of 550 as at 31 May 2011.

Ports Authority Additional Managing Director Norman Weerarathne told the Daily FT that the organisation hoped to recover the monies within 19 months by way of savings in salaries of the employees who will leave.

The human resource bill of the company amounts to 55% of the total revenue and is valued at approximately Rs. 12 billion per annum. Weerarathne stated that the committee appointed by the Chairman of the Ports Authority Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrama received 2,398 applications for the VRS even though the authority’s initial expectation was a response of 2,000 applications.

“We issued a circular with regard to VRS on 5 April this year and closed applications a month from then (6 May). We are processing the applications now,” Weerarathne said.

He outlined that the VRS applicants were put into two groups, with group one, which is also known as the ‘special group,’ consisting of employees who have completed more than 10 years of service and have more than five years for retirement.

“The eligibility for the VRS compensation package is Rs. 2 million for this group of employees,” he said.

Clarifying further he stated that group two included employees who have less than five years to retire. “This means employees in group two are those who are 52 years or above in age. The compulsory retirement age of the authority is 57. This group has agreed to forgo salaries for a number of months and is ready to settle with the compensation package.” The maximum package offered for group two employees is under Rs. 2 million.

“This is a management decision and these are the employees who are either tired of the work place or are mentally or physically unfit or unstable,” he said. Application processing and consideration for group two will begin in early July, he declared.

Weerarathne added: “We are studying each and every application. The 550 who were approved and given the packages were those who had no legislative issues and had clear applications. These employees will receive their last month’s salary cheque on 17 June and the accounts will be closed then.”

The 1,250 other employees who also applied from group one will be considered and completed by 17 June.

“Payments have been checked with the practices of leave attendance and staff reports. Any worker who has had disciplinary actions taken against him is not eligible for the compensation,” Weerarathne said.

Speaking on the need for staff layoff, Weerarathne stated that the authority had now introduced automated information systems along with an automated delivery system, discharge system, payroll system and biometric system, which had reduced the need for manual labour in large qualities.

“There is still an excess even after the VRS. They will be laid out in an organised manner over the operational needs of the authority,” he said. “We see the VRS as a ‘golden handshake’ to develop efficiency and productivity within the authority.”