Daily Archives: July 21, 2006
The strike at Colombo port ended this afternoon. The employers of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) had been striking for nine days on demand for a salary increase.
The members of the trade unions agreed to stop the strike after the discussion with the authorities today. Minister of Ports and Aviation, Mangala Samaraweera, the Deputy Minister Marvin Silva, the Deputy Chairman of the Ports Authority, and representatives from all the worker unions were presented at the discussion.
The authorities agreed to conduct a comprehensive investigation over the salary discrepancies and to submit recommendations to the National Salary and Cadre Commission in three months time.
It was agreed at the meeting, until the recommendations are made to add an allowance to the salaries of the Ports Authority workers as a temporary measure. According to that agreement, the workers who come under the salary scale of 7- 23 an allowance Rs. 1500 and an allowance of Rs. 750 to the workers who came under salary scale 1-6 will be given, with effect from July.
According to the new salary increases the minimum salary increase would be Rs.3250 and the maximum of the salary increase would be Rs.9000. DGI
Sri Lanka has almost one million children enslaved in child labour, despite being a signatory to the International Convention on Child Labour, Hambantota District UPFA MP Nirupama Rajapaksa said in Parliament yesterday.
Quoting Labour Ministry statistics Ms. Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka had an estimated 926,038 children between 5 and 17 years of age, subject to child labour, which amounts to 21 per cent of all the children in that age group.
“Almost 10 to 12 per cent of these children work in hazardous conditions, such as in mines, with chemicals and pesticides or with dangerous machinery” she said, speaking during the debate on the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children (Amendment) Bill, which was passed yesterday.
Ms. Rajapaksa said these figures do not take into account the numbers of children being used in the sex trade for child pornography or prostitution.
“Approximately 19,000 children, mostly girls, work as domestic servants and unpaid household help and are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Many work under horrific circumstances, being forced to carry out heavy work well beyond their capacity”, she said.
She said the new law would address areas of child abuse that have plagued the country for decades, namely, the use of children and young persons for prostitution, pornography and in illicit or hazardous activities.
Shock and horror: one million child labour slaves in Lanka
“It is needless to point out that there are some extreme forms of practices of child labour in Sri Lanka that no person or government could dismiss as a mere inevitable consequence of poverty”, she said, adding that child labour denies a child education which affects the mental development and consequently the development of the nation.
She said the Labour Ministry was presently compiling a list of “hazardous work” for children, in accordance to the International Labour Organization Convention signed in 1999.
The list includes sexual abuse, work in mines, quarries, on heights or confined spaces, work with dangerous machinery or with heavy loads, and work where the child is unreasonably confined to the premises of the employer. -Daily Mirror By Gihan de Chickera and Kelum Bandara
Sri Lankans are known for their suicidal gene. In anything they do, they die for taking a mat slide ride down the Gadarene slope, be it playing cricket or driving on public roads. It is that suicidal tendency which we witness in the manner the Port trade unions and Minister Mangala Samaraweera are handling the on-going dispute. They are tightening the grip on each other’s jugular, without giving tuppence for the grave risks, to which they are exposing not only the Port but also the entire country.
The export sector is on the verge of collapse. The Sri Lanka Shippers’ Council Chairman Jayanath Perera has told this newspaper that the Port ca’canny has led to the curtailment of tea and garment production by half. This is sure to have a cascading effect on the economy. If the crisis persists, the affected industries will have to adopt drastic measures, including retrenchment and hundreds of thousands of workers risk losing their livelihood, especially in the poverty stricken rural and estate sectors.
The Sri Lanka Association of Vessel Operators (SLAVO), which handles over 75 per cent of container traffic, has fired a warning shot across Sri Lanka’s bow. SLAVO President Vincent Tan has said their lines will have to pull out of Colombo, unless the dispute is settled soon. About ten lines have already bypassed Colombo and the number is said to be on the increase. If the go-slow continues for a few more days, the Pettah traders have warned, there will be a severe shortage of essential food items.
But the Minister and the unions are busy trading rhetoric and abuse to the neglect of an urgent dialogue aimed at putting an early end to the dispute. Minister Samaraweera is bragging that he wouldn’t care even if the Port workers were to quit en masse as he could run the Port with his boys from Matara. He has ruled out any pay hikes. He has a point when he says the Port workers are drawing huge salaries, compared to most other state employees, the salary bill accounting for 40 per cent of the Port’s revenue. But the question is how he is going to run the Port with boys. The Matara boys may be capable of many things just like Minister Samaraweera but one may wonder if they could perform specialised tasks such as handling gantry cranes etc., without proper training. If he ever brought the boys in, he might have to hire submarines to locate the containers that they drop into the sea. Successive ministers have blundered badly by recruiting their boys and the Port is bursting at the seams with excess staff as a result.
The Unions seem to be more piqued than aggrieved. They claim the Minister and the Chairman have meted out shoddy treatment to them. If so, that is bad as the unionised labour deserves a patient hearing. They want the Minister to be flexible and amenable to a discussion. Interestingly, some workers are now complaining that they are in hot water after the Minister divulged their salaries via the media. Their wives are on the warpath, demanding that they declare their real income! Double trouble!
If it is the well being of the Port and the welfare of the workers that the unions seek, let them heed this advice from the SLAVO chief: The Port has done a lot of work over the past few years to change its image from an inefficient and problematic facility to a well run port recording 15 to 20 per cent growth. With the deteriorating productivity, the lines which brought new services to Colombo could just as quickly move them to other up and coming ports in the region. If that happens, the good salaries the Port workers are getting will no longer be possible. The situation can reverse and workers may not even get the benefits they get today, if the volumes in the port begin to shrink.
The dispute has been manifestly deadlocked with the Minister and the Unions refusing to budge and flexing their muscles while the economy is bleeding white. The Port is too serious a subject to be left solely to ministers and trade unions. It behooves the government to look for alternatives. If the Port doesn’t return to normal soon, President Mahinda Rajapakse, who already has more than enough on his plate without having to face an economic crisis, will have to step in to settle the dispute.
Time is running out, and to politicians and workers we say, "Put all hands to the oars and pull the country out of crisis!"