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MAY DAY – 2021

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May Day which fell yesterday is the international day of the working people. The history of May Day goes back to the demand for better working conditions by the burgeoning labour movement in 1886 in the United States. Their agitation in May 1886 led to the massacre of labour activists in the Haymarket incident in Chicago setting off a powerful movement of solidarity throughout the world for an eight hour working day. The struggle epitomized the need to mobilize the working class to fight against inequity and safeguard the rights of the working class.

Sri Lanka is back to old times with the current health crisis being used as a pretext to attack labour’s hard fought rights and privileges. At a time when the world of work is moving towards a shorter working day, we are illegally increasing the hours of work with no additional compensation for the extra hour put in, totally disregarding our own labour laws.

The deteriorating conditions of labour has resulted in a significant number of working people being reduced to poverty with no income security. Sri Lanka has the lowest minimum wage in the region and globally only 16 countries have minimum wages that are less than that of Sri Lanka. Real wages are declining day to day as a consequence of inflationary pressures on the Sri Lankan economy. More and more people are in jobs earning incomes which do not guarantee them a decent life. Wage rates trail behind increases in productivity with whatever gains being shifted in the direction of capital. Sri Lankan labour laws and productivity schemes do not endeavour to secure for workers a share of the gains realized by enhanced worker productivity.

Women face multiple discrimination at work. Weekly hours of work are far above the global average. Arbitrary increases in permissible involuntary overtime to 720 hours per year from a previous 100 hours, extended shifts and night work that impact on their health and well-being, the indiscriminate use of surveillance technology invading their privacy and impinging on their fundamental freedoms are current features of the private sector employment which do not provide women with a conducive environment to work.

The traits of a gig economy (a labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs) are widely prevalent in the jobs that are now being created. Precarious work and non-standard forms of labour are on the increase with important consequences for unionization, worker representation and their voice and rights at work. Domestic workers and workers in the informal sector for all practical purposes fall outside the scope of the law. The modest safeguards available for employees in contract employment and precarious work have been whittled down, making it crucial for trade unions to concentrate on ensuring decent work conditions in such jobs through implementing measures that improve wages, expanding and enforcing regulations relating to contract labour, their safety and health, strengthening their social security and welfare and ensuring their voice and rights at work.

Grave issues confront workers and trade unions in the coming period. Sri Lanka is already one of the most liberal in flexibility in employment regulations and job quality according to a 2019 World Bank Report. Any further movement towards dismantling the labour law structure of the country would make our workers even more vulnerable to intensified exploitation by local and international capital.

On May Day 2021, the Ceylon Federation of Labour (CFL) calls upon organized labour to exert pressure on their leaders not to fall prey to the glib talk, specious arguments and machinations of capitalist employers to rob them of their hard won gains and to march forward in principled unity together with other sections of the working class in defence of their rights and privileges.

The uneven impact of the pandemic sweeping across the globe on the working class the promotion of ethno-religious nationalism and increased militarisation resorted to by the regime in power for its own survival make it even more necessary today to focus on class issues in order to defend, consolidate and advance the interests of Sri Lanka’s toiling masses.

 

Sgd. T. M. R. Rasseedin

General Secretary

Ceylon Federation of Labour (CFL)



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Parliament prorogued

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by Saman Indrajith

Parliament has been prorogued with effect from midnight yesterday (27) by President Ranil Wickremeisnghe under Article 70 of the Constitution. The Department of Government Printing issued the Gazette notification annoucing the presidential order yesterday evening.The new Parliament session is scheduled to commence on Feb. 08.

A prorogation, which is a temporary recess of Parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning Parliament may be advanced by another Presidential Proclamation, provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

When Parliament is prorogued, the Proclamation should notify the date for the commencement of the new Session of Parliament, under Paragraph (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

During the prorogation the Speaker continues to function and the Members retain their membership, even though they do not attend meetings of Parliament.The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current Business before the House, and all proceedings, pending at the time, are quashed, except impeachments.

A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same Session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent Session, after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before Parliament, and have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next Session,” states the Paragraph (4) of Article 70 of the Constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not put an end to pending Business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new Session. At the beginning of a new Session, all items of Business which were in the Order Paper of Parliament, need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.

At the end of a prorogation, a new Session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the President. He is empowered, under the Constitution, to make a Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament, in terms of the provisions stipulated in Paragraph (2) of Article 33 of the Constitution.

The President is empowered to make a statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each new Session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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LG elections may turn violent – CPA

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By PRIYAN DE SILVA

Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and co-convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has warned that the March 9 LG polls (if held) may turn violent as political parties are fighting for their survival as the results of the election may be considered as a referendum. He said it was doubtful whether the election would be held.

Dr. Saravanamuttu sounded this warning at the conference on Campaign Finance Regulations, convened by the CMEV, and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), which was held last Thursday (26). He recalled that once when he asked former President Mahinda Rajapaksa about campaign and party finances, the latter’s reply had been as follows: “I am not going to tell you the whole story, I cannot tell you the whole story and I will not tell you the whole story”

The Campaign Finance Regulation Act became law last Tuesday (24) and Dr. Saravanamuttu pointed out that the former President’s quip highlighted the challenges of collecting information on exactly how much is actually being used. “It is important that the public should know, whether it be cash or kind, from where the money comes from. And the information be made available to the public.”

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President: Cabinet has agreed to implement 13A fully

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on Thursday, informed the All Party Leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the Cabinet was agreeable to fully implementing the 13th Amendment.Issuing a statement on Friday, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said the President is bound to implement the laws of the land and the 13th Amendment is a part of the Constitution.

“The 13th Amendment has been in existence for over 30 years. I must implement it. If anyone is opposed, they can bring in a constitutional amendment to change it, or abolish it,” he said.

The President said that the country has to decide whether to fully implement the 13th Amendment or abolish it. “We can’t decide to do neither. Any MP can bring a private members motion to abolish the 13A. What happens when most people don’t support the motion? We will have to fully implement it,” he said.

The President said that he is working, according to a Supreme Court decision, on 13A. “We have to look, especially at the decision given by Chief Justice Palinda Ranasinghe. We are still in the bounds of a unitary state. I am against a Federal state but I support the devolution of power to provinces. The provincial councils don’t even have the powers enjoyed by the City of London. So we can’t call this a federal state,” he said.

Wickremesinghe added that former President J.R. Jayawardane and his lawyers took great pains to prevent the 13A from leading to a federal state. He added that at the end of the war, against the LTTE, a large number of lands in the North and the East, that belonged to private owners, were under the control of the Army. However, most of it had been returned to the people, under presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena.

“Only about 3000 acres are under the security forces. The forces must be given the opportunity to release these lands, without hindering national security. The Land Commission, too, must be immediately established. The draft on that can be presented by March. The Commission will have nine members, from each province ,and 12 will be appointed by the President. The we can come up with a national land policy and the Commission can implement the land policy,” he said.

The President said that 30 percent of the land will be allocated for forests. Large swaths of forests, in the upcountry, and in the catchment areas, for rivers, have been destroyed.

“We must increase the forest cover and the Land Commission must be entrusted with this,” he said.

The President added that he will provide further information, on February 08, on how the amendment will be implemented. He urged political parties to submit their proposals by February 04, the Independence Day of the country.

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