ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka must consider how it will navigate the changing labour landscape of the future, the president said, adding that trade unions now need to face a different reality.
Wickremesinghe said that, there’s a transformation in the status of workers, as many have transitioned from the working class to the middle class.
“They are now referred to as trained individuals, graduates, trainees and engineers. As employees, their needs have evolved, reflecting a global trend,” President Ranil Wickremesinghe said speaking at a book launch by Labour Minister Manusha Nanayakkara.
Sri Lanka’s Labour movement should be modernized in line with global trends, Wickremesinghe said.
“25-30% in the Western world now work remotely, without a fixed workstation, offering flexibility in work hours. This new work paradigm is unfolding worldwide.
“It’s imperative that we consider how we will navigate this changing landscape in the future.”
“Are our trade unions embracing the digital realm? Are they adapting to forge new connections in this evolving landscape?”
Wickremesinghe pointed out that “Our trade unions predominantly originated from government employees.”
“The government played a pivotal role as it controlled industries, ports, petroleum companies and bus services. “In essence, this movement had its roots in the government.”
Sri Lanka’s trade unions, many of them comprising high-income earning public servants in higher education, medical, banking, ports and other sectors have been threatening to up the ante in ongoing trade union action against Sri Lanka’s IMF-backed reforms.
Sri Lanka’s railway unionists defied a presidential decree to continue a railway strike this month affecting thousands of commuters, even after reports that a youth affected by the strike was killed in a tragic accident.
Earlier this year a strike campaign by the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) boycotting the evaluation of last year’s GCE Advanced Level candidates as part of trade union action delayed students’ results.
“Teachers and officials have their reasons, [but…] if you go to get some medicine, there is a protest there,” Uruwarige Vanniyalaeththo, the leader of the minority indigenous group, said, referring to a strike organised by the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA).
“It’s only innocent citizens that are inconvenienced by all this,” the Veddah leader said. “Young people lose two years of their lives.” (Colombo/Sep26/2023)