'New Life’ deprives five workers of livelihood

19 September 2013 05:15 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Katunayake Free Trade Zone-based ‘New Life Literature’, a printer of Christian books including bibles for the international market,  allegedly operating with public donations collected from Norway has terminated the services of five workers, all office bearers and members of the newly formed trade union, an International Labour rights activist complained yesterday.

The five workers including the President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer of the union, some of whom had been in service for more than 20 years had been sacked for ‘disciplinary inquiries,’ Anton Marcus, Executive Member of the international trade union, INDUSTRIALL and the Secretary of the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees’ Union (FTZ and GSEU) told the Daily Mirror.

“The company has victimised five experienced workers by forcing them to do unskilled work despite their long years of service, and thereafter sacked them on fabricated charges,” Marcus said. “Despite their service to the company that had been operating as a Board of Investment (BOI) approved profit-making institution since 1984, not a single rupee was given as compensation to any of the five workers,” he alleged.

“The company which runs with a motto ‘God’s word for the world’ has ignored the suffering of five families with children that had been rendered destitute, due to the unfair and unexpected sacking of five workers.

The trade union leader stated that a complaint had already been made to the international trade union, INDSUTRIALL which had a  membership of more than 15 million in 148 countries, on unfair labour practices allegedly committed by the said company which claimed to be promoting Christian religious ideologies by publishing and printing literature and exporting them the world over. He also said a separate complaint would be lodged with the Labour Department on the unfair labour practices. He demanded that the company reinstated the workers or paid a substantial compensation to all five workers.
When contacted by the Daily Mirror, General Manager of ‘New Life Literature’, Bandula Jayamanna admitted the termination of service of the workers and claimed it was done on the grounds of indiscipline and misconduct. He said the members of the trade union were found to be wanting in discipline hence disciplinary action had to be taken. When questioned on the country’s labour rights, Jayamanna said the Labour Department had been informed of the termination of services of the workers. He also denied that ‘New Life Literature’ was supported by Norwegian funds and said the company was run on a ‘profit making’ basis.  

However, G. D. S. R. Wijesinghe Assistant Labour Commissioner, District Labour Office Negombo denied being informed of the sacking of the workers.
“They informed us after they had conducted disciplinary inquiries and sacked the workers,” Mr. Wijesinghe said. The company would be charged for ‘unfair labour practices’, he said stating that complaints had already been received in this regard and an inquiry had been initiated.

Ranjith Paul Fernando, President of the ‘New Life’ Branch Union of the General Services Employees’ Union who had been sacked recently said the victimisation of workers had begun after they formed the trade union in July this year and protested against unfair regulations that were planned to be introduced by the new management. “New Life Literature was hailed as one of the best BOI companies in the Free Trade Zone, Katunayake with good labour practices under Norway-based foreign employers. But the situation changed rapidly since the time some of the Norwegians employers left the country and handed over the administration to Sri Lankans,” he said.(Susitha R. Fernando)
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