NCE Secretary General/CEO Shiham Marikar with Minister of Skill Development, Employment, and Labour Relations Dinesh Gunawardena
- Urge govt. to take action to resolve ongoing labour issues
- Say they are struggling to meet payroll expenditure for April
- Seek govt. assistance to pay at least basic minimum wage for a period of three months
- Warn failing to pay salaries would lead to trade union action as labour laws favour employees
Sri Lanka’s exporter community pleads with the government to lend a hand in support to sustain its workforce, as the sector’s financial position due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis continues to worsen making it difficult for export businesses to handle their payroll expenditure.
With a series of order cancellation, incidents of supply chain derailment, and restriction of worker movement that has cut down capacity, the export sector called on the government to take urgent action to resolve the ongoing labour issue.
In order to sustain the labour force, the National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) has reached out to the Ministry of Skill Development, Employment, and Labour Relations seeking assistance with regard to the payment of even a basic minimum wage for a period of three months.
The NCE Secretary General/CEO Shiham Marikar had met with the Minister of Skill Development, Employment, and Labour Relations Dinesh Gunawardena to highlight the plight of the export sector.
The NCE chief stressed it is imperative for the government to accommodate the requests since due to the lack of revenue streams for sustenance, entities, both small and large, are confronted with the need to lay off workers from the end of April, as there are no revenue streams for their sustenance.
“If this happens, given the stringent labour regulations of the country, possible action of the Labour Unions, and protests by the workers themselves, could lead to a catastrophic outcome which will be a severe setback to the country,” warned Marikar.
Marikar shared that the sector is faced with an unprecedented issue due to the cancellation of orders by buyers even for goods that have been made ready for shipment in some instances.
“Some buyers are requesting discounts for goods already shipped whilst some others even refuse to pay and accept shipments that have arrived at their destinations,” said the NCE head in a statement to the media yesterday.
In an effort to gain some relief to the sector and the workforce it supports, the chamber has put forward a number of proposals to the government to facilitate so that the industry is able to tackle the labour issues faced within the legal framework.
The NCE on behalf of the export community requested the government to permit exporters to use only the required number of workers and pay wages on a piece rate or terms agreed with the employees since reduced orders only require a part of the existing workforce to complete the processing cycle.
With the tight cash flow position faced, the NCE recommended the suspension of EPF payment by both employer and employees for a period of six months.
Pointing out that at times of servicing an order with reduced number of labour it will be necessary to work extended hours, in addition to the normal shift, in such situations the NCE requested the government to permit the continuity of work, within reasonable hours of work, so that the next shift of employees need not be engaged. According to the chamber, doing so would be cost-effective for entities.
To catch-up on lost time and to stay ahead of deliveries during these challenging times, the NCE asked the government to permit working on holidays and Sundays excluding religious holidays such as Poya days. However, it requested this to be permitted with only payment of required dues and without giving any lieu -leave.
Furthermore, the NCE said that exporters should be encouraged with legislation to operate productivity based incentive schemes at their places of work to have better outputs and increase employee take-home wages.
It also stated that if subcontracted production is required, the exporter should not be held accountable for any labour issues at the subcontractors’ place of work. (SAA)