Free Trade Zone and Common Services Society President Anton Marcus told the Business Times on Tuesday that the protest would be the first by the private sector against the new administration as employees were unlikely to receive the Rs.2500 wage hike as proposed in the interim budget.
Already there were three strikes carried out by workers in three factories within the Katunayaka FTZ demanding for an increase in wages by Rs.2500, which has now been called off.
He noted that during the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) meeting with Cabinet Spokesman and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne and the Employers Federation Director General Ravi Peiris, the unions had insisted on the minister to bring in legislation to provide the Rs.2500 as budgetary relief allowance.
At this point however, Mr. Peiris had objected to this stating that these discussions could be addressed through the wages board.
Mr. Marcus pointed out that the wages board had capacity to increase only minimum wages of new entrants.
Further he explained that under the Wages Board only 2.2 million private sector workers were represented by 44 unions participating as a result the entire 8 million private sector employees would not be benefited.
Minister Senaratne had proposed for a 15-35 per cent increase in the wages that could be looked at through representations in the manufacturing, service and plantation sectors under the Wages Board.
This was rejected by the unions since this would only mean the increase of minimum wages and in the meantime, Mr. Marcus said the Labour Ministry has scheduled the Wages Board meetings from February 29 – March 3.
However, the unions were likely to boycott these meetings and continue with their campaign to create awareness among the private sector employees of the issues facing workers in addition to organising a main protest with a public rally on March 12.
The unions organised an awareness seminar at the Ratmalana Industrial Zone, a protest in front of the main gate of the Katunayaka FTZ, a seminar at Ekala on February 27 and another seminar at Biyagama on March 3. Reuters