EU team on fact finding visit
By Leon Berenger
A seven-member team, made up by top trade union representatives and industry watchers, based in the European Union, is set to visit the country in early January on a fact-finding mission, that will take them inside the country's export industrial zones to ascertain the rights and the working conditions of employees.
The visit comes shortly after the Sri Lankan case to regain the GSP+ trade concessions was taken up for review by the EU in Brussels earlier this month.
During the sessions in Brussels several trade unions had lobbied hard to include the 'rights of the worker' in the EU agenda prior to approving the GSP+ trade concessions to Sri Lanka.
"Right along the EU had been insisting the Lanka addresses human rights issues but there were little mention on the fundamental rights of the workers.
Therefore, we urged our counterparts in the European bloc to campaign on behalf of the worker within the EU that was reviewing Sri Lanka's case to regain the trade concessions.
It is in this backdrop that the delegation will be arriving in the country for a 10-day fact finding mission where they will be able to meet both the employers and the employees, local trade union activists and government representatives", Palitha Athukorale, Secretary of the Industrial Sri Lankan Council told Ceylon Today.
He warned that the country is slipping into a new anti-union era especially in the Free Trade Zones and manufacturing sector following the change of regime in January 2015 that seems to have strengthened the employers politically.
Furthermore, he said that manufacturers have direct access to the government and thus have the advantage of influencing labour and industrial policy.
"The increased use of contract labour through supplying agencies has led to a serious factor in destabilizing trade unions while there is open hostility by employers against trade unions.
It is with these concerns and many more that we organized this fact finding mission to the country so that they could get a firsthand knowledge", Athukorale said.
He added that the group will make their findings known to the EU in Brussels for necessary follow up action.
"We are not against Sri Lanka regaining the GSP+ trade concessions but the multiple issues by the local workers must be addressed in a fair manner.
This is a fair request and it is hoped that the workers too will be granted some concessions", Athukorale further added.
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