Breathing new life into the National Labour Advisory Council

The Ministry of Labour & Trade Union Relations in collaboration with the International Labour Office (ILO) hosted a tripartite national forum towards that aimed at building consensus to reinvigorate tripartite social dialogue and promote cooperation on 14th July 2017 in Colombo

Press release | 17 July 2017
ILO News( Colombo): Sound Labour Market Governance through Effective Tripartite Social Dialogue is vital to fulfilling the social and economic development aspirations of Sri Lanka. The National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) serves a pivotal function in this regard. It’s legitimacy, effectiveness, and responsiveness to emerging labour market challenges and opportunities is crucial.

Head Table
The Ministry of Labour & Trade Union Relations in collaboration with the International Labour Office (ILO) hosted a tripartite national forum that aimed at building consensus to reinvigorate tripartite social dialogue and promote cooperation on 14th July 2014 in Colombo. All members of the existing NLAC which includes representatives from the Ministry of Labour, Employers’ organisation and Trade Unions were present and actively deliberated on the topic.

Speaking at the event, the Chief Guest Hon. W.D.J. Seneviratne, Minister of Labour and Trade Union Relations stated that “from the establishment of the NLAC, the Ministry of Labour has made every effort to discuss all labour related national issues at the NLAC and to reach consensus. We have observed that reaching consensus among three parties is difficult and painful exercise, but it is essential. We should not forget that the NLAC has provided a platform for social partners to bring their concerns to notice at the highest level dialogue forum and to express their views and observations without discrimination.”

The ILO Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Ms Simrin Singh, called on the government and social partners to embrace social dialogue as the main means to addressing current and emerging challenges and opportunities in the labour market. ‘As Sri Lanka is part of a globalising economy and there are genuine opportunities for rapid economic growth, a social dialogue institution such as the NLAC needs to be truly functional, responsive and enjoy the faith of the people and policy makers’, adding that “A well-functioning, responsive, and transparent tripartite NLAC could not be more crucial to achieving this”.

The Director General, Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC), Mr. Kanishka Weerasinghe, highlighted that the value EFC placed on the NLAC as a national platform for social dialogue was immeasurable. “EFC will support the Ministry of Labour and the ILO for their initiative and will offer constructive engagement” he noted.

Mr. K. Marimuttu, Senior Vice President, Ceylon Workers Congress, stated that “the collective bargaining process as a means for social dialogue has proved its success so far to enable us to conclude collective agreements which provides for wages and terms and conditions of workers.”. In terms of a reinvigorated NLAC, he added that “It needs trust, commitment and spirit of give and take by the social partners.”.

The workshop benefitted from global ILO experts from its headquarters in Geneva and from South Africa who gave inspiration by sharing international good practices. The results of a survey undertaken prior to the event on the state of labour market governance was presented by national expert Ms Shyamali Ranaraja, where tripartite representatives recommended that the NLAC should reconsider its’ status, mandate and representation in looking at the way forward.

The workshop ended with a draft declaration in which all parties agreed to work towards the reinvigoration of the NLAC so that it serves as an effective mechanism to address labour market challenges while ensuring that employers and workers have a say in the crafting of socio-economic policies and labour legislation. This workshop forms part of ILO activities under the Sri Lanka Decent Work Country Programme 2013-2017.