Trade union representativity for collective bargaining in Sri Lanka

Workshop for trade unions in the private sector on the application of ILO supervisory body recommendations on the minimum threshold for representativity of trade unions in Sri Lanka in compliance with Convention 098 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining).

On the request of trade unions, the ILO Country Office facilitated a workshop for representatives of workers' organisations that are members of the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) as a forum for discussion on lowering the threshold for representativity as collective bargaining agents.
The ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has repreatedly drawn attention to the current threshold in Sri Lankan law of 40% as too high a percentage for representativity to engage in collective bargaining, such that it may hamper the promotion and development of free and voluntary collective bargaining within the meaning of C098.

International Labour Standards expert Mr. David Tajgman, facilitated a discussion among several trade unions; Ceylon Federation of Labour, Ceylon Federation of Trade Unions, Ceylon Mercantile Industrial and General Workers Union, Ceylon Workers Congress, Free Trade Zone and General Services Employees Union, Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya, Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre, National Trade Union Federation, National Union of Seafarers Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya and the United Federation of Labour on the application of Art. 4 of Convention 098 in relation to Sec. 32(A) (g) of the Industrial Disputes Act of Sri Lanka.

Divergent opinions were expressed on the rationale for maintaining the current threshold versus lowering it to 25% or 33%. There was consensus among trade unions that their biggest challenge presently is to secure recognition in the workplace as organisations that are representative of workers.

It was resolved to have further discussions towards a common perspective; and to draw in other unions that are not members of the NLAC in that process.