Freedom of association

Sri Lanka - Promoting Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a democratic country with a market-based economy that has moved into the middle income country category over the past few years. Much of its economic growth has been dependent on the continuing demands of overseas exports. Export Processing Zones (EPZs) play a particularly important role in this context. The ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) and the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) have commented on the country’s application of the principle of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Many of these comments were focused on anti-union practices in EPZs, such as restrictions on the right to organize, limitations on the right to strike, and restrained government action against anti-union discrimination and unjust dismissals.

Although employer and worker organizations are present in the EPZs, there is a need to enhance bipartite dialogue so that each party can join efforts to improve worker rights and enterprise productivity. It is essential that Labour law reform on organizing rights, unfair labour practices and other industrial relations provisions are the result of tripartite agreements. Finally, there is a need of strengthening the inspection of labour laws so as to promote industrial relations. To this end, the ILO started in 2009 a technical cooperation project on “Promoting Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in Sri Lanka” funded by the US Department of Labor. This project focuses on the three following objectives:
•Creation of a Legal framework which is more in conformity with international labour standards.
• Strengthening institutions and processes for labour-management relations, including those at enterprise level.
• Strengthening of labour administration for its effective intervention to promote sound labour relations, prevent and solve disputes and ensure compliance with labour regulations.