The Worker’s charter and Mahinda Rajapaksa have been two words going hand in hand since 1994. Mahinda Rajapaksa had long popularity among the private sector employees of being a radical trade union leader. In 1994 he was appointed labour minister under CBK government. One of the key tasks of Mahinda Rajapaksa was presenting the Worker’s Charter.
He showed keen interest in passing the Worker’s Charter in the parliament. However the comprador business mafia middled and influenced CBK to sweep it in to the dustbin. At the end of the Worker’s Charter saga, Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed the role of hero while CBK was branded the traitor in the working class.
Fight against terrorism dominate first term of Mahinda Rajapaksa
In 2005 presidential election ‘fight against terrorism’ became the prominent factor. The rights of labour and other issues became secondary in the light of fighting the terrorism where people firstly demanded right of life!
However now the fight against terrorism is won and new independent Sri Lanka is established. The rights of private sector employees are no longer secondary. However it is unfortunate that this issue was not given prominence in ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya - 2’ manifesto of 2010. While this was not officially highlighted in the manifesto, Mahinda still using his never implemented ‘Worker’s Charter’ for his propaganda campaign. Following are some of the online excerpts from on line resources.
He brought his experience in trade union activities to good use as Minister of Labor and helped settle many a labour dispute both in the public and private sectors. His close understanding of issues involving the working people helped in the preparation of the Workers’ Charter, presented to the Government of President Kumaratunga.Private sector employees- the ignored element under Rajapaksa government
- Profile of Mahinda Rajapaksa @ news.lk the official government web site
His close understanding of issues involving the working people helped in the preparation of the Workers’ Charter, presented to the Government of President Kumaratunga.
- mahindarajapaksa.lk, the official web site of Mahinda Rajapaksa
Among his achievements as Minister of Labour are the drafting of the Workers' Charter, establishment of the Vocational Training Authority, setting up Rural Vocational Training Centres and the acquisition of Hambantota Lunu Levaya (Saltern) by Employee Trust Fund.
- mahinda2010.lk, the official website of 2010 presidential election campaign for Mahinda Rajapaksa
Mahinda proved to be a remarkably successful Minister of Labour, despite suffering a major setback in being unable to bring his brainchild, the Worker’s Charter, into law.
The only promise he had given in his “Mahinda Chinthanaya – 2005 manifesto" to the millions of workers in the private sector, was that a low interest housing scheme, would be introduced "with the participation of the Employees Trust Fund and private banks". The loans that could be obtained under the legislation enacted in that regard were only by a limited number of employees. Even that promise thus proved to be empty for the vast majority of workers in the private sector.
Not mention in Mahinda Chinthanaya 2010 election manifesto
While Mahinda Rajapaksa is marketing himself in his official websites and leaflets as the brain child of Worker’s charter, there was no mention in official "Mahinda Chinthanaya" manifesto of the Workers’ Charter, which he had advocated and had been adopted by President Chandrika Kumaratunga’ Government, when he was Minister of Labour.
The tragedy of private sector employees
It is pathetic that the Workers’ Charter has remained a dead letter under President Rajapaksa Government, and that he has nothing to say now about any legislative protection for several millions of workers, employed on a casual basis, directly or through labour contractors, on low daily rates of pay, with no paid leave or security of employment. Others are employed on "fixed term" contracts, renewable from time to time, but without any assurance of continued employment.
The Rajapaksa Government has also failed to implement the two most important ILO Conventions, relating to the fundamental rights of Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, that Sri Lanka has endorsed and the Government is bound to implement "in law and in practice".
Will Mahinda play into the hands of business mafia?
Mahinda Rajapaksa is no doubt the most progressive leader since independence. His policies are biased towards people than West and their comprador local agents. His focus on developing villages and infrastructure is commendable.
However due to some unclear reasons his attitude towards welfare of private sector employees has been rather indifferent. He is very keen on welfare of the public employees which is very good sign. However he appointed political clown Mervin Silva as the minister of labour thereby ignoring the welfare of large private sector employees. Its time for Mahinda to rectify this and implement worker’s charter to safe guard millions of private sector employees’ aspirations.
References of Mahinda & worker’s charter
- Official web site of Mahinda Rajapaksa mentions of Worker’s charter as work of Mahinda
- Profile of Mahinda Rajapaksa in official news portal of Sri Lanka boasts Mahinda for Worker’s charter