October 20, 2019
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    Parliament approves five regulations for employees’ benefit

    September 18, 2019

    Parliament approved five regulations moved in line with the Factories Ordinance, Shrama Vasana Fund (Amendment) Bill, and the Wages Boards (Amendment) Bill. The Shrama Vasana Fund (Amendment) Bill, which would amend the Shrama Vasana Fund Act No.12 of 1998; would legalise the change of the Sharama Vasana lottery name to Jathika Sampatha, extend the benefits to cover the employees and their dependents in the event of death and injuries, shoulder the cost to seek legal remedy in the event of termination, provide temporary compensation to employees during temporary suspensions on pending investigations, and to provide recognised exemplary contributions made for the betterment of employees.
    The regulations moved under the Factory Ordinance would enforce heavy fines and imprisonment of employers who make various excuses and fail to pay salaries of workers. The fine which stood at Rs.250, along with the six-month imprisonment; would be increased to a fine between Rs.5,000 – Rs.10,000, along with an imprisonment not exceeding one year. If the employer has failed to maintain records of the employees, they would have to pay a Rs.20,000 fine and serve a one-year prison sentence.
    The approval for the five regulations amends the registration of factories, as well as the approval given for factory buildings, registration of steam boilers, issuance of certificates for examination of steam boilers and other pressure vessels, protection of workers from excessive noise, and general standards of lighting.
    According to the regulations, no person would be allowed to construct a factory building on any site, make any extension or alteration to any factory building, or convert any other building into a factory building—unless the plant of such construction, extension, or conversion, as the case may be, are approved by the Chief Factory Inspecting Engineer or the District Factory Inspecting Engineer of the Labour Department.
    The regulations on protecting workers from excessive noise state that it is the duty of the owner or occupier of a factory to provide any employee exposed to a sound intensity of 85dB or more with suitable ear protectors. They state that the intensity should be measured within an integrating sound level meter.
    According to the new regulations, it is the duty of the owner or the occupier of a factory to provide for natural or artificial lighting in individual work units or work stations, and at places of particular risks, to avoid stroboscopic effect and glare, or causing hazards which include electrical fires, radiation, or collisions.


    Under Shrama Vasana Fund and Wages Boards amendment bills: Protection of employees’ rights ensured: Ravindra
    Labour and Trade Union Relations Minister Ravindra Samaraweera said that the employees’ rights would be protected further with the passing of the Shrama Vasana Fund (Amendment) Bill and the Wages Boards (Amendment) Bill.He said so yesterday in Parliament, initiating the debate on the Shrama Vasana Fund (Amendment) Bill, Wages Boards (Amendment) Bill, and five regulations under the Factories Ordinance.
    Minister Samaraweera said that the Shrama Vasana Act would be identified as the Jathika Sampatha Act following the amendment. Benefits have so far been granted only to employees under the Shrama Vasana Act and hereafter, dependents of employees would also benefit under the Jathika Sampatha Act.
    He added that following the amendments, the employees would be provided with legal aid on their removal from employment by their employers. The minister further said that with the amendments to the Wages Boards Act, laws surrounding it would be strengthened if it were to be breached.He added that the fine at such a breach would be increased from Rs.5000 to Rs.10,000, while an additional one-year imprisonment would also be given.
    In addition, if the documents were not annexed, the culprits would be fined Rs.20,000 and given another one-year imprisonment, the minister added.The minister also said that factories would be prevented from recruiting manpower employees for mainstream production with the amendment.“This piece of law is applicable even for employees of garment factories. The manpower employees do not receive an Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), and this amendment would create a bargaining power for such employees,” Minister Samaraweera said.
    “The amendments would prevent employers from taking the services of the manpower employees at a time when the mainstream employees were taking trade union action,” he added.He said that these amendments would help monitor factories; to see if they were maintaining the proper standards.
    No liquor licences granted under current regime: Kiriella
    Leader of the House and Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage, and Kandy Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella said that not a single liquor licence has been granted during the Good Governance regime. During a heated argument, the minister said that the media was reporting baseless news during the current election period.
    He said so yesterday when Chief Opposition Whip Mahinda Amaraweera demanded the government to hold an investigation into the news items published in newspapers on the issuance of 84 liquor licences without the knowledge of the minister overseeing the matter.“I have made a statement regarding the matter on an earlier occasion as well,” Minister Kiriella said. “Not a single liquor licence has been issued under this government. This is an effort by the Opposition to sling mud at us, especially because an election is around the corner,” he added.

    Minister Kiriella also said that MPs would not have anything else to do in Parliament if they spent time arguing about false reports published in print media. He said no one had asked for liquor licences, and that it has never been discussed in Cabinet or outside.MP Amaraweera, who raised this issue, said liquor licences have been issued to 84 MPs. This, he said, is unacceptable when efforts are being made to discourage people from consuming liquor. MP Amraweera said the Finance Minister had said that the licences have been issued without his knowledge.oint Opposition Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardene said that Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera should make a statement in Parliament regarding the matter.
    Opposition MP Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said that the news could not be false as the Finance Minister said that he would initiate an investigation into the matter. He demanded the list of those who obtained licences be revealed in Parliament.
    ‘Final decision on artistes’ royalty issues by next week’
    Education and Human Resources Development Sectoral Oversight Committee (SOC) Chairman and United National Party MP Prof. Ashu Marasinghe said in Parliament that the SOC could come to decision on the royalty issues of artistes, yesterday.He added that the SOC would take its final decision after meeting with the artistes next week.He said so yesterday in response to a query made by Opposition MP Chandima Weerakkody, who said that being deprived of joining the SOC by MP Marasinghe was a breach of privileges. He added that when he went to represent the interests of artists at the SOC, its Prof. Marasinghe prevented him as he was not a member of the committee.
    In response, MP Marasinghe said that in accordance with the standing orders, an MP who is not a member of the SOC should have the permission of its Chairman to raise a question.He added that before MP Weerakkody was given the permission, he made a fuss and left. However, the SOC lasted until 12.50pm and the issue was sold there.
    ‘Discontinuing project impractical due to debt servicing’
    The Rajapaksa regime initiated the Uma Oya project without conducting proper environmental assessments, and that it has led to irreversible environmental damage, Mahaweli Development and Environment State Minister Ajith Mannapperuma said in Parliament, yesterday.
    “The current government is trying its best to re-drive this project in order to make the best possible benefits available to the public. I accept that a proper feasibility study was not conducted, and that the use of wrong equipment has led to this devastation, however, we can’t use these reasons as excuses,” he added.
    “In 2012, the previous government initiated many projects utilising foreign loans, and at present, we are burdened with the task of having to repay these loans using public money. Debt servicing continues regardless of the change in government; we can’t just stop a project and return the money while highlighting the bad decisions taken by the previous government,” the minister said.

    Minister Mannapperuma said that the Uma Oya Project was also similar to the Lotus Tower Project, as described by President Sirisena during the tower’s inauguration. He said the loans taken by the previous regime was now a burden on the current government as a large amount of money was missing.
    Question on President’s foreign visits since 2013: No answer from government for nine months: Jayatissa
    Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa complained to Deputy Speaker Ananda Kumarasiri yesterday, stating that for nine months, the government has not responded to his question regarding the foreign visits of the President since 2013.Dr. Jayatissa has directed an oral question to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the number of foreign tours President Maithripala Sirisena had engaged in from 2013 to date, and the objectives of those tours.
    He had also requested to know the number of individuals who participated in each foreign tour, their designations, and the amount of money spent on each foreign tour, separately, in terms of each year.These questions were on the Order Paper, yesterday. However, during the round of questions for oral answers, the government informed Dr. Jayatissa that the Premier requested three more months to respond to these questions.
    The JVP MP then pointed out that when he raised the same set of questions the first time in January, the PM had requested three months back then as well—and that the period had come to an end on June 18.“The PM did not provide answers on June 18 and requested another three months. The questions are on the Order Paper today (17 September), but I did not receive answers. This is a blatant violation of privileges of MPs,” he added.
    The Deputy Speaker informed the government that it must provide answers to Dr. Jayatissa’s questions next time.According to Standing Order 32(4), a question shall be answered at least on the third occasion that it is scheduled to be answered.
    Croc spotted near Parliament access road
    A crocodile was spotted yesterday afternoon on a bank of the Diyawanna Lake, near an access road to the Parliament.Crocodiles have been sighted in the lake on many occasions and crocodile eggs, too, have been found on the lake’s banks.

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