Published On: Mon, May 2nd, 2016

President promises a host of benefits for workers

SLFPPresident Maithripala Sirisena, speaking at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s (SLFP’s) May Day rally in Galle yesterday, vowed that five major changes to the working conditions of the workers — increasing of pensionable age to 60, full maternity leave for all private sector female employees, making the minimum private sector salary Rs. 13,500, ensuring that all public service employees get a Rs.10,000 pay increase and creating a pension scheme for the private sector — would be implemented this year.

He also said the European Union (EU) would ratify the lifting of the fish ban on Sri Lanka tonight, and the country would regain the GSP plus trade facility with improved access to markets in the European Union, within the new few weeks. Addressing a massive May Day rally at the Samanala Grounds in Galle town, President Sirisena said the 8th goal of the ‘Sustainable Development Report 2016’ of the UN was the acceptance of the rights and privileges of the working class — and Sri Lanka was fully committed to protect and further improve the rights of the working class. The objective of the UN is that the labour should be given acceptance and respect.

It must not be held in high regards and it must not be obtained unfairly. Labour and wages had been given a different meaning. They were looked at from a different perspective in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, but to day wages and labour are treated in a very respectful and accepted manner. Today they cannot be mistreated or exploited unfairly, he said. President Sirisena said not only those who work on the road or in a factory but all those who sweat in offices, warehouses, garment factories, IT labs and other places are treated as labourers and therefore they must all be given respect and all the rights they deserve. The SLFP had respected the working class and their labour from the time of its establishment some 60 years ago by S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike.

The recognition of labour rights was a major principle of the pary. “Violation of labour rights and human rights was a major blackmark against Sri Lanka in the eyes of the international community in the recent past. As a result Sri Lanka was treated as a pariah state and we were slapped with a fish export ban and the GSP plus facility was withdrawn by the EU. As a result the country sustained a huge economic downturn. But today Sri Lanka is on a path of speedier progress, and the global community has accepted Sri Lanka as an equal partner of democracy.,” he said. He said Sri Lanka had been invited to the G7 summit in Japan which would be attended by the heads of state of the US, Germany, the UK, Italy, Canada, France and Japan.

The invitation was a symbol of the respect and acceptance Sri Lanka had earned since this government came to power. Our motherland was destined achieve an accelerated development and improve the living standards of the people in the years to come with the assistance of the top world leaders. He said he would leave for Japan on May 25th to participate in the G7 summit. Commenting on the demand for federalism since 4the 40s and 50s, President Sirisena said we must look at the reasons for this demand, rather that criticising it, and try to remove the reasons.

President Sirisena said all SLFPers must work hard to form an SLFP government at a future election and to do that the party needed true, clean, honest and dedicated supporters and politicians who could take the party to victory. Therefore, he said, it was vital to maintain discipline, honesty and dignity among all SLFPers. President Sirisena said the SLFPers must look at leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Carl Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mahatma Gandhi and SWRD Bandaranaike when they rebuild the party and attempt to bring victory to the party and form a government or their own.

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