Labour Ministry issues clarification on NLAC appointments

June 2, 2023 at 6:09 PM

The Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment has issued a clarification on the recent claims made by certain trade unions on the reappointment of members to the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC).

The Ministry said in a statement that it has been brought to its attention that certain parties have disseminated misinformation regarding the alleged removal of a women representative from the selection process. 

“We issued a press release on 23/05 2023 regarding the selection process (Annex 01), and we want to clarify the selection process further to ensure transparency and accuracy,” the Ministry stated. 

Sri Lanka is a signatory to ILO convention number 144 on Tripartite Consultation, and the National Labour Advisory Council results from that. The constitution of the NLAC is in line with the ILO governing principles and Convention 144, which recognizes representations by Trade Unions with a more extensive member base. 

The reconstitution of the NLAC is a routine process as per the NLAC constitution, which mandates yearly reconstitution. This process aims to ensure that the voice of the most representative unions can voice their concerns and opinions at the National Tripartite Social Dialogue Forum.

It is important to emphasize that according to the NLAC’s Constitution, no one can select trade unions arbitrarily. Additionally, the NLAC constitution explicitly states and allows the selection of the most representative trade unions. Consequently, trade unions with a more extensive membership got selected for representation. Membership strength is dynamic; therefore, certain trade unions acquire new members, and those who gain new members can join the NLAC.

The Ministry stated that during the reconstitution process, the Ministry conducts a thorough and evidence-based evaluation to determine the eligibility of participating trade unions. Four trade unions that did not meet the established criteria were not selected, while two that fulfilled the criteria were included. This decision was based solely on objectives and criteria, without any subjective opinions. 

The Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment stated that it is responsible for selecting the trade union for the NLAC. Once selected, the trade unions can nominate a representative of their choice to the NLAC regardless of gender, age, and designation. The nomination of representatives is entirely at the discretion of the trade unions. In this context, the government of Sri Lanka or the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment has no right to compel trade unions to nominate particular gender to the NLAC. The Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment encourages gender balance but does not intervene in trade unions’ internal affairs. 

In the previous NLAC, only one union nominated a women representative; however, no trade union nominated a women representative this year. At the same time, we have continued to encourage trade unions to nominate women representatives to the NLAC, and we remain optimistic that trade unions will give due consideration to women representatives. 

The Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment recognizes equal opportunities and does not discriminate based on gender or sexual orientation. Our recent proposal to allow women workers to work at night in the BPO and KPO sectors, along with the inclusion of provisions against gender-based discrimination and violence, demonstrates our firm commitment to promoting gender equality and decent work for all. Therefore, any statement of gender-based discrimination within the NLAC selection process is unfounded and contrary to our core principles. 

The Ministry stated that if no trade union nominates a female representative to the NLAC, it will look into appointing a woman representative from a women’s organization. 

For further information or clarification, the Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment R.P.A.Wimalaweera can be contacted via 011 2368 164 or (NewsWire)