Feb 10, Colombo: Private sector trade unions in Sri Lanka have commenced a campaign demanding the increase of the minimum wage of private sector employee by Rs. 10,463.
The Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) affiliated Inter Company Employees Union (ICEU) has called on the government to intervene to increase the minimum salary of the private sector since the last increment for the private sector was granted with government intervention in 2005.
ICEU Head Wasantha Samarasinghe said it is unfair by the private sector employees to receive a minimum wage of Rs.9,660 in comparison to the minimum wage of a government sector employee, which is Rs.20,088.
"When the JVP was with Chandrika Bandaranaike's coalition government in 2005, for the first time in history we were able to get a salary increase of Rs.1,000 for the private sector. Therefore the government could get a salary increase for the private sector the same way if it was committed. It is the private sector employees that contribute more towards the country's GDP, but unfortunately the government does not want to get their minimum wage on par with the public sector," he explained.
He added that the government was also delaying the gazetting of the 2009 cost of living index.
"The government's failure to gazette the 2009 cost of living index of Rs. 280 too has impacted much on the private sector wages. Although it is the Central Bank and the Department of Census and Statistics that release the CoL index, it is surprising as to why the government under President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was a onetime Minister of Labour, does not want to put his signature to the gazette notification. Had this been gazetted no sooner the 2009 CoL index was released, it would have helped the private sector employees to get a much better salary," Samarasinghe said.
"There are 43 wages boards in the country and only 2.3 million of private sector employees are covered by them. The wages boards do not cover the rest of the private sector employees. That was why we had to agitate against this system and get a 40% minimum wage increase from Rs.6,900 to Rs.9,660. Although the Central Bank says that monthly income of Rs.47,208 is needed to run a family, the government is silent over the private sector minimum wage issue," the union leader explained.