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POSTED AT 11:37 AM 27-04-2017

Vote that would see GSP+ concessions for SL to be held today

Image Courtesy: News1st

Two members of the European Parliament (MEP) who were in Sri Lanka between 10th and 12th April to assess the possibility of reinstating GSP+ in the country recommended to the European Commissioner of Trade, Cecilia Malmström to grant concession only under the strict condition, that Sri Lanka implement pledges made with regard to labour rights.

In a letter addressed to Ministers Kabir Hashim, John Seneviratne and Board of Investment (BOI) Chairman Upul Jayasuriya, the two members said, that they believed serious reforms are urgently needed to improve labour rights in the country.

The two MEPs; Anne-Marie Mineur and Lola Sanchez Caldentey, nevertheless, commended the government for ratifying all the UN, International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on core human and labour rights.

However, they raised concern about the enforcement of the workers’ right to join or form a union of their choosing, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike.

“Also the fact that labour inspectors and union leaders cannot visit all working sites, in particular the Free Trade Zones, without advance notification, undermines the essence of inspections. Unions cannot currently access the courts for complaints of unfair labour practices and/or anti-union discrimination,” the MEPs brought up their letter.

The observations made during the visit confirmed reports by the UN Human Rights Commissioner and the ILO Committee of Experts the letter revealed.

“Both institutions have also reported shortcomings on the enforcement of labour rights issues as well as other human rights issues, in particular the use of torture, the rights of minorities and the rights of LGBTI people. While not all of these issues were the focus of our mission, we fully support their purport.”

However, the MEPs also said the “equally detected” a cooperative attitude and willingness to address these concerns from government officials.

“Minister Kabir Hashim agreed to include trade unions in the monitoring mechanism of the GSP+ in case it would be granted. Minister John Seneviratne stated that 50% of the benefits of the GSP+ system should be shared by the workers,” they said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Jayasuriya has agreed to allow labour inspectors and labour leaders to freely enter any work place under the purview of the BOI, including the FTZs

“We are impressed by the decisiveness and the sense of entrepreneurship that we have encountered both in the labour unions and in the government. However, we see too little guarantees to ensure the successful implementation reforms. Therefore, we recommend to Commissioner Cecilia Malmström that once these commitments have been implemented, and only under this strict condition, she does grant Sri Lanka GSP+,” the letter concluded.

The two have since tabled a resolution to the plenary assembly of the European Parliament, which will make its final decision on the matter today (27th April)