HomeBreaking"Solving salary anomalies in all sectors of public service"

    “Solving salary anomalies in all sectors of public service”

    President Ranil Wickremesinghe stated that he is actively working to address wage disparities across all sectors of the public sector.

    Highlighting the country’s economic recovery, the President acknowledged that while Sri Lanka is beginning to regain its footing, there remains a significant journey ahead. He emphasized the need for the trade union movement to adapt to current changes and contribute to the nation’s progress.

    President Wickremesinghe made these remarks during the “Leslie Devendra Sinhavalokanaya” ceremony, held yesterday (29th) at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Deshbandu Leslie Devendra’s career.

    During his speech, the President announced the establishment of an “Employee Centre” to facilitate discussions among professionals on advancing the country and preparing a workforce for the future. He committed to allocating government funds annually for this initiative.

    Additionally, President Wickremesinghe outlined the government’s plans to bolster the country’s financial institutions, including the banking sector. He noted that to ensure financial stability, the government has been able to defer foreign debt payments until 2027.
    The President announced that new laws will be introduced to prevent political appointments to the boards of directors of government institutions. He emphasized that the country’s future depends on developing the economy through a proper plan.

    The President commended Deshbandu Leslie Devendra for his significant contributions to the trade union movement, noting that he consistently recognized social realities and embraced modernization.

    President Ranil Wickremesinghe also presented Deshbandu Leslie Devendra with a commemorative gift in honour of his achievements.

    In his address at this event, President Wickremesinghe further noted,

    “Mr. Leslie Devendra joined the trade union movement in 1964, a pivotal time when leftist parties united to form the United Left Front. Notable leaders such as N.M. Perera, Philip Gunawardena, S.A. Wickramasinghe, Peter Keuneman, and Colvin R. de Silva participated together in the May Day rally on Galle Road, marking a historic moment with their large, slogan-chanting crowd.

    May Day 1964,as a nation was unforgettable. However, just a few months later, another significant incident occurred. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) joined the government with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), leading to the collapse of the Left Trade Union Movement. This marked the end of their collaboration with major trade unions.

    During the economic difficulties of 1970-1974, related trade unions also lost membership. A new era began in 1977, marking the peak of government economic control, which lasted until then. Subsequently, a new phase of an open economy emerged, systematically transforming the trade union movement. The Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya became a leading trade union.

    In 1972, I had the opportunity to serve as the legal advisor for the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya. Since then, many changes have occurred. Global politics shifted from a competition between socialist and capitalist countries to globalization starting in 1989. The open economy brought various changes, and we adapted to those experiences.

    Today, there is little distinction between workers, contractors, and owners, with remote work becoming common, especially during COVID-19. The system has drastically changed in Sri Lanka and globally, and trade unions must evolve accordingly.

    Mr. Leslie Devendra recognized this reality and embraced modernization. Business practices have transformed, reflecting the broader changes in the world and our country. Today, we operate within an open economy.

    It is imperative that we determine how to navigate our relationships with the evolving global landscape. The approaches and rhetoric of 1964 are no longer applicable to our current context. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us to acknowledge reality and prepare for the future. Specifically, we must prioritize advancing both the market economy and social justice in tandem.

    Different nations employ various strategies. The Scandinavian model, as seen in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan, is one example. China also adopts similar economic principles. As a nation, we have reached a similar juncture.

    Presently, our country is emerging from a challenging period. Our economy faced collapse. While observing how our people celebrate events like the Sinhala New Year and Vesak festival, it is evident that the country is gradually returning to normalcy. However, this progress is not sufficient. We are merely beginning to recover and progress. There is still a considerable distance to cover, and it is crucial to keep this in mind.

    We have made the strategic decision to defer debt payments until 2027, focusing on renegotiating repayment terms to extend until 2042. Our aim is to safeguard the country’s economy from collapse under the weight of debt burdens. However, reliance on imports may necessitate further borrowing, prompting us to prioritize strategies for repayment.

    Moreover, we have opted to restrict domestic borrowing, affecting the availability of funds from institutions like the Employee Provident Fund. This prompts considerations on whether to invest domestically or internationally, sparking discussions within the trade union movement.

    Recognizing the pivotal role of the financial sector in economic progress, we are committed to fortifying key institutions such as the People’s Bank, the Bank of Ceylon, and the National Savings Bank while maintaining government ownership. Additionally, we aim to secure government influence in limited and private banks to bolster the financial sector and propel economic growth.

    Furthermore, we intend to introduce legislation to depoliticize board appointments across government institutions, fostering a conducive environment for national development. It is imperative to re-evaluate our developmental trajectory, as the future of Sri Lanka hinges on economic advancement.

    Acknowledging the plight of our citizens, we are mindful of the escalating poverty rate, which has surged from 15% in 2019 to 26% presently. Addressing this challenge requires concerted efforts to provide livelihood opportunities and enhance access to education for all segments of society.

    Accordingly, we have agreed to reduce it to 10% by 2032, as stipulated in the loan conditions set by the International Monetary Fund. Therefore, we must persist with this program.

    To address widespread poverty, we implemented initiatives such as granting inheritance rights and providing land ownership. Additionally, we are working to transfer ownership of Colombo flats to their current residents, ensuring asset provision for those without. We must adopt new thinking in this regard.

    Economically, we have just begun to recover and must now progress further. This year, we have arranged a stipend of Rs.10,000 for government employees and made efforts to increase wages in the private sector.

    Although our economic capacity to provide additional concessions this year is limited, we have decided to appoint a committee to address wage disparities across all public sector areas. This committee aims to offer some concessions to public servants next year. We are currently in the process of appointing suitable members to this committee.

    This journey is challenging. The common people have borne the brunt of the recent economic crisis, and we must undertake this journey together.

    Specifically, we will establish an employee centre to focus on the formation of new trade unions, securing employee rights, and determining effective methods. To sustain this work, the government will allocate an annual budget. We will continue to discuss these matters in greater detail.

    It is about moving the trade union movement forward and the relationship between politics and the trade union movement and working independently in the future. Today our country has reached an important milestone. Expressing my gratitude to Mr. Leslie Devendra for his service during this period, stating that we are ready to create an employee centre to present everyone’s views and reach an agreement, and to provide money from the government for that purpose.”

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