On August 11, 2021, the Japan International Labour Foundation (JILAF), together with the Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya (SLNSS), held an online seminar on industrial relations (IR) and labour policy with participants in Colombo. Then on January 28, 2022, JILAF, together with the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), held another online seminar on the same theme with participants in Nuwara Eliya and Kotagala.
In the seminar held with SLNSS, fifteen trade union officers affiliated with SLNSS were in attendance.
After undergoing the traditional ceremony, JILAF Deputy Secretary General Toshihiro Saito conveyed his gratitude for the seminar being held, and expressed his condolences over those who lost their lives to COVID-19. In addition, he also confirmed the significance of the seminar, which was to share information on issues with industrial relations brought about by COVID-19 and the measures for preventing them.
After explaining the COVID-19 situation in Sri Lanka, the SLNSS Secretary General thanked the Government of Japan for its continued support and cooperation in the development of industrial relations in Sri Lanka. With regards to building constructive industrial relations, he also stated that Japan and Sri Lanka will share experiences with one another and work toward developing a new labour policy.
Next, the Vice-President of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) thanked the Government of Japan for its support and expressed the how it was important to build constructive industrial relations while learning from Japan's experiences, in order to overcome the difficult current situation.
Afterwards, the SLNSS Secretary General gave a lecture on the theme of "Constructive Industrial Relations in Sri Lanka." To begin, he first touched on (1) the definitions of constructive and hostile industrial relations and the legality and impact of the labour movement on society. Following this, he then made remarks about (2) how collaborations between the government, labour and management, mutual trust, social dialogue, respect for labour standards, and fair distribution are indispensable in maintaining the balance between the two roles of trade unions, which are to improve productivity and protect workers. In addition, he also spoke about (3) how the issues with constructive industrial relations in Sri Lanka include the diversity and competition of trade unions and the politicisation of the labour movement, and how in order to strengthen the labour movement, they should first consider the interests of union members and foster a sound attitude toward the labour movement.
In the presentation by JILAF, Deputy Secretary General Saito explained matters under the theme of “The Role and Issues of the Labour Movement in Japan,” which included (1) the history of the labour movement in Japan, (2) the productivity movement and the three guiding principles of productivity, as well as (3) the labour-management consultation system in Japan. Alongside this, JILAF Group Leader Naohiro Tsuji also explained (1) legal and institutional measures, (2) trade union policies on COVID-19, and other such initiatives that are being taken to curb the adverse effects of COVID-19 on employment in Japan. After the presentation, the participants asked questions about matters such as, (1) the political position of trade unions in Japan, (2) the measures taken when an agreement cannot be reached in collective bargaining, and (3) the provision of allowance when one becomes infected with COVID-19 while working in Japan. In response to these questions, appropriate answers were given by JILAF.
Lastly, the Vice-President of EFC and Secretary General of SLNSS ended the seminar by expressing their desire to learn from the cases of Japan, to strengthen cooperation between the government, labour and management, and to build a relationship of trust between labour and management where sincerity and respect are given.
In the seminar held with CWC, twenty trade union officers affiliated with CWC were in attendance.
At the beginning of the seminar, JILAF President Yasunobu Aihara introduced JILAF and gave his condolences for those who lost their lives to COVID-19. Following this, he also expressed how business managers and workers, who are faced with economic and employment challenges due to COVID-19, should confirm the significance of working together to build constructive industrial relations.
Next, the Deputy Secretary General of CWC thanked JILAF for their long-standing cooperation and shared the current state of tea production in Sri Lanka. In addition, he voiced his hope for people to recognise the importance of constructive industrial relations, given that growth in production can be observed and employment stability can be secured even under the influence of climate change and COVID-19. This is due to the improved working environment for tea plantation workers, which resulted from the labour agreement that was signed by CWC in 1939. Furthermore, the Director of the Women’s Division of CWC expressed that Sri Lanka, which now faces economic challenges, should place importance on constructive industrial relations, and gave thanks to the Government of Japan and JILAF for supporting the execution of the seminar.
In the presentation by CWC, the Deputy Secretary General gave a lecture on the theme of "Industrial Relations for a Better Sri Lanka." During the lecture, he explained (1) industrial relations, workers' rights, the definition of a labour policy, (2) the link between industrial relations and productivity, as well as (3) the system for reconciling industrial disputes and the roles of each relevant organisation (Labour Bureau, Minister of Labour, Labour Tribunal, etc.). Moreover, he also expressed his hope for the participants to deepen their understanding of industrial relation laws since they may be involved in reconciling industrial disputes as representatives of trade unions in each region.
From JILAF, Deputy Secretary General Saito gave a lecture on "The Role and Challenges of the Labour Movement in Japan," while Group Leader Tsuji gave a lecture on "The Response of the Japanese Legal System and Trade Unions in the COVID-19 Pandemic." Following the lectures, the participants asked questions about matters such as, (1) the role of the public interest representative in the Labour Policy Council of Japan, and (2) the decision-making authority, decision-making procedure, and relations with the government in the Labour Policy Council. In response, the appropriate answers were given by JILAF.
Lastly, the Deputy Secretary General of CWC expressed his appreciation for JILAF's continued support in the field of industrial relations, and said that he would continue to cooperate in IR seminars and invitational programs. JILAF Deputy Secretary General Saito then closed the seminar by stating that it is particularly important to build constructive industrial relations and to have cooperation between the government, labour and management now that workers are under a difficult situation due to COVID-19.
After the seminar, the Director of the CWC’s Industrial Relations Division also held a discussion session, where he explained the procedure for reconciling industrial disputes in Sri Lanka and the maternity welfare system that is based on the labour agreement.