FOR FAVOUR OF PUBLICATION
Even after 13 years, justice is still delayed to 159 Workers
The strike began on December 28, 2007, with the dismissal of the CMU branch secretary of the Richard Peiris factory in Ekala, Ja-Ela.
Bala Tampoe, the then General Secretary, was at the forefront of the dispute with the company during that period. Negotiations between General Secretary Bala Tampoe, Minister of Labor, and the Commissioner of Labor failed to resolve the dispute, which led the dispute been refered to arbitration under the Industrial Disputes Act, on July 7.2008. during a strike initiated over the over the suspension of the Branch Secretary.
When the Dispute of the Branch Secretary was referred to arbitration, the strike was called off on July 29th 2008. and another dispute arose over the non-employment of all employees who reported for work.
The Department of Labor held a number of discussions but the company did not agree to reach any settlement.
Mr. Athauda Seneviratne, the then Minister of Labor, The Commissioner of Labor Industrial Relations, Mr. D. S.Dissanayake and Mr. Mahinda Madihahewa the Secretary to the Ministry of Labor, intervened to bring about a settlement, all attempts to find a solution through various proposals failed.
Accordingly, the dispute over the denial of employment of 161 participants in the strike was also referred to an Arbitration under the Labor Disputes Act.
The company filed a writ petition in the Court of Appeal against both cases, 1. the dismissal of the branch secretary and, 2. the dismissal of 161 persons been referred to the same arbitrator.
This dispute is another glaring example to prove that it is the working people who are facing serious injustice due to delays in various court proceedings under the existing laws of the country which needs reforms.
At the end of the court process, in September 2013, another arbitrator was appointed to hear the dismissals of these 161 employees.
The arbitration on the dismissal of Branch Union Secretary was concluded and the Arbitration award was to reinstate the Branch Union Secretary. But no justice was done to the victim as by December 9. 2011, the company had filed an application in the Court of Appeal against the decision of the arbitrator that the dismissal of the plant secretary was unjustified following a dismissal long drawn legal battle of the case. Meanwhile, the case against refusing employment for 161 started in October 2013 and lasted for 7 years till August 2018.
The verdict in that case was announced in August 2020.
The decision ruled that the dismissal was unfair and ordered that the remaining 159 be re employed and paid back wages with arrears, calculated on the basis of their last monthly basic salary.
It was also ordered that they be entitled to statutory benefits such as Employees Provident Fund, Employee Trust Fund, Consumer Allowance etc. and all the arrears be paid.
The order further states that all these arrears of wages and the relevant amounts should be deposited in the Labor Office within three months from the date of publication of the order in the Gazette.
During this period Two members have passed away and other memembers suffered untold hardships in life.
The question is how long now it will take for justice to be done in the face of injustice to working people.
The Company have already filed repudiation process.
It is now clear that its high time a just change in the judicial system is essential to change this prolonged situation in labour issues when it comes to JUSTICE TO WORKING PEOPLE.