The Employers' Federation of Ceylon

Sunday, 22 February 2009 00:00


This amendment to the Industrial Disputes Act stipulates “unfair labour practices by employers” with penal sanctions. It also stipulates that no employer shall refuse to bargain with an union which has in its membership more than 40 per cent on whose behalf such union seeks to bargain.

 In fact, we have already made submissions to the Hon. Minister of Labour Relations and Productivity Promotion stating that this piece of legislation violates the dictates of ILO Conventions 87, 98 and 135. Our reasons for same are as follows:


              i.     Act No.56 of 1999 is fully directed at only trade unions and not at any other worker organization. The list of unfair labour practices on the part of employers only sets out instances of employers preventing workers from joining trade unions and not any other worker organization. 

What we need to appreciate is that a trade union is one of many organizations that a worker might choose in exercising his or her freedom of association. Therefore, the law cannot pre-suppose the fact that a workers’ organization should necessarily be only a trade union and not any other organization of his choice. Therefore, Act No.56 of 1999 essentially undermines the ILO convention on freedom of association in relation to the workers freedom of choice. 

            ii.            It is also inconsistent with convention 98. The provision which requires mandatory collective bargaining is contrary to the essence of convention 98 which emphasizes voluntary collective bargaining. 

          iii.            We also highlighted the fact that Act No.56 of 1999 is inconsistent with Convention 135 on workers representations which clearly identifies worker representatives who may or may not be members of a trade union. In other words, this convention talks of trade union representation and elected representatives. Therefore, on the same basis as set out in (1) above, this law is contrary to convention 135 as well. 

Quite apart from the above, our main objection, which we have articulated over the years, is that this law is discriminatory against employers as it only sets out unfair labour practices on the part of employers and nothing on the part of workers and their organizations. 

Therefore, the thrust of our submissions in relation to this piece of legislation is that it is most inappropriate and would in no way assist the promotion of collective bargaining in this country. We propose that the provision relating to mandatory collective bargaining be removed from unfair labour practices and if the cause of the unfair labour practice on the part of employers are to remain in the legislation it is extremely important that the following unfair labour practices on the part of trade unions, workers organizations and workers be also included as in the case of some of the other countries. We give below our proposals in this regard. 

Unfair Labour Practices of Trade Unions, Worker Organizations and Workers 

1.      Participating in or organizing a strike without giving 7 days notice in writing to the employers and the Department of Labour. 

2.      Participating in or organizing a strike whilst the matter is pending conciliation under the Industrial Disputes Act provided that such conciliation proceedings have not exceeded a period of 30 days after the dispute arose. 

3.      Causing willful damage to the property of the employer or other employees of the Company. 

4.      Causing injury to any employee of the Company and/or causing wrongful restraint of persons or forcible occupation of Company premises. 

5.      Participating in or organizing a strike in contravention of a provision of a Collective Agreement. 

6.      Causing sabotage to plant and machinery of the employer or to equipment or goods belonging to customers of the employer. 

7.      Refusal to provide essential services to prevent deterioration or destruction of perishable items at the time of a strike which is otherwise legal in terms of (1) and (2) above. 

8.      Failure to achieve accepted production norms and targets or to ‘go slow’ in the performance of duties. 

9.      Exerting pressure or undue influence on fellow workers to join a trade union or any other organizations. 

10.  Causing disruption to work and dissension amongst workers by conducting in the manner set out in (9) above. 


1.      Any person guilty of an unfair labour practice after due investigation by the Commissioner of Labour shall be prevented from holding office in a trade union or branch thereof for a period of 5 years thereafter. 

2.      Any person found guilty of an unfair labour practice after inquiry by the Commissioner of Labour may also be dealt with as an offender in terms of the Industrial Disputes Act and would also be liable to termination from employment. 






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