A Snapshot of Working Conditions, Opportunities and Inequalities in Northern Sri Lanka
by Solidarity Center, Washington, DC, June 2016
…The bulk of the workers in Jaffna are in low-paid jobs with minimal labor standards, social protection and security of tenure, which are not conducive to decent work, per the ILO1 or to creating sustainable livelihoods. Whether through a lack of institutional capacity as a result of the war (fighting ceased seven years ago) or other factors, the local, provincial and national governments are remiss in upholding and enforcing labor standards and laws, compared with other provinces. Moreover, perhaps because the re-establishment of formal work and labor relations is relatively new to the province, workers are unaware of the rights due them and the laws to be enforced. Trade unions, nongovernmental organizations and international development partners could play a pivotal role in sensitizing the governments and business community around compliance with national and international labor standards, and empowering workers to demand their due entitlements.
If Sri Lanka is to reap a peacetime dividend, it must address the entrenched inequality and economic inequity that can stoke and prolong conflict, and which threaten peace. The following snapshot of labor conditions highlights the issues and gaps that exist in Jaffna and, by extension, the Northern and Eastern provinces, that need urgent attention to both grow the country’s economy and address worker rights issues that have the potential to stoke continued social conflict…
The Solidarity Center is a non-profit organization that works with unions, nongovernmental organizations and community groups worldwide to advance worker rights and achieve equitable economic development in countries where globalization has made the lives of vulnerable people even more precarious. It supports programs and projects—among them, trainings, education campaigns, legal aid, research, transparency initiatives—that help workers understand and exercise their rights, improve their working and living conditions and build independent unions. Every year, the Solidarity Center helps hundreds of thousands of working people, the majority of them women, improve their workplaces and build stronger futures in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The Solidarity Center’s mission is to help build a global labor movement by strengthening the economic and political power of workers around the world through effective, independent and democratic unions.