A welcome move
The move by Labour Minister
Athauda Seneviratne to introduce a national Salary policy for
the private sector could be termed as a revolutionary move that
would be welcomed by the private sector employees most of whom
have been getting a raw deal from their employer.
Most of these unfortunate suffer in silence for lack of an
alternative and are powerless to protest lest they are thrown
out on their ear from their employment.
It is no secret that some of these firms bent on accumulating
profits have mefted out shabby treatment to those in their pay
and have largely got away with their callousness due to the
overcrowded job market.
Some employees are deliberately employed on casual basis
virtually holding them on a string.
A majority of these workers have to endure harsh conditions
since most firms fail to comply with safety measures or health
standards as the numerous articles appearing in the newspapers
of misadventures at work places would testify.
This is not to say that the private sector as a whole should
be painted with the same brush. If not for the opportunities
provided by the burgeoning private sector, the country would
have been in turmoil due to joblessness.
One would readily acknowledge that it is the private sector
that has been the engine of growth as it has been rightly tagged
and introduced new technology and other innovations into the
work milieu that has revolutionised the commercial landscape in
A majority of these firms look after their employees well and
offer them salaries and perks that is the envy of their
counterparts in the public sector.
At the same time, there are also the black sheep who short
change their employees and rake in profits exploiting the sweat
and toil of those in their employ. Non of these firms comply
with Government requests for pay hikes whenever the State Sector
had been granted increments.
They usually plead erosion of profits as a result of such a
course and the Government too is helpless to intervene. Now
hopefully the new salary policy for the private sector would
force errant employers to fall in line and pay their workers a
According to the Minister, the Government has acknowledged
the need for a salary structure for the private sector in terms
of a national policy so that anomalies in the private sector
would be eliminated.
The Minister has also rightfully pointed out that poor
salaries in the private sector is bound to affect growth,
productivity and efficiency. This would certainly have a telling
impact on the national economy and belie the label affixed to
the private sector as the engine of growth.
As the Minister acknowledged, the present Shop and Office Act
as well as the Collective Agreement has not brought in the
anticipated dividends to private sector employees. Some contend
that these two instruments are moribund and needs overhauling.
According to the scope of the proposed salary policy the
Minister hopes into rope in employers to share in the profits of
their organisations with their employees and what is sought is
to define a clear cut way where this could be achieved.
As we commented earlier in these columns private sector
salaries have been a sore point with their colleagues in the
public service. By the same token the private sector lament that
they are subjected to taxes which are exempt from public sector
The Government should take into consideration this aspect and
try to mitigate the tax burden heaped on the private sector
employees as one of the means of dealing with their salary
We are not aware if the proposed salary policy for the
private sector would include the Free Trade Zone employees who
are today a voiceless segment to whom even the basic labour laws
are not applicable.
A majority of these employees are being exploited to the hilt
both by their employers in the FTZ and outside elements. Some of
these young village girls live in cramped hovels rented out by
unscrupulous elements where one room is shared by a group in a
bid to economise due to their paltry wages.
It would be ideal if some form of solace is offered to these
hapless workers in the proposal to be mapped out by the Minister
who is known as a friend of the working from his old Leftist