'Amendments introduced to grant money from Fund for employees'
housing, medical benefits'
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa presided yesterday when Parliament met at 1
pm. After presentation of papers and oral questions, the House took up
the second reading of the Employees' Provident Fund (Amendment) Bill.
Labour Relations Minister Gamini Lokuge: I present the Employees'
Provident Fund (Amendment) Bill with pleasure.
When the recipients of the Employees' Provident Fund had been
employed in several institutions, they had been allotted with separate
EPF numbers. So we have suggested to introduce one number for each
employee connected to their identity card number. The Labour
Commissioner General is the sole authority who will grant their numbers.
Amendments have been introduced to provide 30 percent of the money
from the fund for building a house and also for medical benefits when
they complete 10 years of service. This amount could be offered to an
employee to build a house on his own land, to by a land or to buy a
property and also to settle the rest of a housing loan that he or she
had taken earlier.
In addition, it could also be obtained for a heart surgery, cancer
treatment, kidney transplant or surgeries, cesarean surgery and for
accidents where the employee had been hospitalized for more them 14
This sum could also be obtained for the spouse and children of the
employee as well.
The amendments also include an employee who has more than 50
employees under him should submit reports concerning the payment of EPF,
once a month to the Labour Commissioner General or the Central Bank.
So I request the members to extend their support for this Bill.
Joseph Michael Perera (UNP): We are very happy over the government's
withdrawal of the Pensions Bill.
Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu takes the Chair
But my view is that the amendments to the EPF Bill had been brought
with a different objective. To introduce the Pensions Bill, you have
introduced this Amendment Bill.
That was the reason why you moved this amendment Bill today. Who is
the owner of the building that has been scheduled to be built for EPF?
Does the EPF need a building? This Act has only powers to invest. The
ETF also provides all these benefits. So when we make arrangements to
pay same benefits, it is a waste of money of the employees.
International Monetary Co-operation Senior Minister Sarath Amunugama:
Sri Lanka is a welfare State, since the era of Sinhala kings. In such a
welfare State, we have safety nets, such as pensions, ETF, EPF,
Samurdhi, etc. But this is different. We took a new path in 1958 to
introduce the EPF.
Under this Act, when the EPF was initiated, a practical decision had
been reached. As the ETF money was so massive, the financial control was
handed over to the Central Bank and a monitoring board. It is an
accepted matter, but complex. This money is being contributed by two
parties. The employee contributes 8 percent, while the employer
contributes 12 percent. So the employee gets a considerable amount of
money when he retires at the age of 55.
The Opposition can make many suggestions, but the objective is to
grant a big sum to an employee, when he retires.
The Opposition questions as to why a building is being constructed
for EPF. But this is a decision which has been taken by the government.
The government has taken a policy decision to reduce the interest
rates for loans.
These loans are being facilitated for various development activities.
Compared with year 2010, we have provided 33 percent more loans to the
people last year. This money is being invested on essential sectors.
Moreover, the total equity investment in 2010 was Rs 1,684 million,
whereas this was Rs 2,627 million in 2011. The EPF money is also
invested in the equity market.
Our ultimate aim has been to grant the maximum possible money to an
employee at the time of his retirement. The employee contributes 8
percent to the fund, while the employer contributes 12 percent.
Govt had withdrawn three Bills with regard to pension schemes
Anura Dissanayake (DNA): The government today withdrew three Bills
with regard to the pension schemes.
The government could have done it much earlier when trade unions
pointed out this issue and protested against it.
The government's wanton decision had claimed the life of an employee,
while several more had been disabled. If the government had heeded the
people, Roshan Chanaka would have been still alive. There should be a
pension scheme for the private sector workers and there is no doubt
about it. However, it should not be done with the underlying aim of
misusing the EPF money which adds upto about Rs 1,000 billion.
National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva
Nanayakkara: One of the key reasons the labourers are unable to recover
their EPF money at retirement was that the employers did not provide
their signatures. This should be looked into. I welcome the amendment to
the Act which makes it compulsory of the employers to submit reports on
the EPF membership and payments to the Labour Commissioner General.
Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody takes the Chair
Vasudeva Nanayakkara Continues: The minister has brought these
amendments after discussions with the National Labour Advisory Council
(NLAC). This is commendable since required, representation is provided
in the NLAC, unlike in some trade unions.
Anura Dissanayake MP: I also stated that there should be a pension
scheme of the private sector. However, it is the JVP who made
unnecessary agitations and fear among the workers towards this pension
I appreciate the amendments made to the EPF Act which were brought to
further strengthen the fund.
Govt must state the amount of money they were to withdraw out of the
Ravi Karunanayaka (UNP): Today the government withdrew Bills
regarding pension schemes for the private sector and overseas employees.
This was what we repeatedly requested from the government over the past
Dr Amunugama spoke with the view that the government could do
anything with the EPF money, since it functions under the government. He
should have spoken more responsibly as a former finance minister in the
As Anura Dissanayaka MP pointed out, the government should state the
amount of money they were ready to withdraw from the EPF to build the
proposed new secretariat. People have a right to know what happens to
their money invested in the fund.
Social Services Minister Felix Perera: Karunanayake MP spoke about
the workers. However, during the July strikes, they fired out about
300,000 employees for asking a ten rupee salary hike.
The elder community in the country is gradually increasing.
Presently, the elder population exceeds about eleven percent and this
would gradually rise up in the future. So we have to decide as to
whether we are keeping the EPF money idle, or investing that money
efficiently. The fund has reached Rs 1,000 billion and this money should
be properly managed.
Now the private sector companies have improved and even the people
were more eager for employment opportunities in the private sector. This
is a positive trend since it would reduce competition for government
Eran Wickramaratne (UNP): We got to know that Clause 5 of the Bill,
had been cancelled which referred to the proposed insurance scheme. We
ask as to why the government was unable to do it at an early occasion,
without wasting such a long time.
The EPF was introduced in 1958 by an Act and the ETF was introduced
in 1980 by another Act. The ETF was introduced under the UNP regime.
The ETF had been introduced to provide direct benefits to the
Contributors could recover 75% of the money in their account
Labour and Labour Relations Minsiter Gamini Lokuge: Under the
prevailing system, the contributors to the EPF had the facility to
withdraw 75 percent of the money in their individual accounts as loans.
However, when the interest payments are delayed, the payments and a
penalty with interest should have been settled by the EPF. Therefore,
the worker ultimately receives nothing at the time of retirement after
settling his loans and overdue interests.
Under the new amendment, 30 percent of the money in the individual
account can be withdraw interest free.
Rights of the workers have been won by struggle
A H M Azwer (UPFA): Eran Wickramaratne MP, stated that the EPF money
belonged not to the government, but to the employees. Even a small child
knows this. However, there is no doubt that the government would look
after all aspects with regard to the employment of our people. We have
understood this responsibility.
The rights of the workers had been won by struggle, mostly by leftist
leaders, Marxists and socialists such as Dr N M Perera, Philip
Gunawardena and S A Wickramasinghe. Until then, there had been no
overtime payments for the workers.
Dr Jayalath Jayawardena (UNP): The government at the last moment had
withdrawn the proposal to introduce a pension scheme and insurance
scheme for the private sector.
This was done under the directions of the President. This proposal
was one the government thought most important in the Amendment Bill. I
request the government to present the Mahanama Thilakaratne Committee
report on the FTZ incident to Parliament. I request for this when we
take up the debate on the EPF (Amendment) Bill, since the contents of
this report has still not been disclosed.
A H M Azwer takes the Chair
Govt's objective is to provide a better service to the employees
Ranjith de Soyza (UPFA): The government's objective is to provide a
better service to the employees under the social welfare programme. The
EPF is contributed by the working class in this country and this
government did not need to rob the EPF.
The late 1980's is written in history in black letters, when the
working class demanded a pay hike of Rs 10, 300,000 employees were
suspended from service. One employee was killed due to assault by the
UNP government during the protest. The UNP talks of Roshan Shanaka, but
what did the UNP give brothern Somapala, who was killed due to assault
and the others who committed suicide?
R Yogarajan (UNP): When Athauda Seneviratne was the labour minister,
he suggested that the EPF number of a person would be none other than
his or her National Identity Card. It is a good suggestion. This measure
to provide provisions to obtain a loan for employees by holding their
EPF as security is appreciable.
Report on ETF money (about a trillion rupees) had not been submitted
Dr Harsha de Silva (UNP): The Act states that at least an interest of
2.5 percent should be paid annually.
A report on this EPF money which has around a trillion rupees, had
not been submitted during the last year.
Rural Affairs Senior Minister Athauda Seneviratne: The EPF had been
initiated in 1958 and it completed 50 years in 2008. We have discussed
what we had to do for the EPF concerning the future generation.
We are putting them into action. The UNP who interdicted hundreds of
thousands of public servants in 1980, was speaking about it today. Why
do the JVP and UNP speak about this move as if these amendments were
affecting their image?
We have suggested to grant 30 percent of the EPF money to an employee
during his young age to build up his or her house without an interest
If he get this amount after his retirement, he has many other matters
to attend to, so that he cannot build up his house.
Estate sector employees have none to guarantee for a loan. During
those days, Mahinda Rajapaksa was Labour Minister. So I requested him to
grant them a loan holding the EPF as security.
He accepted it. The UNP is speaking against the construction of a
building for the EPF. They are against everything. They stand against
their leader Ranil Wickramesinghe. What has happened to the UNP now? We
are constructing the 'Palace of the employees'. Nobody should stand
against that decision.
Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga asked for a division for the
The second reading of the Bill was passed with a majority of 59
votes. 71 members voted in favour, while 12 voted against.
UNP and JVP voted against. The TNA members were not present in the
The Employees' Provident Fund (Amendment) Bill was passed with
Govt to construct safe bell and light rail gates
Transport Minister Kumara Welgama, stated in Parliament yesterday,
that measures would be taken to construct 250, safe bell and light rail
gates, spending over Rs 5 million within 2012 as a solution to the issue
of unsafe rail crossings in the country.
Shantha Bandara (UPFA): Unsafe rail gates hare posed a severe threat
to the lives of people. This issue should be given urgent attention and
immediate solutions should be provided to ensure the safety of the
UPFA MP Ranjith de Zoysa seconded the motion:
Transport Deputy Minister Rohana Dissanayake: We have implemented a
new programme to usher in a new era to the transport sector. There are
1,083 rail gates in the country. Among them, 452 are safe, while 631 are
The President has allocated Rs. 1,000 million to provide safe rail
gates. We expect to complete constructions of 250 bell and light rail
gates within the year 2012. These constructions will be completed as
soon as possible.
Transport Minister Kumara Welgama: We have a plan to construct about
250 rail gates spending about 5 million rupees.
We cannot be satisfied just by constructing rail gates. To minimize
rail accidents, many other aspects should be given proper attention. We
are now paying attention to these issues. More human resources should be
added to ensure safety of rial crossings.
The House was adjourned until 1 pm today.