Below is the text of the presentation made by Buddhima Padmasiri at the Sunday Times Business Club, in the forum on “Outsourcing Jobs Versus Permanent Employment” on 29 June 2015
As the private sector workers are campaigning to secure the Rs. 2,500 increase to their monthly salaries, manpower workers in public and private sector jobs are faced with a difficult struggle.
What is the significance of May 1st in Sri Lanka? Although it is a seemingly broad question, the connection between May Day and the larger workers’ struggle provides a useful opportunity to reflect on the successes and losses of the country’s labour movement. Toward this end, the authors of this article sat down and discussed with veteran unionists and organizers regarding both the history of May Day and contemporary challenges. The goal was to use May Day as a platform to discuss larger issues affecting labour organizing in Sri Lanka.
Over the last couple of months, Sri Lankans have been presented with two budgets for the year 2015. The one in October 2014 was introduced by the previous regime in order to ‘curry favour’ with the public ahead of the presidential election of January 2015. The other came from the newly appointed government following the election. Both governments made promises to increase workers’ salaries, but there is a discrepancy between the budgetary allocations and promises made to public and private sectors workers.
The opening scene of ‘Modern Times’, a satirical comedy written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, portrays a line manufacturing process during the Great Depression in England.
Chaplin, a factory worker, is bolting screws and loses track of his work as he takes a few minutes off to scratch his hand. He fights with his supervisor and chases a fly that lands on his nose. The scene gives a sense of the oppressive factory environment where every activity of the worker is measured in relation to productivity.