12 June, 2011 - Published 13:07 GMT

UN urged to protect Lanka right to strike

A group of powerful trade union federations representing workers in the apparel industry and the health sector have complained to the United Nations seeking an intervention against the restrictions imposed by the government on trade union activity.

In a complaint to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the unions allege that the fundamental right of the workers to strike has been curtailed and activists are regularly intimidated.

These actions violate the principals of the ILO conventions, they say.

"These violations deal with restricting the right to engage in legitimate trade union action, intimidation of trade union activists and acts of anti-union discriminations in the public health sector," the letter to the ILO director general said.

Health authorities

Thushara Ilangakoon of Health Services Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA), Anotn Marcus of Trade Union Confederation (TUC) and Saman Ratnapriya of Government Nursing Officers Association in their complain urge the ILO to direct the Sri Lanka government to "stop all acts of anti-union discriminations".

The trade unions complain that health authorities are victimising activists engaged in trade union actions.

Instead of bargaining in good faith and responding to the issues raised the trade unions say 'the government choose to intimidate and threaten'.

They urge the ILO to direct Sri Lanka government not to selectively deprive the release from service, and not to engage in determining, influencing and/or exerting pressure on the HSTUA in its decision, who should be its nominee to be released from service for fulltime union work, among other concerns.

In 1951 the ILO set up the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) for the purpose of examining complaints about violations of freedom of association, whether or not the country concerned had ratified the relevant conventions.

If the CFA decides to receive the case, it establishes the facts in dialogue with the government concerned.

If it finds that there has been a violation of freedom of association standards or principles, it issues a report through the governing body and makes recommendations on how the situation could be remedied.

Governments are subsequently requested to report on the implementation of its recommendations.