South Asian Forum of Employers || SAFE :: Summary & Draft Report of last meeting at Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2nd & 3rd October 2012
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 Subject :Report part 06 - Round table discussion.. 09-01-2013 01:58:39 
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  1. Mrs. Dawn  Austin
  2. Mr. Sunil Wijesinghe
  3. Mr. Roshan Rajadurai
  4. Mr. K. Gomez
  5. Mr. Rohith Kosla

Mrs. D. Austin – she stated that she has had three decades of association with the EFC. In her view one important aspect of an employer’s organization is that it is the APEX body which represents across section of different organizations. She also stated that some enterprises she’s involved with are small and medium enterprises where certain laws are ambiguous in its application to such entities /they have difficulty in interpreting the laws), and that the EFC had rectified this ambiguity on various occasions. It is important for employers to understand what is fair and just in employment. Employers’ organizations assume the responsibility of setting down guidelines for organizations which may adopt them as applicable. Furthermore she stated that,

  • Employers’ organizations can establish fair and good governance practices.
  • They act as a central processing unit to feel the pulse of membership and to understand issues in line with trade union demands.
  • Employers’ organizations see that businesses are managed with transparency and fare play.
  • A cohesive single voice to represent employers at policy making stages (lobbying and advocacy)

Mrs. Austin further stated that employers organizations are and should be a special voice for small and medium enterprises.

Mr. K. Gomez (CEO – Chevron) : He stated that the world is becoming competitive and what we need to do as employers is creating commercial value thereby to create equitable circumstances. He went on to state that the ‘people asset’ is to be used strategically and that the developed countries have managed this asset well. However, within the South Asian region in order to achieve economic independence the primary focus would be managing people. For this it is important that the stakeholders come together and it is noteworthy that the State is an important stakeholder.

Employer organization should be the one to bring the knowledge, experiences, competencies, and skills of the companies together and lobby with these as a single platform. Mr. Gomez complimented the EFC along these lines.

He stated that the first challenge he faced as a CEO was to re structure the organization. He had to reduce his staff by 50% and moreover he had to justify the same. This move was to sustain the business. All strong unions were present in this organization. However, this reduction of staff was carried out smoothly with the assistance of the EFC.

An employers’ organization, while looking after the best interest of the employer, must also consider the situation of the employee. In this light, he stated that the EFC has the capacity to influence the government to make positive policies where it is not just the employer but also the employee who benefits. Elaborating on this, Mr. Ravi Peiris Director General EFC stated that the EFC had joined the trade unions in raising concerns on the Government’s proposed pension scheme for the private sector, due to the possible detrimental effects of its provisions on its intended beneficiaries.

Mr. Roshan Rajadurai (CEO – Kahawatte Plantations): Mr. Rajadurai stated that the plantation sector employs approximately 600,000 workers with 10 % of dependants’ population. He stated that the EFC plays a major role in the activities of the sector, since it’s re-privatized by the Government in 1992.  The EFC’s assistance in legal representation and industrial relations in this sector, which is strongly unionized and politicized as well, was essential and valuable. The EFC’s role in negotiating with the unions was commended by Mr. Rajadurai, who observed that the EFC was the first “port of call” for any plantation sector concerns. He also listed the expectations as follows:

  • EFC must lobby with the Government very strongly and educate them to come up with a framework for enforcement of productivity policies.
  • Enhance the advocacy role with the Government and influence them to take decisions based on long term sustainability.
  • Bring together plantation unions and companies before negotiations to enable and bring about a conducive environment to conduct these negotiations.

Mr. Rohit Khosla (General Manager/ Country Manager Taj): Mr. Khosla stated that the EFC facilitates harmonious employer – employee relations and sets standards for people friendly HR practices and also facilitates tripartite communication process. The EFC has represented Taj for over 2 decades and remains responsive to needs of business and in maintaining industrial peace and they also focus on improving the business. He reiterated the statement that in the hotel business each geographical location brings its own challenges, and that the EFC has throughout the years played a vital role in shaping the Company to face these challenges. He further informed the gathering that the EFC organizes from time to time a special training programme for managers on discussion process and role of communication as well as other labour law and HR practices. He also added that the EFC caters to multinationals as well.

Mr. Khosla appreciated the fact that the EFC maintains an equitable relationship with the unions as well which, in many instances, wins situations.

The suggestions Mr. Khosla stated are as follows:

  • The EFC should set out the recruitment process in line with best practices in recruitment
  • To conduct specific surveys (mainly salary surveys) to help members
  • Look at conducting employee satisfaction/engagement survey – sector specific
  • To develop further the employee handbook

Mr. Sunil Wijesinghe (Chairman, The Employers Federation of Ceylon): Mr. Wijesinghe stated that while the EFC fitted into the matrix of being the main employers organisation in the country, it is also a trade union. Commenting on the role of the EFC in the future, Mr. Wijesinghe highlighted some gaps in the general system - a lack of training for managers at all levels including director-level, and an absolute necessity for guidance for trade unions – as well as some specific needs of enterprises such as the formulation of compliance reports. These were areas of possible intervention for the EFC. He also saw an opportunity for the EFC to gain more sector specific knowledge, and adverted to the need for more interaction between the EFC and people within the various industries. There was also a need for the EFC to assist industries  to meet the demand of the “new worker”

Mr. Gotabaya Dasanayaka made the following observations:

  • EFC has been reaching out to other chambers and other bodies to form alliances from time to time. This can be viewed as a move to join with all chambers and form one APEX body. However, the idea of one single body has not been recognized here; but merged will be inevitable in times to come.
  • It is not for an employers’ organization to be “employee friendly” but to maintain credibility in how they function with trade unions.


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