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Trade Unions

Freedom to Join and Form a Union

Article 14 of the Constitution provides for Freedom of Association and allows workers to form and join Trade Unions. Section 32-A of Industrial Disputes Act considers it an unfair labour practice if workers are coerced/forced by the employer to join or refrain from joining a union as a condition of employment. Similarly, an employer can't discriminate against a worker in any aspect of employment due to the worker's participation in trade union activities. A person above the age of 21 but under the age of 16 years may become a union member. (Section 31 of Trade Union Ordinance)

Freedom of Collective Bargaining

Industrial Disputes Act provides for collective bargaining (section 5-10). However, the requirement that a union must represent at least 40% of workers at a given workplace seems quite restrictive (section 32-A.g)

Right to Strike

Sri Lankan law does not explicitly recognize the right to strike however since the Trade Union Ordinance defines what the strike action involves and also prohibits the strike in essential services (section 32 of Industrial Disputes Act), it can be implicitly assumed that strike action in enterprises other than essential services is legal and allowed by law. Compulsory recourse to arbitration and long list of so-called essential services actually restrict the right to strike. 

Regulations on Trade Unions

  • The Constitution of Sri Lanka, amended up to 2010
  • Trade Union Ordinance, 1935
  • Industrial Disputes Act, 1950