Building Construction and Wood Workers

As per unofficial statistics there are over 200000 workers in the building construction and wood work industries in Sri Lanka. However no official statistics are available.

Globalization and liberalization has created many large scale construction projects in the country. State highways, Fly-over bridges and giant housing complexes are just a few of them. Many large scale construction companies such as Maga, E. H. Cooray and Tudawe Brothers have come up in addition to numerous small scale ones. Returnee migrants utilize their earnings for housing. Huge apartment structures are rising all over the Colombo district and other metropolitran areas.

The industry has created thousands of employment opportunities to our workers, as masons, carpenters, painters, barbenders and un skilled workers. However, the nature of their employment is temporary or transitory – they leave from one worksite to another, seeking better terms of employment or when the work is over at one site.

These workers lack knowledge about their rights and the importance of collective action. Thereby they are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Though there is a wages board for the building trade the minimum wage stipulated by it is absolutely and     ludicrous (Rs. 8,125.00 for unskilled work and Rs. 9500.00 for skilled in). Understanding the plight of these workers, the NTUF along with its affiliates, the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya and the National Organization for Self Employed have taken up the challenge of mobilizing and organizing these workers into a trade union.

To facilitate matters the NTUF became an affiliate of the Building and Woodworkers International on 01.01.2011. In collaboration with the BWI the NTUF has been able to conduct three training programmes for trade union activists of the NTUF to build their capacity in organizing the workers of the construction industry.

A project proposal to organize these workers under a trade union to articulate their rights in line with the BWI and ILO decent work concepts is being considered by the BWI at present.