The Foreign Employment and Welfare Ministry is intervening in a dispute over the re-imbursement of pension or provident fund benefits to returning Sri Lankan workers from Korea.The Ministry will act as ‘Power of Attorney’ for 16,000 Sri Lankan returnees from Korea, who completed their employment contract, but either forgot, or were unaware about claiming these benefits before they left Korea,
Chairman- Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB), Kingsley Ranawaka told the Sunday Times on Thursday, his final day in office as Bureau head. Mr Ranawaka is taking over chairmanship of ‘Maganeguma’, a State company engaged in road development and construction coming under the purview of the President. Amal Senadhilankara has been appointed Chairman SLFEB, and assumed duties on Friday.
Korea has a National Pension Scheme similar to Sri Lanka’s Employees Provident Fund, which applies equally to both local and foreign workers. Both employer and employee contribute a total of 9% towards the fund. The employer deducts 4.5% from the employee’s wage, and makes a matching 4.5% contribution. The money is returned to the employee (in the case of foreign workers) on completion of his contract, and before they return home.
Several Sri Lankans working in Korea told the Sunday Times that they were told by their employers that, under the MoU between the two countries, the Korean government will remit the money to the Sri Lankan Government, once their contract ends. They were also told that they would then be able to collect this refund from the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment and Welfare Ministry, on their return to the island, only after they reach 60 years.
They accused the Ministry of trying to block their money for long periods, without handing it over to them after their return to the island.
On the other hand, many were also unaware that there was even a scheme of this nature, and were also unaware that deductions were being made from their monthly wage.
Mr. Ranawaka said the Government has entered into an MoU with the Korean government, enabling the ministry to intervene on behalf of Sri Lankans employed in Korea, to claim their pension and other benefits.
He said, “Sri Lankans employed in Korea could apply for a pension from the Korean government after completing five years of service. But if they returned to the island without first claiming the pension, then they will have to wait till the completion of 60 years to get that lump-sum money,” he added.
On the other hand, if they had applied for the benefits while being in Korea (just before completing the contract), they would have been paid when returning.
He said the Ministry was working with Korean government authorities to release this money to these 16,000 returnees.
He said a new batch 0f 5,000 Sri Lankan workers received jobs in Korea recently.