P.V. Manel Ranathunga’s eyes flicked up and down as she walked slowly around the Hidellana Tea Factory, about 80 kilometers from Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.
An electrical socket in the tea drying section caught her attention. “The wires are not properly connected to the power point,” she said. She raised her tablet and took two snapshots. “I can take photos with it. It is so easy,” she explained.
Ranathunga, who is 45 years old, is a labour inspector at Colombo’s East District Labour Office. It’s her job to inspect about 40 factories in the district and ensure they comply with labour laws and standards, and that workers have a safe and healthy environment.
She has been doing the job for more than 14 years. In 2013 the way she worked changed when she started to use the tablet. But it wasn’t so much the camera that made the difference, but a built-in App called Labour Inspection System Application, known as LISA for short.
LISA was developed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) with support from the United States Department of Labor (USDOL). The App took five years to develop and it brings together all the elements of labour inspection into one system. In 2013 Sir Lanka became the first country in South Asia to use it.
A built-in App, known as LISA, has improved the way labour inspectors work.
Ranathunga was one of the first group of 400 labour inspectors trained by the ILO to use LISA. In the past her work was neither easy nor quick. Traveling between different factories she had to carry more than 10 forms, detailing different labour standards, along with her big record book. At each factory she needed to fill in the forms and take notes, and then work another three hours at home to finish her reports. But now, with LISA, there is no stack of papers and all her work is finished on site.
Simply a click
When she sees a problem in a factory she takes a photo with her tablet and then clicks on the LISA icon. In the App’s pop-up window she writes her inspection report, and saves it with the photos in the LISA online database. She sends the photos and her report to the factory’s management with a request to fix the problems. Her job is done and she can go home to her teenage son and husband.
“They can fill the inspection report when they are there and upload it to the database from the workplace itself. And when they leave the workplace, their work is done,” said W.J.L.U Wijayaweera, Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Labour Relations of Sri Lanka.
Ranathunga is using LISA to inspect a factory.
“The manual system always made it difficult for us to monitor follow-up actions. So the software they have developed is not only an inspection system but also deals with the monitoring and follow-up,” he added. “For example, if the inspection reveals a certain kind of noncompliance, the activities will follow up even to the litigation and even after the litigation to the recovery of the compensation due to the workers.”
LISA has also changed things in the Complaint and Legal Department of Ranathunga’s office. When workers or employers submit grievances they are now put into the LISA online database, rather than the old-fashioned big record books.
“After receiving the complaints, we input them into the [LISA] system and send the information to the labour officers who will inquire into the matters and take any necessary steps later,” L.T.G.D Darshana, Assistant Commissioner of Labour, District Labour Office, Colombo, said.
“Earlier we had a separate notebook for it. We used to enter the details of the complaint in the notebook. But now the new system has made the process easier for us,” Darshana added.
Public to get access
LISA also means that by simply typing the name of the worker or the employer into the system all the details about their complaints will be retrieved, including court records, what actions the responsible labour officers have taken, and what needs to be done next. Very soon the database will be available to the public so they can keep track of their cases.
Other countries in Asia-Pacific have also expressed interest in the App, and the Philippines has already started to develop a similar computerized labour inspection system.
“With LISA, it’s easier to ensure compliance with labour laws and monitor cases,” Shyama Salgado, ILO National Programme Coordinator in Sri Lanka, said. “We are confident that now the Ministry of Labour will be able to respond in a more efficient, transparent and a timely manner to the requirements of our social partners as well.”
Sri Lanka’s workers’ and employers’ organizations (or social partners) also see the benefits of LISA. “We are very confident that this project [LISA] can really help to improve the condition of the workers and improve the condition for the employers, industry, and finally the national interest,” said Anton Marcus, Joint Secretary of Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union of Sri Lanka.
It’s hoped that the improvements and transparency LISA is bringing to labour inspection and administration will also create better overall labour relations, and reduce disputes.
“We are really happy to have this. With LISA, we are going to have a proper governance system to the labour inspection, not only the labour inspection but the entire administration process,” said Wijayaweera.