Friday, November 13, 2009

Unions threaten to launch general strike

by Saman Indrajith - The petroleum, electricity and water board unionists yesterday said that their three day work to rule would come to an end at noon today, while port employees would continue demanding justice against the attack on one of their leaders. They said that upto last evening, the government had not responded positively to their collective demand of a salary increment. They said that they would give time till Monday to come up with an acceptable solution, otherwise the next course of action would be taken.

"It could be anything between work-to-rule and a general strike by all public sector workers. Now, we could estimate the number of workers who would participate during our next action. The government too was now in a position to guess the lowest figures. So we are ready to fight," Operational Committee Member of the Petroleum, Electricity, Ports, Water Union Alliance (PEPWA), Ananda Palitha (CPC) said. He was addressing a press briefing held at Hotel Nippon in Colombo.

The Petroleum, electricity and water board unions have been invited for talks by their administrations and ministers, but there could not be any hope the authorities would consider the demands of workers seriously, Operational Member of the PEPWA, Ranjan Jayalal (CEB) said. The Water Board union leaders’ meeting with their authorities was in progress at the time of the conference, he said.

"We are not just fighting or demanding an increment. According to agreements with our employers, we are entitled for an increment every three years. Now the increment has been delayed for eight months and Treasury Secretary P. B. Jayasundara openly said that giving an increment every three years should be stopped. We are now fighting to safeguard our rights," he said, adding that according to the agreement, the workers had agreed not to demand increments annually or whenever the cost of living increases. We have done our part. Now it was upto the authorities to do theirs.

Udena Kalutanthri, JSS President of the Ports Authority, said that the attack on trade unionist and its consequences had caused them to continue with the go-slow campaign demanding the attackers be brought to book. While all other sectors of the alliance have been given appointments by their authorities, the Ports Authority administration had unleashed violence on the employees who were exercising their right to union action.

The unionists said that although the Government claimed through its media that the go-slow was a failure and the institutions had functioned smoothly, not a single electricity bill had been issued or any meter been read since the 11th of this month. The Ports Authority had sought the assistance of the Navy to unload cargo, but failed, ports unionists said. Petroleum unionists said that the country had not faced any shortage yet, but shortages would be felt only after Saturday afternoon.

© The Island

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