employees blocked the gates to Fort Railway station leaving
thousands stranded outside
helping Ashoka Malkanthi, a minor employee from Matara
Hospital who is on hunger strike
employee of the Mulleriyawa
Hospital, W.M. Dharshana Manjula could barely talk, but he
was in a fit of rage Thursday noon.
am prepared to die to make our unfair health services wake
up. I am making this sacrifice on behalf of over 80,000
employees of the health services who have been unfairly
treated," he whispered. Young Dharshana is married,
with a five year old daughter.
workers attending W.M. Dharshana Manjula, a minor employee
of Mulleriyawa Hospital
food for four days Manjula's lips were dry his body showed other
signs of dehydration. Manjula's
condition was deteriorating before the eyes of thousands of
the major hospitals
of the city, the condition was even worse as hundreds of poor
ailing women and children waited for the queues to move. Things
were expected to worsen by Monday as the Health Services Trade
Union vowed to call an islandwide strike if
the government ignored their suffering colleagues.
the Eye Hospital in Town Hall was a large crowd with tears in
their eyes. Most of them were clad in white, and from time to time
they peered over the walls of the adjoining Health Ministry.
Emotions were varying and provoked as these employees of the
country's health sector sat vigil before the stage of 12 of their
employees of the country's government health services are on a
death fast. They are E. Dharmakeerthi a radiographer of the
National Hospital in Colombo, Susantha Rajapaksa, a driver of the
Kalubowila Hospital, L. K. H. Thilakasena,
a clerk at the Matara Hospital, N.J.L. Gunewardene, a
driver at the Avissawella Hospital, Thushara Ilankone, a clerk at
the National Hospital, T.H. Somaratna, a minor employee at the
National Hospital, Ashoka Malkanthi a minor employee at the Matara
Hospital, K.S.P. Alwis, a minor employee at Mulleriyawa Hospital,
Uditha Kumara Dissanayake, a minor employee at the
Mulleriyawa Hospital, J. A. Pushpa Nilmini, a minor employee at
the National Hospital, K.M.S.P. Ratnayake a minor employee of the
National Hospital and W.M. Dharshan Manjula of the Mulleriyawa
employees of the health services, their starving colleagues were
given every possible health aid to be comfortable, but Ashoka
Malkanthi, clad in white could barely talk. Without food for four
days, her condition was worsening before one's eyes. Colleagues
were fanning her with newspapers and others were splashing water
on her face, but her eyes remained closed.
are trying to wake up the health authorities," said Convenor,
Health Services Trade Union Alliance (HSTUA),
Saman Ratnapriya from a small tent nearby. It was packed
with first aid equipment and files.
have tried hard to rectify the anomalies in our salaries. We have
waited for seven months without a solution. The Prime Minister
must step in and give us an immediate solution otherwise our
colleagues die. And if our colleagues will die then we are not
responsible for what will happen in the hospitals
countrywide," cautioned Ratnapriya.
has been agititating on the salary anomaly issue since July and
the health services have been continously plagued with strikes,
work to rule campaigns, walk outs and hunger strikes.
Among those employees in this alliance include nurses,
laboratory technicians, pharmacists, clerks, drivers, telephone
warned that they have not yet resorted to strike action in
hospitals islandwide but will take a decision soon if the
government does not respond to their demands. "As it is the
hospital services that are being crippled and by Monday we may
have to resort to strike action in hospitals islandwide," he
asked whether the armed forces will have to run the hospitals
again, Ratnapriya said "That will be a disaster."
Health Minister P. Dayaratne said that the salary issue of the
health workers had been rectified. He said that arrears would be
paid in three stages with 50% being paid this year and the rest to
be paid in instalments of 25% each in the years 2005 and 2006.
"In addition to this, they would also receive an increment of
10% after this year's budget which was an increase given to all
have looked at the HSTUA demand favourably," he pointed out.
Minister also said "We
have made a reasonable increase. But we cannot go beyond what is
recommended by the Treasury.
joint Convenor, HSTUA, Ravi
Kumudesh said that they reject the Minister's formula. "We
have written to the Prime Minister on January 26 requesting his
intervention on their behalf."
in the transport sector, 400,000 men and women were left gazing at
the railtracks as over 17,000 railway employees clashed with the
Railways Authority causing pandemonium
strike has severely affected
postal deliveries as mail bags that were brought to the
railway stations remain uncleared.
Colombo-Fort Railway Station which is a hive of activity every day
of the week, remained closed Friday too. Employees blocked the
gates not letting anyone enter. A train stood stationery and
policemen guarded the station. The windows at all the counters
remained locked. The clock too had stopped ticking, but
from time to time passengers walked in looking expectantly.
They were pushed aside and the iron gate shut in their faces.
is unbearable," said train traveller Wattalagedera.
"There is no way in which I can get to office. There are
thousands like me. I boarded the train at 8.30 a.m. and was in my
office by 8.50, but these days I have been languishing on the
road. I am eager to
rush back home to my baby, but I cannot do so now," she said.
do not want this 'elders home' to run the Railway
Department," pointed out K. A. D. P. Kuruppu of the
Organisation for the Protection of the Properties and
Rights of Railway Employees from the office in Railway Lane,
Manawadu, W. H. Silva, M. A. Ratnasiri and Bandula Vitanachchi of
the organisation were representing the employeees of the Railway
group said that a few 'elders' have come and taken over the
railways. "Why have these retired people been brought back?
What is this railway authoritiy? They are having problems among
themselves even when taking day to day decisions. How will they
run the railways?" they asked.
striking union leaders insisted that the Railway Authority Act be
1970 onwards the government reduced the monetary benefit to the
Railways Department. The budget allocation became less and less
every year. Yet, we maintained the tracks, the signals, the
security, the transport. We paid salaries to those who worked day
and night and on holidays. This is a system that has been in
existence since the colonial days...." they explained.
we are asking today is not for any monetary benefits.We are asking
that the Railway Authority Act be repealed with immediate effect.
And if this is done, the trains will begin to move the very next
day," said these members of the Organisation for Protection
of the Properties and the Rights of the Railway Employees.
health to railways, the strikes continue threatening to knock down
the common man senseless.
the railway employees insist that their strike is not about money,
the stage set in Narahenpita is for a hunger strike that is all
and women are on a hunger strike protesting against the
compensation formula of January 1 which offers a 30 month salary
payment to private sector employees who are relieved from private
sector employment. "We are not happy with this formula and
ask the authorities to change their stance," said striking
is a 33 year old Act and it was amended in parliament last year
and on January 1 this compensation formula came into being,"
pointed out a spokesman from the Labour Department who did not
wish to be identified.
insist that this formula is far superior to those regional
compensation packages offered in India and Bangladesh.
employees who come under the Termination of Employment Workmens'
Act (TEWA) are said to be affected by this formula. Striking
members say that it limits their compensation.
has to think of other
services too" -
have given everyone a reasonable solution," said Lands
Minister Rajitha Senaratne.
who sat at a three hour session of the Economic Policy
Committee which scrutinised the strike issues of the
Railways Department, health services and compensation
packages said that the government has come to a
"reasonable formula" to correct the salary
anomalies of the health services employees.
Senaratne pointed out that the government has to think of
several other services and issues,
and not only about health. "Minister Choksy is
on the verge of presenting a relief package to the public
for fuel, electricity, dhal, onions, rice and many other
essentials. We have promised the employees of the health
services that we will give 50% of the arrears in three
instalments this year and the rest in two years. This means that by
January 1, 2006 all these monies will be paid. They still
insist that 100% be paid immediately.
This does not sound reasonable. We are facing a
financial crisis," pointed out Minister Senaratne.
Rajitha Senaratne who is continuously looking into these
crucial issues that are likely to affect the public said;
"We have given a good
package to the railway employees. Those who wish to can join
the authority and benefit from the package and those do not
wish to can remain in the department. Yet others who are not
happy with either the Railways Department or the Authority
are offered a voluntary retirement scheme," he said.
Minister went on to say that the matter is being resolved
and that some clarifications are in the process of being
regards the compensation, we have scrutinised their problems
and requests and the Prime Minister has said that those
trade unions with collective agreements with companies, or
in the case of companies with a profit of Rs.100 million
year; the trade unions can negotiate upto a 50 month salary
government is doing everything possible"
and Labour Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe when contacted
about the strike situation in the country said that the
government is doing everything possible to ease the
are doing everything possible to make life easier for the
common man," he said.
- first man who starved to death for a cause
in charge of the LTTE's Political Wing in Jaffna during the
mid '80s, fasted to attain demands that he believed were
crucial. He demanded that the government army camps be
withdrawn from Tamil areas, all rehabiliation work be
suspended until the formation of an interim (Tamil)
government for the Tamil homelands, stop the continuing 'Sinhala
colonisation' in the Tamil homeland, halt the setting up of
police stations in Tamil areas, and the release of all
detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. (PTA)
people felt that the Sri Lankan and Indian government
"ignored" his protest.
The Tamil people watched Thileepan grow weaker and
weaker. And within days the public concern turned to alarm.
A last minute gesture was expected from the Indian
nothing happened and Thileepan died on August 26,