BY Buddhika Samaraweera
Trade unions within the public sector are currently engaged in discussions about launching a massive strike in which all public servants would participate, with one of the main demands set to be the resignations of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, The Morning learnt.
A leading public service trade union spokesperson told The Morning yesterday (5) that the said strike is planned to be launched demanding the reduction of the cost of living (CoL) and the revocation of the prevailing state of emergency, in addition to the resignations.
“Public servants have decided to protest against the political authorities’ failure to resolve the current crisis, in several phases. Accordingly, discussions are underway to launch an islandwide strike as the third phase,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Government Officers’ Trade Union Association (SLGOTUA) yesterday announced that all public servants would stage a silent protest during their lunch break today (6) afternoon to demand that the Government provide a speedy solution to the crisis situation.
In addition, nearly 247,000 teachers and 16,000 principals of schools islandwide have organised protests in front of all zonal education offices today.
During the past few months, a number of protests were held in various parts of the country to protest against rising commodity prices and the shortages of essential commodities caused by the prevailing economic crisis. As these issues have escalated in recent times, islandwide protests are now taking place demanding the resignation of the President and the Government.
Meanwhile, the SLGOTUA, which has a member base of nearly 600,000 public servants, recently warned that they would have to withdraw from duties in the future if the Government does not provide solutions to the issues that have arisen at state institutions in the face of ongoing scheduled power cuts.
SLGOTUA National Organiser Pradeep Basnayake said at that time: “Activities of about 90% of state institutions have come to a standstill due to long term power cuts. Many state institutions including divisional secretariats and district secretariats have not been provided with power generators either. Even though there are generators, it is not possible to operate them due to the shortage of diesel.”
Noting that the people who visit many state institutions have had to therefore return without obtaining services, he said that in this situation, the Government should give priority to the smooth functioning of state institutions.
“Not only public servants, but the entire population is under great pressure at present. Therefore, the Government should intervene immediately to address these issues. Otherwise, we as public servants will have to withdraw from duties or reduce the number of days on which we report to work. What’s the point of coming to work and just warming seats?” he questioned.
He also questioned the basis on which certain authorities, including the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka, have stated that the work from home (WFH) concept should be promoted, when there are power cuts across the country. He added that it is difficult for public servants to work from home as most of the activities of state institutions are based on files and other types of documents.