Stern action against Trade Union terrorism | Sunday Observer

Stern action against Trade Union terrorism

13 September, 2023

President directs Minister to ensure that commuter’s are not affected

Eighty four striking drivers responsible  for student’s death

Minister fixed a meeting today to discuss issues but they struck

Police, Army deployed to ensure commuters’ safety

Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Cabinet Press Spokesperson, Dr.Bandula Gunawardhana said yesterday (12) that strict measures  will be taken against terrorism type strike actions by the Railway Unions at the press conference held at the Government Information Department.

He also stated that this arbitrary strike was carried out while a discussion was called today (13) regarding the promotion, procedure and salary issues of the train drivers and measures were being taken in this regard.

He also said that he requested the President to make the Railway Service an essential service to prevent the public from being affected by such strikes. Yesterday evening, the President issued a gazette notice declaring the railway service as an essential service from midnight yesterday (12). Also, the Police and the Army have been deployed since yesterday (12) for the safety of the train and passengers.

In this press conference, the Minister also stated that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had advised him not to allow any terrorism that would harm the public. He also said that with the release of the Railway Service Gazette notification, the difficulties faced by the people will be avoided from today (13).

Although a discussion was scheduled to be held today (13) to provide solutions to the problems, a student fell off the train and died due to the strike carried out arbitrarily by the union. All the 84 people involved in the strike are responsible for this death. The Minister also said that he has requested the IGP to conduct an impartial investigation and punish all those responsible for this murder. Condolences were expressed at the press conference for the death of a student who fell off from a train and the minister also said:

The Government is not ready to surrender to the terrorism of these railway unions. General Managers or higher officials are not responsible for this. No such death has been reported in a railway union action before. This is being reported for the first time in history.

By 2021, the total revenue of the railways was 2.6 billion rupees. 2.3 billion are overtime payments. About 7 billion would have been paid for salaries. The railways have been running at a loss of 10 billion every year. Some leaders of the trade unions are working to stop the train without any notice when the passengers are inconvenienced for various purposes. People who come from distant villages to Colombo for work are very inconvenienced. In such cases, people get angry and even attack railway stations.

“When I took over the Railways, I always said that this can never be fixed and needs to be privatised. Tourists have reserved seats and use train travel. A train was prepared to attend the special ceremony at the Nallur temple. Therefore, I spoke to the union leaders, bowed down and told them not to strike because the problem can be resolved through discussion. If there is a problem, first discuss it with the General Manager. If there is a problem that cannot be solved, discuss it with the Ministry Secretary. If that is not possible, discuss with me as the Minister. I discussed with every trade union twice a week and resolved the issues by putting in Cabinet papers. As a department the Railways could not solve certain problems, a Cabinet paper was forwarded to make it an authority and solve it. The Cabinet decided to take expert advice and make changes. Earlier, the Cabinet sub-committee was told to give an opportunity to discuss the problem of the drivers of the Railway Department. Accordingly, the opportunity has been given for this at 4.00 pm today. The discussion was given two weeks ago.

Despite this, only 84 drivers out of 18,000 - 20,000 workers are on strike, shamelessly and cruelly, due to either some political or other influence. Many trains have not run. 30 to 40 train journeys were cancelled. When the trains with power sets are stopped, the long journeys are disrupted. A student went on the roof of the train and hit his head on a bridge and died. I am deeply saddened by this death. If there are any institutions that administer justice, we should look for this.

The Railways General Manager has given me in writing that as a Railway Department, if the Heads of the Departments are carrying out the necessary arrangements to fulfil their duties properly, but still if some workers engage in such illegal strikes trying to take human lives, it is defined as murder, the Minister said.