Lal Kantha claims strike a success, but admits
failure to mobilize more

Lal Kantha

JVP trade union leader MP K. D. Lal Kantha claimed yesterday’s token strike was a success but in the same breath admitted that they failed to muster the entire work force into the agitation.

"The token strike was successful in our view. We earlier said that public, private and estate sectors would participate but at the last moment we decided to limit private sector participation only to a demonstration level. We think around 70 per cent of the public sector and a large number of estate sector workers were on strike," he told a press conference held at the National Library Auditorium.

He admitted that the unions failed to mobilize workers into action and attributed it to the government’s pressure and influence.

"In some places we could not get a single worker out, but we managed to register our protest. We gained a lot of experience.

This is only the first step of our agitation. We experienced both negative and positive outcomes and there were setbacks. We hope to eliminate the negative factors in future and we now know our weaknesses and strengths," he said.

The effect of the strike was not felt by people since there was a continuous supply of electricity and water. Transport was also available. "We managed to get 10 per cent of CTB workers out on strike. We did not want to cut down water and power and get transport stalled since we do not want to oppress the public. If we did that the public would have been inconvenienced and their anger would have been been aroused against us. We are a responsible trade union movement and did not want to go that far but if we wanted we could have definitely done that," Lal Kantha said.

The National Trade Union Center had called for a token strike with several aims and most of them were achieved. "We wanted to assess how the government, workforce, administrations and security forces would respond to a strike situation. Now we have witnessed that. We saw how the government controlled media was converted into SLFP controlled media. We observed how the police and forces were used to disrupt our action. The strike gave us the opportunity to study the levels of participation by workers. We had got that assessment and it would be useful in our future struggles," he said.

"The UNP’s Jathika Seveka Sangamaya had come forward to support the strike though the NTUC did not invite them. Private bus owners too promised to join forces on condition that NTUC include the demand of provision of subsidized fuel for passenger transport services. "We started with 366 unions and this was increased to 660 unions. We did not stage a proper organized union action which we may do in the future, "Lal Kantha said

He thanked workers, unions and other social forces that helped the NTUC’s call for a token strike. "We thank the private media which maintained balance reporting right from the beginning of this issue", he said.

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