Irate CEB employees to complain to Bribery Commission against injustice

Pay hike issue


by Ifham Nizam

The Joint Trade Alliance of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) yesterday decided to take up the injustice faced by most employees to the Bribery and Corruption and the Special Committee Against Corruption headed Janatha Vimuthi Peramuna (JVP) leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

Representatives of some 30 unions on Friday asked newly-appointed CEB Chairman, Anura Wijepala whether the Treasury has approved the 79% pay hike to the CEB engineers. In response to their queries, he had told the unions there were no approvals in writing and he is trying to trace the Board paper approved by former Chairman W. B. Ganegala.

However, senior engineers told The Sunday Island that the Treasury asked the Board in 2014 to "act on their own". Meanwhile, it is reliably understood that former Treasury Secretary, P. B. Jayasundara had given the go-ahead when the then Chairman sought approval prior to the Presidential election.

Senior Union members were of the opinion that the new administration should have blocked the staggering salary increase for some time. "We are worried about the ‘underhand deal’, which has badly affected especially those in the finance and human resources segments".

The Sunday Island reliably learns the outgoing CEB General Manager ensured that he received the hefty pay increase. It is also understood that a section of the engineers had earlier got their increment.

A senior engineer said there was no point in complaining to the Bribery Commission because they had not robbed anyone.

With CEB engineers getting a staggering increment of 79.29 per cent from this month’s salary or in other words an increase of Rs. 127,980 each, other unions including accounts and human resources personnel are gearing for a battle with the powerful cadre of engineers, who number more than 1,300.

In terms of the previous increment, an engineer received Rs. 161,400 as the basic salary and with the increment, this figure has jumped to Rs. 289,380. This is minus other perks which amount to over Rs. 100,000.

When the newly-appointed Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka visited the CEB last Tuesday, hundreds of union members protested.

In his speech, Ranawaka assured that justice would be done to all employees. JVP Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya Convener, Ranjan Jayalal shouted that they would not tolerate any injustices.

Another unionist said what they wanted was a methodology from the new minister. "It has to be fair by everyone".

According to trade unionists, when they agreed to a collective agreement assuring a 30% increase in salaries, the engineers union also agreed with it. But, they added `E’ scale – the special and highest category - for engineers was approved with effect from November 2014 and they would be paid from this month with arrears.

They also said that a finance manager gets basic salary equal to the basic salary of an engineer but with latest addition, he would receive only Rs. 153,870, an increase of Rs. 35,510.

Senior engineers however told The Sunday Island that they had spelt out the `E’ scale and there was nothing left to discuss but to implement the salary increase.    

Going by the last structure, CEB workers’ salaries average Rs. 86,000 without various allowances,but with the latest 30% pay hike, an employee’s take-home pay is expected to exceed Rs. 100,000.

In December 2014, the CEB Management agreed to pay 30% salary increase to its 16,000 plus employees with effect from January, 2015, a top official said.

Prior to giving the green light, the CEB requested its trade unions ink a joint agreement.

The Sunday Island learns the CEB also paid one-and-a-half months’ bonus instead of the usual one month plus Rs. 5,000.

Despite numerous attempts, CEB Chairman Anura Wijepala, Vice Chairman Nihal Wickremasuriya and the newly-appointed General Manager, M. C. Wickramasekara were not available for comment. Their mobile phones went unanswered.

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