Jt trade union alliance accuses govt of reneging on key promise

By Harischandra Gunaratna

Joint Secretary of the joint trade union alliance Anton Marcus on Tuesday (Jan. 27) accused the new government of reneging on one of its key promises to increase the salaries of private sector employees by Rs, 5,000.

 Marcus, who a prime mover of the alliance of 16 trade unions said he with a few key trade unionists had a discussion with Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake in his office and the Minister had claimed that he had no jurisdiction to compel the private sector employers to grant a salary hike to their employees.

 The trade union leader however pointed out that President Maithripala Sirisena addressing the nation from near the Dalada Maligawa pledged to ensure salaries of private sector employees would be increased by Rs. 5000.

 He quoted Karunanayake as saying "If a wage hike is effected the private sector will collapse".

"The minimum salary of a state sector employee is Rs 25,000 with the recent increase of Rs.5,000, but the private sector employees are paid a minimum wage of Rs 10,000", a difference of 150 per cent, he said adding that the Private sector employers were like a mafia fleecing the workers with successive governments turning a blind eye.

 Addressing a press conference at the National Library Services auditorium, the senior trade unionist said, When the employers were approached their contention was that the salaries of private sector employees were decided by the market forces and shrugged their responsibility.

 Linus Jayatillake, another veteran trade unionist said the private sector would pay higher salaries to the employees only if it was required by law and not otherwise.

 "It is a policy matter and these issues crop up due to the dubious policies of the government. One of the biggest issues today is there are too many trade unions in the country which serves no purpose and they are in splinters," Jayatillake said.

 He castigated Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for his failure to address these issues and said when he was Prime Minister in 2002 under Regaining Sri Lanka programme workers’ rights were discarded.

 "Today there is no separate Labour Minister in the new government and such an important sector comes under the purview of the Justice Ministry, which shows the amount of concern it has for the working population of this country," he said.

Among the other demands made by them were to gazette the cost of living index at Rs.280, make all employees of private sector, who have worked for more than 180 days permanent.

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