Port workers, officials back down from brink

Meaningful discussion with Labour Minister


 By Dasun Edirisinghe

Every employee of the government or public sector had a right to engage in trade union activities attached to the political parties, Minister of Labour and Trade Union Relations W. D. J. Seneviratne said.

Addressing the trade union representatives from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) at the ministry boardroom, he said the employer’s party would protect their employees’ trade union rights.

SLPA trade union representatives met Minister Seneviratne in the aftermath of Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga threatening to ban party politics for trade unions within the SLPA under his administration.

SLPA trade unions have been up in arms against Minister Ranatunga since he assumed office as the minister and began using tough actions to control them.

Trade unionists have met Labour Minister Seneviratne on three occasions to present their grievances. The previous discussions however ended inconclusively.

"The SLAP trade union members promised to carry out their normal duties without any interruption," Minister Seneviratne said.

This time the representatives of the SLPA administration too attended the discussion.

Seneviratne said the main demands of the SLPA trade unionists were the provision of incentives equally to workers in the Jayah Container Terminal, rectification of the anomalies as regards human resources plan, punishing the corrupt officials according to the recommendations of the Ladduwahetty Commission report and ending unfair transfers. "All problems were discussed in a positive way with the officials from the SLPA administration at the Labour Ministry", the Minister said.

They had also demanded that those recruited to the SLPA during the previous government be confirmed in service, the minister said, noting that he had asked the SLPA administration to give priority to casual workers when recruiting to permanent staff next time.

Seneviratne said he had advised the trade unionists to solve problems through discussions in a peaceful way with the subject minister and SLPA Chairman without disrupting the services of country’s main economic hub.

Labour Commissioner General Chandani Amaratunga also participated in the discussion.

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