More trade unions to join agitations against goon attacks on CPC workers

by Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Political parties and civil organisations opposed to the handover of the Hambantota and Trincomalee oil tank farms to China and India respectively are organising a series of agitations shortly.

The Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU), Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSU) and several other associations are currently discussing action to be taken against the suppression of workers’ rights.

CTU Chief Secretary Joseph Stalin condemned the goon attacks on the CPC workers. He said his union together with others would go flat out to stop attacks on workers.

A mass demonstration organised by the JVP will be held today (28) in Ambalantota. The party said thousands of its members countrywide would participate in the demonstration against the government sponsored attacks on trade unions trying to protect country’s assets.

Condemning the gazette notification the government recently issued to restore the fuel supply during the strike by declaring the petroleum storage, distribution as essential services, FTZGSU Co-Secretary Anton Marcus said the government had to settle a trade union dispute through negotiations without resorting to strong-arm tactics.

Marcus warned deploying the army and police to crush a strike or any other protest would have serious repercussions. He stressed the need for collective union action to win workers’ demands.

The ports and petroleum unions have given the government one week to reverse its decision to lease out the Hambantota Port to a Chinese company with the petroleum oil tanks.

The one-day token strike by Port workers scheduled to be held today (28) had been postponed till August 1 to allow the government more time to reconsider its proposal, the All Ceylon General Ports Employees Union (ACGPEU) said yesterday.

The ACGPU’s General Secretary Chandrasiri Mahagamage told The Island that they had taken that decision after President Maithripala Sirisena agreed to have talks with the ACGPU and petroleum sector unions on amendments to the Hambantota Port lease agreement.

Mahagamage stressed that Hambantota Port could have generated a higher revenue if it had commenced bunkering operations in partnership with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).

The union noted that even though the revised agreement had increased Sri Lanka’s share to 30 percent from 20 percent, it was not acceptable as the two companies in which the Sri Lanka was given the majority shares would basically provide services to the port and be without control over the main operations of the port.

If a foreign company got hold of the Hambantota, it would, with superior technology and ability to invest, make huge profits and deprive the Colombo Port of its income, Mahagamage said.

The petroleum trade unions, on Wednesday, suspended their strike launched on Monday midnight till August 1 after discussions with President Maithripala Sirisena.

Meanwhile, the Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals LTD (CPSTL) said about 500 bowsers loaded with fuel had left the Kolonnawa and Muthurajawela terminals yesterday.

The ports and petroleum unions were awaiting the President’s amendments to the Hambantota lease agreement, which is scheduled to be signed on Saturday.

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