Crippling rail strike continues as talks fail


A train overflowing with passengers reaches the Colombo Fort Railway Station on Thursday during a strike by the Locomotive Operating Engineers’ Union . Pic by Sujatha Jayaratne

by Akitha Perera

The crippling railway strike is likely to continue as yesterday’s talks between warring unionists and Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Nimal Siripala de Silva, failed. General Secretary of the Locomotive Operating Engineers’ Union DH Indika said the strikers had decided to enlist the support of other railway workers including Station Masters and Railway Superintendents for their trade union action.The strike was launched on Tuesday night in protest against what the strikers called failure on the part of the railway authorities to address their grievances including ad hoc enrolment of locomotive engine driver assistants and unresolved issues related to salaries increments and scales.

Thousands of commuters were stranded yesterday due to the strike. However, the Railway Control Room maintained that several office trains would operate on all train routes to mitigate the situation.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transport said train season tickets had been made valid for travel in Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) buses due to the ongoing strike.

Extensive talks were held between the railway officials and the strikers at the ministry auditorium at D. R. Wijewardena Mawatha with the participation of the Minister, Secretary of the Transport Ministry G. S. Withanage, Railway General Manager S. Mahanama Abeywickrama and representatives of the Locomotive Operating Engineers’ Union, to address grievances.

Issuing a statement following the discussion, the Ministry of Transport said a ruling had been given after a case was filed in the Supreme Court over the Railway Engine Driver Assistant exam issue, which was the main reason for the strike.

Withanage said a public servant could not reverse a decision given by a court and assured that he would dedicate himself to somehow bring about an acceptable solution to the problem.

The secretary requested the trade union to end the strike, considering the fact that it would affect the students who were preparing to sit the GCE O/L examination and other commuters.

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