Mangala: No talks while railway strike is on



By Saman Indrajith

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera told Parliament yesterday that the government was planning to set up a special public commission to increase the salaries of public servants including the railway workers.

Participating in the Second reading stage debate on the Value Added Tax (Amendment) bill, Minister Samaraweera said that President Maithripala Sirisena had instructed him to prepare a Cabinet paper to establish a new Salaries Commission exclusively to look into the salaries and wages of the public sector employees.

The Minister said that if an increment had been given to the railway workers there would have been a crisis in other public sector institutions. "If the increment is granted as per the demands of the railway workers their salary scales will be above the salary grades of doctors, principals and school teachers. Therefore, I opposed a salary increment for the railway workers. It is very unfair for the railway workers to demand a pay hike only for themselves while the government was preparing to bring about a mechanism to give salary increments to all public sector workers," Minister Samaraweera said.

Samaraweera said that he had faced strike actions of public sector workers during the past 20 years. "However it has been my policy during those 20 years not to negotiate with any striking workers. I am ready to talk to them if they come to the negotiating table after suspending their union action.

The Minister also said that he regretted on behalf of the government the inconveniences and difficulties faced by both government and private sector workers, students and other commuters owing to the wildcat strike launched by the railway workers on Wednesday.

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