Minister backs trade union call for duty-free vehicles for some nurses to resolve salary anomalies takes a new turn



By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Maithripala Sirisena’s effort to resolve contentious public sector salary anomalies issue in the wake of Railway strike, through a Special Presidential Commission has taken a new turn with a trade union affiliated to the government seeking duty free concessions to a selected section of its members.

Government Nursing Officers’ Association (GNOA) President Saman Ratnapriya, who also functions as the Co-Convenor of Purawesi Balaya has received the backing of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne to make representations to the Special Presidential Commission (SPC) to review public sector salaries and allowances.

According to Media Secretary to the Ministry Nipun Ekanayake, Dr. Senaratne has directed Ratnapriya to prepare a report to be submitted to the SPC.

The decision on duty free vehicles for those categorized under Special Grade has been taken at a meeting called by Dr. Senaratne at his ministry where the Co-Cabinet spokesman instructed to make representations before the SPC headed by S. Ranugge.

Ratnapriya has requested that nurses who had been accommodated on Special Grade should be given the opportunity to import duty free vehicles once during their service.

President Sirisena announced the establishment of the SPC in accordance with a decision taken by the Cabinet on  August 14. H.G. Sumanasinghe is the Secretary to the Commission. The other members of the Commission are K. L. L. Wijeratne, T.P. Collure, C.P. Siriwardene, Sudharma Karunaratne, Janaka Sugathadasa, Dharani S. Wijethilake, Lalith Silva, G.S. Edirisinghe, A.R. Deshapriya, B.P.P.S. Abeygunarathne, Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, P. Thangamayil, S.D. Jayakody and M.C. Wickramasekara.

President Sirisena called for comprehensive report from Ranugge’s team before end of Oct, in the wake of Railway workers demanding immediate solutions their grievances.

The President stepped in after Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera ruled out privilege status to Railway workers. Addressing the media, Samaraweera explained how such ad-hoc decisions could cause serious problems in other sectors.

Meanwhile, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told the regular SLFP briefing at its main office at T.B. Jayah Mawatha, on Wednesday (Aug 29) that he appreciated Railway unions for suspending proposed countrywide strike pending SPC report by Oct 30.

The veteran SLFPer explained that Railway workers’ issue couldn’t be addressed in isolation though there were salary anomalies in that sector.

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