Govt. docs warn of island-wide strike action in a fortnight
Gives ultimatum to resolve DAT issueMarch 17, 2012, 7:18 pm
By Suresh Perera
Government medical practitioners have decided to adopt a tough stand by calling for an island-wide strike in hospitals within a 14-day framework if an official circular on their key demand – an enhanced Disturbance, Availability and Transport (DAT) allowance of 29,000 rupees – fail to materialize, officials said yesterday.
At a stormy emergency session of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL) branch of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) on Friday, a resolution was unanimously adopted to issue an ultimatum to the government to honor its pledge to push up the allowance or face the prospect of country-wide trade union action, they said.
"Our membership was fully supportive of a strike as there is no option to win this just demand", they explained. "We want to see it in black and white as empty promises have only led to more frustration".
The resolution is expected to be placed before the GMOA’s powerful General Committee on Sunday (25) for overall sanction and a decision on the timing of the proposed trade union action, the officials said. "We are going all out this time as the wait for the pledge to be honored has been long".
A DAT allowance of 5,000 rupees was first granted to government doctors in 1993. Subsequently, it was increased by 10,000 rupees, but when doctors asked for 29,000 rupees, as approved by the Health Ministry and the Treasury, the President at the time had wanted time to implement it because of the war situation, the officials recalled.
"Three years after the end of the war, we are still waiting", they pointed out."We need to get this issue sorted out at this juncture".
Turning vociferous, the membership accused GMOA President, Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya of siding with the government to thwart an earlier planned strike action by the NHSL branch, the biggest in the country with more than one thousand doctors, they asserted.
"There was displeasure over the attitude of the GMOA chief with some members openly challenging him to at least organize a one-day strike in the interest of doctors to disprove the charge that he is more eager to please the powers that be", they said.
Some members had also wanted a General Committee (GC) meeting be called to take "appropriate action" against Padeniya and the Executive Committee as they were not satisfied with his conduct as the President in the struggle to win legitimate demands.
There is also provision at a GC session to move, by majority vote, a no-confidence motion against the Exco, as witnessed in 2003, when Padeniya himself was the secretary of this 15,000 strong body. An interim committee was appointed until the next election was held.
Asked why he came under flak, Padeniya replied, "These are people who want to create agitation without divulging their names. Why can’t they agree to be quoted on these news reports without remaining anonymous?"
When told that members face the prospect of expulsion if they are quoted by name in the media, he shot back, "the GMOA is a democratic organization. I was elected and we have a media committee and a spokesman. Are these people so spineless not to reveal their names".
"It didn’t happen the way they try to project – these people have no spines. That’s why they want to hide and give various versions. Give me their names as a responsible journalist".
When told that journalists believe in fundamentals and are not under obligation to him to reveal their sources, Padeniya replied, "if you are not prepared to name your sources, you can keep your fundamentals and I have nothing further to discuss with you".
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