Foreign mail service to be  handed over to private sector

Trade unions offered foreign trips to prevent protests – JVP union

by Dasun Edirisinghe

A JVP affiliated postal union yesterday urged the government to stop wasting money on unnecessary programmes and invest it in converting the Postal Department into a profitable institution without plotting  to privatise it.

President of the Lanka Postal Service Union, Jayantha Wijesinghe alleged that the privatisation project of the Postal Department had begun in 2007 and the foreign mail service was scheduled to be handed over to a private company from this month.

"The department signed an agreement with a private company to hand over foreign mail service from January 01," he said, adding that it was being delayed due to the pressure from  trade unions.

Wijesinghe said that the department had offered an Indian tour for members of trade unions when they opposed the privatisation move.

The pro–JVP trade unionist said that except for their union, all other postal unions would participate in the tour, wasting public funds.

"Now, 25 trade union members are ready for the tour at the expense of the department," Wijesinghe said, noting that every time the department moved to privatise some sections of the department, starting with Telecom, the government offered such tours to the Netherlands, Norway, Malaysia and India.

It should send administrative officers who are working hard to improve the department on such tours and not trade union members affiliated to political parties, he said.

Currently, the department faced a shortage of lead to seal parcels, bags to deliver bulk mail, carbon paper, etc., Wijesinghe said adding some vehicles could not be used for want of parts like spark plugs and batteries.

When contacted, Post Master General Rohana Abeyratne denied the union’s claims.

He said that the Sri Lanka Post handled the foreign mail service with 17 airlines separately and that cost millions per year.

The department had now handed over the task to a company only for the handling of the 17 airlines and it would save Rs. 50 million annually to the department, Abeyratne said.

"We implemented this as part of our strategy to minimize waste in the department," he said, adding the department had consulted all 27 trade unions before implementing the decision.

Abeyratne however said they had scheduled a meeting with trade unions for Jan. 28, where they were free to express their views and the department was ready to amend the decisions if necessary.

Commenting on the proposed foreign tour, he said it was not a holiday trip, but a study tour which was organized for the first time in the postal department’s history.

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