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1953 style Hartal on the horizon


Even the elders among us would have some difficulty in recalling a time when there was as much antagonism between a government and the trade unions as we see today. The May Day rallies tomorrow will be emotionally charged affairs given the tensions that have been unleashed. What we are seeing now is a case of the trade unions consciously bringing pressure on the government on matters pertaining to state policy. The last trade union action that we experienced, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation strike, had nothing to do with any demands such as wages or work conditions - it was all about matters of policy. The CPC unions put forward three demands – abandoning the plan to lease out the Trincomalee oil tank farm to India, the modernization of the Sapugaskanda refinery and turning over the oil tanks in the Hambantota port to the CPC. These are policy matters into which trade unions have not ventured at this level before.

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