Sri Lanka’s worker unions go on defiant strike against government  

The workers are protesting against the Wickremesinghe government’s recent policies aimed at economic reform

Updated - March 02, 2023 02:43 pm IST

Published - March 01, 2023 10:14 pm IST - COLOMBO

Colombo harbour union members protest during a strike against huge tax increase in Colombo, Sri Lanka on March 1, 2023.

Colombo harbour union members protest during a strike against huge tax increase in Colombo, Sri Lanka on March 1, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Workers from nearly 40 trade unions in Sri Lanka, employed in sectors including banking, public health and ports, on Wednesday went on a strike, despite an executive order from President Ranil Wickremesinghe declaring many services “essential”, to effectively outlaw protests by workers in those sectors.

Doctors at Sri Lanka’s National Hospital in Colombo said they would be available for emergency cases alone. The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) asked its members to stay away from private practice, too. While buses in capital Colombo plied in several central areas, banks limited their services to a few hours in the morning.

Also read: Sri Lankan civic activists concerned over ‘witch-hunt’ by state

Teacher unions said members would display black flags at schools, while other union leaders warned that they would organise more protests and demonstrations in the coming days, and continue reporting sick at work.

Niroshan Gorakanage, spokesman for a port workers’ union told the media: “This is a one-day match. This will be followed by a test match soon. Therefore, the authorities must respond if they want to avoid it.”

The workers are protesting against the Wickremesinghe government’s recent policies aimed at economic reform, ahead of a likely $2.9 billion package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In preparation for the programme that Sri Lanka hopes will bail its economy out of last year’s painful crash, the government raised taxes two-fold, and tripled the electricity tariff, which workers across sectors say have begun hitting them hard. Especially with inflation persisting over 50%, families are struggling to make ends meet.

The protesting workers also criticised authorities for postponing the local government elections, scheduled on Match 9 earlier, citing the “lack of funds”.

The mass trade union action comes even as the political opposition slams the government for postponing elections in an “anti-democratic” move.

The Wickremesinghe government has also come under attack for police force being unleashed at protesters.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.