CEB unions to Minister: Make rules of justice applicable to all
In response to last weeks Ministerial directive to pay engineers a Post Graduate Degree Allowance, a Professional Allowance and a Disturbance Allowance, which the certain unions claim to be unreasonable, some 27 trade unions attached to Ceylon Electricity Board are to agitate for fresh demands.
Commencing from the 18th of this month the trade unions are to carry out protest rallies in ten main towns in the country throughout this month and culminate in a token strike.
The protest campaign spearheaded by JVP backed Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya has put forward six demands. The protest comes in the wake of CEB engineers receiving an allowance samounting to near a hundred percent increase in their salaries. The engineers, who carried out a non co-operation action earlier, refrained from attending any Technical Evaluation Committees, until their demands were met.
The demands put forward by the CEB unions include a demand that officials who were found guilty of corruption charges by COPE be brought to justice, a demand for a monthly wage increase of Rs. 1,200/-, employees be given a subsidy of five units of electricity consumed, increases in the cost of living allowance be made annually as the workers are disadvantaged under the present system where the COL revision was made only once in three years and does not keep pace with the present sky rocketing prices.
Secretary of the Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya, Ranjan Jayalal told The Sunday Times that they are not asking the Board to stop the allowance approved for engineers. Rather they call on the Minister to meet their demands before they are forced to resort to serious trade union action.
He said the protest campaign would commence on the 18th from Kurunegala, followed by similar campaigns in Kandy, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Badulla, Ampara, Galle, Ratnapura and Gampaha. He added that a protest demonstration would be held at Parliament Junction on October 4th, followed by a sick note campaign on the 10th of October. The Secretary said a copy of the demands had already been sent to the Minister and they are awaiting a reply.
Mr. Jayalal said the Minister was of the view that the union is backed by the JVP and that this is a JVP protest. We want to state clearly, he said that all unions have united to take the struggle forward. Even the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya was involved, as issues of justice are at stake he said. Whenever workers ask for an allowance, they are told that the Treasury, the Cabinet and the Board had refused approval. But In the case of the engineers, the Minister used his power under the CEB Act and approved of the demands. We are asking that the Minister to make this rule applicable to all parties and grant our demands he said.
Last weeks Ministerial directive to grant the allowance to the CEBEU is to come into effect from this month.
Under the agreement engineers are to receive a post graduate allowance. All engineers having post graduate qualifications at Master’s or Doctoral level qualifications will receive an increase of 10% to 20% of their monthly salary. In addition executive grade employees with professional qualifications will be entitled to a Professional Allowance of 10% to 20%. A Disturbance Allowance of 20% too is to be made available to all eligible engineers.
Meanwhile it has been reported that the Salaries Commission after having studied the report of the high level committee appointed by the Minister, has granted its approval for implementation.
Chairman of the Salaries Commission Mr. Lionel Fernando told The Sunday Times that it was not the Salaries Commission which approved the payment. He said that what had happened was that the Commission weighed the pros and cons of a report submitted by a high level committee.The decision is not ours, we gave an opinion, when giving an opinion we take into consideration certain emergencies, then despite norms we use our discretion. We look at how the majority would be served best and even in this case this is the course of action we followed Mr. Fernando said.
Mr. Fernando was of the view that granting this allowance would create a precedent for other trade unions to make their own demands, ‘let them also make their demands, any one can do it, let them come forward and once they state their case we will give our opinion taking into consideration the best interest of the public’ said Mr. Fernando.