Financial Times

SLIC board's random decisions irk staff

By Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera

A major crisis is brewing at the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC), which reverted to the state after its privatisation status was reversed by the Supreme Court, with the board of directors divided over many issues and the main trade union criticising directors for running the company as a private entity.

“The SLIC board governs the company like it is ‘still’ a private entity even after the Supreme Court decision to revert this company back to the state,” R.S. Nandalal, President Insurance Employees’ Union at SLIC told The Sunday Times FT.

On Wednesday, unionized staff animatedly demonstrated outside the SLIC head office requesting the directors to run the company as a state organization and demanded discussions on pertinent issues. “At present any director can sanction any amount of payment to any project. There is no proper procedure with regard to this. Also all grades need a salary revision as for the last six years which we didn’t get," Mr. Nandalal said.

When pointing out that from August onwards a Rs. 1,000 salary increment to clerical and minor employees was sanctioned by the board, he said, “We can’t do anything with Rs. 1,000. We requested for a Rs. 10,000 salary increase and for the last six years there have been no promotions. What we are trying to stop is promotions and recruitment that is happening now without a proper procedure,” he said.

He said Deputy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya had agreed to give a hearing to the staff. A senior SLIC source said SLIC Chairman Pradeep Kariyawasam had made an appeal to the board to increase the salary of minor employees and clerical staff by Rs. 1,000 as a token increase as these employees were struggling.

“The directors considered it on sympathetic grounds and sanctioned it,” he said. The source said the chairman is designated by the board to deal with the trade unions. “The strategy is to keep the door open for the staff and so far he has given a patient hearing to the unionized staff.”

However another senior staffer said that a Rs. 1,000 increase comes to about Rs. 2.8 million annual cost which is a large amount in itself. “Also the Treasury was not informed about this. It is common courtesy to tell the Treasury prior to sanctioning such decisions, but the board seems to have implemented it arbitrarily,” he said. He said the Chairman addressed staff on August 3 in the lobby of SLIC and also on August 25 at the SLIC Auditorium that he is the only one who wants to help people and he has to overrule board to give benefits.

When contacted, Mr. Kariyawasam refused to comment on any matter.

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