Nurses threaten further strikes, complain to ILO

By Leon Berenger

Nursing staff at government hospitals who agreed to stay on duty after a section of their colleagues went on strike crippling services in several major state hospitals, have been offered additional security, a senior official said yesterday.

Heath Secretary Dr. T.R.C. Rubera told The Sunday Times that a single trade union had called for the strike to protest the transfer of 34 nurses who had been transferred for disciplinary reasons. The strikers are demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the transfers threatening further action if the authorities failed to heed to their demand.

“If there is an issue, the union must hold discussions with us instead of resorting to trade union action which affects the general public. “Any problem can be resolved through discussion”, Dr. Rubera added.
“On the other hand there is very little I could comment on, since the decision to transfer the nurses was taken by the Director General Health Services Dr. Ajith Mendis and not by me”, he explained.

He added there were reports that certain elements were intimidating staff members not involved in the strike --hence the decision to provide security whereever it became necessary-- in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the hospitals.

Saman Ratnapriya of the Government Nursing Officers’ Union (GNOU) said they were forced to resort to trade union action because of the arrogant attitude of the health authorities.“The nurses were transferred simply because they participated in a three-hour work stoppage --on October 25-- to press for demands such as a pay increase and other administrative issues.

This trade union action was within the law of the country and steps were taken to ensure there was no disruption of the emergency medical services”, Mr. Ratnapriya added.

He said the nurses at hospitals in Hambantota, Matara, Karapitiya, Ratnapura, Colombo South General Hospital (Kalubowila) and the National Hospital Colombo were on strike.

He added trade union action would be extended to other hospitals in the country as well in a day or two if a solution to the issue was not forthcoming.

Mr. Ratnapriya added discussions with the authorities had failed. He said the GNOA had also complained to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva.

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