Continuous power supply despite TU action

Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya assured the public that the electricity supply around the country has returned to normal and under no circumstance will the consumers be disadvantaged.

The Minister who softened his earlier stance of issuing termination orders to protesting workers in a bid to entice them to return, said though the strike continued, Norochcholai, Kerawalapitiya and other power stations were functioning as usual.

“Though there were small breakdowns in power supply in certain areas around the country reported all steps are being taken to rectify the situation,” said Siyambalapitiya.

He stressed that many workers were returning to work.

Discussions over the proposed salary scale were taken to the offices of the Labour Ministry on Monday night as the unions along with the CEB management resolved to talk things through. Six hours later, it reported that negotiations ended in a deadlock.

Labour and Trade Union Relations Minister John Seneviratne had agreed to increase the salaries of all workers, except that of the engineers by 13 percent until the new salary scale comes into effect in 2018 and to resolve the salary anomalies from 2015 in two phases. But the unions had refused to call off the strike and asked that the management provide all such promises in writing.

Soumya Kumarawadu of the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union speaking to the Daily News however believed that no viable solution could come out of negotiations with the Labour Ministry.

“The issue of salaries have been discussed for a long time and there were many consultations. We have around 50 trade unions within the CEB, with 25,000 workers. It is a very sensitive topic,” he said as he believed that the current proposals put forward by the Management was the best possible agreement they could arrive at.

The workers however allege that the salaries of the engineers have been increased disproportionately to theirs. In 2008, the Engineers received a 75 percent increase in their salaries, nine times higher than non-technical workers. The workers now demand that this increase be rolled back to the earlier ration of 1:6.

“You cannot satisfy everyone in an organization as large as ours. We are not in favour of all the proposals made currently but it is the best that the Management can do. Perhaps there were less consultations made at the bottom,” Kumarawadu further explained.

He added that it would be unfair to replace the current 2018 salary agreement with any new negotiations as the 2018 proposals were put forward after many consultations and compromises made.

“Only 2000 odd people are protesting. They convinced others to step out saying that they could get higher salaries. Most of them thought the strike would end soon and they could get back to work. But now they cannot get back because the Unions are intimidating them and not letting them get back to work”, alleged Kumarawadu.

According to Kumarawadu, if the workers agreed to the 2018 salary proposals, the salaries of workers could go up by at least 35-40 percent. The executive officers however have had their salary increase frozen by courts due to a petition against their increase.

There are 900 engineers managing the whole situation now and we are working with the people who are not against this salary hike, if the Ministry takes back its proposal due to a few protests, then they would betray all who stood by them, said the Engineer.

The Engineers he said have not gone on strike since 1996.

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