Unions have forgotten repression during Rajapaksa regime – Health Minister

Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, says that trade unions have forgotten the way they had been suppressed by the previous government.

“Some unions exceed their limits in their struggles against the incumbent government which never suppressed them by resorting to extra legal measures,” the Minister argued.

He was speaking at the annual sports festival of the Government Nursing Officers’ Association at the Nuwara Eliya Race Course on Saturday.

The Minister said: “Union leaders have already forgotten how white vans full of goons visited their homes during previous regime to intimidate them. Union leaders and their family members lived in fear then.

Therefore, the trade unions joined forces with us to overthrow that regime. They were in the front line with us, shoulder to shoulder, in the struggle against those despotic rulers. Union leaders then rendered a yeoman service in ousting that despotic regime.

After the regime change, the unions and their leaders experienced an unprecedented freedom. Today, they can campaign for their rights without fear of being assaulted or killed. They can stage protest rallies and protest marches without the fear of being abducted in white vans. They do not receive death threats over the phone now. They no longer need to seek the help of embassies to flee the country to save their lives. The incumbent government has recognized their right to organize and engage in trade union activities. But in some cases, it is sad to notice that several unions act in a manner that they have already forgotten that horrible past.

Some are not capable of comparing the situation in the past with the situation now. So, some of them exceed their limits and act in an unjust manner to go beyond their role as trade unions.”

“I too was a trade unionist myself for 15 years. Today the trade union methods are very different from then. Gone are the days of strikes and boycotts. Trade unions world over no longer employ age-old means of struggle and agitation. They have improved and evolved themselves to make use of new and innovative methods of winning their objectives. They have increased their efficiency and effectiveness in employing negotiations and discussions to win their rights.

“Our government since 2015 worked amicably with trade unions and helped them in solving many of their grievances. Our government increased the monthly salary by Rs 10,000 of all government employees. The nursing officers were given additional Rs 3,000. There had been no such salary increase for public servants since 2006. The previous governments did not give pay hikes but only allowances which would not be counted as the basic salary,” Minister Dr. Senaratne said.

The GNOA Sports Festival -2019 was held on Friday and Saturday. State Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Faizal Cassim, President of GNOA Saman Ratnapriya, top officials of the association and its members attended the two day festival.

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