Dockers halt strike as Sri Lanka gets tough

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s port workers called off a planned strike as the government described this week’s petroleum trade union action as being politically-motivated and vowed tough action.

The government used the public security act to arrest 16 petroleum workers who defied an essential services order which had outlawed their strike on Wednesday.

The government is also using the same tough law to prosecute those responsible for causing millions of rupees in damages to the oil wholesale distribution centre at Kolonnawa, including the sabotage of 14 brand-new oil tankers.

The JVP-backed All Ceylon General Ports Employee Union said they suspended their strike scheduled for Friday.

The union said they had an assurance that the 70 percent sale of the Hambantota port to the China Merchants Port Holdings will not go ahead as planned by the government on Saturday, but officials said it was untrue.

The government made it clear in parliament that it will conclude the sale by the weekend and it will also not hesitate to use the full force of the law against port workers defying the ban on strikes.

Finance State minister Eran Wickramaratne told parliament that the recent strikes were instigated by former president Mahinda Rajapakse and his "joint opposition."

"We are ready to listen to reasonable trade union demands, but in this case, what they asking for is not a genuine work-related issue," Wickramaratne said. "When they are raising someone else’s political agenda, we will reply them politically."

The military was deployed to restore oil supplies on Wednesday as the oil workers’ strike triggered fears of a fuel crisis on the island.

Oil unions had said they will not return to work until the government abandons plans to sell stakes in oil storage tank facilities in the northeast and south of the island, but they returned to work by Wednesday afternoon. (COLOMBO, July 27, 2017)

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