ECONOMYNEXT – Over 2,000 trade unions in Sri Lanka have called a 24-hour, island-wide hartal – in what organisers say will be the country’s biggest general strike in decades – on Friday (06) in solidarity with protestors who are demanding the resignation of the government.
Transport, banking, health, power, education and other sectors will withdraw from services for a period of 24 hours on Friday as part of the campaign, organisers said. Hartal is an Indian word for a total shutdown of workplaces.
Convenor of the union alliance Ravi Kumudesh told reporters on Thursday (05) that more than 2,000 unions and civil bodies have agreed to go on the one-day strike.
The railway union alliance, Teachers and principals union as well as the Ceylon Bank Employees’ Union confirmed to EconomyNext their participation in the hartal.
The unions previously went on a one-day strike on April 29, in support of ongoing protests against the current government with the participation of more than 1,000 unions bringing the country to a virtual standstill.
“We have decided to support the hartal tomorrow by going on a one day strike. We have more than 18 state and private banks and also unions of the central bank with us. They have confirmed their participation and as a result all banks and their branches will be closed tomorrow,” a spokesperson for the Ceylon Bank Employees’ Union said.
The Nurses Association, the Public Health Officers Union, fishing unions and the postal union have also announced their support for the May 06 hartal.
A spokesman for the health sector unions said, other than health officers, all unions will be on strike from 7am Friday for 24 hours. The spokesman asked the general public not to come to health institutes other than for emergencies.
All health sector unions will protest in front of the Ministry of Health from 9am Friday, the spokesman said.
Several civil organisations and unions affiliated with the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) said they will not support the hartal and will continue operations without putting further burden on the general public.
The SLPP Progressive Employees’ Association of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Train Engine Drivers’ Association told reporters that no employees representing their unions will take part in the strike.
However, the hartal organisers warned that from May 11 onwards the alliance will go on a continuous strike until the government and the president steps down from their positions.
Protests have erupted islandwide against the government and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over what has become Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence. A daily protest organised and attended by people with no political party affiliation is being held in front of the presidential secretariat in Colombo for the 27th day running. (Colombo/May05/2022)