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Sunday May 16th, 2021

Sri Lanka CEB engineers, power supers, battle to keep country lit amid attacks

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s power engineers and electrical superintendents have kept the nation supplied with power so far with great difficulty amid a strike called by non-technical staff for higher salaries.

A striker breaker said they have reported to work despite threats and mud-slinging campaigns.

"We can keep the generation side going, but the problem is with distribution," a senior Ceylon Electricity Board official said.

"When breakdowns happen it is difficult to restore supply without other staff."

There have also been reports of sabotage of transmission lines by strikers, which have cut off power to hospitals among other places.

Engineers of state-run Ceylon Electricity Board were able to keep the country supplied with power amid a strike in 2012 with the help of outsourced ‘manpower agency’ staff.

But after ‘manpower’ were absorbed to the permanent staff by President Maithripala Sirisena amid great fanfare, have now joined the strike.

Engineers, electrical superintendents, control room operators and engineering assistants have not joined the strike, and are working night and day to keep the grid energized, officials said.

Ceylon Electricity Employees Union (CEEU) connected to Sri Lanka’s Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is taking a lead in the strike.

CEEU leader Ranjan Jayalal warned of more power failures Monday.

The union workers have put up pictures of strike breakers on facebook making derogatory references such as ‘Anurahapura thawath weda karana horikada ballek’ (this mangy cur from Anuradhapura is still working).

Female staff who reported to work have been attacked through ‘name and shame’ facebook campaigns by the strikers and mud-slinging has also started against lady engineers, CEB sources said.

"Shame! This woman has betrayed the battle, she is working today also," a post with a named picture of what was claimed to be a lady computer operator, working at Jaywadenepura said.

Non-technical staff are striking, demanding a salary equal to 1:6 ratio with the CEBs general manager.

The current administration has already give a 25 percent salary hike and absorbed thousands of casual workers and man power agency workers.

Among those made permanent by the current administration by Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya are about 1400 meter readers.

After being absorbed to the permanent staff, they promptly joined the union and reduced the number of meters the read, forcing the CEB to recruit 500 more readers.

According to a document circulated by strike breakers with salary slips with names redacted a meter reader now gets 54,420 rupees basic salary and up to 125,000 with overtime.

A class II, Grade II engineer meanwhile gets about 127,000 with a basic of 97,920.

A 25 percent increment from 2018 will help them get about 156,000. The 1:6 ratio demanded may push the monthly salary up to 234,733.

A CEB driver now gets 52,024 rupees and with overtime up to 116,096 a month. A 1.6 ratio salary could go up to 217,678 a month.

A data entry clerk (earlier typist) gets basic salary of 44,460 a month, and up to 60,986 with overtime. The new demand could push the salary up to 114,348, the document said

An N5 office worker with a basic 34,370 gets 48,000 with overtime. From 2018 he could get 60,898 with a 25 percent increment. With the 1:6 ration he may earn up to 91,000 rupees a month. (Colombo/Sept17/2017)

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