Sri Lanka Railway trade unions yesterday decided to temporarily call off their strike following a discussion with Secretary to the President Austin Fernando.
The public, especially train commuters travelling to work from various parts of the country, were much inconvenienced yesterday due to the sudden train strike launched by the Locomotive Engineering Operators’ Union (LEOU) and the Railway Guards Union on Wednesday night.
A tense situation was also reported at the Fort and Maradana Railway Stations as thousands of commuters were left stranded on Wednesday evening and yesterday since the train services were cancelled without prior notice.
Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said the lightning strike launched on Wednesday was an act of sabotage which can not be condoned in anyway as it greatly inconvenienced the ordinary people as many of them were stranded either at railway stations or on the roads, while some people even had to skip going to work because of the strike.
“Therefore, I have given instructions to the Railways General Manager to conduct a special investigation through the Police.
Meanwhile, since the unions have decided to continue the strike, despite negotiations offered by the government. The authorities have already sent a Gazette Notification declaring the railway services as an essential service, “Transport and Civil Aviation Deputy Minister Ashok Abeysinghe said.
He further said railway personnel were granted a period of one hour to halt the protest and return to their posts. But, they did not agree to halt the strike. Hence, we requested President Maithripala Sirisena to declare the railway service as an essential service to prevent commuters facing further inconveniences.
Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva had instructed officials to take all measures to ease the difficulties that the public have to undergo due to the sudden strikes that take place.
“Accordingly, the SLTB deployed its maximum strength of about 6,000 buses after cancelling leave of all drivers, conductors and technical staff. It has implemented special bus services from Colombo to Polgahawela, Aluthgama,Negombo and Galle. The National Transport Commission has also relaxed its regulations for private buses to operate without route permits during the strike,” Minister De Silva.
He said that 12 trains have been operating from various parts of the country to Colombo Fort despite the strike yesterday.
“A train carrying fuel also departed to the Katunayake airport. Convener of the Railway Graded Trade Union Collective Janaka Fernando said the strike action was launched on Wednesday demanding a solution to the long-term problem regarding the recruitment of engine driver assistant.
We have earlier appealed to the authorities to resolve the problem,but, our grievances were not being addressed. We have appealed to create a separate system to recruit driver assistants instead of considering them as equal to engine drivers. But, the problem has not been solved yet,” the Minister said.
He said the discussions held with a senior adviser to the Prime Minister were not successful.