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Striking Railway workers to get VoP letters – Withanage

Striking Railway workers to get VoP letters – Withanage

If the railway operators do not report to work, they will be served with vacation of post (VoP) letters, the Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, G.S. Withanage said. He was responding to the decision taken by the railway unions to continue the strike indefinitely.

Speaking to Ceylon Today, he said some of the unions had called off their strike, while a few others were still on strike.

Meanwhile, the Parliament yesterday (11) passed the Extraordinary Gazette Notification issued on 8 December, declaring railways as an essential service.

Fifty-six MPs voted in favour of the Gazette, while eight voted against.

President Maithripala Sirisena arrived at this decision to declare railways as an essential service as train services came to a standstill island-wide as a result of the railway trade union strike.

Sri Lanka Railways (SLR) also made a request to retired engine drivers, railway guards, station masters, and controllers to report to duty in order to facilitate the inconvenienced passengers. Contract workers, too, have been requested to report to work. A spokesperson from SLR also noted that most of the railway workers, were expected to return to work yesterday (11) as railways was declared an essential service, via a Presidential Gazette last week and if they fail to do so, they will be served with a vacation of post letters.

Speaking to Ceylon Today, the Convenor of the Railway Operation Supervisory Officers' Union, Janaka Fernando observed that the railway unions will continue the strike despite the Gazette Notification which declared that railways are an essential service.

"The strike will continue, railway stationmasters, railway operators, railway guards, and train drivers will participate in the strike as per the decision taken by about 1,500 union members who attended a meeting in Colombo yesterday. We are not requesting a major increment. We just want to be on a higher salary scale and on a higher administrative grade. We had a discussion with the Secretary to the President. Although he seemed flexible with regard to addressing our grievances, he was not able to give it in writing," he said.

When it was pointed out that students who will be sitting for their General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level )Examination will be severely inconvenienced due to the strike, he responded: "we spoke to the Minister of Education on 10 December. He wanted to have at least a few trains running, so that the children will not be affected. However, when a strike is in progress, how can we have a few trains running? All the train stations are closed. Hence, we rejected this plan. We told him to convey our grievances to the Prime Minister and to facilitate an audience with him. However, he didn't communicate with us. We do not want to go on strike, but we have no choice."

(Ceylon Today)

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