Minister Samaraweera also said that President Maithripala Sirisena had instructed him to prepare a Cabinet Paper to establish a new Public Service Commission to look into the salaries and wages of public sector employees.
He requested the railway workers to wait for three months to solve their issue while addressing the other salary anomalies of the public servants as well. Minister Samaraweera was participating in the Second Reading Stage debate on the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill.
The Minister also said, if an increment is given to the railway workers, it will create a chain effect in other public sector institutions.
Minister Samaraweera pointed out that if the increment is granted as per the demands of the railway workers, their salary scales would have been above the salary grades of doctors, principals and school teachers.
“Therefore, I was opposed to the Cabinet meeting to give the salary increment demanded by railway workers.
“It is very unfair for the railway workers to demand a pay hike only for them while the government was preparing to bring about a mechanism to give salary increments to all public sector workers,” Minister Samaraweera said.
While pointing out that he has dealt with strikers for over 20 years, Minister Samaraweera further said he is willing to discuss the matter with the strikers if they are willing to go back to work first.
“I am ready to talk to them if they come to the table after suspending their union action. I am not ready to talk with strikers while they continue to strike. That has been my policy for the past 20 years and it would be so in this instance too,” Minister Samaraweera said.
The Minister expressed regret on behalf of the government for the inconveniences and difficulties faced by workers, students and other commuters due to the sudden strike action launched by the railway workers on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the same subject said that issues like the railway workers’ one can be forwarded to the new Public Service Commission.
The Premier also said that there was no decision taken to cancel the Cabinet Paper proposing the rectification of railway workers’ salary anomalies.
He said more clarifications are on demand before taking a decision on the matter.
Public Administration and Management, Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara speaking on the same matter, condemned the sudden railway strike which inconvenienced the students sitting for the Advanced Level Examination. He also observed that a railway driver’s salary is close to Rs. 200,000 and more with the over-time payments. Minister Madduma Bandara urged the strikers to solve the matter by discussion.