The doomed strikes | Daily News


The doomed strikes

The much heralded bus strike called by a private bus mafia as expected was a non starter yesterday with the usual quota and more buses on the roads, much to the relief of the travelling public. There is now a striking trend in the strikes called by saboteur Trade Unions where instead of the intended aim to paralyse the state machinery, the opposite effect is the norm. This was seen in the recent 'general strike' where all state institutions functioned to capacity and in some instances recording surplus revenue. The strikes weapon to win worker demands is fast becoming obsolete in Sri Lanka.

Time was when strikes called by powerful Trade Unions not only brought state activities to a grinding standstill but also had its reverberations on the fortunes of the government in power. So much so the success of a general strike reflected the longevity of the regime in power. The raft of strikes that swept the country during the last days of the United Front Government in the mid 70s no doubt precipitated the downfall of the that regime. There are many other examples we could site where this trend was evident in the past. Suffice it to say that the potency of an islandwide strike directly corresponded to the ineffectiveness or the unpopularity of the government in power. That is why in most instances regimes that had lost the confidence of the masses more often than not used strong arm tactics to break Trade Union protests and strike action.

It is in this context that the conduct of the present government should be viewed. Other than calling on the Trade Unions to desist from their course of action and resolve issues at the negotiating table there was no threat of goon attacks or intimidation by the law enforcement which was common in the past both under UNP and SLFP led governments. Of course the government in its bid to ensure functions at essential public utilities are not disrupted or to maintain essential services issued the usual warning to employees against falling prey to saboteurs. But by and large there was no overt threat of a menacing nature by the state and the government did not bulldoze with its powerful machinery to suppress the strike.

Then why are the numerous strikes and work stoppages called by anti-Government Trade Unions always end a dismal flop? The ready answer to this that one can think of is the failure of the country's Trade Union movement which today only work to political agendas and not the public good as in the past when Trade Union leaders particularly of the Left were people who led from the front and steadfastly stood by their convictions. On the contrary today's Trade Union movement is tainted in various ways not least by their affiliations to the dollar rich NGOs and other outfits both local and foreign which only has the detriment of the country as their main agenda. The shenanigans of present days Trade Unions are in the public domain not to mention their damaging consequences to the country.

Besides there is another dynamic at work where calls to strike do not bring about the ready response from the working public as it used to do in the past. With the end to the long drawn out terrorist war that bled the country economically, eating into its vitals, the people at large whatever the hardships brought on them by the cost of living are not prepared to reverse the gains to the country secured by the government after a period of over three decades. They see unprecedented development all around with the dawn of peace, with most sectors that were hitherto closed such as tourism now opening up, providing opportunities that did not exist before.

The discerning public are anxious that the country does not denigrate into another spate of turmoil and anarchy in the midst of peace and tranquility as if by psychological conditioning. The public had gone through such trauma, that anything that disturbs the present peaceful environment is bound to be anathema to them. Besides the Trade Unions movement had lost all credibility and ceased to be standard bearers of the working masses.

Above all the working public has to necessarily empathize with the larger masses who will naturally resent any subversive action against a government who rid the nation of terrorism and united a divided country. They will not want to incur the wrath of the public by joining in movements that work directly against the government. Hence the dismal fate of the private bus strike, as the railway strike and all other strikes before it. 

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