The postal strike | Daily News

The postal strike

The advice given by the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, the Most Venerable Tibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera to the Postal Unions, currently on strike, hopefully, would make the strikers realize their folly and return to work. The counsel, coming from the Mahanayake, no less, should make the leaders of the Postal Trade Unions unbend from their rigid positions.

The Chief Prelate told the Convenor of the Postal Trade Union Front R.M. Chintaka Bandara, who called on him, on Sunday, that it was the public who are the ultimate victims of the spate of strikes currently sweeping the country. The Ven. Thera also observed that there should be a degree of flexibility, both, on the part of the government, and, the striking unions, if a solution is to be found. The Malwatte Prelate told the Trade Union leader that all strikes, whether postal or otherwise, finally inconvenienced the public, and a rigid stance by the parties concerned could only exacerbate the problem. Bandara alleged that the government was pursuing a policy of oppression instead of finding solutions to the problem of public servants.

By meeting with the Mahanayake, the Convenor of the PTUF obviously wanted their cause highlighted. Earlier it was the politicians and sportsmen who visited the Chief Prelates to seek their counsel.This is only the second occasion that a Trade Union leader had entered the sacred abode of the Mahanaykes to complain of an alleged injustice by the authorities. Earlier the President of the powerful GMOA, it was, who did the honours. However nothing seems to have come off that meeting with the chief custodians of the Dhamma. If anything, they seem to have hardened their stance when one would have thought that meeting the prelates gave enlightenment to the good doctors. Hopefully, the Postal Union leader would not lead his flock on the same path taken by the doctors.

The Postal Unions are demanding an overhaul of the present salary structure and for the introduction of a Service Constitution. These are matters that could well be sorted out through discussions. They certainly are not matters that warrant some 27,000 postal workers downing their tools. The strike, which has entered its second week, has brought with it chaotic scenes at the Central Mail Exchange with mountains of unattended mail and parcels that may also contain vital drugs and medicines sent to patients from friends and relatives abroad. Hence, like in the case of the doctors’ strikes, the current postal strike could also affect the ailing, with serious consequences. Hence, the need for both sides to thrash out matters behind closed doors.

Postal Services Minister M.A.M. Haleem, speaking in parliament, suspected a hidden political hand driving the strikers, while the Post Master General has threatened to suspend the payment of the June salaries of the striking postal workers. The Postal Unions in their turn have threatened to convert their present satyagraha campaign into a death fast if their demands are not met. Other public sector Trade Unions too are poised to express their solidarity with the striking postal workers, and, if this happens, a chaotic situation is bound to ensue that would be grist to the mill of the Joint Opposition.

The government, therefore, should work out a solution to the crisis and avert a full blown work stoppage in the public sector. Both sides should come down from their hard line positions and agree to meet half way in resolving the matter. Like the Most Venerable Mahanayake Thera observed, strikes have become all too common in this country today, which is not the ideal recipe for a nation trying to find its feet after a three decade long civil war. With major elections in the offing, there is bound to be similar work stoppages from time to time in the run up to the polls, with Trade Unions acting at the instance of power hungry politicians who have built a massive war chest during their years in power just for such occasions.

Hence, the government ought to be fully alert to such machinations and firm action taken where necessary. True, the Yahapalanaya government can take pride in restoring democracy and granting total freedom of speech, assembly and trade union rights. At the same time, it should also not ignore its obligations towards the public at large. Maintaining essential services is one of these key obligations. It should not shy away from harsh measures, when the occasion demanded. Saboteurs and mischief makers should be identified and dealt with firmly. Needless to say, there are obvious moves to create unrest in the country and drive away potential investors. Targeting the economy, the government's political opponents know, is a surefire way of making it unpopular.

Not just on the Trade Union Front. There are also disinformation campaigns currently on to poison the minds of the people, particularly the majority community, against the government. One such canard presently being spread is the alleged move by the government to downsize the army. A JO MP was seen the other day, giving a press conference to highlight this matter, when the Military spokesman had repeatedly denied the story. The government should device strong measures to counter such attempts. 


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