Tackling Trade Union Gimmicks | Daily News

Tackling Trade Union Gimmicks

CEB employees’ protest. Picture by Wasitha Patabendige
CEB employees’ protest. Picture by Wasitha Patabendige

Last week almost all the media talked about an islandwide blackout and some areas of the country faced long power cuts that were not scheduled and legal. All happened when the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) launched an islandwide strike from midnight on Wednesday in protest against the Sri Lanka Electricity (Amendment) Bill.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara requested the Speaker to take steps to beef up security to the reservoirs because the sluice gates of Randenigala and Rantambe reservoirs have been opened by some unscrupulous elements, even those reservoirs were not functioning to generate hydropower at present (this is the second time they opened sluice gates within few months with an evil objective).

He said if the spill gates of reservoirs were opened at the time when those reservoirs didn't function to generate hydropower. It is an act of sabotage. The end result is, for power generation, the country has to totally rely on diesel and other sources which cost a lot. The people pay extremely high electricity bills to meet these costs.

Meanwhile, the entire country got to know the salaries of the CEB Engineers. According to the statistics publicized in mainstream media and in social media last week, the total expenditure of CEB employees’ salaries is Rs. 3,000 million per month and the country spends Rs. 600 million per month to pay the salaries for the CEB engineers which is 20 percent of the total expenditure on CEB salaries paid to all employees.

It is very interesting to see how much the CEB Engineers receive as salaries every month. According to the above media reports, the country pays over 9.1 million every month for the salaries of CEB engineers who are in the E Special Grade and the country pays over Rs. 69 million for the engineers who are in E1 Grade. Over 82 million paid every month for the CEB engineers who are in E2 Grade and over 191 million paid for the CEB engineers who are in E3 Grade. The monthly amount of money spent over the salaries of CEB engineers who are in E4 Grade is over Rs. 202 million. The total is over 555.2 million rupees.

Switching to renewable energy

The problem is not only the salaries paid to them. It is holding the entire country to ransom without allowing it to shift into renewable energy for several decades. It is a big question why CEB officials do not let the country to shift to renewable energy which is very cheap when compared with other methods of power generation such as fuel, coal etc. There should be a very interesting secret behind it. Maybe it is the huge amounts of commissions they receive. This should be investigated and revealed to the entire country. It seems they do not stop there. This is not the first time or the last time they opened sluice gates of reservoirs. They did it a few months ago pushing the country into continuing daily power cuts and they have done it once again last week.

But it seems the people of this country are not aware of this or they just ignore it. They are blind and dumb. They do not see the connection between their suffering at night and day without power and those acts of sabotage by officials and employees of the CEB. They just go and pay their light bill no matter how much they need to spend for it. They do only one thing. That is cursing whatever Government in power.

Can a country move forward with these types of trade unions? Sri Lanka will never be able to become a developed country with these types of trade unions which always pull the country backwards due to the benefits they receive. One thing should be done for sure. That is investigating bank accounts of those trade unionists and their immediate family members. A lot more can be found out by doing that.

It is hilarious when we compare the salaries of engineers with that of Consultant/MBBS doctors. There is a huge difference in their salaries. But both parties receive free education and serve the Sri Lankan people. Engineers attached to certain institutions such as the CEB, Petroleum, Telecommunication, etc. receive a monthly salary roughly around one million rupees but a Consultant doctor with 30 or more years of experience only receives a salary of two hundred thousand rupees. This is a very pathetic and at the same time hilarious situation.

The responsible authorities should solve this issue going beyond existing rules and regulations. According to one common law, the salaries of people cannot be reduced on any grounds. But this law needs to be amended as soon as possible in order to solve this burning issue and disparity. Now we can very clearly see how our country becomes poor day-by-day while a handful of people are getting richer and richer day-by-day.

Any member of the current Parliament in any political party can forward a private proposal in order to rectify this pathetic situation. This country can witness who is actually interested in reducing the sufferings of the people and who is not interested in it at all. Presenting or not presenting this simple private proposal will tell the entire story to the country. It will be a good sign for the voters to decide to whom they should vote in future General Election.

Employees, especially the officials attached to certain institutions such as Water Supply, Petroleum, etc. get several huge bonuses in addition to their monthly salaries. Sometimes the average salaries of lower grade employees of those institutions exceed one hundred thousand rupees. They just do simple tasks such as reading metres etc. But they get over one lakh of salaries. This is in addition to the several huge bonuses they receive annually. Usually all over the world bonuses are paid only when companies earn profits. But here in Sri Lanka bonuses are paid by obtaining bank loans!

Unreasonable TU demands

The problem is the innocent poor people of this country pay them while undergoing all their harassment. They harass people in several ways. They harass people verbally while doing their duties. They implement power cuts when they remember (they switch off and on power at times when they remember) and not according to the time table given by the CEB making people's lives a hell. Then they harass people while launching strikes to get higher salaries. All the time it is innocent poor people who suffer without any protest. In one way this shows the stupidity and low education level of the Sri Lankan people no matter what the current literacy rate is.

The other most important factor is the conduct of the trade unions in essential services in the country. No way of prioritizing the rights of trade unions, labourers and workers than the rights of the people, the public. First place should be given to protecting the rights of the people and only then comes the rights of all the others. When considering this, we can very clearly see that no Government should give into the demands of the trade unions which violate the rights of the people. Priority should be given to protect the human rights of the people.

When observing the behaviour of certain trade unions and trade unionists, the people say their bank accounts and the bank accounts of their immediate family members should be investigated by the Government. They say this because many of those trade unionists do not work and there are no visible income generating avenues for them. But people have witnessed that they and their immediate family members live luxury lives. The people have observed that they have meals from five star hotels and their immediate family members receive education abroad in private universities and other higher educational institutions which charge millions of rupees per term. An ordinary trade unionist cannot afford such things, the people say.

It is the people of this country who are responsible for the downfall of Sri Lanka. They did not do their duty and that is why Sri Lanka stands here today. At least now the people should be a little bit more vigilant on everything around them such as trade unions, other state and private organisations etc. If people keep mum, the trade unions will never let Sri Lanka to stand up again. They will continue to drag the country further down day-by-day organising one strike after another. Unfortunately, all who step into a State University even to avoid the rain get infected with this ‘deadly virus’ of ‘trade unionism’ injected to them by a small political party with just three percent representation and its sister political party. Very strangely the Galle Face protestors do not see this at all. Maybe they are somehow related to the trade unionists!

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