By Kalani Kumarasinghe and Sheain Fernandopulle
The Public Health Inspectors Union of Sri Lanka (PHIUSL) said its members had withdrawn from COVID-19 prevention duties with effect from 12.30 p.m. yesterday.
The Union which has made several statements over the past weeks threatening trade union action said their demands had not been met thus far.
Union Secretary M. Balasooriya said the Union arrived at this decision following the government’s failure to provide Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) the legal provisions necessary to carry out their duties. Despite a gazette issued on COVID-19-related health guidelines, PHIs claimed they had not been vested with the legal provisions to carry out their duties.
He said PHIs countrywide had been committed to their duties of preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic despite their limited resources. “On Wednesday, the health guidelines gazette was issued, however, to our great dismay, we found it only contained guidelines related to the election,” Mr. Balasooriya said.
He said during a meeting with Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, she made a negative comment about the services provided by the PHIs. “The minister said PHIs were not granted legal provisions, as there were concerns that this action would cause distress to the public. The minister’s statement meant that our COVID-19 services so far have distressed the public. We’re very disappointed about the minister’s statement and therefore have resorted to take trade union action,” Mr. Balasooriya said. “We have been warning the government of the risks of a coronavirus second wave. However, our warnings went unheeded. With this latest development, we have to take necessary measures to protect our own officers. We apologize to the public for this decision. But the lack of legal provisions is a great obstacle in carrying out our duties.”
The Union had conveyed its decision to the Health Ministry Secretary but according to Mr. Balasooriya said there had been no response from the ministry thus far. “There will be a PHIUSL Working Committee meeting tomorrow, to discuss further trade union action,” he said.
Blurb -- The Union arrived at this decision following the government’s failure to provide Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) the legal provisions necessary to carry out their duties