The Public Health Inspectors Union of Sri Lanka (PHIUSL) said its members have withdrawn from Covid-19 prevention duties with effect from 12.30 pm today.
The Union which has made several statements over the past weeks threatening trade union action said their demands have not been met thus far.
The Secretary of the Union M. Balasooriya said the Union arrived at this decision following the government's failure to provide Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) the legal provisions necessary for their duties. Despite a gazette issued on Covid-19 related health guidelines, PHIs claim that they have not been vested with the legal provisions necessary to carry out their duties.
He added that PHIs across the island have been committed to their duties of preventing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic despite their limited resources. "Yesterday the health guidelines gazette was issued, however, to our great dismay, we found that it only contained guidelines related to the election," Balasooriya said.
Balasooriya said that during a meeting with the Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi, the Minister made a negative comment about the services of the PHIs. “The Minister said that 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 been distressing the public. We're very disappointed about the Minister's statement and therefore have resorted to take trade union action," Balasooriya said.
The Union also apologized to the public over their decision. “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,” Balasooriya said.
The Secretary to the Health Ministry has been communicated of the Union’s decision. Balasooriya said there has been no response from the Ministry thus far. “There will be a PHIUSL Working Committee meeting held tomorrow, in order to discuss further trade union actions,” he added. (Kalani Kumarasinghe and Sheain Fernandopulle)