By Chaturanga Samarawickrama
The State Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation, Ashok Abeysinghe said he requested the President to make the railways an essential service again, during the cabinet meeting.
The State Minister said the Gazette notification was issued earlier declaring the railways as an essential service under the Essential Services Act, under Emergency Regulations, but after removal of emergency regulations, the President did not wish to continue keeping the railways as an essential service, he said.
“We have already drafted the gazette notification and all we need is the signature of the President. The President spoke to me regarding the train strike, but I did not mention about making the service as essential. But I hope to request the President to make this an essential service,” he said.
The strike had been started by a few people who backed the opposition and people should not be inconvenienced due to strikes, he said. Therefore, we deployed more SLTB buses and private buses would be deployed near train stations to provide alternate transport for the commuters during the strike.
A decision should be taken at the cabinet meeting to prevent the occurrence of sudden train strikes in the future. Also, we should decide to run at least fifty trains during strike action. About 20 office trains operate daily. “The railways’ unions try to abuse our patience. They hold several strikes in a short period. Therefore, the Ministry would take stern action against those behind the trade union action if they do not call off the strike by Monday.
Action would be taken according to the Railways’ Establishments Code. As a responsible minister, I requested them to come for a discussion after stopping their strike action, but they refused.
The government had decided to increase the monthly salary of all Public Servants by a minimum amount of Rs.3,000 and a maximum of Rs.24,000 per month effective from January 2020, the State Minister said. Accordingly, the new salary scale in the Railway Department with an initial monthly salary of Rs.36,095 has been created for the Railway Supervisory Management Service, he said.
The Salary scale MT-1 would be placed under the initial salary step of Rs.34,415 for Railway Engine Driver Aides,” he said.
Therefore, Railway workers would not need to continue the ongoing trade union action demanding a solution to their salary anomalies, he said. Under the recommendations of the Ranugge Salary Commission, this will be further increased by Rs.3,000 to Rs.27,250 per month, the Minister added.
As a responsible minister, I requested them to come for a discussion after stopping their strike action, but they refused