In a bid to resolve continuous contentious salary issues in the Railways, Health and Education sectors, the Government has decided to make all three sectors closed services. Co-Cabinet Spokesman, Minister of Health, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said successful discussions with railway unions led to the suspension of their seven-day strike. Under the closed services agreement, the Government was contemplating to even give higher than expected raise in salaries to railway workers.
As far as the strike was concerned, “The issue was technical and this dates back to the decision to reduce salary scales of the State Sector from 132 to 32 in 2006. This has lead to serious recurrent issues as it was impossible to encompass 1.5 million State Sector employees into 32 salary scales,” Dr. Senaratne said.
He noted that at present the Government was not in a position to increase salaries of one particular sector in a Ministry belonging to a particular salary scale, without doing so for other sectors and ministries.
However, by making a sector a Closed Service, the Government could remove that particular service from……the combined services, where a person is recruited not to a post but to a Service, where staff is transferable between Government Departments, thereby allowing the Government to increase the salaries of a particular service.
“Railway unions agreed that 75% of their issues will be solved by making the railway service a Closed Service. I have also spoken to Health Ministry unions and they are also happy”, he said.
Dr. Senaratne added the Ministerial committee appointed to look into the railway strike, led by Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama will present a Cabinet Paper on 19 December requesting permission for the Railway, Health and Education services to be closed services. “We can now increase salaries of railway workers and the raise can even be more than what they wanted. We will meet the unions again to iron out other issues. There is no need to unnecessarily confront Government servants who have a lot of other issues as well”, he said.
The train strike has been called off and gradually resumed services last (13) evening and will fully resume by today(14) following negotiations between railway trade unions and the Parliamentary subcommittee yesterday, Convener of the Railway Operation Supervisory Officers Union Janaka Fernando said.
Speaking to Ceylon Today, he added that the Parliament subcommittee had agreed to also withdraw the Gazette where Railway Services were rendered an essential service. “They also agreed that they will not cancel leave. Our demands and grievances will be presented to Cabinet and will be approved”, he said.
Meanwhile, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) added that any decision taken by the Government to address the concerns of the railway employees must be in line with the National Wage Policy in order to prevent strike action from the Government health service and other State sectors.
Assistant Secretary of the GMOA, Dr. Haritha Aluthge said that instead of a Ministerial subcommittee, a committee comprising of technical officers who are well versed in the National Wage Policy should be looking into the grievances and demands of the railway employees.
Elaborating further he said, “What we suggested was an advisory committee for the National Pay Commission of some sort with a technical capacity. There should be technical officials to guide the Ministerial committee, so that the National Wage Policy will be protected and a solution will be reached based on the said Policy by correcting the anomaly. Destroying this Policy is not a solution to the problem.”