Nearly one million State sector workers, of 254 trade unions attached to the National Trade Union Centre, will join hands shortly to participate in a massive protest against the higher interest rates to be levied on housing and property loans. The Public Administration Ministry last week issued a circular increasing the rate of interest from 4 per cent to 11 per cent.
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Parliamentarian and Trade Unionist Piyasiri Wijenayake yesterday told a press conference that the Mahinda Rajapakse Government must cancel the 15/2007 circular immediately. He added: `Failing which the Government will be held responsible for the forthcoming massive strike that will cripple the state sector.`
`Mahinda Rajapakse`s Government is a double-edged one that says one thing and does another`.
Wijenayake said that they had explained their stand to President Rajapakse, the Finance Ministry, Public Administration Ministry and yesterday they took the matter to Parliament. `It is high time that they, the corrupt Government, take action to cancel the circular`, he said.
During his recent visit to Geneva President Rajapakse, addressing the International Labour Organization sessions, said that workers rights were well looked after in Sri Lanka, Wijenayake said. `Then comes this circular from the Public Administration Ministry.`
He questioned as to how one can build a decent house with Rs. 500,000 in any part of Sri Lanka. `According to this most absurd circular, only public servants who obtain loans less than Rs 500,000 are entitled to the 4 per cent interest and for amounts more than Rs 500,000 the interest rate would be 11 per cent. At this rate they will never be in a position to repay the loan,` he said.
All Ceylon Health Services Union General Secretary Dr. R M. W. Ranasinghe said that despite medical officers being paid higher salaries they, too, would find it difficult to obtain these loans.
`In fact, we have a membership of more than 1,000, a majority of them had applied for loans at four per cent interest rates,` he said. Only 40 per cent of their membership is involved in private practice and the balance depend only on their salaries.
Technological Services Union Federation Deputy Secretary Nimal S. Andradi also spoke.