The JVP-led National Trade Union Center yesterday announced that it would stage a one-day strike on July 10 demanding a Rs 5,000 salary increase for each employee in public, private and estate sectors.
`The Government can prevent this only by granting the demand. No other action or suppression will stop us,` Chairman of the NTUC, MP K. D. Lalkantha told a press conference at the Auditorium of the National Library and Documentation Centre in Colombo.
He said that the Government has accepted that a normal family needs a salary of Rs 31,000 a month to exist. But, the minimum wage of a public sector worker was Rs 11,730 while it was Rs 5000 in the private sector. The minimum daily wage of an estate sector worker is Rs 290. The Cost of Living index was at 4304 when this Government came to power and on June 1st this year it has risen to 6734. `So it is clear that workers deserve a pay hike. We had been engaged in talks, then resorted to union actions such as poster and leaflet campaigns and then we sent written requests, demands and warnings to all relevant
offices including the President s but the Government keeps on dodging the issue. This made us decide to step up our campaign to the next stage,` he said.
`We would stage a one-day strike on July 10 and from then onwards we would wage union actions intermittently throughout the month,` MP Lalkantha said.
The NTUC, which is an umbrella organization of 366 unions from the state, private and estate sectors would have the support of 64 unions belonging to the Technical Service Trade Union Federation and a large number of other independent unions in this struggle, he said.
The NTUC has lined up three major demands. The first, to increase public and private sector workers salaries by Rs 5,000 and to increase the minimum daily wage of estate workers to Rs 500. Second, to add Rs 5 to each point increase in the cost of living index after effecting the new salary increases. Third, to immediately lower the railway fare hike to an affordable level. `We basically lined up our struggle on the grounds of a salary increment and cost of living allowance. But since the Government has drastically increased the rail fares, we have to add that too to our list of demands. The price of Railway season tickets had been increased by unprecedented proportions and the workers have been hit hard by this. For example, a season ticket that cost Rs 90 had been increased to Rs 510, A Rs 270 season ticket now costs Rs 960. A Rs 470 season ticket now costs Rs 1760.`
Service providers, businessmen and all other sectors of society could increase prices of their products or services in parallel to the rising cost of living but the wage earner had been neglected. `For example, the bus owners, barbers and hoteliers could increase the prices of their services as a result of price hikes in the market. But the wage earner has to pay for all these and has no power to get their salaries increased. The only way before us is to struggle for a salary hike that we deserve,` MP Lalkanatha said.
Though the leadership of SLFP unions have problems in joining the campaign the ordinary membership would support them while the UNP s Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya led unions had pledged their support to the strike, he said.
JVP MPs Wasantha Samarasinghe, Ramalingam Chandrasegar and 18 leaders representing key unions participated in the press conference.