FR against health sector wildcat strike: SC fixes to support on 26 March for leave

The Supreme Court yesterday re-fixed for support on 26 March for granting leave to proceed in respect of three Fundamental Rights petitions filed against the public health sector strikes.

The Bench comprised Justices Sisira J De, Anil Gooneratne and Vijith K. Malalgoda.

Petitioners cited Prime Minister, Members of the Cabinet of Ministers, Secretary to the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Director General of Health Services, Commissioner General of Labour, Government Medical  Officers Association (GMOA), Government Nursing Officers Association, All Ceylon Medical Officer’s Association, Sri Lanka Federal Health Services Union, All Ceylon Nurses Union, Alliance of Health Workers Unions, the Society of Registered and Assistant Medical Officers, Attorney General and others as Respondents.

Sanjeeva Jayawardena PC with Charitha Rupasinghe and Asoka Niwunhella appeared for the Petitioners M.S.A. Muthumala, Sampath Abeydeera Gunaratne and Dharshana Ranathunga.

Senany Dayaratne with Duleeka Imbuldeniya, Nisala Seniya Fernando and Thilina Wariyapperuma for the Petitioner M.W. Kamal Gnanaratne. Manohara de Silva PC for the GMOA, Senior Deputy Solicitor General Viveka Siriwardena appeared for the State.

Petitioners are seeking a declaration/s and appropriate directions and orders from the Supreme Court.

They emphasise that they are not seeking to unduly fetter the legal right of workers to withhold their labour when faced with exploitation, discrimination or intolerable or dangerous working conditions but seeking to achieve thorough the intervention of the Supreme Court the due mobilisation of effective mechanisms that recognise and implement the best interests of the country and its people.

The Petitioner respectfully states that the right of the people to effective and uninterrupted healthcare services and facilities must be the paramount and pervasive interest of all stakeholders in the State healthcare system.

The Petitioner states that effective healthcare is essential for realising the Directive Principles of State policy enumerated in the Constitution and has a direct bearing on the right to life and the quality of life of the citizens.

They states that the State must, at policy and conceptual levels, ensure that the collective rights and needs of the people are paramount. The Petitioner states that for this purpose, the State must put in place effective mechanisms to ensure that the rights, privileges and entitlements, in whatever permutations or combinations that they may present themselves, of individuals and/or various groups within society, are necessarily subordinate to and must yield to the paramount interests of the collective rights and needs of the people.

They state that due to poverty and the consequent inability to pay for private medical care, deprived and underprivileged citizens are completely dependent on the medical care provided by the State

They state the growing phenomenon, with exponential increases in frequency in recent times, of the intensity, militancy and aggression of strike action, where hospitals and hospitals services have come to a grinding halt.

To further exacerbate matters, the industrial action and form is decided by a small coterie of office bearers who purport to assume the collective voice of the entirety of their respective professions, many of whom do not concur with such militant and destructive and indeed, obstructive action, they state.

The State has watched on with perpetual inertness and apathy, and successive governments have been held to forcible ransom, under the proverbial gunpoint of the threat of trade union action and of crippling the due function of hospitals and the public healthcare system by these said associations/trade unions.

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