PHIs threaten to stop work from Friday

The Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union has threatened to launch trade union action from Friday over several unresolved issues.

PHIs Union Secretary Mahesh Balasooriya told Daily Mirror its officers countrywide would refrain from carrying out Covid-19 prevention and election-related duties from Friday, unless their demands were met.

“We have conveyed our concerns to the Minister of Health on two occasions and requested that the PHIs are provided with the necessary legal background within which we are permitted to operate. However, our demands have been ignored, though our concerns were brought to the attention of several officials in the Health Ministry as well,” he said.

The PHI Union has demanded that guidelines relating to the prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic be gazetted, providing health officials the necessary legal framework to carry out their duties.

“During the quarantine period, PHIs had to face numerous difficulties, especially when dealing with coronavirus-related deaths. Some parties have sought legal action against the quarantine process, while complaints have also been lodged with the Human Rights Commission. As the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance does not include provisions detailing the duties of PHIs, our concerns are legitimate. Our officers fear that there would be legal consequences for simply carrying out our duties,” Mr. Balasooriya said.

Meanwhile, he said Public Health Inspectors have also been enlisted to carry out duties relating to the impending election. “PHIs have been tasked with the prevention of public gatherings and observing various election-related activities. But party representatives and candidates have rarely adhered to the COVID-19 prevention guidelines, setting a bad example to the public. This is exactly why we urge that the COVID-19 prevention guidelines be gazetted and that the legislation be amended,” he Mr. Balasooriya said.

He said representatives of the PHI Union met Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi on June 16 to discuss their concerns. “We even highlighted the requirements for the prevention of Dengue as we are concerned about public safety. As we have received no positive response from health authorities, we have reluctantly decided to resort to trade union action,” Mr. Balasooriya said.

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