Seeking divine intervention

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By 2017-09-14

By Niranjala Ariyawansha

The strike launched at 12 noon yesterday, by the Joint Trade Union Alliance, comprising 33 powerful trade unions of the CEB, based on several demands, has had a severe impact on all operations of the CEB, an internal spokesman for the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) told Ceylon Today. At the time this edition went to press last night, the CEB trade union strike was being continued with no solution in sight.

The strike was launched in a context where CEB General Manager A.K. Samarasinghe had cancelled leave of all CEB workers until 20 of this month.

The spokesman said that more than 85% of employees engaged in all services at the CEB, apart from Engineers, Engineering Assistants and Electrical Supervisors, have joined this strike.

All employees of non-engineering services who gathered outside the CEB head office at Colombo Fort yesterday engaged in a 'Thovil' ceremony at 12 noon to get rid of the rogues in the CEB before commencing the strike.

Under these circumstances, the paying of bills was severely impacted at CEB head office and all main offices in the island.

Although the engineers were engaged in operations in all main power plants in the country, including Norochcholai, if by some chance there is an emergency breakdown in a power station, it would be difficult to restore normalcy since employees had not reported for work, Media Spokesman for the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy Sulakshana Jayawardena said.

The strikers continuously requested the government to rectify the salary anomalies that arose among all trade unions of the CEB except the engineers on whose behalf a new high level scale of salaries named E-Scale had been introduced since January 2015.

At the same time, the employees commenced this massive strike based on several demands, including a sum of Rs 3 billion missing from the EPF belonging to employees which is maintained under the administration of the CEB, burdening the people by adding to their Electricity Bills the losses which have occurred due to massive financial misconduct of the Administration including the CEB engineers.

Convener of the Joint Trade Unions Alliance Ranjan Jayalal told Ceylon Today that the strike has been a total success.

"We commenced the strike. We will continuously engage in this until justice is done on behalf of our demands. Therefore, it is the administrators who should decide on when the strike should end," Jayalal said.

Replying to an inquiry we made yesterday around 5:00 p.m., the GM of the CEB A.K. Samarasinghe said that steps required to prevent a power breakdown due to the strike will be taken.

"Actually, the Ministry had prepared proposals regarding the salaries problem. All Trade Unions had been informed to send their views on those proposals. I believe that while these discussions are in progress it is not justified for employees to begin such a strike," the GM said.

Other employees have already filed several cases in Court regarding Engineers having increased their salaries. He said further that however, a case is being heard in Court regarding the missing Rs 3 billion from the EPF. "EPF monies have most definitely disappeared. We are in the process of taking required steps," he said.

He also said that if frauds or irregularities are taking place within the CEB, there is an opening to lodge complaints with institutions such as the Internal Audit Committee of the CEB and COPE.

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