News

CEB engineers to begin work-to-rule today

  • Warn intermittent power outages possible

BY Pamodi Waravita

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union (CEBEU) will be engaging in a work-to-rule protest action from today (25), demanding that the deal with US-based energy company New Fortress Energy Inc. not be proceeded with and also to immediately stop the abrupt transfers of senior management in the backdrop of this deal.

“The CEB refuses to listen to us, so we will be engaging in strict trade union action which may inconvenience the public,” CEBEU President Eng. Saumya Kumarawadu told The Morning yesterday (24).

Accordingly, the CEBEU’s demands are that the CEB not proceed with the New Fortress Energy deal, and that the CEB prevent what it called the “politicisation” of the post of CEB General Manager and stop the abrupt transfers of CEB senior management personnel.

The Morning reported last week that the CEBEU, in a letter addressed to the CEB management, threatened trade union action over the sudden transfer of CEB Additional General Manager (AGM) – Transmission Eng. G.J. Aluthge, a key figure in making decisions with regard to the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the country, including in matters pertaining to the recent controversial agreement with New Fortress Energy.

It was alleged by CEB sources, who spoke to The Morning on condition of anonymity, that the AGM shuffle is taking place as officers such as Eng. Aluthge had refused to work outside of the legal framework with regard to tender procurement processes in the backdrop of the deal with New Fortress Energy.

“We have a code of ethics which we must adhere to because we are working with public money. This is why we have to work according to the law, despite what the management or even the Chairman tells us or pressurises us to do. Ultimately, we will be responsible if anything illegal occurs,” a CEB official told The Morning.

The letter by the CEBEU last week to CEB General Manager (GM) Eng. M. Ranatunga claims that Eng. Ranatunga “supports the illegal New Fortress Energy Inc. deal” and has accused him of undermining the efforts of the CEB to procure LNG competitively.

“By taking further steps in violation of the established rules in the CEB, which also adversely affects our individual members, you (Eng. Ranatunga) have extended your conduct to a level that we cannot tolerate any further. It appears that you are merely acting under the dictation of the CEB Board, probably to please present CEB Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando, to secure any benefit beyond your scheduled retirement on 12 January 2022,” the letter states.

The CEBEU has also demanded that the CEB not stop the ongoing transparent tender procedure by the CEB for LNG deployment and that the CEB stop the attempts of dismantling the CEB and to cease proposed amendments to the CEB Act No. 17 of 1969.

In its letter to CEB GM Eng. Ranatunga yesterday, the CEBEU has mentioned that even though the trade union action could lead to intermittent power outages and prolonged recovery from such, maximum efforts will be taken to minimise the effects to places like hospitals and places of importance to national security.

Further, if a favourable response in meeting their demands is not seen within a reasonable and shortest possible time, they will be compelled to escalate this trade union action to level two, where even breakdowns and emergency situations will not be attended to after the normal office hours, they stated.

“The Power Ministry and the Government should take full responsibility for the possible difficulties that would be faced by the general public due to this trade union action. However, the CEBEU will not be liable for any failure or any inconvenience caused to the public during this trade union action of exercising our legitimate rights,” the CEBEU warned.