GMOA opposed to nurses’ strike

  • Threatens Trade Union action if matter not directed to salary commission

  •  Criticises leaders of nurses’ unions for flexing political muscle

By Buddhika Samaraweera

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has warned that it would initiate trade union (TU) action of its own if the salary demands of nurses’ trade unions are not directed to the National Salaries Commission (NSC).

Issuing a press release yesterday (6), the GMOA said that any trade union should go to the NSC if there is a salary issue and that some trade unions are trying to place the entire public service in crisis by arbitrarily seeking cabinet approval for their demands without following proper procedures.

It added that at a time when the people are suffering due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the salary issues should be taken up with the NSC, thereby ensuring the national salary policy and salary structure, while the Cabinet should stand up for national issues without allowing doctors to resort to trade union action.

“This is not an opposition to nursing professionals or an attempt to provoke a conflict between nurses and other groups, but to protect accepted principles.”

It claimed that not only the upper and lower grades to the nursing profession, but also the parallel grades have initiated protests due to certain trade union leaders who seek to prove their political strength but who do not have a direct understanding of the service of nurses render.

It noted that in the year 2000, a certain group of health workers had taken trade union action on 187 days out of 365 days in relation to salary issues and that the NSC was established in order for such issues to be referred to and solved. They had also pointed out that the establishment of a national salary policy in that manner has minimised trade union action in the health sector as well as in other sectors.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had recently agreed to provide immediate solutions to five out of seven demands put forward by the Public Services United Nurses’ Union (PSUNU) led by Narahenpita Abayaramaya Temple Chief Incumbent Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera. At a meeting held with the PSUNU at the Presidential Secretariat on 2 July, President Rajapaksa had agreed to implement the demands, including the opening up of a University of Nursing, the reinstatement of the staff status which was suspended during the previous United National Front (UNF)-led Government’s tenure by circular 32/2017 issued on 7 December 2017, the reinstatement of the mechanism to make promotions from Grade III to Grade II in five years and Grade II to Grade I in seven years, the provision of the Rs. 20,000 annual uniform allowance, and the referral of the proposal to consider the current 36 hours working hours as five days (30 hours) a week to a special committee.

The President had also agreed to provide an allowance of Rs. 10,000 and an additional service allowance of 1/100th of the basic salary as mentioned in a circular issued by the Finance Ministry on 24 December 2014 in the upcoming budget.

The nurses’ trade unions initiated a 48-hour strike from 7 a.m. on 1 July, citing unmet demands concerning promotions and the facilities afforded to nurses.