Joint Health Workers’ Union protest, talks fail after Health Ministry siege

The discussions held between the Joint Health Workers’ Union (JHWU) and Secretary to the Ministry of Health, following yesterday’s (23) protest march and forcible entrance to the Ministry premises, have been unsuccessful. 

Demanding that the Government addresses 11 issues faced by junior health workers, the JHWU marched and forcibly entered the Suwasiripaya Ministry of Health Premises in Colombo 10, before they were granted a meeting with the Health Ministry Secretary.

Speaking to The Morning after the discussion, JHWU General Secretary Tempitiye Sugathananda Thera said that the discussion was not successful and that the JHWU will launch a continuous strike if their demands are not addressed within 14 days.

“We were not given proper answers for our demands. If we do not get a favourable response to the demands within 14 days from today, we will be launching a continuous strike.”

Nine representatives of the JHWU were invited for a discussion with Ministry of Health Secretary Dr. S.H. Munasinghe following a protest march that resulted in heavy traffic around the Town Hall area.

The protestors’ list of demands was as follows:

  • Be paid 1/30th of the salary for every extra day that they work
  • Substitute and unofficial workers who have completed 180 days of work be made permanent
  • The fee allocated to obtain official uniforms be increased from the current Rs. 9,300 to Rs. 15,000 per year
  • An emergency risk fund be set up for all health workers
  • The cancelled festival advance be issued without charging an interest
  • Overtime pay be granted at a set rate
  • Delayed hospital attendant appointments be made immediately
  • More junior health service staff be recruited to meet the current shortage of staff
  • A clear recruitment procedure and duty list be formulated
  • Those who have passed their management service exams be given appointments
  • The entitled pension to those workers above the age of 45 be granted
  • The unsystematic recruitments made to serve the Government’s militarisation interests be stopped immediately

Speaking to The Morning last afternoon (23), JHWU Central Committee Member Chaminda Lakmal Fernando said that after entering the ministry premises, the protestors remained inside till they received a response from the Ministry authorities.

“The protest march began at around 11.45 a.m. from the main entrance to the National Hospital of Sri Lanka with the participation of around 1,000 junior health workers from 40 hospitals.”

The JHWU alleged that senior police officials attempted to assault Sugathananda Thera and another member of the union. However, Sugathananda Thera said that the matter was resolved and that they will not be taking any action against the alleged assault. A number of junior health workers of hospitals located islandwide had called in sick ahead of the protest march.

Attempts to contact Ministry of Health Secretary Dr. Munasinghe for further details on the discussion proved futile.