Railway guards to strike today

  • 140 trains cancelled yesterday following running shed employees’ strike
  • Demand fuel for transport or provision of transport facilities 

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Nearly 140 trains had been cancelled due to the strike action initiated by the railway-running shed employees of the Department of Railways yesterday (5), while the railway guards are also to launch a strike action from today (6).

The employees of the railway-running sheds had withdrawn from their duties since last afternoon, claiming that the department has not taken steps to provide them fuel or transport facilities in the prevailing situation. 

According to Sri Lanka Railway Station Masters’ Union (SLRSMU) General Secretary Kasun Chamara, more than 140 trains had been cancelled last evening due to the said strike action. Given the cancellation of trains, he said that thousands of passengers who had gathered at railway stations such as Colombo Fort and Maradana had been greatly inconvenienced. 

Meanwhile, claiming that the department has not taken steps to provide fuel or transport facilities to railway guards, the Ceylon Railway Guards’ Union (CRGU) had informed Railways Department General Manager Dhammika Jayasundara last evening that the railway guards using their private vehicles to come to work would not report for duty today. In the letter to Jayasundara, which was seen by The Morning, the CRGU had charged that although a programme can be implemented to distribute fuel to the department’s employees from the fuel tankers belonging to the department, such a programme has not been implemented properly due to the inefficiency of the relevant officials.

Furthermore, the SLRSMU warned on 3 July that it would initiate a trade union action the week after the next if the Government fails to prepare an orderly programme for the issuance of fuel to the employees of the department within the course of next week. Speaking to The Morning at the time, Chamara said: “Currently, the majority of the department’s employees are unable to report to work. Following continuous requests, some fuel was given to the employees this week, but only to a very few. Especially, many station masters, train guards, and locomotive drivers who are vital in operating trains, had not received fuel.”

He further mentioned that since the fuel for the employees of the department is issued from a fuel tank in Maradana, the employees working at railway stations in distant areas are not able to obtain fuel. He said that due to this, the employees of railway stations located in distant areas such as Badulla, Kandy, Galle, and Matara have been greatly inconvenienced.

He mentioned that since the number of buses in operation is limited at present, the department’s employees find it difficult to report for work just as most of the general public. Therefore, he said that if a programme is not prepared for the release of the required fuel to the department’s employees within the course of next week, the SLRSMU is to enter into trade union action reluctantly.

When contacted at the time, Jayasundara said that the department was trying its best to procure the fuel needed for its employees, and to provide services to the general public.