SEC workers protest wage delays
Management blames excessive hiring under ‘Yahapalanaya’ Government
Protestors cite suspension of workers, timely salary payment issues, non payment of allowances
By Pamodi Waravita
Following two workers attached to the State Engineering Corporation of Sri Lanka (SEC) protesting for over 24 hours atop a roof of the Corporation’s building, other employees at the SEC staged a protest yesterday (7) demanding that their salaries be paid on time.
Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) Politburo Member and the Centre for Labour Struggles Coordinating Secretary Duminda Nagamuwa said that the SEC has been having long running salary problems.
“Two workers attached to the SEC have been protesting for over 24 hours on atop a roof of the Corporation’s building against the suspension of the service contracts of nine workers. They were suspended because they were involved in protests since this Corporation did not pay the workers properly at the correct time for the past few months. The workers allowance was also not given for the past one year. On 30 April, the workers held a large protest because the salary in April was seven days late.”
He added that the Government is suppressing the protests of the workers without paying them as it should.
“During May and June, the salaries were paid on time. When we met the SEC Chairman, Attorney-at-Law Ratnasiri Kalupahana on 6 July he told us that the Treasury and Finance Ministry Secretary S.R. Attygalle had helped, which is why the salaries were paid properly during the last two months. Again this month, the Government says that they cannot pay the workers. The Government says that they will even print money and pay us, but that they cannot do that now. That is why their plan now is to arrest us Union workers for protesting, and to continue to exploit us without pay,” claimed Nagamuwa yesterday (7).
Nagamuwa along with several others were arrested during the protest for violating quarantine rules banning protests specified by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena on Tuesday (6).
SEC Chairman, Attorney-at-Law Ratnasiri Kalupahana acknowledged payment delays but blamed excessive staff cadre and the Government granting projects outside the tender process as a solution to bolster low SEC coffers.
Kalupahana also placed the blame squarely on the United National Front (UNF) led Government for making 600 new recruitments, for whom he said it is now difficult to pay salaries for, as the SEC has to pay its workers based on the income it receives.
“Per month, the SEC spends approximately Rs. 160 million on salaries. After discussions with Attygalle, the Finance Ministry agreed to give us a fixed amount to pay the salaries of the last two months by the 21st of each month. However, this month again, the salaries would be late, but they can be paid by 31 July. The Government has given us new projects without calling in tenders, and therefore, our long term plan is to be able to pay the salaries using the income generated from these projects,” said Kalupahana.
Kalupahana further alleged that the nine workers in question who were suspended were also appointed by a committee formed under the previous UNF led Government, and that one of the said committee members included a secretary to the then Minister and now Opposition Leader, Sajith Premadasa. He claimed that the workers did not have the necessary qualifications to hold their positions.
“Three of them have been suspended without pay while the other six have been suspended with pay,” said Kalupahana.
A string of protests have been held at multiple locations around the country over the past two weeks, including by health care workers, making various demands including for better work conditions and salaries.