Call for end to oppressive Govt policies

Joint left trade union May Day rally

by Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne

(May 10, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The joint trade union rally was a great success. It challenged the government for selling the country to the IMF and the global capital and also for arousing chauvinism to misdirect the masses. Large number of leftists answered the call of the NSSP and other progressive organizations and participated in the event. Rashideen and others who belong to the radical wing of the old Sama Samaja Party failed to break away as organizations and join this joint rally of trade unions.

However many members of their unions participated; at least in the rally at the Hyde Park. United federation of Labour , closely associated with the NSSP, which marched at the end of the procession, illuminated the march by carrying banners depicting “End emergency rule’, “ Compensations for war destructions”, “Release political prisoners” and “ Autonomy for the northeast”, in addition to the banners against the fraudulent pension scheme and other IMF proposals.. The BBC reported JTUA joint rally as one of the major events of the day. It said ‘Trade unions and federations held a rally following a march attended by thousands opposing controversial government proposals for a pension scheme aimed at the private sector. Rejecting the pension proposals trade union leaders called it an International Monetary Fund (IMF) directive.’ One of the local papers reported “Private and public sector trade unions yesterday pledged to take joint trade union action, if the government failed to fulfill its demands, including a Rs. 5,000 salary hike. The Joint Trade Union Alliance (JTUA), while alleging that the government had robbed the public by giving false promises during the elections said “the government had given various promises, most of which had not been fulfilled.”

All workers

The Alliance promised to work together and to organise joint struggles until the government fulfilled their promises. The JTUA put forward nine demands common to all workers of both the private and public sectors to be fulfilled by the government. They said they wanted a salary increment of Rs.5,000 as the amount that had been promised which was Rs. 2,500 was not sufficient at this juncture. The removal of the emergency regulations was another of their key demands. With that relief is expected for all those suffered under emergency rule which was extended without any reason. In particular civil and democratic rule is demanded for the north east. The other demands included the integration of the Workers Charter number 87 (Freedom of Association) and number 98 (Right to collective bargaining) to the laws and regulations of the country and the end of trade union suppression. According to the news item mentioned above, the Trade Union Confederation (TUC) President, Saman Rathnapriya has said “The more we are suppressed the more we will come forward, demanding for the fulfilment our rights,” He has stated further that the only way to resolve the issues face by the workers is to grant their demands. TUC is one of the federations in the JTUA; other two are United Federation of Labour, and the Government United Federation of Labour. In addition several massive unions have come in. Bala Thampoe led CMU and Ceylon Bank Employees Union are two of them Linus Jayathilaka the president of the united federation of Labour and one of the leaders of the Nava Sama Samaja party said “It is true that the private sector too needs a pension scheme similar to the one offered to the public sector, but the pension scheme that has been proposed for the private sector is one that will take money from the people to create capital for the rich.” He explained that the government is using the concentration of power through the war not only to suppress workers and displace poor from the urban areas but also to rob the land from the dwellers in the north east.

The May Day procession that began from the Fort Railway Station travelled to Hyde Park Corner (Col. 2), with the Ceylon Bank Employees Union and the Ceylon Mercantile Union joining in the procession at the Slave Island junction.

Participants were mostly dressed in red and shouted slogans asking the government not to touch the hard earned remuneration of the workers while others held placards asking the government lift emergency and establish civil governance. There were over thirty trade unions that took part in the event in which members from branches located through out the island participated. Everybody shouted slogans condemning the government for its fraudulent policies.

Most popular was “What is this protest, worker peasant protest, fisher teacher protest, we the oppressed protest”

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