Twenty one trade unions of telco giant Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) are threatening to intensify their trade union action to an islandwide strike, if the authorities fail to fulfil their 10 demands including settling of salary anomalies, granting promotions, and increasing transport and food allowances.
The threat came after the authorities obtained a court order on Friday morning barring any trade union action inside any SLT office premises, and forcing the unions to hold a meeting that evening at the Viharamahadevi Park with the involvement of some 2,000 workers.
SLT CEO Greig Young said the company secured a court order preventing trade unions involved in the present action from engaging in any strike action inside SLT premises, causing any damage to the property belonging to the company or threatening or intimidating non-striking employees.
Jagath Gurusinghe, President of Telecommunication Workers Union, told the Sunday Times that members of 21 trade unions have launched a strike paralyzing work at the SLT head office and several outstation offices including Kandy.
That was disputed by Mr. Young who said only a few unions were involved in the protest.
The decision to resort to islandwide strike action came at the Friday evening meeting at the Park called by the unions to create awareness about their demands.
SLT trade unions have been carrying out their struggle for some time to win the 10 demands and staged protest demonstrations on June 21 and July 1 in front of the SLT head office in Colombo and at regional offices. They resorted to a sick note campaign last Tuesday and Wednesday.
But SLT management has so far not responded positively to their demands, said Mr. Gurusinghe.
Unions representing about 7000 non-executive workers at the State telecom giant are demanding a Rs. 25,000 transport and food allowance, discontinuing what they call the ‘secret salary scale of executive grade officers’, bringing 1,600 people hired as outsourced workers into the SLT cadre, and immediately stop all contracts being given to external companies.
Other demands are to devise a system of promotions for SLT workers and to submit a proposal to settle salary anomalies, both within three days.
"These are reasonable requests. We have asked the management to stop corruption and waste and irregularities at SLT which is earning a revenue of around Rs. 33 billion annually,” Mr Gurusinghe said adding that it will pave the way to improve services of the company and to properly compensate the workers.
Mr. Young said the SLT management and union leaders have held numerous discussions over the past weeks including most recently a meeting with the Minister. In a statement, he said despite continuous and changing demands made by the unions, the management has put forward many proposals in an effort to come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial for the future of the company as well as all our employees.
“Regrettably a few unions have steadfastly disagreed with any proposal and are refusing to climb down from their initial unreasonable demands to reach a sensible solution,” he added.
“It is with regret that we have been unable to come to an agreement and settle this issue, despite every attempt by the management to reach a conclusion,” Mr. Young said adding that the company’s highest priority is to serve its customers despite the ‘irresponsible behaviour of selected unions’.