Labour Min­is­ter urges SLPA to ab­sorb H'tota port work­ers

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

The Labour Min­is­ter has urged the Sri Lanka Ports Au­thor­ity (SLPA) to ab­sorb Magam­pura Port Man­age­ment Com­pany's 466 em­ploy­ees who are set to lose their jobs once the new Chi­nese man­age­ment takes over.

There have been three rounds of meet­ings be­tween Labour Min­is­ter W.D.J. Senevi­ratne and the Magam­pura Port Work­ers’ Union. The next dis­cus­sion is due to take place on Oc­to­ber 17. There has been un­cer­tainty over the fate of th­ese em­ploy­ees ever since ne­go­ti­a­tions started with China Mer­chant Port Hold­ings (CMPort) for a pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ship for the fa­cil­ity.

For­mer Port Min­is­ter Ar­juna Ranatunga promised to en­sure that they were ab­sorbed into any joint ven­ture com­pany set up to man­age the port in Ham­ban­tota. How­ever, the work­ers were re­cently told by a vis­it­ing Chi­nese team that none of them would be hired, said union leader I.K. Omesh.

“At all our meet­ings with the Labour Min­is­ter, we have not been of­fered a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion,” Mr Omesh said yes­ter­day. “They are not telling us what will hap­pen to our jobs. We were ini­tially in­formed that some of us will be hired while the rest will re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion tied to the num­ber of years that we have worked but this will work out to a small amount of around Rs 150,000.”

To draw at­ten­tion to their dilemma, the work­ers have staged a one­hour to­ken strike and a one-day to­ken strike. They also brought the is­sue to the no­tice of the Labour Com­mis­sioner who will me­di­ate.

The last meet­ing chaired by Min­is­ter Senevi­ratne on Wed­nes­day was at­tended by the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Vice Chair­man and Legal Of­fi­cer of the SLPA. “The min­is­ter said we were hired to the SLPA and it can­not ab­solve it­self of re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Mr Omesh ob­served. “The min­is­ter also said it had been un­fair to en­ter into agree­ments with the Chi­nese com­pany with­out hav­ing con­sulted the work­ers and the union first. He in­sisted that the SLPA should of­fer a so­lu­tion.”

It was agreed that a de­ci­sion will be ar­rived at af­ter the SLPA con­sults Ship­ping Min­is­ter Mahinda Sa­ma­ras­inghe. This will be con­veyed at the meet­ing later this month.

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