Labour Minister urges SLPA to absorb H'tota port workers
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.