Non-striking railway unions willing to work | Sunday Observer

Non-striking railway unions willing to work

12 August, 2018
(Pic: Malan Karunaratne)
(Pic: Malan Karunaratne)

As the strike by engine drivers, guards, controllers and station masters continues for the fifth day, the Railway Services Trade Union Front has come forward to operate trains by requesting authorisation from the Minister of Transport and the General Manager of Railways (GMR) to do so, thereby giving renewed hope to commuters who have been severely inconvenienced in the past week.

“We can operate at least 200, of the 380 daily runs, if the Minister and GMR authorise us to do so,” Secretary of the Railway Services Trade Union Front, Sampath Rajitha said.

According to him, though they are not authorised to do so, there are several in the cadres of shunting drivers and engine driver assistant categories with enough experience to operate a locomotive engine, he said.

There are more than 400 shunting drivers and engine driver assistants who could be used to do the needful and alleviate the travails of the commuters, he explained.

The offer by the Union comes at a time where even retired railway engine drivers rejected the pleas of the Department requesting them to report to work under the special circumstances.

Out of telegrams sent to 23 retirees, only two had answered the request.

Of about 18,200 people employed at the Railways Department, engine drivers, guards, controllers and station masters comprise about 3,200 personnel.

Commenting that the strike as unfair and inhumane, he said it is unfair to bring the whole country to a standstill for the benefit of a mere 3,200 individuals. Though the trade unions rush to take strike action for their own benefit, “They do not stand for the problems of the rest of the 15,000,” he said.

On Saturday, the Railways Department limited the services up to Panadura and Veyangoda and operated two oil cargo runs, General Manager of Railways Mahanama Abeywickrama said.

The Department would continue to operate a selected service during morning and evening rush hours, he assured.

However, while the striking unions have sworn to continue their union action, media reports claimed the government is now considering the option of training a number of armed forces personnel to operate locomotives to prevent a similar situation in the future.

“It is the ideal solution because there are many short term courses in India to train drivers. We do not need 100. Even 50 drivers should be enough,” Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, G. S. Withanage said.

He, however, said that the Transport Ministry has still not been formally informed of such a decision.

State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene told the media yesterday, that the government is ready to even deploy troops to resolve the issue. “It is time for the State leaders to take stern decisions,” the State Minister said.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Friday said he is not prepared to discuss anything with the railways’ workers until they stop their unreasonable strikes.