If TU terror can't be stopped, ban it
Daily Mirror Editorial
Feb 3, 2011

With the government hoping to make Sri Lanka the wonder of Asia in the aftermath of the ravages of a 30-year war, which battered and bruised Sri Lanka, it has had little or no respite, during the past two and half years. We have seen strike after lightning strike that have plagued the country and its essential services like health, education, electricity transport and fuel supplies.

Trade union action may be the right of workers but strikes should be the last resort after all other avenues of dialogue have been tried and appear to have failed. In any event, trade unions like all other individuals and institutions need to realise that rights are directly and irrevocably linked to responsibilities. Those who fail in their responsibilities forfeit their rights especially if they cause more heartburn for millions of innocent struggling people.

On Wednesday evening, Railway staff including station masters, guards, train operators, conductors, signal technicians, railway control room staff and inspection officers launched a lightning strike at peak time in the evening, plunging tens of thousands of people into trouble and turmoil. Hundreds of these commuters had either bought their tickets or had season tickets and probably did not have money to go home in overcrowded buses. Thus they were stranded for several hours, leaving their families also disturbed and tensed wondering what had happened to them and fearing the worst. What happened in the Railway on Wednesday was more an act of terror than trade union action because it was a virtual attack on tens of thousands of innocent people who were not responsible for and knew little or nothing about the longstanding grievances and disputes that railway unions have with the government.

The decision taken secretly by the railway trade unions on Wednesday was clearly self-centred because they were seeking to obtain their demands by holding millions of innocent people to ransom at a time when most of the people are going through severe struggle or suffering to earn enough to meet their basic needs.

The grievances of the trade unions may be legitimate, they say that for more than six years they have not received justifiable salary increments and promotions. Instead of resorting to terror and hurting millions of people, trade union leaders must know there is a better and more effective way the Gandhian way of Satyagraha, peaceful protests or death fasts. Like Mahatma Gandhi if ten of these trade union leaders had the courage to stage a death fast outside the transport ministry, they could have achieved more than they expected just as Gandhi toppled the most powerful empire in the world.

Having said all this we also need to remind government leaders of their responsibility to bring about social justice by setting an example and entering into a simple and humble lifestyle instead of the luxuries and vulgar extravagance they indulge in regularly. We also must remind government leaders of the need to act fast and effectively to curb rampant corruption whereby the rich and powerful elite are plundering millions from the country while the workers are getting the crumbs.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka