Strikes – another form of terrorism
Posted on February 11th, 2022

S. Akurugoda

A leading news item appeared in the Divaina dated 08 February 2022, under the title (translated to English) The people must stand up against strikes – Dr Rukshan Bellana” has quite rightly exposed the hidden agenda of the strikes are being carried out by some trade unions affiliated to political parties ( මේ-වර්ජනවලට-එරෙහිව-ජනතාව/) .  As per the news item, Dr. Rukshan Bellana, President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum, has told that the health service is maintained by the taxes levied on the people of the country and if they have any problems, a civilized society will not allow them to take the patients hostage without resolving them through negotiations. He also said that this was being done as a trade union struggle to do what the political parties wanted and that the trade unions affiliated to the political parties’ should be banned and that the people should unite against such rallies. He said that some of the trade union-based instances and attempts to base themselves on various demands such as going to parliament from national lists and requesting ministerial posts in ministries.

Although Dr Bellana has not named the individuals who are currently posing as trade union leaders, we are fully aware of how a trade union activist attached to the health sector entered the parliament for a week or two via the national list for his political services rendered to the Yahapalana government. What he did to the duty free vehicle license thus obtained has become an interesting issue. The easiest way to find out how they even contributed to the continuation of terrorism in the past is to search their records on line. Interestingly, I found a list of names of the trade union activists attached to the Health services among the list of politicians, so-called civil societies and trade union activists, who were promoting LTTE as an integral part of ‘the solution’ and campaigning in support of the CFA in 2006, in a pro LTTE website (  

Freedom to involve in strikes were very limited (or not at all) for the government employees prior to 1956. As a result of granting some freedom to the government and public sector employees affiliated to political parties  in 1956, we remember how trade unions of ‘comrades’ political parties who called upon workers to ‘establish an administration of the working class’  started strikes throughout   the country even for extremely minor issues.  While addressing a public meeting during the 1960 elections held after the assassination of SWRD,  Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranike  stated how  those ‘comrades’ parties, ‘politically killed him without physically killing’  (‘’nomara maruwa’’)  her husband by promoting strikes.  By allowing politicians of successive governments to interfere with the appointments of various positions within the public service, the government servants and their trade unions are politically divided to an uncontrollable extent today. I remember, as a former employee, how those ‘comrades’ started their first ever strike in the then Ceylon Steel Corporation in 1969 and how they attempted to achieve their dream of ‘an administration of the working class’ by chasing away forcefully the non union members and the leading administration including the Chairman and the General Manger from the site, after their failed strike and return back to work. Some of the officers had to runaway for fear of life and finally, the then the Minister of Industries Mr Phiip Gunawardana had to interfere and ensure their safety for them to reenter the Corporation site.

Although right to strikes is considered as a human right and recognized in almost all so-called democratic champion countries, they have introduced legislations to regulate the strike actions. In particular; they impose limitations for the strikes of workers in public essential services, such as health, security, movements, assistance and welfare, education, and communications. 

In the UK, strike action organized by a trade union is legal provided some tough conditions are met. For example: The union must have conducted a lawful ballot of all the members it believes will be called upon to take part. In Australia, there may be a right to strike in limited circumstances, but in practice there is no right to strike, except for exceptional circumstances.

Under Australian laws, strikes can only happen during bargaining. At all other times they are unlawful.

Even during bargaining there are too many hurdles. Before workers can take a bargaining strike they must prove that they are genuinely trying to reach agreement, hold a secret ballot, give their employer three clear days notice of the strike etc.  If a strike happens outside of bargaining then workers and their unions face dire consequences.

The employer can:

  • Gets an automatic order from the Fair Work Commission requiring a return to work. 
  • Get injunctions from Federal and State Courts.
  • Discipline workers or sack them.
  • Sue unions and workers for contempt of court if orders or injunctions are not followed to the letter.
  • Sue the workers and their union under various laws for fines up to $10,800 for workers and $54,000 for unions.
  • Seek compensation against workers and their unions for lost revenue.

Even if the employer doesn’t want to take legal action, government agencies, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Building and Construction Commission can initiate such actions.

I spent  almost half of employment life outside Sri Lanka including African and Pacific regions, I have not come across or even seen a single strike in those countries similar to what is going on in Sri Lanka. Considering the inconvenience caused to the general public, while accepting the right to strikes, the government should take necessary steps to regulate   the strike actions, at least, in public essential services similar to what the other countries do in the world.

S. Akurugoda

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