Railway workers' worsening salary woes

[TamilNet, Saturday, 10 January 2004, 14:03 GMT]
More than 7000 railway workers who supervise railway crossings along local roads and highways have not received only minimal salary raises for the past fifteen years, Railway Workers Union officials said. In addition, the promise of making the workers permanent employees of Railway Department also has not materialized, the union officials added.

Following a 1989 train accident in the South where a passenger train hit a school bus killing several children, then Sri Lanka's President Premadasa ordered appointment of workers to man all key railway crossings that did not have automatic gates to allow safe passage of vehicles over railway tracks.

The workers were selected from the families that were receiving grants from the 'Janasakthi' program to man the crossings. The workers received an allowance of Rs.1000. The Transportation Ministry promised the workers that they would be made permanent after a short period. The workers also lost the privilege of using Janasakthi stamps.

The workers currently receive Rs.3000 a month and this is well below poverty level, the union officials said.

Most of the 190 workers in the Batticaloa district were also employed during the recent repairs of the Polannaruwa-Batticaloa railway lines which facilitated resumption of Colombo-Batticaloa train service recently.

The Union officials complained that although Deputy Minister of Transportation, Upali Piyasoma, and advisor, Alizahir Moulana, assured the workers that they will take necessary action to improve their employment status, the Minister has failed to take any action regarding this matter.

The Union officials added that even though they have made several complaints to Parliamentarian, Joseph Pararajasingham, he also has not taken any action to improve the status of the railway workers.


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