Sri Lanka bans strikes by healthcare workers amid hospital crisis | Health News


The ban comes as trade union action demanding better pay and conditions in the healthcare sector enters a sixth day.

Sri Lanka’s president has banned strikes in the health and electricity sectors as trade union action that has crippled state-run hospitals entered its sixth day.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Saturday invoked a 1979 law prohibiting stoppages in the two sectors, declaring all related work “essential public services”, his office said.

The tough regulations allow courts to hand down five-year jail terms and confiscate the assets of those refusing work.

The move followed health unions ignoring a court order on Thursday instructing them to suspend their strike pending a hearing of a petition against their action.

Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Colombo, said unions have not called off the strike despite the ban.

“The health care unions told me a short while ago that they are still in consultation with their lawyers to try and figure out what the implications are of this latest act brought by the president,” Fernandez said.

“Professionals like doctors can find their names struck off registers. There are a lot of strict punitive measures for those convicted under the Essential Services Act. Unions have not yet called off their trade union actions,” she added.

Sri Lanka is in the grip of a foreign exchange crisis that has crippled the economy, and the unions are demanding better promotional prospects, restructuring of their pay scales and higher allowances.

The government has refused, saying the current economic situation does not allow it to increase the salaries budget.

Thousands of health workers have been taking part in the strike action, leaving only emergency services functioning at state hospitals and many routine services put off.

Electricity sector workers are not on strike, but they too have threatened trade union action if the government goes ahead with plans to sell a thermal power plant to a US company.


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