Sri Lanka nurses to call in sick July 1, 2 over unmet trade union demands

Sri Lanka’s state health sector nursing staff will go on sick leave Thursday and Friday (July 01 and 02) in a nationwide trade union campaign over unmet demands.

President of the Public Services United Nurses Union Muruththettuwe Ananda Thero told reporters Wednesday (June 30) that the health ministry has failed to meet their demands even after 11 official meetings between the two parties.

The demands include the reinstatement of a promotions mechanism and staff status which were stopped through a government circular, the inclusion of nursing staff in work shift plans that were only issued to a section of the health staff, an increase in uniform allowances that haven’t changed in seven years, and a Disturbance, Availability and Transport (DAT) allowance of Rs 10,000 that is currently only paid to doctors.

“In all the 11 meetings we only got statements saying that they will grant our requests,” he said.

All nursing staff in hospitals islandwide, except at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Apeksha Hospital Maharagama, De Soysa Hospital for Women, Castle Street Hospital and all intensive care units in the country, will call in sick on July 01 and 02 as a mark of protest, the Thero said.

“If the strike does not get the attention of the ministry, a continuous all-island strike will be launched from July 07 onwards,” he said.

The monk said in case of emergencies if the doctors request the union for assistance nurses will be sent to help them.

Two meetings had been held between union representatives and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on June 09 and June 14 with all relevant officials present where the nurses were reassured that circulars will be issued and cabinet approvals be granted in line of their demands.

“To date, not one of the decision taken at these meetings with the Prime Minister has been implemented by the health ministry,” said the Thero.

“We remained as patient as possible. The dedication displayed by nursing and health staff during the COVID-19 pandemic has been immeasurable. But today the health minister is speaking as if the Government Medical Officers’ Association has done everything,” he said.

It was the ministry that has led the union to such measures of action, he added.

The monk, widely believed to be a close associate of the Prime Minister, further said that it is only Mahinda Rajapaksa who is prepared to hear their grievances.

“No one else will hear us,” he said.

“The Prime Minister understand the suffering of the people. He is flexible. He would not say no. Despite his instructions to the health ministry to accept our demands, they won’t do so,” he added.

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