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A pragmatic working class

The country’s working population yesterday delivered a resounding slap to the leaders of the much hyped General Strike by choosing not to be pawns in a political project unveiled under the guise of winning worker demands.

That the strike was an unmitigated disaster for its organisers was borne by the fact that none of the services targeted were affected to any degree with workers even defying threats and intimidation to report for their duties.

Yesterday’s flop also goes on to underline the fact that by and large the country’s Trade Union movement has evolved into a mature entity and that its members cannot be led by the nose any more.

The damp squib also more than emphasised the transformation of the Trade Union movement from its radical days where a call to down tools was observed with an almost religious fervour.

The trend is also an indication that Trade Unionism has sloughed off its militant uncompromising outlook and is becoming increasingly amenable to discourse and dialogue to resolve the grievances of workers.

This was amply demonstrated when the bulk of the Trade Unions in the country who met President Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to settle for an interim Rs.1,000 wage hike giving due consideration to the present economic constraints rather than take a radical approach.

Today Trade Unions have ceased to be cohesive entities any more and there are cracks in its monolithic status enjoyed in the past. In the grand old days when the Left parties ruled the roost the Trade Union movement was able to bring Governments to their knees.

There was that famous saying by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike that it was strikes engineered by the Left parties that administered a slow death to her husband, ‘nomara meruwa’. That was a time when Trade Unions commanded huge clout and their leaders almost hero worshipped by their minions.

Much water has flown under the bridge since those days and today Trade Unions have become mere appendages of political parties whose members are eager to do the bidding of their political masters more than win any demands for their lot.

Yesterday’s scenario was no different which saw Trade Unions divided on political lines and working at cross purposes with worker demands reduced to ornamental value. It was plain to even the ordinary man on the street that the demand of a Rs. 5,000 wage hike was untenable and that it was a deliberately ploy to camouflage a political project.

This was also amply borne out by the alternatives offered by the strike leaders such as calling off the upcoming Provincial Council elections and the slashing of the Cabinet, which clearly have no correlation to worker demands.

That the strike would end in a failure was evident from the outset with the UNP completely off colour and lending only half hearted support. The failure of the strike no doubt is a clear reflection of mass mood at present when Government Forces are at the gates of the Tiger lair with victory only a matter of time.

It would also no doubt have sent the right signal to the Forces on the battle front. This set back for the both the UNP and the JVP no doubt would mirror the fortunes of both parties at the forthcoming Provincial Council elections.

The failure could not have come at a worse time for these parties who are trying shore up mass support in the wake deep splits within their ranks. By and large the country’s working population has reposed trust in the Government particularly in President Mahinda Rajapaksa who has assumed a hands-on approach in resolving the grievances of the workers.

His recent bonanza to the working class where their minimum wage was raised to a substantial point has buttressed this faith in the Head of State to deal with their problems in a positive way.

The President’s direct approach in dealing with Trade Union grievances has also taken the wind off the sails of the TU leaders who are losing their grip on the membership as a result.

While the Government could be pleased with its achievement yesterday of receiving the unqualified endorsement of the working population it behoves on the powers that be to repay this trust by taking steps to ameliorate their conditions in a tangible form.

This way it could ensure that no worker agitation takes place that would damage the economy.

Although wage hikes would cause a severe strain on the economy it could prove cost beneficial in the long run since having a happy and contended work force pays economic dividends.

The human element of Global Warming

The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe because water or bare earth, once uncovered, soak up more heat than ice or snow. In the Arctic region Inuit communities are at risk due to melting of ice sheets. For Inuit communities, ice and snow are intrinsic to physical and cultural survival

Full Story

Defence Column

Troops poised to capture more crucial Tiger strongholds

Thrust into heart of Wanni intensified:

As the South is enmeshed in a political turmoil over the soaring Cost of Living and over time frames to see an end to the ongoing military operation to get rid of LTTE terrorism the troops engaged in Operation Wanni Liberation entered into a speedy phase last week following the fall of the Mannar ‘Rice Bowl’ and many strategic Tiger strongholds including Michael Base in the Mullaitivu jungles.

Full Story

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